TIME Congress

House Votes to End Bulk Collection of American Phone Records

The NSA's new spy data collection center is seen just south of Salt Lake City on May 7, 2015 in Bluffdale, Utah.
George Frey—Getty Images BLUFF DALE, UT - MAY 7: The NSA's new spy data collection center is seen just south of Salt Lake City May 7, 2015 in Bluffdale, Utah. Reportedly, the center is the largest of its kind with massive computer power for processing data. A New York Court of appeals ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of phone data is illegal. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

The USA Freedom Act would end the mass collection of phone metadata by the NSA

(WASHINGTON) — The House voted by a wide margin Wednesday to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and replace it with a system to search the data held by telephone companies on a case-by-case basis.

The 338-to-88 vote set the stage for a Senate showdown just weeks before the Patriot Act provisions authorizing the program are due to expire.

If the House bill becomes law, it will represent one of the most significant changes stemming from the unauthorized disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But many Senate Republicans don’t like the measure, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a separate version that would keep the program as is. Yet, he also faces opposition from within his party and has said he is open to compromise.

President Barack Obama supports the House legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, which is in line with a proposal he made last March. The House passed a similar bill last year, but it failed in the Senate.

Most House members would rather see the Patriot Act provisions expire altogether than re-authorize NSA bulk collection, said Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee. “I think the Senate is ultimately going to pass something like the USA Freedom Act,” he said.

The issue, which exploded into public view two years ago, has implications for the 2016 presidential contest, with Republican candidates staking out different positions.

The revelation that the NSA had for years been secretly collecting all records of U.S. landline phone calls was among the most controversial disclosures by Snowden, a former NSA systems administrator who in 2013 leaked thousands of secret documents to journalists.

The program collects the number called, along with the date, time and duration of call, but not the content or people’s names. It stores the information in an NSA database that a small number of analysts query for matches against the phone numbers of known terrorists abroad, hunting for domestic connections to plots.

Officials acknowledge the program has never foiled a terrorist attack, and some within the NSA had proposed abandoning it even before it leaked — on the grounds that its financial and privacy costs outweighed its counterterrorism benefits.

Proponents of keeping the program the way it is argue that the rise of the Islamic State group and its efforts to inspire Westerners to attack in their own countries make it more important than ever for the NSA and FBI to have such phone records at their disposal to map potential terrorist cells when new information surfaces. And they say there is no evidence the program has ever been misused.

Under the House measure, the NSA would no longer collect and store the records, but the government still could obtain a court order to obtain data connected to a specific number from the phone companies, which typically store them for 18 months.

If the legislation is enacted, “Americans will now rest easy knowing that their calls and other records will not be warehoused by the government, no matter how careful the government is in their procedures to access those files,” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat on the intelligence committee.

The House measure also provides for a panel of experts to advocate for privacy and civil liberties before the secret intelligence court that oversees surveillance programs. And it allows the government to continue eavesdropping on foreign terrorists without a warrant for 72 hours after they enter the U.S., giving authorities time to obtain such a warrant.

The Senate will have a short window to act before Patriot Act provisions authorizing the phone records program and other counterterrorism-related measures expire June 1. If McConnell’s bill passes to reauthorize the law with no changes, that would be seen as a crushing defeat for surveillance opponents.

On Tuesday, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and FBI Director Jim Comey briefed senators on the program. Afterward, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters the NSA was not collecting all the data it should be. He declined to be specific, saying the briefing was classified, but he appeared to be addressing the fact that the collection does not include most mobile calls in an era when many people have stopped using landlines.

“The way it’s being implemented today, I don’t see how it’s … useful at all to the American people,” said Corker, who wants to reauthorize the current law. “And I’m shocked, shocked … by the small amount of data that is even part of the program. It needs to be ramped up.”

U.S. officials have confirmed the mobile records gap, saying it stemmed from technical and policy issues that ultimately would have been addressed absent the Snowden leak. Under the House’s USA Freedom Act, they said, the NSA would expand its queries to include mobile records, creating a potentially more effective program. But they have expressed concerns about working out an arrangement with phone providers to standardize the data so the information can quickly be searched.

Those officials, not authorized to comment publicly by name, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

___

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

TIME France

French Lawmakers Approve Controversial Surveillance Bill

French surveillance measures vote in Parliament
Ian Langsdon—EPA The French parliament is seen in session shortly before holding a vote to adopt new surveillance rules, in the Assemblee Nationale building, in Paris on May 5, 2015.

