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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has hit out at a critical report by the House of Representatives intelligence committee.

The report rejected Edward Snowden’s view of himself as a whistleblower, and said he was a disgruntled employee whose actions did nothing more than help US enemies.

It comes a day after two rights groups launched a campaign for President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden.

The White House has rejected the possibility of a presidential pardon.

The release of the report, two years in the making, also coincides with that of the movie Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone.

Last month, Edward Snowden alleged that the NSA conducted industrial espionage

In a series of tweets, Edward Snowden dismissed the report’s findings, writing: “Their report is so artlessly distorted that it would be amusing if it weren’t such a serious act of bad faith.”

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, has been living in Russia since 2013, when he gained notoriety for releasing thousands of classified documents that revealed mass phone and internet surveillance put in place after the 9/11 attacks.

Releasing a summary of its 36-page investigation into the case, the House committee said Edward Snowden had fallen out with his colleagues and lied about his background while at the NSA.

The report says that most of the material Edward Snowden leaked related to military secrets that had nothing to do with Americans’ privacy but were to “protect American troops overseas and… provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states”.

Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union launched their “Pardon Snowden” campaign on September 14, urging President Barack Obama to do so before he leaves office in January 2017.

According to Amnesty, no-one should be prosecuted for exposing human rights violations, which, it claimed, is what “indiscriminate mass surveillance of communications” amounts to.

The ACLU acts as Edward Snowden’s legal adviser, and called him “a great American who deserves clemency for his patriotic acts”.

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Edward Snowden has opened an account on Twitter.

The fugitive NSA contractor’s opening tweet was: “Can you hear me now?”

In his profile, Edward Snowden says he “used to work for the government. Now I work for the public”.

He quickly gathered thousands of followers.Edward Snowden Twitter account

So far, Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the US for leaking secrets, only follows one other Twitter user – the National Security Agency (NSA).

Edward Snowden is believed to be living in Moscow where he is sheltering from US prosecutors.

He left the United States in 2013 after leaking to the media details of extensive internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence.

His information made global headlines when the Guardian reported that the NSA was collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans.

Edward Snowden is believed to have downloaded 1.7 million secret documents before he left the United States.

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US ambassador to Paris has been summoned by the French foreign ministry over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks reports the NSA spied on Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006 and 2012.

President Francois Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, added that the US was “not targeting and will not target the communications of Mr. Hollande”.

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders.NSA spying on France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims, French officials said.

Jane Hartley is expected to visit the foreign ministry in Paris on June 24.

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after an emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims.

WikiLeaks began publishing the files on June 23, under the heading “Espionnage Elysee” – a reference to the French presidential palace.

It said the secret files “derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications” of the three French presidents as well as French ministers and the ambassador to the US.

The WikiLeaks files have now been published by France’s Liberation newspaper and the Mediapart investigative website.

One of the files, dated 2012, is about Francois Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Nicolas Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement.

A file dated 2010 suggests that French officials were aware that the US was spying upon them and intended to complain about it.

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

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The Senate passed the USA Freedom Act without any amendments, on a vote of 67-32, and sent the bill to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The USA Freedom Act extends the government’s ability to collect large amounts of data, but with restrictions. The bill will end the mass collection of Americans’ phone records by the NSA, restore some expired powers to security agencies, place record storage in private companies’ hands, create a public-interest advocate for the secret FISA court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance) that oversees surveillance programs, and require the court to notify Congress when it reinterprets law.

The Patriot Act, the policy of collecting phone data had been in place since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The USA Freedom Act, which replaces the Patriot Act, had been backed by President Barack Obama as a necessary tool to fight terrorism.

Barack Obama later signed the bill into law.Rand Paul USA Freedom Act

The bill replaces a National Security Agency (NSA) program in which the spy agency collected personal data en masse.

The revelation of this program by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden triggered a global public backlash.

Instead of receiving bulk quantities of data from telephone and internet companies the NSA will now be forced to request the information through a court order.

The data will also be stored on telephone and internet company servers rather than government servers.

The request must be specific to an individual entity such as a person, account, or electronic device.

A six-month transition will be in place as the policy shifts so that data storage remains with private companies, rather than on government servers.

The law’s passage had been temporarily blocked by libertarian-minded senators who are fearful of government’s intrusion into individuals’ private lives.

Kentucky senator and presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul repeatedly criticized the bill from the Senate floor.

“We are not collecting the information of spies. We are not collecting the information of terrorists. We are collecting all American citizens’ records all of the time,” Rand Paul said.

