Sweden fell under fire at the UN over its decision to insist on the detention of Assange for more than 1,500 days without charge. It aborted its own press conference after pointed questions from journalists, and explicitly stated that it had no problem with indefinite detention without charge, not just for Mr Assange, but as a principle. Most countries place strict limits on detention without charge. In the UK and Australia, and in the US (except for Guantanamo Bay), a matter of hours.

Mr Assange said: “Sweden has imported Guantanamo’s most shameful legal practice – indefinite detention without charge.”

On 26 January 2015 Sweden was the subject of the United Nations Human Rights Commission Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN in Geneva. Fifty-nine human rights organisations filed complaints against Sweden’s behaviour in the Assange case as part of the UPR.

UN member states also reviewed, questioned and made recommendations to Sweden on their human rights policies and record. During the session seven member states made recommendations involving Julian Assange’s case, raising concerns about how Sweden treats the rights of those with asylum and those it detains pre-trial, and especially those detained without charges: Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Macedonia, Nicaragua, Slovakia and Uruguay. Sweden neglected to respond within the session to most of these countries’ concerns, except to recall its non-recognition of Mr Assange’s asylum.

After the UPR session the Swedish delegation – headed by Annika Söder, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs – held a press conference at 1pm outside the UN room in which the UPR had been conducted. The press conference lasted only 4 minutes before Ms. Söder abruptly cut it off after finding that all the questions were about Sweden’s mishandling of Assange’s case.

After the press conference WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison (well-known for “rescuing” Edward Snowden from Hong Kong) approached Anders Rönquist, Director-General for Legal Affairs at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, to ask for a response to Ecuador’s recommendations. These were that Sweden time-limits any type of detention where the person has not been charged, and that Sweden implements more mechanisms in their prosecutorial procedures to ensure the rights are protected of those that have asylum or are refugees. The Director-General responded that Sweden was under no obligation to limit time in pre-trial detention, or limit the time someone is detained, even if not charged. He stated that he had no issues from a human rights perspective of detaining someone indefinitely, even if they have not been charged.

Julian Assange, Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, has not been charged with any crime in any country although he has been formally detained by Sweden’s detention decision for 1,522 days – 960 days in the embassy.

He has been given asylum by the government of Ecuador to protect him from the threat of the United States Government, which is preparing an “espionage” case against Mr Assange and WikiLeaks that is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. The offences listed so far total 45 years. Sweden and the United Kingdom are blocking Mr Assange’s right to take up his asylum. While Sweden refuses to use any of the standard legal mechanisms available to question Mr Assange over allegations, the UK, whose spending on policing the Ecuadorian embassy in London today, Thursday, 5 February 2015, hits 10 million pounds, prevents him taking up his legal right to asylum.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said: “It is embarrassing to see the UK Government spending more on surveillance and detaining an uncharged political refugee than on its investigation into the Iraq war, which killed hundreds of thousands.”

This video was shot by filmmakers “El Colectivo”, who are shooting a forthcoming documentary “The Challenge” about former investigating Judge Baltasar Garzón, who attempted to extradite Chilean dictator General Pinochet from the United Kingdom. Judge Garzón is now head of Assange’s legal team and was scheduled to give a press conference later that day about the UPR and new developments in the US case against WikiLeaks and its staff.



Original link:


Excepcional documento de Wikileaks que demuestra cómo la cepa del virus del Ébola actualmente en movimiento salió de Alemania bajo la promesa de que el instituto médico del ejército estadounidense no lo usaría como arma.

Así lo revela este importantísimo documento, que demuestra cómo el señor Markus Klinger, vicedirector de la oficina de exportaciones alemán, pidió a las autoridades alemanas confirmación de que el patógeno secuenciado no sería utilizado como arma de guerra.


2009 December 15, 13:14 (Tuesday)
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1. (SBU) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 4. 2. (SBU) German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided the following non-paper to Econoff, seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
The Army’s end use certificate provided to Germany is lacking an official seal. Klinger’s deputy, Nancy Reck, noted that Germany had made two follow-up requests to the Army seeking assurances and clarifications related to this proposed export.
The GOG seeks assurances from the USG or US Army that the end use certificate and the information contained therein are legitimate and accurate. 3. (SBU) Begin text of informal translation of German MFA non-paper: “For Official Use Only” Against the background of our partnership in the area of non-proliferation and our excellent cooperation in the matters of export controls, we would like to bring the following issue to the attention of your government.
A German firm has applied for the approval of the export of 184 genetic elements with nucleic acid sequences of viruses for the production of recombinant viruses. The viruses will be used in optical imaging to identify host factors required for viral replication.
The recipient in the USA is, according to the enclosed end use certificate, the Department of the Army “US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)” Fort Detrick, Maryland. Specifications in English about the goods, the recipient and end use can be seen from the end use certificate.
The goods are controlled by the Australia Group and are subject to compulsory export approval (List position C1C353A). This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world.
The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses. Because of the particular criticality of these goods, the German federal government practices an exceptionally restrictive approval policy for such exports.
An approval here can only be issued if an improper end use in association with the development or production of biologic weapons approaches can be foreclosed with a probability approaching certainty. The enclosed end use certificate is on the letterhead of the U.S. Army.
The required official seal is missing, however. A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein.
We look forward to the continuation of our excellent cooperation in matters of non-proliferation and export controls. End text of informal translation of German MFA non-paper.
4. (SBU) Action Request. Post requests guidance on responding to the GOG request in the non-paper.

Traducida en traductor de Google

1. (SBU) Esta es una solicitud de acción. Por favor, véase el párrafo 4 2. (SBU) Alemán MFA Jefe Adjunto de la División de Control de Exportación de Markus Klinger proporciona el siguiente documento no oficial para Econoff, pidiendo garantías adicionales en relación con un proyecto de exportación de patógenos extremadamente peligrosas para el Instituto de Investigación Médica del Ejército de Estados Unidos para Enfermedades Infecciosas.

Certificado de uso final del Ejército proporcionado a Alemania le falta un sello oficial. Diputado de Klinger, Nancy Reck, señaló que Alemania había hecho dos peticiones de seguimiento al Ejército pidiendo garantías y aclaraciones relacionadas con esta exportación propuesta.

