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  1. A group of men who BASE jumped from the top of the 1,776-foot tower at 1 World Trade Center last September turned themselves in to police on Monday. The men — three of whom parachuted from the building, while a fourth kept watch — questioned the level of security in and around the tower. Andrew Rossig, one of the men who was involved with the stunt, said "we just kind of walked in." Timothy Parlatore, one of Rossig's lawyers, told The New York Times that the group had not seen any security guards during their 3AM climb to the roof of the 104-floor building. The men were able to evade capture on the night of their stunt, despite being spotted stuffing their parachutes away by a Goldman Sachs security guard when they were safely back on the ground. Police took until January to identify them, when they were able to obtain search warrants for their camera equipment, and found footage of the incredible jump. Last week, another incident called the tower's security into question, when 16-year-old Justin Casquejo was able to sneak through a fence, ride the tower's elevator to the 88th floor, and climb the spire on its roof. Casquejo says he made his way past a sleeping security guard and spent two hours on top of the tower, before being spotted on his descent. He was arrested in the tower's lobby two hours later. The BASE jumpers are expected to be charged with trespassing and burglary. Officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say that one of the jumpers was able to access the site because he worked for a construction company used on site, but the man's lawyers say the Port Authority is lying to avoid blame, and that the group entered through a hole in a fence. Rossig expressed concern over the apparently lax security before handing himself in to police. "It's supposed to be the most secure building in the world. God forbid it was somebody else getting in there with a real intention to harm New Yorkers." Source
  2. By CHARLIE SAVAGEJAN. 23, 2014 Members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal panel, at a workshop about surveillance held in a Washington hotel last summer. Christopher Gregory for The New York Times WASHINGTON — An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational. The report is likely to inject a significant new voice into the debate over surveillance, underscoring that the issue was not settled by a high-profile speech President Obama gave last week. Mr. Obama consulted with the board, along with a separate review group that last month delivered its own report about surveillance policies. But while he said in his speech that he was tightening access to the data and declared his intention to find a way to end government collection of the bulk records, he said the program’s capabilities should be preserved. The Obama administration has portrayed the bulk collection program as useful and lawful while at the same time acknowledging concerns about privacy and potential abuse. But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country. The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.” While a majority of the five-member board embraced that conclusion, two members dissented from the view that the program was illegal. But the panel was united in 10 other recommendations, including deleting raw phone records after three years instead of five and tightening access to search results. The report also sheds light on the history of the once-secret bulk collection program. It contains the first official acknowledgment that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court produced no judicial opinion detailing its legal rationale for the program until last August, even though it had been issuing orders to phone companies for the records and to the N.S.A. for how it could handle them since May 2006. The privacy board’s legal critique of the program was approved by David Medine, the board’s chairman and a former Federal Trade Commission official in the Clinton administration; Patricia M. Wald, a retired federal appeals court judge named to the bench by President Jimmy Carter; and James X. Dempsey, a civil liberties advocate who specializes in technology issues. But the other two members — Rachel L. Brand and Elisebeth Collins Cook, both of whom were Justice Department lawyers in the George W. Bush administration — rejected the finding that the program was illegal. They wrote in separate dissents that the board should have focused exclusively on policy and left legal analysis to the courts. Last month, two Federal District Court judges reached opposite legal conclusions in separate lawsuits challenging the program. Ms. Brand wrote that while the legal question was “difficult,” the government’s legal theory was “at least a reasonable reading, made in good faith by numerous officials in two administrations of different parties.” She also worried that declaring that counterterrorism officials “have been operating this program unlawfully for years” could damage morale and make agencies overly cautious in taking steps to protect the country. But the privacy board was unanimous in recommending a series of immediate changes to the program. The three in the majority wanted those changes as part of a brief wind-down period, while the two in dissent wanted them to be structural for a program that would continue. Some of those recommendations dovetailed with the steps Mr. Obama announced last week, including limiting analysts’ access to the call records of people no further than two links removed from a suspect, instead of three, and creating a panel of outside lawyers to serve as public advocates in major cases involving secret surveillance programs. Other recommendations — like deleting data faster — were not mentioned in the president’s speech. And all members of the board expressed privacy concerns about requiring phone companies to retain call records longer than they normally would, which might be necessary to meet Mr. Obama’s stated goal of finding a way to preserve the program’s ability without having the government collect the bulk data. The program began in late 2001 based on wartime authority claimed by President Bush. In 2006, the Bush administration persuaded the surveillance court to begin authorizing the program based on the Patriot Act under a theory the Obama administration would later embrace. But the privacy board’s report criticized that, saying that the legal theory was a “subversion” of the law’s intent, and that the program also violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. “It may have been a laudable goal for the executive branch to bring this program under the supervision” of the court, the report says. “Ultimately, however, that effort represents an unsustainable attempt to shoehorn a pre-existing surveillance program into the text of a statute with which it is not compatible.” Defenders of the program have argued that Congress acquiesced to that secret interpretation of the law by twice extending its expiration without changes. But the report rejects that idea as “both unsupported by legal precedent and unacceptable as a matter of democratic accountability.” The report also scrutinizes in detail a handful of investigations in which the program was used, finding “no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.” Still, in her dissent, Ms. Cook criticized judging the program’s worth based only on whether it had stopped an attack to date. It also has value as a tool that can allow investigators to “triage” threats and provide “peace of mind” if it uncovers no domestic links to a newly discovered terrorism suspect, she wrote. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/politics/watchdog-report-says-nsa-program-is-illegal-and-should-end.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0
  3. Britain's electronic eavesdropping center GCHQ faces legal action from seven internet service providers who accuse it of illegally accessing "potentially millions of people's private communications," campaigners said Wednesday. The claim threatens fresh embarrassment for the British authorities after leaks by fugitive NSA worker Edward Snowden showed GCHQ was a key player in covert US surveillance operations globally. The complaint has been filed at a London court by ISPs Riseup and May First/People Link of the US, GreenNet of Britain, Greenhost of the Netherlands, Mango of Zimbabwe, Jinbonet of South Korea and the Chaos Computer Club of Germany, plus campaigners Privacy International. They claim that GCHQ carried out "targeted operations against internet service providers to conduct mass and intrusive surveillance." The move follows a series of reports by German magazine Der Spiegel which claimed to detail GCHQ's illicit activities. These reportedly included targeting a Belgian telecommunications company, Belgacom, where staff computers were infected with malware in a "quantum insert" attack to secure access to customers. The legal complaint says this was "not an isolated attack" and alleges violations of Britain's Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights. "These widespread attacks on providers and collectives undermine the trust we all place on the internet and greatly endangers the world's most powerful tool for democracy and free expression," said Eric King, Privacy International's deputy director. Britain's Foreign Office did not immediately comment. GCHQ, which stands for Government Communications Headquarters, employs around 5,500 people and is housed in a giant doughnut-shaped building in the sleepy town of Cheltenham, southwest England. Snowden's leaks claimed that the NSA had been secretly funding GCHQ to the tune of £100 million ($160 million, 120 million euros) over the last three years. Source
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