“This is what we fought the revolution over.”

The Freedom Act had been approved by the House of Representatives and the White House but the Senate rejected it last week by a vote of 57-42.

Once it became clear that the Patriot Act extension would not be possible, senators voted to move forward with the Freedom Act.

The Senate has blocked the USA FREEDOM Act – a bill that would have ended the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by the NSA.

It also failed to authorize a temporary extension of the current legislation, the PATRIOT Act. Senators are to meet again on May 31 – a day before the bill is due to expire.

A US appeals court has already ruled the bulk collection illegal.

The NSA’s spying was leaked by its former contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

Edward Snowden has since fled to Russia.

Photo Chicago Tribune

Photo Chicago Tribune

The NSA has collected data about numbers called and times, but not the content of conversations. It also allegedly spied on European companies.

Among individuals targeted was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The White House has pressed the Senate to back the bill passed by the House of Representatives. Domestic phone records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.

The 57-42 Senate vote fell short of the 60-vote threshold.

Another vote held over a two-month extension to the existing programs – Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act – also failed to reach the threshold.

Supporters of the proposed FREEDOM Act, including privacy and civil rights advocates, say it protects privacy while preserving national security powers.

The PATRIOT Act was passed after the 9/11 attacks and which will expire on June 1.

Edward Snowden’s revelations in June 2013 caused an international outcry, despite US administrations insisting the program has been fully authorized.

The measures have been repeatedly approved in secret by a national security court since 2006.

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The National Security Agency (NSA) phone data collection is illegal, a US appeals court has ruled.

Overturning a 2013 ruling, the judges did not, however, halt the program but urged Congress to take action.

The NSA’s spying was leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden, who has since fled to Russia.

The NSA has collected data about numbers called and times, but not the content of conversations. It also allegedly spied on European firms.

Among individuals targeted was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The latest verdict, by The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, came after New York District Judge William Pauley had dismissed a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which argued that the way the NSA tracked million of calls contravened the US constitution.NSA data collecting

The 97-page ruling says that “a provision of the USA Patriot Act permitting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect business records deemed relevant to a counterterrorism investigation cannot be legitimately interpreted to permit the systematic bulk collection of domestic calling records”.

However, the appeals court stopped short of ruling on the constitutionality of the program, launched after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

Edward Snowden’s revelations in June 2013 caused an international outcry, despite US administrations insisting the program has been fully authorized.

The measures – repeatedly approved in secret by a national security court since 2006 – are set to expire on June 1st.

Leaders of the lower US House of Representatives would prefer to pass a bill to end the government’s bulk collection of phone records and replace it with legislation that supporters say protects civil liberties. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he wants to extend the Patriot Act and retain the bulk collection program.

The White House supports “an alternative mechanism to preserve the program’s essential capabilities without the government holding the bulk data”, said Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

ACLU’s deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said: “The appeals court’s careful ruling should end any debate about whether the NSA’s phone-records program is lawful.”

Wikimedia Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency alleging its mass surveillance program violates US laws on freedom of speech.

The legal action has also been filed against the US Department of Justice.

The legal action, co-signed by eight other organizations, seeks to end the NSA’s large-scale surveillance efforts.

The Foundation is the non-profit group that oversees the running of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

The Wikmedia Foundation said it was taking action against the NSA’s so-called “upstream” surveillance work which targets communication with people not in the US.

Such spying violates US laws on free speech and those that govern against unreasonable search and seizure, it said.Wikipedia sues NSA and DoJ

The scale of the monitoring carried out by the NSA has been revealed in documents made public by whistleblower Edward Snowden over the last two years. Some of those papers show the NSA tapped the net’s backbone network to siphon off data. The backbone is made up of high-speed cables that link big ISPs and key transit points on the net.

“By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” said Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in a blogpost announcing the legal action.

Targeting the backbone means the NSA casts a “vast net” and inevitably scoops up data unrelated to any target and will also include domestic communications, violating the rules governing what the NSA can spy on, said Lila Tretikov.

Information in the Snowden papers revealed that Wikipedia has been explicitly targeted, said the blogpost.

“By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge,” said Lila Tretikov.

In an accompanying editorial published in the New York Times, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he hoped the lawsuit would bring an “end to the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of Internet traffic”.

Other organizations joining the lawsuit include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Global Fund for Women.

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Edward Snowden says he would love to get asylum in Switzerland.

The fugitive US whistleblower was speaking via video link to a Geneva audience, from Moscow where he is sheltering from US prosecutors.