El GOG busca garantías de que el Ejército de Estados Unidos USG o que el certificado de uso final y la información contenida en el mismo son legítimas y precisa. 3. (SBU) comienza el texto de la traducción oficiosa del alemán MFA documento no oficial: “Para uso oficial solamente” En el contexto de nuestra asociación en el ámbito de la no proliferación y nuestra excelente cooperación en los asuntos de los controles de exportación, nos gustaría traer la siguiente cuestión a la atención de su gobierno.

Una empresa alemana ha solicitado la aprobación de la exportación de 184 elementos genéticos con secuencias de ácidos nucleicos de los virus para la producción de virus recombinantes. Los virus se pueden usar en formación de imágenes ópticas para identificar los factores del huésped necesarias para la replicación viral.

El receptor en los EE.UU. es, según el certificado de uso final cerrado, el Departamento del “Ejército de los EE.UU. Instituto de Investigación Médica de Enfermedades Infecciosas (USAMRIID)” Ejército de Fort Detrick, Maryland. Especificaciones en Inglés sobre las mercancías, el destinatario y el uso final puede ser visto desde el certificado de uso final.

Los productos son controlados por el Grupo de Australia y están sujetos a la aprobación de las exportaciones obligatorias (Lista C1C353A posición). Este asunto se refiere a la completa del genoma de los virus, como el virus Ebola Zaire, el virus del Lago Victoria Marburg, el virus Machupo y el virus de Lassa, que son absolutamente uno de los patógenos más peligrosos del mundo.

La entrega sería colocar el receptor en la posición de ser capaz de crear la replicación de las especies infecciosas recombinantes de estos virus. Debido a la criticidad particular de estos bienes, el gobierno federal alemán practica una política de aprobación excepcionalmente restrictiva de este tipo de exportaciones.

Una aprobación que aquí sólo puede ser emitido si un uso final inadecuada en asociación con el desarrollo o la producción de armas biológicas enfoques puede ser embargada con una certeza acercarse probabilidad. El certificado de uso final es cerrado en el membrete de la US Army.

El sello oficial requerida no se encuentra, sin embargo. La decisión sobre la exportación aún no se ha hecho. Teniendo en cuenta lo anterior, le agradeceríamos la confirmación de que el certificado de uso final realmente es del Departamento del Ejército y de la exactitud de los datos contenidos en el mismo.

Esperamos con interés la continuación de nuestra excelente cooperación en materia de controles de no proliferación y de exportación. Termina el texto de la traducción oficiosa del alemán MFA documento no oficial. 4. Request (SBU) Acción. Mensaje solicita orientación sobre la respuesta a la solicitud GOG en el documento no oficial.




Featured photo - Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters

Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.

The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.

One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.

Another classified document from the U.S. intelligence community, dated August 2010, recounts how the Obama administration urged foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs.

A third document, from July 2011, contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices – including the agency’s general counsel and an arm of its Threat Operations Center – considered designating WikiLeaks as “a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting.” Such a designation would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance – without the need to exclude U.S. persons from the surveillance searches.

In 2008, not long after WikiLeaks was formed, the U.S. Army prepared a report that identified the organization as an enemy, and plotted how it could be destroyed. The new documents provide a window into how the U.S. and British governments appear to have shared the view that WikiLeaks represented a serious threat, and reveal the controversial measures they were willing to take to combat it.

In a statement to The Intercept, Assange condemned what he called “the reckless and unlawful behavior of the National Security Agency” and GCHQ’s “extensive hostile monitoring of a popular publisher’s website and its readers.”

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”

Illustrating how far afield the NSA deviates from its self-proclaimed focus on terrorism and national security, the documents reveal that the agency considered using its sweeping surveillance system against Pirate Bay, which has been accused of facilitating copyright violations. The agency also approved surveillance of the foreign “branches” of hacktivist groups, mentioning Anonymous by name.

The documents call into question the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that U.S. citizens are not being caught up in the sweeping surveillance dragnet being cast by the NSA. Under the broad rationale considered by the agency, for example, any communication with a group designated as a “malicious foreign actor,” such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, would be considered fair game for surveillance.

Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in surveillance issues, says the revelations shed a disturbing light on the NSA’s willingness to sweep up American citizens in its surveillance net.

“All the reassurances Americans heard that the broad authorities of the FISA Amendments Act could only be used to ‘target’ foreigners seem a bit more hollow,” Sanchez says, “when you realize that the ‘foreign target’ can be an entire Web site or online forum used by thousands if not millions of Americans.”


GCHQ Spies on WikiLeaks Visitors

The system used by GCHQ to monitor the WikiLeaks website – codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL – is described in a classified PowerPoint presentation prepared by the British agency and distributed at the 2012 “SIGDEV Conference.” At the annual gathering, each member of the “Five Eyes” alliance – the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – describes the prior year’s surveillance successes and challenges.

In a top-secret presentation at the conference, two GCHQ spies outlined how ANTICRISIS GIRL was used to enable “targeted website monitoring” of WikiLeaks (See slides 33 and 34). The agency logged data showing hundreds of users from around the world, including the United States, as they were visiting a WikiLeaks site –contradicting claims by American officials that a deal between the U.K. and the U.S. prevents each country from spying on the other’s citizens.

The IP addresses collected by GCHQ are used to identify individual computers that connect to the Internet, and can be traced back to specific people if the IP address has not been masked using an anonymity service. If WikiLeaks or other news organizations were receiving submissions from sources through a public dropbox on their website, a system like ANTICRISIS GIRL could potentially be used to help track them down. (WikiLeaks has not operated a public dropbox since 2010, when it shut down its system in part due to security concerns over surveillance.)

In its PowerPoint presentation, GCHQ identifies its target only as “wikileaks.” One slide, displaying analytics derived from the surveillance, suggests that the site monitored was the official domain. It shows that users reached the targeted site by searching for “” and for “maysan uxo,” a term associated with a series of leaked Iraq war logs that are hosted on

The ANTICRISIS GIRL initiative was operated by a GCHQ unit called Global Telecoms Exploitation (GTE), which was previously reported by The Guardian to be linked to the large-scale, clandestine Internet surveillance operation run by GCHQ, codenamed TEMPORA.

