Archive for June, 2013

The Real Reason You’re Mad at the NSA

“What’s really going on here?” That’s the question I typically ask students to kick-start a discussion about some aspect of American intelligence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where I teach a graduate course on the subject.

This same question might fairly be asked about the controversy dominating the news since the leak that revealed the intelligence community’s highly classified electronic surveillance program. Why are we so fascinated with this case? Why are some Americans outraged at the government while others are outraged at the leaker? Why do so many of us have such firm and passionate views about all of this?

At one level, the answer is simple: Intelligence is a sexy subject, particularly in the post-9/11 era. And the surveillance program was a secret, so who wouldn’t be interested? But this controversy taps into deeper cultural strains that go to the very heart of the intelligence community’s role in America, and perhaps our maturation as a nation. The bottom line is that intelligence, as a profession, still does not sit comfortably in our polity. There are a number of reasons for this.

Israel Thwarts Hamas Terror Plots Involving Qatar-based Terrorist

Today Israeli authorities announced the arrest of a Hamas operative in the West Bank who was “planning to carry out terror attacks involving shooting and kidnapping Israelis.” Baker Atallah Samiach Saad, a resident of Ramallah, was helped in planning his attacks by a Hamas terrorist released in the exchange for Gilad Shalit in October 2011. According to the Israel Defense Forces, Saad met Qatar-based Hisham Abed Elkader Ibrahim Hajaz in April in Jordan.

Hajaz was exiled to Qatar as part of the exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in October 2011. Prior to being exiled, Hajaz had been given 10 life sentences for his role in terror attacks against Israelis between 2001 and 2003.

During the April meeting in Jordan, Hajaz encouraged Saad to carry out terror attacks against Israelis, including kidnappings. Saad was also asked to recruit more people to carry out additional attacks.

NSA Wired Into Top Internet Companies’ Servers, Including Google and Facebook

As if news of the National Security Agency collecting phone records on millions of Americans wasn’t enough, a new report reveals that the NSA and FBI are directly tapped into central servers at nine U.S. internet firms, in order to provide constant monitoring of audio, video, photos, emails and documents as well as connection logs.

The companies whose servers are being mined are reportedly Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. The classified program, dubbed PRISM, has been in operation since 2007 and has been a leading source of intelligence fed to the president in his daily intelligence briefings, according to the Washington Post, which broke the story at the same time as the Guardian today.

NSA Granted Order to Snag Millions of Verizon Call Records for 3 Months

The National Security Agency obtained a court order to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers, according to a secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The sweeping order, issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requires Verizon to give the NSA metadata on all calls within the U.S. and between the U.S. and foreign countries on an “ongoing, daily basis” for three months.

The data includes the phone numbers of both parties involved in the calls, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number for mobile callers, calling card numbers used in the call, and the time and duration of the calls. It does not include the name or address of the subscriber or other account information, nor does it allow the content of calls to be recorded and collected. It may, however, include the location of the calls through cell site data.

The classified order was issued to the FBI by the secretive court on April 25 and allows the government to collect data until July 19 and hand it over to the NSA. The order came with a gag requirement that prevents Verizon from disclosing its existence. It covers only Verizon, and it’s not clear if other phone companies received similar orders.

Transgender Navy SEAL Publishes Book Entitled ‘Warrior Princess’

A former Navy SEAL has come out publicly to say she is now a woman. Kristin Beck, formerly Chris Beck served 20 years as a Navy SEAL. Beck co-wrote a book entitled “Warrior Princess,” which was published over the weekend. According the description on Amazon, the book is the journey of a girl in a man’s body and her road to self-actualization as a woman amdist the PTSD of war, family rejection and our society’s strict gender rules and perceptions. It is about a fight to be free inside one’s own body, a fight that requires the strength of a Warrior Princess.

A former SEAL, Brandon Webb, spoke of Beck’s reputation in the SEALs as a good one and said she was, by all appearances, the “consummate guy’s guy.”

Source: Breitbart

Data Mining Wikipedia in Real Time for Disaster Response

My colleague Fernando Diaz has continued working on an interesting Wikipedia project since he first discussed the idea with me last year. Since Wikipedia is increasingly used to crowdsource live reports on breaking news such as sudden-onset humanitarian crisis and disasters, why not mine these pages for structured information relevant to humanitarian response professionals?

American Gets Targeted by Digital Spy Tool Sold to Foreign Governments

The email appeared to come from a trusted colleague at a renowned academic institution and referenced a subject that was a hot-button issue for the recipient, including a link to a website where she could obtain more information about it.

The email contained a link to a web site in Turkey, where a malicious downloader file was waiting to install on her computer…

But when the recipient looked closely at the sender’s email address, a tell-tale misspelling gave the phishing attempt away — the email purported to come from a professor at Harvard University, but instead of, the email address read “”.

Not exactly a professional con-job from nation-state hackers, but that’s exactly who may have sent the email to an American woman, who believes she was targeted by forces in Turkey connected to or sympathetic to the powerful Gülen Movement, which has infiltrated parts of the Turkish government.