“I would love to return to Switzerland, some of my favorite memories are from Geneva,” Edward Snowden said. Previously he worked in Geneva undercover for the CIA.

Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking US secrets, said US authorities had given him no assurances of a fair trial.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

“The only thing they’ve said at this point was that they would not execute me,” he said.

“That’s not quite the same thing as agreeing to a fair and open trial.”

He was speaking to the audience after a viewing of Citizenfour, an Oscar-winning documentary about his case. In 2013 his exposure of massive US surveillance – including routine tapping of internet traffic – grabbed the headlines worldwide.

It was an unprecedented leak by an insider in the top-secret US National Security Agency (NSA).

“I do think Switzerland would be a sort of great political option because it has a history of neutrality,” Edward Snowden told the Geneva audience.

Edward Snowden said he had requested asylum in 21 countries, most in Central and Eastern Europe, but none had granted his wish. He blamed US “political interference”.

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According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, New Zealand is conducting mass surveillance over its Pacific neighbors.

Calls, emails and social media messages were being collected from Pacific nations, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The data was shared with other members of the “Five Eyes” network – the US, Australia, Britain and Canada.

Edward Snowden leaked a large cache of classified NSA documents in 2013.

The documents published on March 5 reveal that New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) used its Waihopai base in the South Island to spy on allies in the region.

Targets included Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Tonga and French Polynesia.

Photo Bloomberg

Photo Bloomberg

According to The Intercept website, which published the documents in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald, the base was running “full take” interceptions, meaning it was retaining content and metadata of all communications rather than just of specific targets.

The data collected was then available to be accessed by analysts from the National Security Agency (NSA) via the agency’s controversial XKeyscore computer program, revealed during the original leak in 2013, the Herald reported.

New Zealand PM John Key said the reports contained errors and false assumptions, but did not elaborate.

John Key said the GCSB gathered “foreign intelligence that is in the best interests of New Zealand and protecting New Zealanders”.

“If I was a New Zealander and the New Zealand prime minister got up and told me we had a foreign intelligence service that wasn’t gathering some foreign intelligence, I’d ask him <<what the hell are we paying the money for? And what the hell are you doing?>>” New Zealand’s Stuff website quoted him as saying.

Andrew Little, leader of New Zealand’s opposition Labor party, said that he accepted the need for security agencies to protect the country but was “stunned at the breadth of the information that’s been collected”.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Andrew Little said GCSB seemed to be “hovering” up information and “supplying it to the United States”.

According to the New York Times and Der Spiegel, the US knew North Korea was behind the Sony Pictures hack because it had secretly infiltrated the country’s computer networks in 2010.

The newspapers cited US officials and leaked documents from the National Security Agency (NSA).

The New York Times said hidden software had alerted US intelligence services to North Korean hacking activity.

North Korea has consistently denied involvement in the security breach.

American investigators believe the hackers spent two months building up a map of Sony’s systems before the hack took place, the papers say.

November’s attack on the company saw the leak of sensitive documents including salary details and confidential emails between executives.NSA hacked North Korea computers

It also resulted in Sony film The Interview, a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, being briefly shelved and then released online.

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the intelligence community was fully aware of North Korean attempts to infiltrate US commercial networks, tracking them routinely.

“While no two situations are the same, it is our shared goal to prevent bad actors from exploiting, disrupting or damaging US commercial networks and cyber infrastructure,” said spokesman Brian Hale.

“When it becomes clear that cyber criminals have the ability and intent to do damage, we work cooperatively to defend networks.”

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Russia has granted Edward Snowden permission to stay three more years with the right to travel abroad, his lawyer says.

Edward Snowden’s year-long leave to stay in Russia had expired on July 31.

He fled the US in 2013 after leaking details of the National Security Agency’s surveillance and telephone-tapping operations.

The US has charged Edward Snowden with theft of government property and communicating classified information.

Edward Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told journalists that the request for an extension had been accepted.

“Accordingly, Edward Snowden was given a three-year residence permit,” which will allow him to move about freely and travel abroad, Anatoly Kucherena said.

Russia has granted Edward Snowden permission to stay three more years with the right to travel abroad

Russia has granted Edward Snowden permission to stay three more years with the right to travel abroad

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has been hailed by privacy activists for revealing the extent of the NSA’s surveillance operations and details of alleged US spying on foreign leaders, including US allies.

The US Congress has since attempted to impose restrictions on the NSA’s electronic surveillance activities.

However, US leaders have accused Edward Snowden of damaging national interests and harming the country’s security.

In May, Secretary of State John Kerry said Edward Snowden was a fugitive from justice who should “man up” and return home.