Operating in the United Kingdom and from secret British eavesdropping bases in Cyprus and other countries, GCHQ conducts what it refers to as “passive” surveillance – indiscriminately intercepting massive amounts of data from Internet cables, phone networks and satellites. The GTE unit focuses on developing “pioneering collection capabilities” to exploit the stream of data gathered from the Internet.

As part of the ANTICRISIS GIRL system, the documents show, GCHQ used publicly available analytics software called Piwik to extract information from its surveillance stream, not only monitoring visits to targeted websites like WikiLeaks, but tracking the country of origin of each visitor.

It is unclear from the PowerPoint presentation whether GCHQ monitored the WikiLeaks site as part of a pilot program designed to demonstrate its capability, using only a small set of covertly collected data, or whether the agency continues to actively deploy its surveillance system to monitor visitors to WikiLeaks. It was previously reported in The Guardian that X-KEYSCORE, a comprehensive surveillance weapon used by both NSA and GCHQ, allows “an analyst to learn the IP addresses of every person who visits any website the analyst specifies.”

GCHQ refused to comment on whether ANTICRISIS GIRL is still operational. In an email citing the agency’s boilerplate response to inquiries, a spokeswoman insisted that “all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight.”

But privacy advocates question such assurances. “How could targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate?” says Gus Hosein, executive director of the London-based human rights group Privacy International. “These are innocent people who are turned into suspects based on their reading habits. Surely becoming a target of a state’s intelligence and security apparatus should require more than a mere click on a link.”

The agency’s covert targeting of WikiLeaks, Hosein adds, call into question the entire legal rationale underpinning the state’s system of surveillance. “We may be tempted to see GCHQ as a rogue agency, ungoverned in its use of unprecedented powers generated by new technologies,” he says. “But GCHQ’s actions are authorized by [government] ministers. The fact that ministers are ordering the monitoring of political interests of Internet users shows a systemic failure in the rule of law.”


Going After Assange and His Supporters

The U.S. attempt to pressure other nations to prosecute Assange is recounted in a file that the intelligence community calls its “Manhunting Timeline.” The document details, on a country-by-country basis, efforts by the U.S. government and its allies to locate, prosecute, capture or kill alleged terrorists, drug traffickers, Palestinian leaders and others. There is a timeline for each year from 2008 to 2012.

An entry from August 2010 – headlined “United States, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Iceland” – states: “The United States on August 10 urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany, to consider filing criminal charges against Julian Assange.” It describes Assange as the “founder of the rogue Wikileaks Internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan.”

In response to questions from The Intercept, the NSA suggested that the entry is “a summary derived from a 2010 article” in the Daily Beast. That article, which cited an anonymous U.S. official, reported that “the Obama administration is pressing Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allied Western governments to consider opening criminal investigations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and to severely limit his nomadic travels across international borders.”

The government entry in the “Manhunting Timeline” adds Iceland to the list of Western nations that were pressured, and suggests that the push to prosecute Assange is part of a broader campaign. The effort, it explains, “exemplifies the start of an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange, and the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The entry does not specify how broadly the government defines that “human network,” which could potentially include thousands of volunteers, donors and journalists, as well as people who simply spoke out in defense of WikiLeaks.

In a statement, the NSA declined to comment on the documents or its targeting of activist groups, noting only that the agency “provides numerous opportunities and forums for their analysts to explore hypothetical or actual circumstances to gain appropriate advice on the exercise of their authorities within the Constitution and the law, and to share that advice appropriately.”

But the entry aimed at WikiLeaks comes from credentialed officials within the intelligence community. In an interview in Hong Kong last June, Edward Snowden made clear that the only NSA officials empowered to write such entries are those “with top-secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates” – a kind of digital ID card enabling unique access to certain parts of the agency’s system. What’s more, Snowden added, the entries are “peer reviewed” – and every edit made is recorded by the system.

The U.S. launched its pressure campaign against WikiLeaks less than a week after the group began publishing the Afghanistan war logs on July 25, 2010. At the time, top U.S. national security officials accused WikiLeaks of having “blood” on its hands. But several months later, McClatchy reported that “U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.”

The government targeting of WikiLeaks nonetheless continued. In April 2011, Salon reported that a grand jury in Virginia was actively investigating both the group and Assange on possible criminal charges under espionage statutes relating to the publication of classified documents. And in August of 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald, citing secret Australian diplomatic cables, reported that “Australian diplomats have no doubt the United States is still gunning for Julian Assange” and that “Australia’s diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.”

Bringing criminal charges against WikiLeaks or Assange for publishing classified documents would be highly controversial – especially since the group partnered with newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times to make the war logs public. “The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening,” James Goodale, who served as chief counsel of the Times during its battle to publish The Pentagon Papers, told the Columbia Journalism Review last March. “If you go after the WikiLeaks criminally, you go after the Times. That’s the criminalization of the whole process.”

In November 2013, The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials, reported that the Justice Department strongly considered prosecuting Assange, but concluded it “could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists” who had partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the documents. According to the Post, officials “realized that they have what they described as a ‘New York Times problem’” – namely, that any theory used to bring charges against Assange would also result in criminal liability for the Times, The Guardian, and other papers which also published secret documents provided to WikiLeaks.


NSA proposals to target WikiLeaks

As the new NSA documents make clear, however, the U.S. government did more than attempt to engineer the prosecution of Assange. NSA analysts also considered designating WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor” for surveillance purposes – a move that would have significantly expanded the agency’s ability to subject the group’s officials and supporters to extensive surveillance.

Such a designation would allow WikiLeaks to be targeted with surveillance without the use of “defeats” – an agency term for technical mechanisms to shield the communications of U.S. persons from getting caught in the dragnet.

That top-secret document – which summarizes a discussion between the NSA’s Office of the General Counsel and the Oversight and Compliance Office of the agency’s Threat Operations Center – spells out a rationale for including American citizens in the surveillance:

“If the foreign IP is consistently associated with malicious cyber activity against the U.S., so, tied to a foreign individual or organization known to direct malicious activity our way, then there is no need to defeat any to, from, or about U.S. Persons. This is based on the description that one end of the communication would always be this suspect foreign IP, and so therefore any U.S. Person communicant would be incidental to the foreign intelligence task.”