It would allow intelligence services to put cameras in terror suspects' homes without prior authorization from a judge

(PARIS)—France’s lower house of Parliament has approved a bill aimed at legalizing broad surveillance of terrorism suspects that has drawn an outcry from advocates of civil liberties.

The bill was passed Tuesday with 438 votes in favor and 86 against.

Lawmakers from both the Socialist majority in Parliament and the conservative opposition supported the bill, which will now move to the Senate for further discussion.

The bill was proposed long before the January Paris attacks by Islamic extremists to update a law left essentially untouched since 1991. But the government has said it has become more urgent with each person who has become radicalized.

The new law would entitle intelligence services to place cameras and recording devices in suspects’ homes and beacons on their cars without prior authorization from a judge.

Instead, they would need to request authorization from an independent nine-person panel composed of magistrates, lawmakers and a communication expert — with exceptions in cases of special threats.

One of the most sensitive measures would force communication and Internet firms to allow intelligence services to install electronic “lock-boxes” to record metadata from all Internet users in France. The metadata would then be subject to algorithmic analysis for potentially suspicious behavior.

The data would be anonymous, but intelligence agents could follow up with a request to the independent panel for deeper surveillance that could yield the identity of users.

Either the panel or people who believe they are unfairly under surveillance could appeal to administrative judges.

Opponents say the bill legalizes highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

A protest called by a group of privacy advocates, human rights groups and unions to denounce “highly intrusive surveillance methods” gathered hundreds of people Monday near the National Assembly.

Reporters Without Borders said the bill “poses a grave new threat to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources” and pointed out that it “contains no safeguards for protected professions, including journalists.”

TIME portfolio

See the Places of Power at the Center of Canada’s Controversial Anti-Terror Law

Ottawa's core is occupied by the federal government, coloring its inhabitants' everyday experiences

Following last year’s attacks at Ottawa’s National War Memorial, Canada’s conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced a sweeping anti-terrorism act that would extend the powers of the country’s surveillance and policing bodies.

Civil liberties organizations, from Amnesty International to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, have opposed the draft legislation, calling for it to be withdrawn.

For local photographer Tony Fouhse, these events are just the latest to tarnish the idyllic image Ottawa’s tourism board has worked hard to showcase. Already between 2007 and 2010, Fouhse portrayed the capital’s narcotic addicts, forcing people to recognize that less fortunate ones shared their “hospitable” streets.

“Because I like doing things that stand in contrast to one another, I wondered who the opposite of drug users were,” he tells TIME. “They are the disempowered, so it made sense to look at the powerful. Ottawa being the country’s seat of government, I wondered how it manifested itself throughout the city,” explains the 61 year-old who has been working on the series Official Ottawa since 2013.

He drew up a list of places and people he felt embodied power: the Department of National Defense, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters, the residence of the Prime Minister, parliament, civil servants, official mascots. He walked through the city with his 4×5 camera to reveal the idiosyncrasies that exists when memory, heritage and authority congregate, like a non-descript sign pointing towards “war” – shorthand for the Canadian War Museum – or pastoral flower blossoms in front of the secret services’ offices. He tried different avenues to get in the Conservative Party building – to no avail, no one would grant him permission – until he realized, that his standing outside looking up at this monolith structure would be a far better portrait than a picture taken from the inside.

“The core of the city is occupied by the federal government and its associates,” he says. “It colors our everyday experiences in ways that we’re barely aware of. Most of the time, we’ll only consider our environment if it’s magnificent. Ottawa doesn’t have that. It’s not Rome or Paris. It’s not grandiose. It’s grey sensibleness,” remarks Fouhse who has been living in the city for the past three decades.

At a time when most media outlets are looking for the sentimental and the sensational, Fouhse’s images are oddly quiet; dull moments frozen in time, unremarkable frigid monuments exalted on film. Yet, a sinister tension prevails. Now, in the aftermath of the October shootings and ahead of a vote that may see Canada beef up its national security apparatus, his photos strike as foreboding.

“If you pay attention to the peripheral, you might notice things that you wouldn’t otherwise,” he says. “What you’re doing in that case, is trying to go behind, beyond the public image to see what lurks in the shadows.”

Fouhse wants to compel others to do the same; to, in his own words, “take a step back and to the left.” He intends to share his offbeat view of Canada’s capital through a free newspaper-like publication, for which he is raising funds via Kickstarter. He hopes that people waiting for their turn at the dentist or going about their daily commute might stumble upon it, pick it up and be nudged to look at their surroundings a little differently.