Edward Snowden had fled the US via Hong Kong in May 2013.

He remained in a transit zone in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for more than a month after the US revoked his travel documents, before being granted temporary asylum in Russia in August 2013.

Russia’s decision to shelter Edward Snowden was strongly criticized by the US.

Little is known about his activities in Russia, although his lawyer says he is working as an “IT specialist” and as a rights defender.

Anatoly Kucherena stressed on Thursday that Edward Snowden had not been granted asylum, but “temporary leave to remain on the territory of Russia,” Interfax news agency reports.

“In the future Edward will have to decide whether to continue to live in Russia and become a citizen or to return to the United States,” he said.

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The FBI and NSA spied on the emails of five high-profile Muslim Americans in an effort to identify security threats, documents leaked by fugitive ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden show.

The targets include a lawyer, professor and a political operative, according to a report published in the Intercept.

The Intercept is an online news site overseen by Glenn Greenwald, who helped publish many of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

The FBI and NSA said they only spied on Americans when they had probable cause.

“The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans… under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies,” according to The Intercept report.

According to the report – the result of a three-month investigation using classified documents obtained from Edward Snowden – all five individuals have denied involvement in terrorist activities.

The NSA and Department of Justice quickly responded to the report, saying emails of Americans are only accessed if there is probable cause.

“It is entirely false that US intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights,” the agencies wrote in a joint statement.

The White House has ordered a review of national security agencies in the wake of the allegations, however.

Faisal Gill is a Pakistani-born lawyer, a Republican Party operative and former Department of Homeland Security employee

Faisal Gill is a Pakistani-born lawyer, a Republican Party operative and former Department of Homeland Security employee (photo ABC News)

“Upon learning of this matter, the White House immediately requested that the Director of National Intelligence undertake an assessment of Intelligence Community policies, training standards or directives that promote diversity and tolerance,” White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said on Wednesday.

“The use of racial or ethnic stereotypes, slurs, or other similar language” is not acceptable, she added.

Several dozen civil liberties groups have also spoken out against the allegations made in The Intercept report, urging President Barack Obama to provide a full public accounting of domestic surveillance.

It is not the first time US agencies have been accused of snooping on Americans. Previous documents leaked by Edward Snowden indicate the electronic files of thousands of citizens were scanned by the NSA.

Last year, Edward Snowden – a former NSA contractor now residing in Russia – fed a trove of secret NSA documents to news outlets including the Washington Post and the Guardian, where Glenn Greenwald worked.

The Congress has attempted to curb online snooping in the wake of the snooping revelations, with the House of Representatives passing legislation to that effect in mid-June.

The measure, added to a $570 billion defense spending bill, would bar the NSA from collecting Americans’ personal online information without a warrant.

Earlier this year the House also passed the USA Freedom Act that would limit the NSA’s bulk data collection and storage of some American landline telephone call records.

Those allegedly spied on include:

  • Faisal Gill, a Pakistani-born lawyer, a Republican Party operative and former Department of Homeland Security employee
  • Asim Ghafoor, a lawyer who represented clients in terrorism-related cases
  • Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor at Rutgers University
  • Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University
  • Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations [youtube J3hsr3q69eU 650] [youtube Hzkqz5fsp18 650]

Germany has summoned the US ambassador in Berlin after a man was arrested on suspicion of spying for the NSA.

The US diplomat “was asked to help in the swift clarification” of the case, the foreign ministry said.

German officials confirmed the arrest but released no other details.

US-German ties were strained after allegations last year that the NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone as part of a huge surveillance program.

The NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone as part of a huge surveillance program

The NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone as part of a huge surveillance program

The scale of the agency’s global spy program was revealed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The revelations also raised feeling in Germany against American surveillance.

German media say the man arrested this week is a 31-year-old employee of the federal intelligence service, the BND or Bundesnachrichtendienst.

A spokesman for Angela Merkel said she had been informed of the arrest, as had the members of the nine-strong parliamentary committee investigating the activities of foreign intelligence agencies in Germany.

Der Spiegel news magazine said the man was believed to have passed secret documents to a US contact in exchange for money.

However, one unnamed politician told Reuters news agency the suspect had offered his services to the US voluntarily.

“This was a man who had no direct contact with the investigative committee… He was not a top agent,” the source said.

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Germany’s intelligence service has arrested one of its employees on suspicion of spying for the US, reports say.

The man is said to have been trying to gather details about a German parliamentary committee that is investigating claims of US espionage.

German authorities have asked the US ambassador for “swift clarification”.

