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NSA secret leaked

How did a 29-year-old dropout get NSA clearance? The answer may surprise you

A whistle-blower working for an NSA contractor leaked to the British newspaper the Guardian that the U.S. Government has been storing records from multiple high-profile internet and telecommunication companies.  President Obama has defended the practice, which began during the Bush administration.

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President Obama Delivers Speech On U.S. Signals Intelligence Programs

President Obama outlined new changes to the NSA’s most controversial surveillance practices. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(CNN) — President Barack Obama talked in sometimes lofty, often technical tones Friday about changing how the government does its anti-terror snooping. That includes how it collects records on many of your phone calls, emails and online chats.

Here’s what it all meant:

1. The public will get a voice before the secret intelligence court — sort of

The way things work now at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the government asks a judge in secret for permission to collect, say, phone records. No one gets to argue the other side.

Obama said he wants to open the court’s doors to advocates from outside the government who can “provide an independent voice in significant cases.”

The idea is to make sure outside voices have a say — voices that might not always buy into the intelligence community’s arguments — but who knows what that panel will end up looking like.

2. New limits on telephone records

If you’ve been paying attention the last few months, you know the National Security Agency has been slurping up details on millions of phone calls placed in the United States. The agency isn’t recording the actual conversation — they’re after stuff like the phone numbers involved and the time and length of each call.

That won’t end, exactly, but Obama says big changes are coming. First, fewer calls will be cataloged. And analysts will now have to get a judge’s approval to dip into the records. Later, the government will stop collecting and storing those records. Where they’ll go is still up in the air, though.

3. Super-secret “we want your stuff” letters are changing

Remember the movie, “Fight Club?” Remember the line, “First rule of fight club is you do not talk about Fight Club?” Well, the government has something like that called the National Security Letter program. It requires tech companies to cough up info about suspected terrorists and others without so much as a peep.

Obama wants to change it so those letters don’t always stay secret. He also wants to give tech companies more latitude to reveal information about what the government asks for. He didn’t say exactly what they’ll be able to reveal, but at least maybe they’ll be able to finally acknowledge “Security Club.”

4. People living outside the U.S. get some love, too

Revelations sparked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks didn’t just rile up Americans. We learned the United States had been monitoring leaders of some of its allies, such as Germany. The United States also doesn’t extend the kind of privacy protections to your everyday Italian or Peruvian living outside the United States.

So Obama says the United States will take what he calls the “unprecedented step” of developing some privacy safeguards for citizens of other nations living abroad. That might include limits on how long the government keeps personal information and taking steps to make sure it’s used only in very limited circumstances.

5. So this ends all the drama, right?

Hardly. Critics of U.S. intelligence practices barely waited for the speech to end before pouncing.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he thinks Obama’s speech amounted to little. “I think it’s embarrassing for a head of state like that to go on for almost 45 minutes and say almost nothing,” he said.

Another privacy advocate called the reforms “mere window dressing.”

“Rather than dismantling the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, or even substantially restraining them, President Obama today has issued his endorsement of them,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, an anti-surveillance organization.

Snowden is expected to speak up about the changes next week, Assange told CNN.

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge says the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records is legal and “represents the government’s counter-punch” to eliminate al-Qaida’s terror network.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William Pauley says program could have helped investigators connect the dots before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Pauley’s decision contrasts with a ruling earlier this month from another federal judge who said the program likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unreasonable search.

(CNN) — U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is grounded in Moscow’s airport, but his future is up in the air.

A tweet by a Russian lawmaker Tuesday announced that Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s offer of asylum, giving the impression that the American had evaded U.S. authorities again. But the news remains unconfirmed.

The lawmaker who sent the tweet, Russian parliamentary spokesman Alexei Pushkov, deleted the message and followed up by saying he got the news from a media report.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua was slated to talk with reporters Tuesday afternoon and could shed some light on the reports.

If indeed Snowden has accepted the Venezuelan offer, it resolves one issue in the Snowden saga, but sets the stage for the next chapter: How will Snowden get from Moscow to Caracas?

Venezuela extended an offer of asylum to Snowden last week, and on Monday President Nicolas Maduro received a formal asylum request from Snowden. The Venezuelan government had been waiting to hear back from Snowden on the president’s offer to finalize the deal.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who faces espionage charges in the United States, is slammed as a traitor by critics and hailed as a hero by his supporters.

He remains in limbo more than two weeks after arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport from Hong Kong.

We have developing story surrounding the Edward Snowden NSA drama.

Nicaragua and Venezuela have both offered Snowden asylum.

As we have been reporting, he’s asked several countries for asylum.

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said he offered Snowden asylum so that he can live without “persecution from the empire.”

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua added, “We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies.”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says the U.S. government has marooned Edward Snowden in Moscow.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopolous, Assange says canceling the NSA leaker’s passport was a disgrace since he hasn’t been convicted of anything.

Wikileaks has been helping Snowden’s quest for political asylum. Assange says Snowden deserves better.

Assange is himself a fugitive guest of the Ecuadorian government.

He’s been holed up in that country’s London embassy avoiding extradition.

It’s believed Snowden had planned to fly from Russia to Ecuador via Cuba.


PIX11- Edward Snowden has captured the attention of the world.  The former National Security Agency contractor is on the run. The government of Ecuador confirmed on Sunday that Snowden would like to end up there. And WikiLeaks has said it will help seek him asylum there.