In short, labeling WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign target” would mean that anyone communicating with the organization for any reason – including American citizens – could have their communications subjected to government surveillance.

When NSA officials are asked in the document if WikiLeaks or Pirate Bay could be designated as “malicious foreign actors,” the reply is inconclusive: “Let us get back to you.” There is no indication of whether either group was ever designated or targeted in such a way.

The NSA’s lawyers did, however, give the green light to subject other activists to heightened surveillance. Asked if it would be permissible to “target the foreign actors of a loosely coupled group of hackers … such as with Anonymous,” the response is unequivocal: “As long as they are foreign individuals outside of the US and do not hold dual citizenship … then you are okay.”

NSA Lawyers: “It’s Nothing to Worry About”

Sanchez, the surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, says the document serves as “a reminder that NSA essentially has carte blanche to spy on non-Americans. In public statements, intelligence officials always talk about spying on ‘terrorists,’ as if those are the only targets — but Section 702 [of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act] doesn’t say anything about ‘terrorists.’ They can authorize collection on any ‘persons reasonably believed to be [located] outside the United States,’ with ‘persons’ including pretty much any kind of group not ‘substantially’ composed of Americans.”

Sanchez notes that while it makes sense to subject some full-scale cyber-attacks to government surveillance, “it would make no sense to lump together foreign cyberattackers with sites voluntarily visited by enormous numbers of Americans, like Pirate Bay or WikiLeaks.”

Indeed, one entry in the NSA document expressly authorizes the targeting of a “malicious” foreign server – offering Pirate Bay as a specific example –“even if there is a possibility that U.S. persons could be using it as well.” NSA officials agree that there is no need to exclude Americans from the surveillance, suggesting only that the agency’s spies “try to minimize” how many U.S. citizens are caught in the dragnet.

Another entry even raises the possibility of using X-KEYSCORE, one of the agency’s most comprehensive surveillance programs, to target communications between two U.S.-based Internet addresses if they are operating through a “proxy” being used for “malicious foreign activity.” In response, the NSA’s Threat Operations Center approves the targeting, but the agency’s general counsel requests “further clarification before signing off.”

If WikiLeaks were improperly targeted, or if a U.S. citizen were swept up in the NSA’s surveillance net without authorization, the agency’s attitude seems to be one of indifference. According to the document – which quotes a response by the NSA’s Office of General Counsel and the oversight and compliance office of its Threat Operations Center – discovering that an American has been selected for surveillance must be mentioned in a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

The attempt to target WikiLeaks and its broad network of supporters drew sharp criticism from the group and its allies. “These documents demonstrate that the political persecution of WikiLeaks is very much alive,” says Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish former judge who now represents the group. “The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure.”

For his part, Assange remains defiant. “The NSA and its U.K. accomplices show no respect for the rule of law,” he told The Intercept. “But there is a cost to conducting illicit actions against a media organization.” Referring to a criminal complaint that the group filed last year against “interference with our journalistic work in Europe,” Assange warned that “no entity, including the NSA, should be permitted to act against a journalist with impunity.”

Assange indicated that in light of the new documents, the group may take further legal action.

“We have instructed our general counsel, Judge Baltasar Garzón, to prepare the appropriate response,” he said. “The investigations into attempts to interfere with WikiLeaks’ work will go wherever they need to go. Make no mistake: those responsible will be held to account and brought to justice.”


Por Glenn Greenwald y Ryan Gallagher


Baltasar Garzón reflects on his career, his supporters and enemies, his political aspirations and a possible return to the judiciary

T hree hours of sleep give one plenty of time to do things during the rest of the day. And three hours of rest is all that Baltasar Garzón needs to recharge his batteries and deal with all his national and international commitments. In his new life, the former High Court judge chairs a foundation with programs in nine countries, heads the legal team defending WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange, presides the International Center for the Promotion of Human Rights in Argentina, has worked on several projects in Colombia and Ecuador, and is doing research on El Salvador at a university in Seattle.

What these and other projects have in common is their defense of fundamental rights and, in some cases, the creation of truth commissions. In a way, it is but an extension of what Garzón, now 58, did for years from his position at Spain’s central criminal court, where he pursued ETA terrorists, drug traffickers and corrupt politicians with such zeal that he soon became a household name. His international fame began to build in October 1998 when he issued an unprecedented international arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for crimes against Spanish nationals.

Garzón would go on to use the concept of universal jurisdiction again in cases against members of Argentina’s military junta, earning him the “crusading judge” label. But if Garzón became world famous then, he has turned into nothing short of a star since he was unceremoniously kicked out of the High Court in 2012 for ordering wiretaps of prisoner-lawyer conversations in connection with Gürtel, a widespread corruption scandal affecting Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP). The Supreme Court barred him from his work for 11 years in a move that has been widely criticized in Spain and abroad as politically motivated. By then though, he had already been suspended for allegedly overstepping his bounds when he tried to investigate human rights crimes under the Franco regime. That decision, too, is widely viewed as punishment for attempting to make a foray into territory that nobody has dared to touch yet.

That was when Garzón, who had battled all kinds of crimes and criminals, realized that there is a line in his own country that cannot be crossed. Right after the Supreme Court ruling against him became public, Garzón announced that he would return to his post after the 11 years were over. But now he does not sound so sure anymore. Nor does he rule out a return to politics in some capacity, following his short-lived experience in the early 1990s, when he ran with the Socialist Party and was appointed head of the National Anti-Drug Plan, which he soon quit alleging lack of government support.

Question. With all the work you’re now doing across the globe, why doesn’t the government of Mariano Rajoy figure out that you would make a good ambassador for the Spain brand?

Answer. Deep down it all worked out well for me; it helped my mental balance to deal with that unconscionable thing that had happened to me [being barred]. It was obvious that it was going to happen. What saved me was going to the International Criminal Court [as a consultant for six months]. They asked me to come even before the ruling came out.

