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This weekend's Washington Post had a disturbing article on how the FBI is ramping up--using new computer software--its investigation into the government sources for an explosive article on the Stuxnet computer virus that attacked Iran's nuclear reactors (while the U.S. simultaneously states that cyberwarfare is a crime.)

Glenn Greenwald and Trevor Timm wrote extremely important articles on how this investigation escalates the war on whistleblowers by an order of magnitude and threatens press freedom.

As an attorney for a number of whistleblowers prosecuted under the Espionage Act, including Tom Drake and John Kiriakou, I want to make it clear that we have already seen what it looks like when the government conducts invasive surveillance on its own employees in an attempt to find sources, especially whistleblowers.

In a case of history repeating itself--but this time ramped up by an order of magnitude with fancy new electronic surveillance software--the FBI is intensifying its investigation into government officials suspected of leaking information on the Stuxnet virus to the press. (Stuxnet is the computer virus that attacked Iran's nuclear reactors. The U.S. considers cyberwarfare a crime.)

If this sounds at all familiar, it's because we saw an eerie preview of this six months ago when the New York Times revealed the FDA's invasive surveillance on employees, reporters, and congressional staffers in an attempt to target seven scientist-whistleblowers who raised concerns about excessive radiation emitted from mammogram and colonoscopy machines.

That scandal included an "enemies list," outsourced surveillance, spyware on dogs, and numerous other outrages conducted by our government. The fact that FDA targeted only the whistleblowers, whose communications included legally-protected disclosures to the media, congress, and the Office of Special Counsel, made the monitoring more problematic, not less.

Now we have a much more sophisticated investigation run by the nation's top law enforcement agency--the FBI--rather than a bunch of FDA stooges. This FBI Stuxnet investigation-on-steroids is datamining not only government officials' professional communications with journalists, but also their personal communications from their private e-mail accounts, phone records and text messages. And it is ensnaring untold numbers of journalists along the way.

Whistleblowers have already been chilled by the cases of Thomas Drake and Friday's sentencing of John Kiriakou. Here we see the logical extension: chilling journalists and a free press--something I've been shouting into the wilderness about for years.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Digital witch hunts are increasing (4+ / 0-)

    But, what was the motive behind this (from the Washington Post article)?  

    "...a double agent inside al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen allowed the United States and Saudi Arabia to disrupt the plot to bomb an airliner using explosives and a detonation system that could evade airport security checks."
    Where is the benefit to the public interest in outing a key operative? Did the Post neglect some important details?
  •  One man's crime syndicate is another's (5+ / 0-)

    national security operation.

    Used to be most Democrats identified with the former perspective. Now there seem to be plenty of "serious" Dems who have migrated to the latter.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 08:27:15 AM PST

  •  whoever leaked about Stuxnet knew he or she (0+ / 0-)

    was committing a criminal felony.  The person had signed a clear written agreement before being granted the privilege (a privilege, not a right) of access to highly sensitive and classified information to protect and to not disclose the information.  This has nothing to do with whistleblowing - the person who leaked Stuxnet was not disclosing some criminal acts on the part of the Government.  I have no sympathy for the criminal leaker and am not surprised that the Obama Administration is pursuing vigorously the wrongful disclosure of the information.

    •  be that as it may (7+ / 0-)

      you leave out three key points here:

      1. If one is witnessing the commission of a crime... even if (particularly if) by the government... one has an obligation to society to report it

      2. This is why whistleblower protection laws have been created

      3. What is mostly being reported above is the government trampling on the 4th amendment in pursuit of what may well be protected whistleblowing activities

      "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

      by Andrew C White on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 08:46:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wasn't our government responsible for (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ScienceMom, Joieau, Sandino, aliasalias

      the virus? Didn't they use it violation of the laws and our treaties against a sovereign nation? Seriously here, were they trying to create another Fukushima? What would have happened if the virus shut down the cooling systems?

      Their actions were and are pure evil.  Did the creator of the virus, the person or people responsible for deploying it, the person whom ordered it be done get arrested and prosecuted?

      They are all part of a criminal conspiracy to evade our laws.

      Or is that acceptable as long as we don't know they broke the law?

      I surely don't think so.

      Revealing criminal acts is not a crime, no matter how you slice it.

      -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

      by gerrilea on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 09:40:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nobody "leaked" (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gerrilea, Deep Harm, aliasalias, RWood

      Stuxnet. Stuxnet escaped its multinational 'handlers' and infected computers worldwide, so computer and systems security sleuths reverse engineered it for the purpose of patching the holes it created.

      See my post below for details. Let's at least be clear on this much, because this sort of barn door slamming when the horses are already in the next county is stoopid.

  •  I am having a bit of trouble (7+ / 0-)

    figuring out how this new focus of government spying has anything to do with Stuxnet. Hope you can help me understand.

    Stuxnet became a public deal back in 2010 when it 'escaped' from its Iranian target(s) and infected computers all over the planet. I wrote about it last year here - with one of the sources being the in-depth Wired article from July of 2011.

    Spy vs. Spy: Stuxnet, Good-Guys and Bad-Guys

    The June 1st 2012 NYT article reported that Obama himself authorized the continuance of the Stuxnet op against Iran - code named "Olympic Games" during a Situation Room meeting days AFTER the worm escaped. It wasn't whistleblowers or spies who sussed out the origin, nature and likely objective of Stuxnet and reported it to the public, it was civilian computer sleuths and security experts. Including Siemens PLC engineers in Germany. Who figured out and reported at the time that it was a state-sponsored cyberattack.

    Is this about the sources for the NYT article? Described thusly by the NYT:

    This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts. None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.
    Now, those "outside experts" are no doubt the computer sleuths and German engineers who reverse engineered the worm. Whose names are included in the Wired article from mid-2011. Obama's got no power to prosecute 'whistleblowers' in Europe or Israel, so there would be no point in threatening to do so at this late date. As for American officials at the meeting who became sources - or just confirmations - for the Times, only so many people were at that get-together. Their names are all on the log, can't be that difficult to figure out who they are - they could ask politely or something. At that time the existence of Stuxnet was not the least bit "secret" - the 'official' details may have been classified, but too many people already knew about it for the admin to claim it was actually a secret.

    To sum it up: Suxnet got loose in 2010. Its sources, nature and target(s) were reported by people who cannot be prosecuted for "leaking" classified information because they don't work for the government and weren't sworn to secrecy. It was fucking sloppy work, the spies were so busy putting in "back doors" to do end runs around each other that the whole thing blew up in their faces. Whining and macho posturing about it now is pretty darned lame.

    Big Fail, Obama. Grow up.

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