The NSA was last year accused of bugging the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a huge surveillance program.

The NSA was last year accused of bugging the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a huge surveillance program

The NSA was last year accused of bugging the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a huge surveillance program

The scale of the NSA’s global spy program was revealed in documents leaked last year by Edward Snowden.

The revelations about the NSA put a strain on ties between Germany and the US and raised feeling in Germany against American surveillance.

According to the German media, the man arrested this week is a 31-year-old employee of the federal service, the BND or Bundesnachrichtendienst.

The German federal prosecutor’s office confirmed the man’s arrest, but gave no other details.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had been informed of the arrest, as had the members of the nine-strong parliamentary committee investigating the activities of foreign intelligence agencies in Germany.

Der Spiegel news magazine said the man was believed to have passed secret documents to a US contact in exchange for money.

However, one unnamed politician told Reuters the suspect had offered his services to the US voluntarily.

“This was a man who had no direct contact with the investigative committee… He was not a top agent,” the source said.

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The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would curb electronic snooping.

The measure would bar the National Security Agency (NSA) from collecting Americans’ personal online information without a warrant.

It was added on Thursday night to a $570 billion defense spending bill.

The move follows revelations the NSA mass harvested data on telephone calls and snooped on foreign leaders.

“The American people are sick of being spied on,” Congressman Thomas Massie, the amendment’s sponsor, said.

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would curb electronic snooping

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would curb electronic snooping (photo Reuters)

The amendment, added to the defense bill in a 293-123 vote on Thursday, also prohibits the NSA and CIA from accessing commercial technology products, which some politicians have described as a government “backdoor” for snooping.

Leaked documents provided to the Guardian newspaper indicate the NSA intercepted computer network devices such as routers and servers and embedded them with backdoor surveillance tools.

They were then sent to customers around the world.

Technology companies including Google were part of a coalition which urged support for the House provision.

Earlier this year the House passed the USA Freedom Act that would limit the NSA’s bulk data collection and storage of some American landline telephone call records.

But some members of Congress complained that legislation was not strict enough.

The House is expected to pass the defense bill on Friday. But the fate of the spying curbs is unclear, as they have yet to be written into the Senate version of the defense spending bill.

Congress has attempted to restrict government surveillance after revelations last year by fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden showed widespread snooping.

Last year, Edward Snowden – a former NSA contractor – fed a trove of secret NSA documents to news outlets including the Washington Post and the Guardian.

Among other things, the leaks detailed the NSA’s practice of harvesting data on millions of telephone calls made in the US and around the world, and revealed the agency had snooped on foreign leaders.

The revelations have sparked a debate in the US over the appropriate role of the NSA and the extent to which it should be authorized to conduct such broad surveillance.

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German federal prosecutor Harald Range will investigate allegations by Edward Snowden that the US government bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

Harald Range told the German parliament’s legal affairs committee that an investigation would be held against “unknown” persons.

Angela Merkel has publicly asked for an explanation for the alleged spying by the NSA.

The inquiry was announced as President Barack Obama visited Europe.

German federal prosecutor Harald Range will investigate allegations by Edward Snowden that the US government bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone

German federal prosecutor Harald Range will investigate allegations by Edward Snowden that the US government bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone

“Sufficient factual evidence exists that unknown members of the US intelligence services spied on the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel,” Harald Range said on Wednesday.

At the same time, he said he had decided against opening an investigation into claims of wider NSA surveillance of German citizens, AFP news agency reports.

Pressure for a wide-ranging investigation had been growing, correspondents say.

Angela Merkel and Barack Obama are due to meet in Brussels at a G7 summit on Wednesday.

Barack Obama told Angela Merkel last month that he was “pained” that Edward Snowden’s disclosures had strained the US-German relationship.

He said he had directed US intelligence agencies to weigh the privacy interests of non-Americans as well as US citizens and residents, “in everything that they do”.

Angela Merkel has proposed establishing a European communications network to avoid emails and other data automatically passing through the US.

On Wednesday, Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said he would not “evaluate” or comment on the prosecutor’s decision.

“The government didn’t exert any influence on the prosecutor,” he said in quotes carried by AP news agency.

Meanwhile, US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters he believed dialogue between the two allies would be more effective than an investigation.

“We believe we have an open line and good communication [with Germany],” he said.

Some German lawmakers have also called for Edward Snowden to be invited to Berlin to testify in parliamentary inquiry into NSA surveillance.

However, German government has opposed this, fearing it would damage bilateral ties.

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Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled Edward Snowden a fugitive from justice who should “man up” and return home.