Official Ottawa is too quiet to be an act of civil disobedience,” he says. “In fact, I’m not even sure that art can have that power nowadays. It’s more of a social service announcement, an antidote to the tax-funded Harper-distributed propaganda.”

Tony Fouhse is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Ottawa, Canada.

Laurence Butet-Roch is a freelance writer, photo editor and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Boreal Collective.

TIME Security

SIM Card Company Says the NSA Probably Hacked It

Mobile phone SIM card
David Gould—Getty Images

But it denies the NSA got access to billions of people's mobile communications

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of SIM cards has acknowledged evidence of security agency attacks on the company’s internal networks, but it’s denying that American and British intelligence agents were able to get access to billions of mobile phone users’ secure data.

Gemalto, a French-Dutch supplier of SIM cards, found “reasonable grounds” of an attack by U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) following an internal investigation into a series of security incidents. The audits came after online publication The Intercept reported on what it said was a joint British-American operation to covertly hack Gemalto’s stash of SIM encryption keys, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

SIM cards are small encrypted devices inside cell phones that carry users’ unique identifier codes on a network. Breaking their encryption could allow intelligence agencies or hackers easier access to targets’ mobile communication.

In particular, Gemalto cited two “sophisticated intrusions” in 2010 and 2011, one of which involved sending malware-infected attachments from faked company email addresses. Gemalto acknowledged that the breaches may have enabled a third party such as the NSA to spy on internal communications from company employees, but denied the breach led to a massive loss of encryption keys. The Intercept previously reported that the NSA and GCHQ stole encryption codes as Gemalto sent them to device makers like China’s Huawei.

“The attacks against Gemalto only breached its office networks and could not have resulted in a massive theft of SIM encryption keys,” read a statement from the company.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The U.S. wants to hack your phone because it doesn’t have the real spies it needs.

By Patrick G. Eddington at Reuters

2. Eight universities account for half of all history professors in the U.S. How did that happen?

By Joel Warner and Aaron Clauset in Slate

3. Bill Gates is investing in low-tech impact entrepreneurs in India.

By David Bank in Entrepreneur

4. “Liquid biopsy” can detect cancer from a few drops of blood.

By Michael Standaert in MIT Technology Review

5. Let’s build the infrastructure to make microfinance institutions into true innovation hubs.

By Jessica Collier in Medium

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY the photo bank

The Woman Who Followed Her Identity Thief for Two Years

Photographer Jessamyn Lovell put her own identity thief under surveillance for two years—and exhibited the results for all to see.

Jessamyn Lovell, of Albuquerque, has curly brown hair cut just above the shoulder.

Perhaps once, before she bleached it a brassy orange, Erin Hart, of San Francisco, had similar hair. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Yet about five years ago, Erin Hart stole Lovell’s identity, using Lovell’s stolen ID cards to check into a San Francisco hotel. Lovell learned of the crime when the San Francisco police contacted her. Bills and citations soon started pouring in—presumably the result of Hart’s spree, though Lovell can’t definitively connect Hart to the three damaged cars rented in her name, parking tickets, and charges for petty theft and toll evasion.

MORE The One Foolproof Thing You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Now Lovell, an artist, photographer, and college instructor, has turned the tables. After an arduous and expensive process of clearing her name, Lovell hired a private investigator, tracked down the woman they believe was Hart, and over a period of two years followed her, taking grainy, surveillance-style photos of her own identity thief.

Thirty-two of the resulting images, plus other documentation of her ordeal, were displayed last fall at the San Francisco Camerawork gallery—the same gallery, in fact, from which Lovell’s wallet was stolen in 2011. (The photos and artifacts will also be published as book, “Dear Erin Hart,” by San Francisco Camerawork later this month; and will be shown publicly again, at the Colorado Photographic Art Center in Denver, from February 26 through March 28.)

It may sound like Lovell gave Hart her just deserts. But the photographer describes her motivations differently. “I did not and do not intend to punish Erin Hart through my project,” she says. “I just wanted to take my name back. And hopefully, it will make it harder for her to do what she has done, and caused her to see me as a person, not just a name on an ID.”

Lovell attempted, via Hart’s probation officer, to invite Hart to the opening, and even left a letter for her at the gallery. As far as Lovell knows, Hart never appeared. In December, Lovell heard from the probation officer that Hart may have become homeless.

MORE Here Are the Companies That Have Been Hacked — And What to Do

Lovell says she herself grew up poor and even now, as a lecturer at the University of New Mexico, “struggles to be in the middle class” while continuing to pay off the student loans she accrued getting a master’s degree in fine arts. As a result, Lovell now expresses sympathy for the economic challenges Hart faces.

