By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd
A top-secret National Security Agency team uses spyware and hacking to gather intelligence on targets, according to a new report based on internal agency documents.
According to Der Spiegel, a German magazine that published some of the documents, the unit's interception techniques are worthy of James Bond: intercepting a computer being shipped to a target and installing spyware before it is delivered; supplying an altered monitor cable that transmits everything on a computer's screen to the NSA; or planting a USB plug with a secret radio transmitter.
The unit, called Tailored Access Operations, also uses hacking in addition to spy craft. The most basic method involves phishing, sending an e-mail that lures a target into clicking on it and unknowingly downloading NSA spyware. More sophisticated techniques include identifying exploitable computer vulnerabilities by eavesdropping on a target's error messages; tracking a target's cookies to shadow their Internet use; and even surreptitiously diverting a target's web surfing to phony replica web pages of commonly used sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
Agents could use such fake sites both to see what a target is typing and to try to insert spyware on the target's computer, according to cybersecurity expert Michael Sutton at ZScaler, a California-based information technology security company.FULL STORY
By Evan Perez
The National Security Agency notched a much-needed win in court, after a series of setbacks over the legality and even the usefulness of its massive data collection program.
A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of data on nearly every phone call made in the United States is legal.
The ruling contrasts with another ruling last week by a federal judge in Washington, who called the same program "almost Orwellian" and likely unconstitutional.
In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said that while the NSA's program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act has become the center of controversy since it was revealed by leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it is legal.FULL STORY
CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez
Israeli officials are protesting revelations of National Security Agency snooping on their leaders, while also taking the opportunity to press for the United States to release an Israeli spy.
Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in the 1980s, is serving a life sentence for espionage; Israel has acknowledged he was an intelligence asset and has pushed for years to have him released.
The NSA allegations surfaced in the New York Times last week based on a leak from former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
After a few days of silence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a political party gathering Monday that he had asked the United States to explain the reports, adding that spying among close allies is unacceptable.
By Evan Perez, CNN Justice Reporter
A new congressional fight is brewing over the Central Intelligence Agency's controversial use of harsh interrogations almost decade ago.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, is threatening to block the nomination of President Barack Obama's choice for CIA general counsel unless the agency provides an internal report that he says bolsters findings made by a congressional investigation of the interrogation program.
The Senate Intelligence Committee produced a 6,300-page report on the program, which used methods such as waterboarding on prisoners held by the CIA in the years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
CNN's Bill Mears and Evan Perez
A federal judge said Monday that he believes the government's once-secret collection of domestic phone records is unconstitutional, setting up likely appeals and further challenges to the data mining revealed by classified leaker Edward Snowden.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said the National Security Agency's bulk collection of metadata - phone records of the time and numbers called without any disclosure of content - apparently violates privacy rights.FULL STORY
Sen. John McCain joined CNN's "State of the Union" from Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday after the Arizona Republican addressed thousands of protesters who are angry over the Ukrainian government's decision to backpedal away from an agreement with the European Union.
McCain spoke about a range of issues happening around the globe, and suggested the Central Intelligence Agency was not truthful to Congress about former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who went missing in Iran seven years ago.
Here are five noteworthy points from the interview.FULL STORY
By Susan Candiotti and Catherine E. Shoichet
A former FBI agent who went missing in Iran was working for the CIA there, not conducting private business as officials have previously claimed, The Associated Press and the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Both the State Department and Bob Levinson's family have long denied he was working for the U.S. government when he disappeared on a trip to Iran in 2007.
But Thursday's reports from the Washington Post and the AP claim that Levinson had been on a CIA mission to dig up information.
A source who's involved in the matter told CNN that there's proof that Levinson worked for the CIA undercover and under contract while also working as a private investigator.FULL STORY
By Evan Perez
Some U.S. technology giants are asking the Obama administration and Congress to rein in government surveillance.
Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google and Microsoft are among the companies signing an open letter arguing that surveillance has gone too far. The companies say they're improving encryption and fighting to limit surveillance requests, but they're also asking for new legal changes to limit surveillance.
This comes after recent revelations from documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. His leaks have lifted the veil on the agency's vast surveillance databases, many of which are part of programs with intelligence agencies in other countries. The aim, the NSA and other agencies say, is to prevent terrorism and protect security.
By Saima Mohsin and Mariano Castillo
A Pakistani political party official has publicly named two U.S. CIA officials in connection with a police murder investigation into a drone strike.
Police had already initiated an investigation against unnamed persons after a recent drone strike that killed five. In a televised news conference Wednesday, Shireen Mazari, information secretary for the Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said she filed an addendum to the police complaint, singling out two U.S. officials.
She gave the names of U.S. CIA Director John Brennan and a person identified as the CIA's Station Chief based in Pakistan. U.S. officials did not confirm to CNN the accuracy of her claims.
"I can't speak to the alleged operational issues, but more broadly I note we have a strong ongoing dialogue with Pakistan regarding all aspects of our bilateral relationship and shared interests," a U.S. Embassy official in Pakistan told CNN.FULL STORY
By Bill Mears
The U.S. Supreme Court will allow the National Security Agency's surveillance of domestic telephone communication records to continue for now.
The justices without comment Monday rejected an appeal from a privacy rights group, which claimed a secret federal court improperly authorized the government to collect the electronic records.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed its petition directly with the high court, bypassing the usual step of going to the lower federal courts first. Such a move made it much harder for the justices to intervene at this stage, but EPIC officials argued "exceptional ramifications" demanded immediate final judicial review. There was no immediate reaction to the court's order from the public interest group, or from the Justice Department.
Published reports earlier this year indicated the NSA received secret court approval to collect vast amounts of so-called metadata from telecom giant Verizon and leading Internet companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. The information includes the numbers and location of nearly every phone call to and from the United States in the past five years, but not actual monitoring of the conversations themselves. To do so would require a separate, specifically targeted search warrant.