U.S. taps half-billion German phone, internet links in month: report
(Reuters) - The United States taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in German in a typical month and has classed its biggest European ally as a target similar to China, according to secret U.S. documents quoted by a German newsmagazine.
The revelations of alleged U.S. surveillance programs based on documents taken by fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have raised a political furor in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.
Exposing the latest details in a string of reputed spying programs, Der Spiegel quoted from an internal NSA document which it said its reporters had seen.
The document Spiegel cited showed that the United States categorized Germany as a "third-class" partner and that surveillance there was stronger than in any other EU country, similar in extent to China, Iraq or Saudi-Arabia.
"We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do it too," Der Spiegel quoted a passage in the NSA document as saying.
It said the document showed that the NSA monitored phone calls, text messages, emails and internet chat contributions and has saved the metadata - that is, the connections, not the content - at its headquarters.
On an average day, the NSA monitored about 20 million German phone connections and 10 million internet data sets, rising to 60 million phone connections on busy days, the report said.
While it had been known from disclosures by Snowden that the United States tapped data in Germany, the extent was previously unclear.
News of the U.S. cyber-espionage program Prism and the British equivalent Tempora have outraged Germans, who are highly sensitive to government monitoring having lived through the Stasi secret police in the former communist East Germany and with lingering memories of the Gestapo of Hitler's Nazi regime.
A Spiegel report on Saturday that the NSA had spied on European Union offices caused outrage among EU policymakers, with some even calling for a suspension to talks for a free trade agreement between Washington and the EU.
In France, Der Spiegel reported, the United States taps about 2 million connection data a day. Only Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand were explicitly exempted from spy attacks.
Snowden, a U.S. citizen, fled the United States to Hong Kong in May, a few weeks before the publication in the Guardian and the Washington Post of details he provided about secret U.S. government surveillance of internet and phone traffic.
He has been holed up in a Moscow airport transit area for a week after U.S. authorities revoked his passport. The leftist government of Ecuador is reviewing his request for asylum
Matteson man accused of carrying loaded guns near Hawks rally
Authorities say sports fan told police that he had been robbed before
by Michelle Manchir
A Matteson man who had two loaded guns in a backpack while walking with crowds toward the Chicago Blackhawks victory rally tried to avoid a search by police officers, Cook County prosecutors said Saturday.
Roger Harrison has been charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after he was arrested during Friday's Grant Park rally, which hundreds of thousands of people attended.
Chicago police said there was no indication that the south suburban man — of the 3100 block of Holden Circle — was a threat.
Still, Harrison, 37, "became agitated" when he was stopped by police in the 100 block of North LaSalle Street, according to an arrest report. When officers asked about the large backpack he was carrying, Harrison told them he would "go the other way," the report said.
Harrison turned to walk away, but the officers followed him. When asked what was in his bag, he told officers, "I might have a handgun on me," and said he needed to go to work, court documents said.
Police searched the bag and found a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol with seven rounds and a .22-caliber rifle with three rounds, according to court documents. Harrison was also carrying a small plastic bag that contained 7.9 grams of marijuana, prosecutors said.
When asked why he had the loaded guns, Harrison told officers he "got robbed before," court documents state.
Public defender Stephen Herczeg said in bond court Saturday that Harrison served as a U.S. Marine for four years and holds an Illinois firearm owner's identification card. Harrison's bail was set at $75,000.
A woman reached by phone at Harrison's home address called Harrison a "country boy," who liked guns and enjoyed Chicago sports.
"He's a good person," said the woman, who said she's a relative but declined to provide her name. "He's worked all his life."
Harrison's next court hearing is scheduled for Friday.
From the White House
Senate Votes to Reform Our Nation's Immigration System
by Cecilia Muñoz
When was the last time you can remember a week like this?
On Tuesday, President Obama committed the full weight of American leadership to the fight against carbon pollution and climate change. Then on Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and took us one step closer to marriage equality.
It's not all been good news. Before the President spoke on Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down one of the core provisions of the Voting Rights Act that has helped to protect one of Americans' most fundamental rights for nearly 50 years. As the President said, it's now up to Congress to ensure that every American has equal access to the polls.
But the most incredible thing about this week is that it's not over yet.
On Thursday, 68 members of the U.S. Senate, Republicans and Democrats, came together and voted to reform our nation's immigration system. They voted for a bill that secures our borders and cracks down on employers who refuse to play by the rules. They voted for a bill that provides undocumented immigrants with a way to earn citizenship so they can come out of the shadows. They voted for a bill that provides visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start American businesses, reunites families, and helps the students and young people who've never known any home but America fully embrace the country that they love.