John Kerry added that if Edward Snowden, 30, “believes in America, he should trust the American system of justice”.

Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled Edward Snowden a fugitive from justice who should man up and return home

Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled Edward Snowden a fugitive from justice who should man up and return home

His comments come in the wake of an interview with NBC in which Edward Snowden said he sought asylum in Russia because the US revoked his passport.

Edward Snowden also described himself as a trained spy, not a low-level analyst.

“A patriot would not run away,” John Kerry said on Wednesday.

“If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States… we’ll have him on a flight today.”

John Kerry also called the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor “confused”, adding “this is a man who has done great damage to his country”.

“He should man up and come back to the US,” John Kerry said.

In the NBC interview, Edward Snowden claims he was trained as a spy who worked undercover overseas for the CIA and NSA.

But he described himself as a technical expert who did not recruit agents.

“What I do is I put systems to work for the US,” he said.

“And I’ve done that at all levels from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top. Now, the government might deny these things, they might frame it in certain ways and say, <<Oh well, you know, he’s – he’s a low-level analyst>>.”

When Edward Snowden fled the US in May 2013, he had been working as a technician for Booz Allen, a giant government contractor for the NSA.

Last year, Edward Snowden fed a trove of secret NSA documents to news outlets including the Washington Post and the Guardian.

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Edward Snowden has described himself as a trained spy specializing in electronic surveillance, dismissing claims he was a mere low-level analyst.

In an interview with NBC, Edward Snowden reiterated that he had worked undercover overseas for the CIA and NSA. This is the first interview with the former NSA employee for an American television. The NBC interview will air next week.

The fugitive intelligence leaker said the US got better intelligence from computers than human agents.

Edward Snowden, 30, fled the US in May 2013 and has been living under temporary asylum in Russia.

In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Edward Snowden said he had trained as a spy

In an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, Edward Snowden said he had trained as a spy (photo NBC)

Last year, he fed a trove of secret NSA documents to news outlets including the Washington Post and the Guardian.

Among other things, the leaks detailed the NSA’s practice of harvesting data on millions of telephone calls made in the US and around the world, and revealed the agency had snooped on foreign leaders.

The revelations have sparked a debate in the US over the appropriate role of the NSA and the extent to which it should be authorized to conduct such broad surveillance.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to rein in the program by barring the NSA from storing phone call data on its own and to require it to seek a court order to access telecom companies’ records.

Last week, the US House passed such legislation, sending it to the US Senate.

In excerpts of an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, Edward Snowden said he had trained as a spy “in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas – pretending to work in a job that I’m not – and even being assigned a name that was not mine”.

But he described himself as a technical expert who did not recruit agents.

“What I do is I put systems to work for the US,” he said.

“And I’ve done that at all levels from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top. Now, the government might deny these things, they might frame it in certain ways and say, <<Oh well, you know, he’s – he’s a low-level analyst>>.”

Edward Snowden said he had worked for the CIA and NSA undercover, overseas, and lectured at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

When Edward Snowden fled the US, he had been working as a technician for Booz Allen, a giant government contractor for the National Security Agency.

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The National Security Agency (NSA) has denied it knew about or exploited the Heartbleed online bug.

The denial came after a Bloomberg News report alleging the NSA used the flaw in OpenSSL to harvest data.

OpenSSL is online-data scrambling software used to protect data such as passwords sent online.

Last year, Edward Snowden claimed the NSA deliberately introduced vulnerabilities to security software.

The Hearbleed bug, which allows hackers to snatch chunks of data from systems protected by OpenSSL, was revealed by researchers working for Google and a small Finnish security firm, Codenomicon, earlier this month.

OpenSSL is used by roughly two-thirds of all websites and the glitch existed for more than two years, making it one of the most serious internet security flaws to be uncovered in years.

“[The] NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector cyber security report,” NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in an email, adding that “reports that say otherwise are wrong.”

A White House official also denied the US government was aware of the bug.

The NSA has denied it knew about or exploited the Heartbleed online bug

The NSA has denied it knew about or exploited the Heartbleed online bug

“Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before April 2014 are wrong,” White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

“This administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure and reliable internet,” she insisted.

Caitlin Hayden added: “If the federal government, including the intelligence community, had discovered this vulnerability prior to last week, it would have been disclosed to the community responsible for OpenSSL.”

According to Bloomberg News, the NSA secretly made Heartbleed part of its “arsenal”, to obtain passwords and other data.

The publication claimed the agency has more than 1,000 experts devoted to finding such flaws – who found the Heartbleed glitch shortly after its introduction.