Q. And how is the Julian Assange case going these days?

A. I am concerned about his situation, though he has incredible fortitude. Asylum at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London is working well, but the situation is stretching out and his conditions are worse than prison. He gets no sunlight, and cannot go out on the terrace or he’d get arrested. It’s inconceivable that Sweden should have adopted such a hostile attitude towards him. We have no problem dealing with the Swedish trial over the rape charges, but we need clear and final guarantees that he will get asylum if he stands trial and gets convicted, if that were the case. He is still alright, but I am very concerned about his condition.

Q. Will you finally also be defending Edward Snowden?

A. I was asked, and I considered it. But I didn’t think it appropriate to defend both. The facts are different. I also think it’s terrible what is happening to him. What he has revealed is of extreme gravity. But defending both would be convenient for neither of them.

Q. Being suspended and barred has become a springboard for a new life, though.

A. What I can definitely say is that there is not one single place in the world I have visited since 2010 where I have not received support from supreme courts and international organizations. There is no place where I did not feel that warmth and where I was not told that they don’t understand what happened to me.

Q. Let’s be positive then. When did this new life begin?

A. I immediately went to Colombia. There I was part of the support mission to the peace process, also working with the government in the areas of demobilization, transitional justice, and with the paramilitaries. It was an incredible experience. I visited prisons, I was with the victims, I drew up a report about the Peace and Justice Commission, and when I left the Organization of American States (OAS) in August 2012, it was because the United States imposed it on them.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because I was defending Julian Assange. They made that demand. The president of the organization told me: there is nothing else I can do. And I said, yes there is. You could say no to them, but I understand… In any case, I was already planning to leave. What I didn’t like is the fact that my departure was an imposition because I was defending a particular client. Therein lies the paradox: I get condemned for not respecting the principle of defense and then kicked out of a job because as a lawyer I am defending someone who exercises his freedom of expression. President Santos of Colombia always treated me in an excellent manner, I have to say. To us you are still Judge Garzón, he told me.

Q. Don’t you have any qualms about cooperating so actively with Latin American governments that practice left-wing populism, such as Argentina or Ecuador?

A. Each country has to be judged according to its own idiosyncrasies. In Ecuador, Correa is said to be eliminating freedom of expression, yet I keep reading furious attacks against him. In Argentina there is tension between the government and the Clarín media group, which is evident in the media law – on which the justice system ruled in favor of the executive – and the level of mutual denigration is incredible. Yes, things can be improved; yes, there is sometimes the risk that excessive power conferred by votes can become something negative. But we see the same thing [in Spain], with the citizens security law, abortion reform and an education reform that puts us at the bottom of the world ranking.

Q. On the subject of the fine line between politics and the judiciary, how do you think the other side would feel if you decide to step into their playing field? I am talking about running for elections. You have not denied a willingness to do so.

A. My concept of the state is very clear. All three powers have their space. But they must not move in divergent directions. Participating in politics is every citizen’s obligation. I am not one of those who say that they do not participate in politics, because that very statement entails a judgment, generally a right-wing one at that. Nor do I believe those who say that judges have to put their ideology to one side. No. They must have one; they must take society on board; they must know what they are doing. The opposite is irresponsible.

Q. Are you talking about ivory towers?

A. Yes, those which always happen to lean to the same side, what a coincidence… We judges need to be involved. Now that I am free, I have said that I want to get involved, and I am doing so, but I don’t want to be linked to anyone specific, because I do not yearn for any elected position or for a run for office. At this moment that is not a priority.

Q. Would you run in elections in the future then?

A. If what we mean by going into politics is to adopt a position of leadership that takes you to an elected position, that is not my priority. But I do prioritize a dynamic exchange of ideas and options that defend things that I identify with.

Q. Are we seeing the collapse of a system that has ruled us for over 30 years?

A. Yes, and they [judges] don’t realize it. They remain in their castle, holding on to their positions for dear life, and kicking people down along the way.

Q. People like yourself?

A. That model is no longer credible. It is anti-democratic; we have shifted from a participatory model to a corporate model of distribution. Citizens need an alternative. It’s like this thing you hear that the Constitution cannot be touched. Why not? Everything is altered around here: abortion laws, education laws, security laws. So why not the Constitution? Maybe we should actually start with that.

Q. Are you the type who thinks that your country needs you right now?

A. No. Spain needs neither saviors nor magicians. What this country needs is commitment. An ethic of political responsibility requires people to be alert to what we do, and when we start doing something, people should not have to wonder about our ulterior motives. I have always defended the public sphere. When people asked me why I got involved in certain matters as a judge, I replied that this is what I was getting paid for. Did the system cut me down? I don’t know. I think it was specific individuals.

Q. Are there dark forces at play here? Is there a line that cannot be crossed in Spain?

A. I don’t know whether it is one or several forces, or rather specific people who are part of that system. What I’m worried about is the meddling by certain politicians or members of the PP at a specific point in time; people who actually boasted that they were talking to judges and magistrates, who were holding meetings, who were coming and going. To me that is a scandal. Later you look at the sequence of events and it all makes sense. They came up with a crime for me. The judges involved in the Gürtel case later ratified my measure [ordering wiretaps] and even used it themselves. Five attorneys agreed that my actions had been correct. So why me? We could look for explanations that escape me. But I have given up on looking for reasons and arguments. I respect the judicial system, but they destroyed my right to a defense; they prevented me from using a lot of evidence, and the ruling was already pre-established. How can we talk about impartiality?

Q. There are two types of judges, you say. There are those who are content with any reply, and those who always ask the next question.

A. The passive one and the productive one. I absolutely reject the first kind.

Q. Which ones are in the majority?

A. It used to be the first group, but not anymore. They still exist, but there are fewer of them. I hope I have played a role in changing that.

Q. I often wonder about that child growing up in Andalusia who began building a concept of justice inside himself.

A. I was a combination of circumstances. But without a doubt, the main ingredient was the upbringing my parents, who were both quite liberal, gave me. My mother is an exceptional woman with a very open mind. My father was a farmer who later worked at a gas station where I also worked for several years. He died very young, 25 years ago now. My father’s family was left-wing, my mother’s was right-wing, but there was one other important person: my uncle Gabriel, who fought for the Republic even though he was a right-winger. He remained loyal to the legally elected government. He could have switched sides, but he didn’t want to. I was also influenced by the seminary.