We took a big step forward with this Senate vote. But we haven't won the debate. This bill isn't yet a law, and there are a lot of policymakers who are still weighing their options. As the conversation unfolds here in Washington, we need you to be part of it.
Tell us why immigration reform is important for you
Cecilia Muñoz is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council
US, Mexican authorities shut down smuggling tunnel under construction in Nogales
NOGALES, Ariz. – U.S. and Mexican authorities shut down an incomplete cross-border drug smuggling tunnel following its discovery Tuesday during a routine, bi-national inspection of the city's main storm drain system.
While inspecting the storm drain running under Grand Avenue, authorities found a concrete access panel embedded in the storm drain floor. Upon removing the panel, they located an illicit tunnel containing numerous tools, a core drill and forced air ventilation. The inspection was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led Nogales Tunnel Task Force and U.S. Border Patrol, in partnership with Mexican federal police.
Investigators believe the tunnel, which was in the final stages of construction, would have exited on the U.S. side through a public parking lot located near the Dennis DeConcini port of entry. The passageway stretches for approximately 160 feet and is roughly two feet wide by three feet tall. About 153 feet of the tunnel is located within the United States, with seven feet in Mexico. A water line, storm drain pipe and two fiber optic lines were exposed inside the passageway. No people or drugs were found inside the tunnel and no arrests have yet been made in the case, which remains under investigation by the Nogales Tunnel Task Force.
Federal authorities have discovered and shut down six cross-border smuggling tunnels in the Nogales area in fiscal year 2013.
The Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) is an HSI-led, multi-agency U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiative to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities along U.S. borders. There are currently 34 BEST units deployed across the country, covering major seaports and southern and northern border regions. BEST units are composed of more than 750 law enforcement officers from more than 100 federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement and intelligence resources.
BEST Nogales Tunnel Task Force is composed of full time members from HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol, Nogales Police Department, the Santa Cruz County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. BEST Nogales Tunnel Task Force is responsible for identifying, investigating and eliminating illicit subterranean tunnels in one of the nation's busiest border areas with Mexico and combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations that finance, build and use them.
From the FBI
Race Against Time
Holiday Bomb Threat Averted
It was one of those cases like you might see on TV or in the movies—where the FBI and its partners work feverishly behind the scenes, racing to stop bombs from going off and lives from possibly being lost.
But this was real—and the stakes were high. The target was one of the nation's largest retailers in one of America's most populated areas. And the day of reckoning was Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.
It all started last October 15, when the Home Depot in Huntington, New York—a town on the north shore of Long Island—received an ominous anonymous note. The sender demanded $2 million or he would “shut down” three Home Depot stores on Long Island the day after Thanksgiving by remotely setting off bombs filled with roofing nails using a cell phone. As proof of his ability to hide a bomb, he said that he had planted a live device in the Huntington store's lighting department.
The man wasn't bluffing. Home Depot immediately contacted the Suffolk County Police Department, which found an operational pipe bomb hidden within a light fixture inside a box on a shelf. Bomb techs rendered it harmless through a controlled detonation.
Suffolk County and FBI bomb techs later agreed that if a store employee or customer had come across the bomb and picked it up, it could have exploded. And the device made it clear that the bomb-maker knew what he was doing.
Two days later, the man called Home Depot and repeated his demands. Five days later, the store received a second letter, this time lowering the ransom to $1 million and setting up a “money drop” for October 26.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, on the day of the money drop, the bomber intended to be “wired up like a Christmas tree” with “2 devices strapped to a belt and 1 to a neck chain I will be wearing, wired together and attached to a deadman switch in my hand.” The man also stated that “to keep from being shot at a distance,” he intended to place an additional explosive device in a Home Depot store.
But just before the scheduled money drop, the would-be-bomber made a second phone call to Home Depot to call it off…for the time being.
All the while, a multi-agency team of investigators from federal, state, and local law enforcement were compiling a list of suspects and working to narrow it down. A prime suspect soon emerged—Daniel Patrick Sheehan, an employee of the Home Depot store in nearby Deer Park.
On November 7—after using a variety of innovative investigative techniques—law enforcement located and arrested Sheehan in the vicinity of one of the Long Island Home Depot locations. Found in Sheehan's possession was the cell phone used to make the threatening phone calls to the store.
On June 17, 2013, Sheehan was convicted by a federal jury of extorting his employer and using a destructive device. As then-FBI New York Acting Assistant Director in Charge Mary Galligan said after Sheehan's arrest, “Whatever his motivation …[Sheenan's] scheme caused economic loss, was a huge drain on law enforcement resources, and threatened the safety of untold numbers of innocent people, any one of which is unacceptable.”