“With a criminal record, she will have an even harder time finding any kind of legitimate employment,” Lovell says. “I think it’s harder to pull yourself up by your bootstraps than people want to admit.”

MORE 7 Ways to Keep Your Tax Refund Safe From Thieves

This is part of The Photo Bank, a recurring feature on Money.com dedicated to conceptually-driven photography. From images that document the broader economy to ones that explore more personal concerns like paying for college, travel, retirement, advancing your career, or even buying groceries, The Photo Bank showcases a spectrum of the best work being produced by emerging and established artists. Submissions are encouraged and should be sent to Sarina Finkelstein, Online Photo Editor for Money.com at sarina.finkelstein@timeinc.com.

Read next: I Ate Thanksgiving Dinner With My I.D. Thief for 19 Years

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Security

Report: Government Now Tracking Millions of U.S. Cars

FRANCE-TRANSPORT-TRAFFIC-HOLIDAYS
Philippe Desmazes—AFP/Getty Images Motorists drive in traffic on the A7 motorway under a bridge where a security camera is set on August 2, 2014 at the toll station of Vienne, southeastern France.

A database of vehicle movements records times, dates and in some cases, identifiable images of drivers, the Wall Street Journal reports

A license-plate tracking system originally conceived to combat drug traffickers along the U.S.-Mexican border has drastically expanded to encompass millions of vehicles across the United States, according to official documents released Tuesday.

Law enforcement officials have tapped a database of vehicle movements, including times, dates and in some cases, images of drivers snapped by roadside traffic cameras, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Drug Enforcement Agency established the program to monitor and impound cars used by drug traffickers along the US-Mexico border, but documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal suggest that the program has expanded for a range of investigations unrelated to drug trafficking cases. Sen. Patrick Leahy criticized the unpublicized expansion of the program, saying that it “raises significant privacy concerns.”

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

TIME foreign affairs

How French Intelligence Missed the Charlie Hebdo Terrorists

FRANCE-ATTACKS-MEDIA-POLICE
FRANCOIS LO PRESTI—AFP/Getty Images Members of the GIPN and RAID, French police special forces, walk in Corcy, northern France, on January 8, 2015 as they carry out searches as part of an investigation into a deadly attack the day before by armed gunmen on the Paris offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

John Mueller and Mark Stewart are the authors of the forthcoming Chasing Ghosts: The Costly Quest to Counter Terrorists in the United States.

Terrorism's very high cost combined with its very low probability make stopping terrorists as difficult as finding a needle in a hastack

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Paris, French police and intelligence agencies are being asked to explain why known militants—including one who had visited an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen several years ago—were not subject to intense surveillance before they launched last week’s terrorist attack at the offices of a French satirical weekly.

The answer is fairly simple, if less than satisfying: it costs a lot of money to do so. A perhaps somewhat high estimate is that the full-scale surveillance of an individual for a year costs some $8 million. The costs of watching even 125 people in that way would add up to $1 billion—a sum that is one-third of the entire FBI counterterrorism budget.

French police believe that, among prisoners alone, 200 would “merit attention” and 95 would be “dangerous” once released.

Nor is malpractice evident in the fact that the surveillance of some terrorist suspects is relaxed over time. Very often, would-be terrorists lose their enthusiasm for the enterprise. As terrorism specialist John Horgan has pointed out, walking away from terrorism is a common phenomenon. It is not that they necessarily abandon their radical views, but that they abandon violence as a means of expressing them.

Policing agencies must therefore pick and choose carefully. At any one time there could easily be thousands of plausible candidates for scrutiny, and many of them may well seem to be more threatening those who actually committed terrorist mayhem in Paris.

Under the influence of what might be called “the 9/11 Commission Syndrome,” in which all terrorism leads are supposed to be followed up on, government agencies chase more than 5,000 “threats” in the United States every day. The vast majority of this activity leads, of course, to nothing, and the massive enterprise is often called “ghostchasing” in the FBI, an agency that may have pursued well over 10 million leads since 2001.

The enterprise leads to only a very small number of productive investigations—there are only 100 or so arrests on terrorism charges in the United States each year, and most of these are of would-be terrorists who are either trivial or at most aspirational. However, in addition, there will be a considerable number—thousands or even tens of thousands—who are deemed suspicious enough to watch. At that point, budgetary considerations must necessarily come into play. Investigators can afford to give only a few the full surveillance treatment.