Q. You were going to be a priest?

A. At age 11 you don’t really think about those things. I never rejected what I experienced there. I wanted to do something to express my solidarity, I even wanted to be a missionary. They taught me to love my work and they taught me responsibility. But they gave up on me when they found me with a girl I was sort of going out with. But there was more. When I asked a friend of mine why he was not talking to me anymore, he said he’d heard I was a communist and could corrupt him. “But why?” He said it was because I didn’t go to mass, and because nobody saw me praying. I questioned things. So they gave up on me. But that is where I got my commitment to society. One day I heard a lecture by a judge, who was the father of a friend of mine, Lorenzo del Río, now president of the Andalusian High Court, and I decided I wanted to be a judge, too. When I told my mother, she nearly had a heart attack. “That sort of thing is not for us,” she said.

Q. Why not?

A. We were a middle-class farming family with five siblings, a salary of 70,000 pesetas, and all the kids in school. But that kind of a career seemed outside of our possibilities. They tried to talk me out of it. They said that a moment would come when it would become impossible.

Q. In a way they were right.

A. Right. But I wouldn’t give up on the satisfaction that my father and mother felt. When I passed the examinations, my father was the happiest man on earth.

Q. And the day you were kicked out, what did your mother say?

A. She gave me a kiss and a hug, and said the family is here for you and always will be. […] All the bad things that have happened to my family have brought us closer thanks to her, but she’s suffered a lot in her quiet way, and that is something I will never forgive.

Q. Resentment sounds like a bad thing, but does indignation work when it comes to seeking justice?

A. I don’t know how to hate. I don’t forget things, but hate? Never. Indignation? Of course. I have described myself in writing as an advocate of the principle of active indignation in the face of indifference, injustice and a lack of commitment.

Q. Your decisions in the field of criminal investigation have also stirred controversy.

A. Controversies that I am still suffering from, and not from democratic sectors of society, but from ETA’s circle, which is now harassing me in Argentina, for example. […] In the early 1980s we began investigating the whole ETA structure; we wanted to prove that the criminal organization was nothing without the whole social, political and economic structure behind it. The pieces fit like a puzzle, and they moved them around at their convenience. It was necessary to make this visible, to disclose it, and to act on it. A lawyer associated with that world told me that everything had been planned since 1992.

Q. Giovanni Falcone, the Italian judge who was assassinated by the Mafia, used to say something that made a deep impression on you: “First they criticize your work, then they undermine your credibility, then they move on to threats, and finally they eliminate you.” Which of these horrible phases are you at?

A. At times I feel caught up in that sequence. Now, in Argentina, there’s that group of defenders of the Basque people, or whatever, who are inclined to violence and admit that their goal is to take away my prestige and my fame. That is how they brand people. I don’t believe that ETA will return to its terrorist actions, but if it did, I am aware that I would be on the hit list.

Q. Is fear a word that means something to you?

A. Whoever says they never feel it is lying. How could I not be afraid? But fear makes you reflect, and either it holds you back or it makes you face up to your responsibilities. Every time I felt I was holding myself back, I took the drastic decision of forging ahead. How hard would it have been for me to say no to the investigation into Franco’s crimes? What would the cost have been? One day of media headlines? Two? But it would have remained with me the rest of my life. Same with the Gürtel case. But the investigation demanded it. So there were consequences; so what can you do? I would have made the same decisions a hundred times more, because I believe that it was my duty.


Por Jesús Ruiz Mantilla


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting US news organisations and journalists, United States officials say.

The officials stressed that a formal decision has not been taken and a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks remains impanelled, but they said there is little possibility of bringing a case against the Australian, who has sought asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, unless he is implicated in criminal activity other than releasing online top secret military and diplomatic documents.

The Obama administration has charged government employees and contractors who leak classified information – such as former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning – with violations of the Espionage Act.

But officials said that although Assange published classified documents, he did not leak them, something they said significantly affects their legal analysis.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realised that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem”. If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organisations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s The Guardian, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said last week that the anti-secrecy organisation was sceptical, “short of an open, official, formal confirmation that the US government is not going to prosecute WikiLeaks”. Justice Department officials said it was unclear whether there would be a formal announcement should the grand jury investigation be formally closed.

“We have repeatedly asked the Department of Justice to tell us what the status of the investigation was with respect to Mr Assange,” Barry Pollack, a Washington lawyer for Assange, said. “They have declined to do so. They have not informed us in any way that they are closing the investigation or have made a decision not to bring charges against Mr Assange. While we would certainly welcome that development, it should not have taken the Department of Justice several years to come to the conclusion that it should not be investigating journalists for publishing truthful information.”

There have been persistent rumors that the grand jury investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks had secretly led to charges. Officials told The Washington Post last week that there was no sealed indictment, and other officials have since come forward to say, as one senior US official put it, that the department had “all but concluded” it would not bring a case against Assange.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did former US attorney Neil MacBride, whose office in the Eastern District of Virginia led the investigation into the WikiLeaks organization.

In an interview with the Post earlier this month, Attorney-General Eric Holder said that Justice Department officials were still trying to repatriate Snowden, who has obtained temporary asylum in Russia, to stand trial. But Holder also said that the Justice Department was not planning to prosecute former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who received documents from Snowden and has written a series of articles based on the leaked material. Greenwald, an American citizen, has said he fears prosecution if returned to the United States from his home in Brazil.

Justice officials said that the same distinction between leaker and journalist or publisher was being made between Manning and Assange. One former law enforcement official said the US government could bring charges against Assange if it discovered a crime, such as evidence that he directly hacked into a US government computer. But the Justice officials said he would almost certainly not be prosecuted for receiving classified material from Manning.

Assange has been living in a room in the Ecuadoran embassy since that country granted him political asylum. He is facing sexual assault charges in Sweden. Assange and some of his supporters have said he fears that if he goes to Sweden to face those charges, he will be extradited to the United States.

But current and former US officials have dismissed that defence.