As the United States sought to extradite Edward Snowden from Hong Kong on espionage charges, the ex-NSA analyst fled.

His destination was Moscow. The result was outrage from United States elected officials.

“And I believe this will have serious consequences for U.S. Russian relations,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

Snowden has admitted to leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs.

The NSA chief commented on a network talk show on Sunday.

“The system did not work as it should have. He betrayed the trust and confidence in him. This is an individual with top secret clearance, whose duty it was to administer the networks, he betrayed that confidence and stole some of our secrets,” said NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander.

Ecuador’s foreign minister tweeted: “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. Snowden.”

And WikiLeaks released a statement earlier saying “He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been inside Ecuador’s embassy in London for more than a year.

“Latin America has shown in the past ten years that it is really pushing forward in human rights,” said Assange.

Even though Snowden’s U.S. passport was revoked this weekend, Hong Kong officials say Snowden left lawfully.  Hong Kong claims the U.S. extradition request did not fully meet its legal requirements.  A claim the justice department disputes.

There have been reports that a car with diplomatic plates and an Ecuadorian flag was spotted at Moscow’s airport.

No matter where Edward Snowden ends up, U.S. officials say there are plans to go ahead and prosecute him.

NEW YORK (PIX11) - The NSA remains on the defensive – forced to explain why the data mining and electronic surveillance programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden are necessary.

NSA Director General Keith Alexander testified Tuesday, “In recent years the info gathered from these programs provided government with critical leads to prevent over 50 potential terrorist events.”

In other words, the end — that is successfully fighting terror — has repeated justified the means, which, in those cases, meant intercepting phone calls placed abroad.

Terror expert Micah Halpern says the NSA had no choice but to toot its own horn

Halpern told PIX11, “It really is important that people monitor the bad guys. Not only do the programs work, the programs are essential.”


NSA Director General Keith Alexander testified Tuesday, “In recent years the info gathered from these programs provided government with critical leads to prevent over 50 potential terrorist events.”

President Obama – in a PBS interview — insists the NSA’s shockingly intrusive technology does not compromise the privacy of Americans at home.

“If you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannon listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails,” said the president.

It doesn’t appear the NSA can be turned down either, when it comes to applying for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA.

The Justice Department said in its annual report to Congress it submitted almost 1,800 applications to conduct electronic surveillance.

The court approved every one of them.

“I believe we have achieved this security and relative safety in a way that does not compromise the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens,” Gen. Alexander said.

We asked PIX11’s Lionel – a former defense attorney and prosecutor – to weigh in on the power of the secret court.

“We (are) still feeling the sting of 9/11, and understandably so. I was here – we were all here (they) will go to no ends to provide all the tools in the quiver of the law enforcement agencies to prevent the next horror. But in the meantime, this isn’t throwing out the baby with the bath water. This is a level of surveillance never seen before (or) even contemplated,” Lionel said.

NEW YORK (PIX11) — When congressional testimony revealed Tuesday that a man named Khalid Ouazzani was linked to an Al Qaeda plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, PIX11 quickly started researching his background.  It turns out the one-time Kansas City resident—born in Morocco—was once an “auto parts” dealer who sold used cars on the side.

Ouazzani became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006, but the government charged between 2007 and 2008, he was funneling money to Al Qaeda.  In 2010, Ouazzani plead guilty in federal court in Missouri to providing “material support” for the terror organization, admitting he sent $23,000 overseas to the cause.  Ouazzani faces up to 65 years in prison, when he’s sentenced.


Khalid Ouazzani, an American citizen born in Morocco, is reportedly linked to a terrorist plot targeting the NYSE.

When FBI deputy director Sean Joyce publicly mentioned Ouazzani during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Ouazzani’s lawyers denied he had anything to do with a plot against the New York Stock Exchange.  But Joyce said through NSA monitoring of communications between Ouazzani, a person in New York, and a subject overseas in Yemen, we “were able to detect a nascent plotting to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.”

Joyce also testified at length about a 2009 plot by three, different men to bomb New York City subways, a conspiracy that was picked up on monitored, e-mail communication between Pakistan and a suspect in Queens.

WASHINGTON (PIX11) –  The Deputy Director for the FBI, Sean Joyce, testified at a congressional hearing Tuesday where he revealed that NSA surveillance of phone and e-mail records helped prevent an attack on the New York Stock Exchange and New York City subway system.

While the subway bomb plot was long reported, with the 2009 arrests of three  former classmates from Flushing High School, the Stock Exchange information was new.


Khalid Ouazzani, an American citizen born in Morocco, is reportedly linked to a terrorist plot targeting the NYSE.

Joyce testified that a subject in Yemen was being monitored for his alleged communications with an American named Khalid Ouazzani.   He said because of the surveillance, we “were able to detect a nascent plotting to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.”

The director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander had earlier testified that phone and e-mail surveillance prevented more than 50 terror plots around the world since the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center that killed nearly three thousand people.





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The hearings were called after a systems analyst named Edward Snowden leaked secret documents and revealed several weeks ago the U.S. government’s program to monitor phone records and e-mails.  Snowden denied he was a traitor, and is believed to be hiding out in Hong Kong.

The British government has made it clear: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is not welcome in the UK.

The government has warned airlines around the world not to let him fly to the UK because he is highly unlikely to be allowed entry into the country.

Snowden, who is accused of leaking top secret information regarding U.S. government surveillance programs, is believed to be in Hong Kong.

Any carrier who flies him to the UK could be fined two thousand British pounds.