When something like the French tragedy happens, policing and intelligence agencies are urged to work even harder to ferret out potential terrorists in our midst—in other words, to heap even more hay onto the haystack. That is certainly an understandable reaction, but it almost never comes associated with even the barest elements of a rounded analysis. This should begin not with the perennial question “Are we safer?” but rather with one almost never asked: “How safe are we?”

On average, one or two people have perished per year since 2001 at the hands of Islamic terrorists in the United States and in France, less than that in Canada and Australia, a bit more in the United Kingdom. Under present circumstances, then, the likelihood a citizen in those countries will be killed by a terrorist is one in millions. Whatever the fears of French police and however wrenching the last week has been, terrorism in their country, looked at rather coldly, has not resulted in many deaths.

The question then becomes, as risk analyst Howard Kunreuther put it shortly after 9/11, “How much should we be willing to pay for a small reduction in probabilities that are already extremely low?”

In seeking to answer that key question, it should be kept in mind that terrorism often exacts considerable political, economic, emotional, and psychic damage that may not be inflicted by other hazards, natural and unnatural. Moreover, it is worth considering that terrorism in the developed world might suddenly increase in frequency and intensity. However, this would be a sharp reversal of current patterns, and the terrorist surge would have to be massive to change the basic calculus.

As with crime, perfect safety is impossible, a rather obvious point that is nonetheless often neglected. Funds directed at a hazard that kills few might sometimes be more productively directed at one that kills many.

John Mueller is a political scientist at Ohio State University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Mark Stewart is an engineer and risk analyst at the University of Newcastle in Australia. They are the authors of Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security and of the forthcoming Chasing Ghosts: The Costly Quest to Counter Terrorists in the United States.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY privacy

Security Flaws Let Hackers Listen in on Calls

German researchers say the network that allows cellphone carriers to direct calls to one another is full of security holes.

TIME portfolio

Drone Country: See America From Above

Affordable drones are giving us a new—perhaps temporary—vantage on the world

When a drone looks at a thing, that thing has a way of looking like a target. People become silhouettes at a shooting range. Buildings look vulnerable, their roofs helplessly exposed and defenseless. Most colors disappear, and the remaining blacks, whites and greys evacuate the scene of all human meaning. What we see becomes data: body counts, damage reports, strategic value.

In these photos, shot as part of an ongoing series, Belgian photographer Tomas van Houtryve looks at America through the eyes of a drone, a small quadcopter he bought online and equipped with a high-resolution camera. “A drone seems particularly appropriate because it’s increasingly how America views the rest of the world,” he says. “I wanted to turn things around. What do we look like from a drone’s-eye view? Suspicious? Prosperous? Free and happy?” Every age brings with it new technology for looking at the world. Van Houtryve has embraced the technology of ours.

Drones are becoming an increasingly common sight in our domestic airspace. Pilots have started spotting them from airliners: the FAA reports up to 40 cases a month in which drones are seen exceeding the legal ceiling of 400 feet. As they get cheaper, more popular and more ­plentiful—one online community for enthusiasts, DIY Drones, has over 60,000 members—they are bringing with them a host of unanswered questions, and the White House is scrambling to bring regulatory order to the aerial chaos. In December, the Federal Aviation Administration delayed its long-awaited guidelines on drone flights, initially due next year, until 2017. The questions are about safety, but also about privacy: we’re a lot more comfortable looking through drones than suffering their all-seeing, all-judging gaze.

From this godlike point of view, teenagers playing lacrosse on a field look like lunar shadows of themselves. A housing development in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., takes on an abstract geometric beauty. Everything every­where looks silent and calm, still and waiting. Even scenes of economic and ecological chaos take on their own serene perfection. In California’s Central Valley, van Houtryve found order in rows of houseboats moored in a reservoir. Rings on the shoreline show how profoundly the water level has been reduced by months of drought.

Carl CostasTomas van Houtryve photographs Lake Oroville

That same order is echoed by rows of RVs parked near an Amazon fulfillment center near Reno, Nev. (coincidentally, Amazon is where van Houtryve bought his drone). Migrant workers flock there in RVs for the extra jobs that materialize during the holiday season and then, like the water in that California reservoir, evaporate into thin air. In a strange way, the pitilessness in the drone’s stare inspires its opposite in human eyes: empathy.

Tomas van Houtryve is a Paris-based photographer, artist and writer. His reporting on this story was supported in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

Lev Grossman is TIME’s book critic and its lead technology writer. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The Magicians and The Magician King.

Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.

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