WikiLeaks has begun a new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named Vault 7 by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.
The first full part of the series, Year Zero , comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election .
Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized zero day exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which
amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of
whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
Year Zero introduces the scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of zero day weaponized exploits against a wide range of
U.S. and European company products, include Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.
Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S.
National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force 204 its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency's hacking division freed it from having to
disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities.
By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber
Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other weaponized malware. Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code
than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its own NSA with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency
could be justified.
In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public
oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.
Once a single cyber weapon is loose it can spread around the world in
seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that:
There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber 'weapons'. Comparisons can be drawn
between the uncontrolled proliferation of such 'weapons', which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of Year Zero goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar
and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.
Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the Year Zero disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the
distribution of armed cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA's program and how such weapons should analyzed, disarmed and published.
Wikileaks has also decided to redact and anonymise
some identifying information in Year Zero for in depth analysis. These redactions include ten of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States. While we are aware of the imperfect results of
any approach chosen, we remain committed to our publishing model and note that the quantity of published pages in Vault 7 part one ( Year Zero ) already eclipses the total number of pages published over the first three years of the Edward
Snowden NSA leaks.
The latest surveillance battle gripping the technology industry is focused on a rewrite of US surveillance law that would mean the justice department would be able to access a citizen's web browsing history, location data and some email records without
approval from a judge using a so-called national security letters (NSLs).
The FBI contends that such data is covered implicitly under current statute, which was written years ago and only explicitly covers data normally associated with
Director James Comey now is lobbying Congress to extend the current definition to include internet data.
Technology companies including Google, Facebook and Yahoo have sent a letter warning Congress that they would oppose
any efforts to rewrite law in the FBI's favor.
This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a 'typo' in the law, the companies wrote:
however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users' online activities without court oversight.
A sly attempt to grant the FBI warrantless access to people's browser histories in the US has been shot down by politicians.
Unfortunately, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act of 2015, which would have brought in some
privacy safeguards for Americans, was cut down in the crossfire.
The bill was halted because of an amendment tacked on by Senator John Cornyn on Tuesday that would allow the FBI to obtain someone's internet browsing history and the metadata of all
their internet use without a warrant. If Cornyn's amendment was passed, the Feds would simply have to issue a National Security Letter (NSL) to get the information.
The bill's sponsors, Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee, told a session of the
Senate Committee on the Judiciary that Cornyn's amendment had wrecked years of careful bipartisan negotiations and would seriously harm US citizens' privacy. As such, they weren't prepared to let the bill go forward.
The US Senate has struck down an amendment that would have allowed the FBI to track internet histories and communications without judicial oversight, but a re-vote could be called under Senate rules.
The amendment to the Commerce, Justice,
Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act would have given the FBI the right to use National Security Letters (NSLs), which compel communications companies to hand over a customer's transactional records, including their browsing history,
time spent online, and email metadata, but not the content of messages.
In addition, it would have made permanent a provision in the Patriot Act that would allow the same powers for those deemed to be individual terrorists to be treated as
agents of foreign powers, a measure aimed at tracking so-called lone wolf operators.
It was introduced on Monday by Senators John McCain and Richard Burr. Senator John Cornyn has named the issue the FBI's top legislative priority and has
tabled a further amendment to allow similar powers to law enforcement.
The US National Security Agency's mass tracking and collection of Americans' phone call data violates the constitution, has a chilling effect on first amendment rights and should be halted, accord to a court motion filed by the American Civil Liberties
The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in June, one of several against the NSA following the Guardian's disclosures via whistleblower Edward Snowden, of the agency's mass surveillance of US citizens. Documents from Snowden
revealed a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order directing Verizon to give the NSA all call detail records or metadata relating to every domestic and international call for three months, in a court direction that is renewed on an
ongoing basis. The motion says:
The chilling effect of the mass call-tracking program is apparent: any person hoping to approach plaintiffs with proof of official misconduct would be understandably wary knowing that
the government receives, almost in real-time, a record of every telephone call.
A declaration in support of the motion by Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton, warns that even basic
inspection of the metadata on the calls made in the US each day allows the government to pry into the population's most intimate secrets. They include the rise and fall of intimate relationships the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease or
the identity of a prospective government whistleblower.
It can reveal, Felten wrote, when we are awake and asleep; our religion, if a person regularly makes no calls on the Sabbath, or makes a large number of calls on Christmas Day; our work
habits and our social aptitude; the number of friends we have; and even our civil and political affiliations . Calls to certain helplines, or support groups, for instance sexual assault, domestic violence or abortion clinics are all tracked by the
NSA, the motion says.
The ACLU's lawsuit says that the NSA's ongoing tracking of their phone calls exceeds statutory authority and violates the first and fourth amendments.