“He is hiding out in the embassy to avoid a sexual assault charge in Sweden,” Miller said. “It has nothing to do with the US government.”


Greg Austin, EWI’s director of policy innovation, argues that the Snowden affair highlights mounting concerns about America’s global cyber capabilities.

The United States is racing for the technological frontier in military and intelligence uses of cyberspace. It is ahead of all others, and has mobilized massive non-military assets and private contractors in that effort. This constellation of private sector opportunity and deliberate government policy has been aptly labeled in recent months and years by so many credible observers (in The EconomistThe Financial Times and the MIT Technology Review) as the cyber industrial complex.

The United States is now in the unusual situation where the head of a spy agency (NSA) also runs a major military unified command (Cyber Command). This is probably an unprecedented alignment of Praetorian political power in any major democracy in modern political history. This allocation of such political weight to one military commander is of course for the United States to decide and is a legitimate course of action. But it has consequences. The Snowden case hints at some of the blow-back effects now visible in public. But there are others, less visible.

The NSA Prism program exists because it is technologically possible and there have been no effective restraints on its international targeting. This lack of restraint is especially important because the command and control of strategic nuclear weapons is a potential target both of cyber espionage and offensive cyber operations. The argument here is not to suggest a similarity between the weapons themselves, but to identify correctly the very close relationship between cyber operations and nuclear weapons planning. Thus the lack of restraint in cyber weapons might arguably affect (destabilize) pre-existing agreements that constrain nuclear weapons deployment and possible use.

The cyber superiority of the United States, while legal and understandable, is now a cause of strategic instability between nuclear armed powers. This is similar to the situation that persisted with nuclear weapons themselves until 1969 when the USSR first proposed an end of the race for the technological frontier of potential planetary devastation. After achieving initial capability, the U.S. nuclear missile build up was not a rational military response to each step increase in Soviet military capability. It was a race for the technological frontier—by both sides—with insufficient recognition of the consequences. This conclusion was borne out by a remarkable Top Secret study commissioned in 1974 by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Dr. James Schlesinger. By the time it was completed and submitted in 1981, it assessed that the nuclear arms build-up by both sides was driven—not by a supposed tit for tat escalation in capability of deployed military systems—but rather by an unconstrained race for the technological limits of each side’s military potential and by its own military doctrinal preferences. The decisions of each side were not for the most part, according to this now declassified study, a direct response to particular systems that the other side was building.

In 1969, the USSR acted first to propose an end to the race for the technological frontier of nuclear weapons because it knew it was losing the contest and because it knew there was political sentiment in the United States and in its Allied countries that supported limitations on the unbridled nuclear fetish.

As we ponder the American cyber industrial complex of today, we see a similar constellation of opposition to its power emerging. This constellation includes not just the political rivals who see they are losing in cyberspace (China and Russia), but nervous allies who see themselves as the likely biggest victims of the American race for cyber superiority, and loyal American military commanders who can see the risks and dangers of that quest.

It is time for the United States to take stock of the collateral damage that its quest for cyber military power, including its understandable quest for intelligence superiority over the terrorist enemy, has caused amongst its allies. The loss has not yet been seen at the high political level among allies, in spite of several pro forma requests for information from countries such as Germany. The loss of U.S. credibility has happened more at the popular level. Around the world, once loyal supporters of the United States in its war on terrorism had a reasonable expectation to be treated as faithful allies. They had the expectation, perhaps naïve, that privacy was a value the Americans shared with them. They did not expect to be subject to such a crude distinction (“you are all non-Americans now”). They did not want to know that their entire personal lives in cyber space are now recoverable—should someone so decide—by the running of a bit of software in the NSA. After the Prism revelations, so many of these foreign citizens with an internationalist persuasion and solidarity for the United States now feel a little betrayed.

Yet, in the long run, the most influential voice to end the American quest for cyber military superiority may come from its own armed forces. There are military figures in the United States who have had responsibility for nuclear weapons command and control systems and who, in private, counsel caution. They advocate the need to abandon the quest for cyber dominance and pursue a strategy of “mutual security” in cyberspace—though that has yet to be defined. They cite military exercises where the Blue team gets little or no warning of Red team disruptive cyber attack on systems that might affect critical nuclear command and control or wider war mobilization functions. Strategic nuclear stability may be at risk because of uncertainty about innovations in cyber attack capability. This question is worth much more attention.

U.S. national security strategy in cyberspace needs to be brought under stronger civilian oversight and subject to more rigorous public scrutiny. The focus on Chinese cyber espionage has totally preempted proper debate about American cyber military power. Most in the United States Congress have lined up to condemn Snowden. That is understandable. But where are the critical voices looking at the bigger picture of strategic instability in cyberspace that existed before Snowden and has now been aggravated because of him? The Russian and Chinese rejections of reasonable U.S. demands for Snowden’s extradition may be every bit as reasonable given their anxiety about unconstrained American cyber superiority.


Por Greg Austin (EWI director of policy innovation. He wrote this article for the policy innovation blog. It also ran on China-US Focus. )


More than 130 people from 50 countries attended “Cybersecurity: Unchartered Waters for the UN,” a panel discussion hosted by the German Mission and the EastWest Institute on Thursday, June 6, 2013, at the German House in New York City.

Ambassador Peter Wittig opened the event calling cybersecurity “a major cross-cutting issue of foreign policy,” where “the stakes are too high and too many lives are at risk for a mere laissez-faire approach.” He admitted that cyber issues are rarely discussed within the UN and that this must change.

Wittig called for a “framework for lawful state conduct in cyberspace. We should have clarity about the rules and norms that apply in cyberspace.” The panelists focused on just that in a lively debate that engendered many questions from the audience.

The panelists were James Lewis, senior fellow and program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, D.C.; Sandro Gaycken, researcher in technology and security, Institute of Computer Science, Freie Universität, Berlin; and Cherian Samuel, associate fellow, Strategic Technologies Centre, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Colum Lynch, UN correspondent for the Washington Post and blogger for Foreign Policy moderated.

All panelists agreed that current strategies for cybersecurity are not working; they differed however, in their long range views of how to tackle this immeasurable problem.