The NSA was already in the spotlight after months of revelations about its huge data-gathering capabilities.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden indicated the organization was routinely collecting vast amounts of phone and internet data, together with partner intelligence agencies abroad.

President Barack Obama has ordered reforms that would halt government bulk collection of US telephone records, but critics argue this does not go far enough.

Separate to its denials regarding the NSA, the US government also said it believes hackers are trying to make use of the flaw.

The Department of Homeland Security advised the public to change passwords for sites affected by the flaw, once they had confirmed they were secure, although it added that so far no successful attacks had been reported.

Several makers of internet hardware and software also revealed some of their products were affected, including network routers and switches, video conferencing equipment, phone call software, firewalls and applications that let workers remotely access company data.

The US government also said that it was working with other organizations “to determine the potential vulnerabilities to computer systems that control essential systems – like critical infrastructure, user-facing and financial systems”.

The Heartbleed bug makes it possible for a knowledgeable hacker to impersonate services and users, and potentially eavesdrop on the data communications between them.

It only exposes 64K of data at a time, but a malicious party could theoretically make repeated grabs until they had the information they wanted. Crucially, an attack would not leave a trace, making it impossible to be sure whether hackers had taken advantage of it.

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President Barack Obama is planning to ask Congress to end bulk collection of US phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA).

NSA senior officials told the New York Times the agency would “end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits”.

Phone records would instead remain with telecoms companies, only to be accessed by government when needed.

It follows widespread anger at home and abroad after leaks revealed the full extent of US surveillance operations.

The documents – leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – revealed that the US collects massive amounts of electronic data from communications of private individuals around the world, and has spied on foreign leaders.

In a speech in January, Barack Obama said it was necessary for the US to continue collecting large amounts of data, but that civil liberties must be respected.

Barack Obama is planning to ask Congress to end bulk collection of US phone records by the NSA

Barack Obama is planning to ask Congress to end bulk collection of US phone records by the NSA

He said the current system, in which the NSA collects the details of the times, numbers and durations of phone calls, known as metadata, would come to an end.

According to the New York Times report, Barack Obama told the US justice department and intelligence officials to come up with a plan by March 28.

Under the new proposal, officials say surveillance “would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received”.

The phone companies would not be required to hold on to the data for longer than they normally would, the New York Times says.

The NSA currently holds information for five years, whereas telecoms companies are required by federal regulation to retain customer records for 18 months.

The new proposal “would retain a judicial role in determining whether the standard of suspicion was met for a particular phone number before the NSA could obtain associated records”, the newspaper adds.

The Obama administration plans to renew the current NSA program for at least another 90 days until Congress passes the new legislation.

New legislation has also been developed separately by leaders of the House intelligence committee that would allow the NSA to issue subpoenas for specific phone records without prior judicial approval, the New York Times reports.

The New York Times report does not provide information on possible changes to the NSA’s surveillance of phone records from other countries.

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Mark Zuckerberg has revealed he has called President Barack Obama to “express frustration” over US digital surveillance.

The 29-year-old Facebook founder said in a blog post the US government “should be the champion for the internet, not a threat”.

Mark Zuckerberg’s comments come a day after a report the NSA imitated a Facebook server to infect surveillance targets’ computers.

The NSA said the report was “inaccurate”.

Mark Zuckerberg said in September that the US “blew it” on internet spying.

He wrote on Thursday “it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform”.

“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” Mark Zuckerberg said in his blog post.

“The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat.

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed he has called President Barack Obama to "express frustration" over US digital surveillance

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed he has called President Barack Obama to “express frustration” over US digital surveillance

“They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”

The NSA’s activities were leaked by a former contractor for the agency, Edward Snowden, last year.

Edward Snowden’s leaks have pointed to the NSA collecting phone records, tapping fiber-optic cables that carry global communications and hacking networks.

According to the documents, the agencies had “backdoor” access to the servers of nine major technology companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

All the companies named have denied their involvement.

The NSA called the latest claims, that it expanded surveillance by using malware, “inaccurate”.

The agency said in a statement: “The NSA uses its technical capabilities only to support lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations, all of which must be carried out in strict accordance with its authorities.”

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that the president spoke with Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday evening regarding “recent reports in the press about alleged activities by the US intelligence community”. She gave no further comment.

In his latest blog post, Mark Zuckerberg said that to keep the internet strong, “we need to keep it secure”.

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Edward Snowden spoke before a packed auditorium of technology innovators via video link in Austin at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference on Monday.

