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Fed Say NSA Surveillance, Too Secretive For Court

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The US government filed documents in two long-running cases (both in California’s Northern District) related to National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance. As the New York Times notes, these filings mark the first time the government acknowledged that the NSA “started systematically collecting data about Americans’ e-mails and phone calls in 2001, alongside its program of wiretapping certain calls without warrants.The government continues to evoke state secrets privilege—the right to prevent certain, potentially harmful information from being used in court even if it means a case might be dismissed—despite previous rulings against this argument. In Jewel v. NSA, a judge ruled against the state secrets claim back in July—before the Snowden revelations. Jewel v. NSA dates back to 2008, and it’s still proceeding despite plenty of stops and starts. The EFF identifies the fundamental question in the case as “whether the spying program is legal and constitutional.” After its filing in 2008, the government moved to dismiss the case in 2009, a judge in the Northern District of California agreed in 2010, but the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals eventually reinstated the case in 2011. The government renewed its attempts to dismiss Jewel v. NSA in 2012, but that argument was rejected earlier this year.


A U.S. Secret Surveillance Court Rules Phone Metadata Lawful

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A U.S. secret surveillance court has ruled that the massive collection of telephone call data by the U.S. government as lawful. The Court concludes that there are facts showing reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant to authorized investigations,” the opinion was declassified to allay fears of lack of transparency within the secret court.

Tuesday’s disclosure comes three months after the first round of leaks provided to U.K. and U.S. newspapers by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, which detailed the U.S. government’s mass surveillance operations in conjunction with other nations.

The first document released by Snowden was a court order directed at Verizon, which ordered over data details of calls made to and from U.S. customers, including times, caller and destination details.

While the contents of calls are not collected under the specific order, other secret orders are believed to allow such collection.

The three-month order gave the U.S. government agency an endless supply of data for the period. It was subsequently amended when it expired, despite the negative public reaction.

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Amazons Demand Fro Trustworthy IT Professionals As It Bids For CIA’s Cloud



Amazon has more than 100 job openings for people who can get a top secret clearance, which includes a U.S. government administered polygraph examination. It needs software developers, operations managers and cloud support engineers, among others.Amazon’s hiring effort includes an invitation-only recruiting event for systems support engineers at its Herndon, Va., facility on Sept. 24 and 25. Amazon was initially selected by the U.S. over IBM to build a cloud platform. IBM protested the award and prevailed in an administrative ruling. Amazon filed a 61-page complaint in federal court last month challenging the decision to re-bid this project. 

The vendors were required to address hypothetical scenarios. In one instance, it involved the processing of 100 terabytes of data. But the scenario was ambiguous, and the vendors priced it in different ways, making it impossible to compare prices, wrote Moran.

There were other issues with the bid, but overall the Ptak Noel report said the CIA “did a poor job with a poorly worded” request for proposals. The Ptak Noel report goes further and argues that the “CIA showed bias in favor of Amazon,” but it also faulted IBM, saying the company needed to do a better job of writing and presenting its proposal. IBM said it did not pay for the Ptak Noel report.

Amazon describes IBM as “a traditional fixed IT infrastructure provider and late entrant to the cloud computing market.”

IT’s analyst Charles King, says he’s “a bit uncomfortable with Amazon’s positioning” in the lawsuit of cloud services “as something new that a vendor like IBM is somehow incapable of delivering.”

The government was apparently willing to pay a premium for Amazon’s cloud implementation. The amount of the bid by the vendors wasn’t disclosed, but government evaluation of the bids put the prices at $148 million for Amazon versus $93 million for IBM.

Analysis of this dispute is difficult because the government has redacted parts of the information around it. But Bill Moran, an analyst at Ptak Noel & Associates, describes in a report, some of the problems the vendors faced.


Apple Accused of Price Fixing eBooks


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Apple has been accused of conspiring with major publishers to increase the price of e-books in a scheme that cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, in a New York court. The United States government claimed in court papers that Apple wanted to sell e-books to the public, but did not want to compete against Amazon’s low prices . Apple knew that the major publishers also disliked Amazon’s low prices and saw Apple’s potential entry as a pathway to higher retail prices industry-wide. Publishers, MacMillan, Simons and Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin accused of participation- have already settled, paying out a total of 164 million dollars.  The judge has urged Apple to do the same. However, Apple has claimed it had done nothing wrong.

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