Snowden leak journo leaks next leak: NSA, GCHQ dying to snoop on your gadgets mid-flight
Greenwald blasts US, UK during hacker confab speech
Top-secret documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have been plastered across our screens and front-pages for months by Glenn Greenwald and his team.
And on Friday the journalist couldn't help but leak a few details about a forthcoming wave of fresh revelations regarding the US and UK governments' mass surveillance operations.
In a keynote speech to this year's Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany, Greenwald claimed NSA and GCHQ analysts are infuriated that they cannot easily track or monitor airline passengers' smartphones and other electronic gadgets mid-flight – implying that may be about to change.
Conveniently, US comms watchdog the FCC has given a thumbs up to in-flight mobile broadband, and the European Aviation Safety Agency is relaxing its rules on the use of electronics before and during flights – in theory, granting spies a direct pathway to personal computers and handhelds tens of thousands of feet above ground.
Addressing the hackers' conference via Skype from his home in São Paulo, Greenwald – who used to break his NSA stories in UK daily newspaper the Guardian but has since moved on – spent most of his allotted hour praising Snowden and condemning corporate media giants.
Greenwald then turned his ire onto the NSA and GCHQ's long-running quest for total awareness of the world's communications networks:
The NSA and GCHQ ... are obsessed with searching out any small little crevice on the planet where some forms of communication may be taking place without them being able to invade it.
One of the stories we're working on now – I used to get in trouble at the Guardian for pre-announcing my stories, but I'm not at the Guardian so I'm just going to do it anyway – the NSA and GCHQ are being driven crazy by this idea that you can go on an airplane and use certain cellphone devices or internet services and be away from their prying eyes for a few hours at a time.
They are obsessed with finding ways to invade the systems of online, onboard internet services and mobile phone services, because the very idea that human beings can communicate even for a few moments without them being able to collect and store and analyze and monitor what it is that we're saying is simply intolerable.
Meanwhile, scrutiny of the NSA's spying programs by the US Supreme Court edged closer to reality today after one federal judge ruled the agency's phone records dragnet is lawful despite another slamming it as "almost Orwellian." While just hours ago US District Judge William Pauley said the NSA's operations had thwarted bomb attacks on US soil, Judge Richard J Leon remarked this month that he was not convinced the agency's databases on Americans could be used to rapidly swoop on terrorists.
Continuing his speech this evening, Greenwald said Blighty's GCHQ and Uncle Sam's NSA "target every form of communication that they can possibly get their hands on."
"And if you think about what individual privacy does for us as human beings, let alone what it does for us on a political level, it really is the thing that lets us explore boundaries and engage in creativity and use the mechanisms of dissent without fear," he told the hackers' conference, now in its 30th year.
"A surveillance state breeds conformity, because if human beings know they are susceptible to being watched, even if they're not being watched, they cling far more closely to orthodoxy."
Greenwald gets onto the subject of airlines about 39 minutes into his speech, which was recorded and published online here:
"NSA conducts all of its activities in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies – and assertions to the contrary do a grave disservice to the nation, its allies and partners, and the men and women who make up the National Security Agency," the NSA stated during the height of this year's Snowden-sourced revelations.
"Terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other valid foreign intelligence targets make use of commercial infrastructure and services. When a validated foreign intelligence target uses one of those means to send or receive their communications, we work to find, collect, and report on the communication." ®
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