Global mass surveillance conducted by the US and other governments is “setting fire to the future of the internet”, he said.

He added: “You guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help us fix this.”

The former NSA contractor, who fled the US last year after leaking thousands of documents that revealed his employer’s extensive surveillance programs, spoke to the audience through a choppy Google Hangout video connection running through multiple proxy servers to conceal his location.

Although Edward Snowden has granted a handful interviews to the media since his revelations made global headlines and led to his seeking asylum in Russia, it was one of his first live appearances before a general audience.

During his one-hour session moderated by his lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Edward Snowden urged internet and computing experts to design and produce encrypted communication technology that the average user can use.

Often delving into the technical details of internet security, calling it “defense against the dark arts in the digital realm”, he said the systems currently available, if used by the general public, would make NSA bulk surveillance programs much more difficult.

Edward Snowden also denounced what he saw as a change in US priorities since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, focusing on breaking communication security rather than protecting information.

Edward Snowden spoke via video link at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin

Edward Snowden spoke via video link at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin

“When you are the one country in the world that is sort of a vault that is more full than anyone else, it doesn’t make sense for you to be attacking all day rather and never defend your vault,” he said.

He also criticized the NSA’s mass data collection system as being ineffective and a waste of resources. Instead, he said, the agency should be focusing on the type of people who present a threat.

Edward Snowden cited Boston Marathon bombing suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan as individuals the government might have been able to catch if they had directed resources in the right areas.

“We spent all this money, we spent all this time hacking into Google’s and Facebook’s back end to look at their databases,” he said.

“What did we get out of that? We got nothing.”

Edward Snowden received a warm reception from the audience, and the question-and-answer session included words of praise in an email from internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who said his actions were “profoundly in the public interest”.

His appearance was not without critics, however. Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas wrote an open letter to the conference’s organizers on Friday, urging them to deny the NSA leaker a public platform to air his views.

Edward Snowden’s “only apparent qualification”, he writes, “is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of first amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin”.

At the start of the session, Ben Wizner, who serves as Edward Snowden’s legal advisor, replied that although freedom of expression protections are generally stronger in the US than in Russia, “if there’s one person for whom that’s not true, it’s Ed Snowden”.

If Edward Snowden were still in the US, he said, he’d probably be held by the government in solitary confinement.

Edward Snowden’s session is the latest event in a technology conference that has been dominated by talk of internet security, government surveillance and privacy rights.

In his final question, Edward Snowden was asked to assess the importance of his revelations.

“Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to know,” he said.

“I took an oath to support and defend the constitution, and I saw the constitution was violated on a massive scale.”

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has said that it will take the US two years and possibly billions of dollars to overcome the harm done by Edward Snowden’s intelligence leaks.

Gen. Martin Dempsey said the “vast majority” of documents taken by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were military-related.

Since last year, news organizations have published dozens of stories based on the leaked intelligence documents.

Gen. Martin Dempsey said the vast majority of documents taken by Edward Snowden were military-related

Gen. Martin Dempsey said the vast majority of documents taken by Edward Snowden were military-related

Edward Snowden faces spying charges in the US but has been given asylum in Russia.

Gen. Martin Dempsey told the House armed services committee on Thursday that a mitigation task force had been established to investigate the extent of Edward Snowden’s theft and to determine how to overcome it.

“The vast majority of [the pilfered documents] were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures,” Martin Dempsey said.

Gen. Martin Dempsey said the “magnitude of this challenge” suggested the task force would need to run for about two years.

In her weekly podcast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed the creation of a European communications network to help improve data protection.

The network would avoid emails and other data automatically passing through the US.

Angela Merkel said she would raise the issue on Wednesday with French President Francois Hollande.

Revelations of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have prompted huge concern in Europe.

Disclosures by Edward Snowden suggested even the mobile phones of US allies, such as Angela Merkel, had been monitored by American spies.

Angela Merkel has proposed the creation of a European communications network to help improve data protection

Angela Merkel has proposed the creation of a European communications network to help improve data protection

Classified NSA documents revealed that large amounts of personal data are collected from the internet by US and British surveillance.

Angela Merkel criticized the fact that Facebook and Google can be based in countries with low levels of data protection while carrying out business in nations that offer more rigorous safeguards.

“Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said.

“Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe.”

There was no doubt that Europe had to do more in the realm of data protection, Angela Merkel said.

A French official was quoted by Reuters as saying that the government in Paris planned to take up the German initiative.

Germany has been trying to persuade Washington to agree to a “no-spy” agreement but without success.

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