*NSA and British counterpart GCHQ seek ways of monitoring airplane passenger communication

by Stephen Rex Brown    …..  

This is your captain speaking — and your National Security Agency listening.

The NSA and its British counterpart are seeking ways to monitor the communications of passengers aboard airplanes, according to a new book by journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The NSA’s “collect it all” ethos has led the agency to try to fill in gaps in its vast surveillance dragnet, including e-mails, texts and phone calls made on commercial airplanes. Because the the communications are routed through independent satellite systems, they are hard to track, Greenwald reveals in “No Place To Hide.”

But spies are working on infiltrating planes’ cabins.

“We can confirm that targets … are on board specific flights in near real time, enabling surveillance or arrest teams to be put in place in advance,” reads one slide from GCHQ, England’s spy agency.

“Specific aircraft can be tracked approximately every 2 minutes whilst in flight.”

GCHQ’s airplane surveillance program is called Thieving Magpie. The NSA’s version is called Homing Pigeon.

Greenwald, whose book was recently published, got the documents from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower now living in asylum in Russia. The Daily News obtained a copy of Greenwald’s book in advance of its release.

The ongoing NSA revelations stemming from Snowden’s leaks spurred an international debate about the balance between national security and privacy, strained relations with U.S. allies and forced President Obama to announce reforms to some of the agency’s tactics.

“The implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false. NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets,” an agency spokesman said. “Public release of purportedly classified material about U.S. intelligence collection systems, without context, further confuses an important issue for the country.”

The newest disclosures won’t make diplomacy any easier.

Greenwald’s book alleges that Susan Rice, who in 2010 was serving as ambassador to the United Nations, asked the NSA to spy on eight members of the U.N. Security Council in advance of a resolution against Iran. Among the targets were diplomats from nations friendly to the U.S. like France, Brazil, Japan and Mexico.

Signals intelligence “helped me to know when the other (Permanent Representatives) were telling the truth … revealed their real position on sanctions … gave us an upper hand in negotiations … and provided information on various countries’ ‘red lines,’” a U.N. official said, according to an NSA slide.

Another slide showed spies planting surveillance beacons on servers, routers or other equipment bound for targeted countries.

The spies intercept the package, install the hacking device and then put the package back into transit, bound for its intended destination.

“Not all (signals intelligence) tradecraft involves accessing signals and networks from thousands of miles away … In fact, sometimes it is very hands-on (literally!)” the slide reads.

The New York Times reported in January that nearly 100,000 computers around the world had been compromised in such a fashion.

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Data Source: http://nydn.us/1sBevI0

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