Gaycken stated that because attribution is so difficult to determine in cyber incidents, he believes that applying international laws that already exist in the military, aviation or similar spheres will not be effective, and that other paths of containment must be explored. This, he emphasized, is especially true in light of almost daily advancing technological capabilities.

Speaking from the perspective of the hacker, Gaycken said, “It’s very unlikely that anything you do will be discovered…and you’re not being identified, so you’re out of risk. Not much is going to happen to you if you do it right.” He continued, “So that’s something that all of these nations must consider—getting the golden key to all these castles. That was simply not possible before.”

Lewis countered this argument using a graffiti analogy. “Even though most times no one sees the spray painter who defaces property with graffiti, there are still laws against it. Eventually the spray painter is identified and prosecuted. The same with hackers—there still must be laws that are and will be enforceable and we should continue working toward that.”

Samuel spoke to the urgency of this work, as he reminded the audience that India has the third largest Internet-driven market in the world. “Bad guys are taking advantage of the fact that nation states are not tackling cybersecurity in more effective ways. We have the same problems as other countries but of course on a much larger scale.”

To that point, Lewis stressed that, “Government is better at addressing certain issues, while the private sector is better able to handle others. That is why it is essential to have both at the table working in tandem.”

EWI President John Mroz concluded the event with a summation of main points, stressing that there must be global cooperation on this frontier, and that this event is the first in what will be a series of co-sponsored cyber panels with the German mission.

“Nobody knows how big the cybersecurity problem is, and that is why it is essential that we continue this dialogue and work together for tangible solutions,” Mroz stated.


Por Sarah Stern


Law-enforcement officials in the U.S. are expanding the use of tools routinely used by computer hackers to gather information on suspects, bringing the criminal wiretap into the cyber age.

Federal agencies have largely kept quiet about these capabilities, but court documents and interviews with people involved in the programs provide new details about the hacking tools, including spyware delivered to computers and phones through email or Web links—techniques more commonly associated with attacks by criminals.

People familiar with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s programs say that the use of hacking tools under court orders has grown as agents seek to keep up with suspects who use new communications technology, including some types of online chat and encryption tools. The use of such communications, which can’t be wiretapped like a phone, is called “going dark” among law enforcement.


A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment.

The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.’s GOOG -1.00% Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment.

The bureau typically uses hacking in cases involving organized crime, child pornography or counterterrorism, a former U.S. official said. It is loath to use these tools when investigating hackers, out of fear the suspect will discover and publicize the technique, the person said.

The FBI has been developing hacking tools for more than a decade, but rarely discloses its techniques publicly in legal cases.

Earlier this year, a federal warrant application in a Texas identity-theft case sought to use software to extract files and covertly take photos using a computer’s camera, according to court documents. The judge denied the application, saying, among other things, that he wanted more information on how data collected from the computer would be minimized to remove information on innocent people.

Since at least 2005, the FBI has been using “web bugs” that can gather a computer’s Internet address, lists of programs running and other data, according to documents disclosed in 2011. The FBI used that type of tool in 2007 to trace a person who was eventually convicted of emailing bomb threats in Washington state, for example.

The FBI “hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things,” said a former official in the agency’s cyber division. The tools are used when other surveillance methods won’t work: “When you do, it’s because you don’t have any other choice,” the official said.

Surveillance technologies are coming under increased scrutiny after disclosures about data collection by the National Security Agency. The NSA gathers bulk data on millions of Americans, but former U.S. officials say law-enforcement hacking is targeted at very specific cases and used sparingly.

Still, civil-liberties advocates say there should be clear legal guidelines to ensure hacking tools aren’t misused. “People should understand that local cops are going to be hacking into surveillance targets,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. “We should have a debate about that.”

Mr. Soghoian, who is presenting on the topic Friday at the DefCon hacking conference in Las Vegas, said information about the practice is slipping out as a small industry has emerged to sell hacking tools to law enforcement. He has found posts and resumes on social networks in which people discuss their work at private companies helping the FBI with surveillance.

A search warrant would be required to get content such as files from a suspect’s computer, said Mark Eckenwiler, a senior counsel at Perkins Coie LLP who until December was the Justice Department’s primary authority on federal criminal surveillance law. Continuing surveillance would necessitate an even stricter standard, the kind used to grant wiretaps.

But if the software gathers only communications-routing “metadata”—like Internet protocol addresses or the “to” and “from” lines in emails—a court order under a lower standard might suffice if the program is delivered remotely, such as through an Internet link, he said. That is because nobody is physically touching the suspect’s property, he added.

An official at the Justice Department said it determines what legal authority to seek for such surveillance “on a case-by-case basis.” But the official added that the department’s approach is exemplified by the 2007 Washington bomb-threat case, in which the government sought a warrant even though no agents touched the computer and the spyware gathered only metadata.

In 2001, the FBI faced criticism from civil-liberties advocates for declining to disclose how it installed a program to record the keystrokes on the computer of mobster Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. to capture a password he was using to encrypt a document. He was eventually convicted.

A group at the FBI called the Remote Operations Unit takes a leading role in the bureau’s hacking efforts, according to former officials.

Officers often install surveillance tools on computers remotely, using a document or link that loads software when the person clicks or views it. In some cases, the government has secretly gained physical access to suspects’ machines and installed malicious software using a thumb drive, a former U.S. official said.

The bureau has controls to ensure only “relevant data” are scooped up, the person said. A screening team goes through all of the data pulled from the hack to determine what is relevant, then hands off that material to the case team and stops working on the case.

The FBI employs a number of hackers who write custom surveillance software, and also buys software from the private sector, former U.S. officials said.

Italian company HackingTeam SRL opened a sales office in Annapolis, Md., more than a year ago to target North and South America. HackingTeam provides software that can extract information from phones and computers and send it back to a monitoring system. The company declined to disclose its clients or say whether any are in the U.S.

U.K.-based Gamma International offers computer exploits, which take advantage of holes in software to deliver spying tools, according to people familiar with the company. Gamma has marketed “0 day exploits”—meaning that the software maker doesn’t yet know about the security hole—for software including Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer, those people said. Gamma, which has marketed its products in the U.S., didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did Microsoft.


By Jennifer Valentino-Devries and Danny Yadron



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