Click to enlargeDownton Abbey for spies

At an 18th-century mansion in England’s countryside last week, current and former spy chiefs from seven countries faced off with representatives from tech giants Apple and Google to discuss government surveillance in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

The three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security…

According to an event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?” “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”

The list of participants included:

Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security; Verity Harding, Google’s U.K. public policy manager and head of security and privacy policy; Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy; Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s product security and privacy manager; Matthew Kirk, Vodafone Group’s external affairs director; and Phillipa McCrostie, global vice chair of transaction advisory services, Ernst & Young…

From the U.S.:

John McLaughlin, the CIA’s former acting director and deputy director; Jami Miscik, the CIA’s former director of intelligence; Mona Sutphen, member of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and former White House deputy chief of staff; Rachel Brand, member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board; George Newcombe, board of visitors, Columbia Law School; David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and associate editor; and Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books contributor…

The event was chaired by the former British MI6 spy chief Sir John Scarlett and organized by the Ditchley Foundation, which holds several behind-closed-doors conferences every year at its mansion in Oxfordshire in an effort to address “complex issues of international concern.” The discussions are held under what is called the Chatham House Rule, meaning what is said by each attendee during the meetings cannot be publicly revealed, a setup intended to encourage open and frank discussion. The program outlining the conference on surveillance told participants they could “draw afterwards on the substance of what has been said” but warned them “not under any circumstances to reveal to any person not present at the conference” details exposing what particular named individuals talked about…

Investigative reporter Duncan Campbell, who attended the event, told The Intercept that it was a “remarkable” gathering that “would have been inconceivable without Snowden,” the National Security Agency whistleblower.

“Away from the fetid heat of political posturing and populist headlines, I heard some unexpected and surprising comments from senior intelligence voices, including that ‘cold winds of transparency’ had arrived and were here to stay,” said Campbell, who has been reporting on British spy agencies over a career spanning four decades.

He added: “Perhaps to many participants’ surprise, there was general agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden – love him or hate him – had changed the landscape; and that change towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’ and providing more information about intelligence activities affecting privacy, was both overdue and necessary.”

Since none of us were invited to the discussion we’ll have to rely upon “interpretations” leaked over coming weeks. Certainly, some of those attending were on the side of privacy and transparency. Not governed by government-level paranoia or bound by class-dependent arrogance.



  1. admfubar says:

    You better watch out
    You better not cry
    Better not pout
    I’m telling you why
    Santa Claus is coming to town

    He’s making a list
    And checking it twice;
    He’s gonna find out
    Who’s naughty or nice
    Santa Claus is coming to town

    He sees you when you’re sleeping
    He knows when you’re awake
    He knows if you’ve been bad or good
    So be good for goodness sake!

    You better watch out!
    You better not cry
    You better not pout
    I’m telling you why
    Santa Claus is coming to town

    Santa Claus is coming
    Santa Claus is coming
    Santa Claus is coming to town

  2. NewFormatSux says:

    Two companies that likely have the passwords for 90% of all wifi networks in the world.

  3. noname says:

    Conspiring behind closed doors, how evil is that?

    Not that long ago, who would have “thunk it”, western democracies (Open & transparent Governments by the people for the people) would be doing the people’s business secretively behind closed doors, meeting with elites to undermined our rights?

    So much for what American’s have died for, our “Bill of Rights” and “The Fourth Amendment”; that now, is only empty words on parchment that in the past, prohibited unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

    How ironic too, that long ago Steve Jobs said Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto is “bullshit.” Now in ironies of ironies, our government wants to shit can American’s rights by working with Apple and Google.

    It’s not like “we the people” can stop government from becoming totalitarian?? Our government is likely promising Apple and Google Anti-trust and other regulatory easements and government subsidies!
    China should definitely take note when Apple and Google does business in China!!

    Here are some prescient quotes:
    #1 “The majority of people in developed countries spend at least some time interacting with the Internet, and Governments are abusing that necessity in secret to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate.”

    #2 “the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.”

    #3 “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.”

    #4 “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything….#1 “The majority of people in developed countries spend at least some time interacting with the Internet, and Governments are abusing that necessity in secret to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate.”

    #5 “…I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.”

    #6 “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.”

    #7 “…I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

    #8 “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. …
    “With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”

    #9 “The NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they are collecting YOUR communications to do so.”

    #10 “When [Senator Ron] Wyden and [Senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinized most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”

    #11 “…they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”

    #12 “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. …it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life.”

  4. LibertyLover says:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    I’m not quite certain what is so frakkin’ vague about this sentence.

    I am just completely flabbergasted people are even debating this subject. If everyone passed paper notes back and forth to each other, there would be no question that a warrant was required by the government to read them. There is no difference between that and using a phone or email.

    • Sorta Like This says:

      “But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

      – Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, (discussing slavery and the Missouri question), Monticello, 22 April 1820.

      http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/wolf-ear

      • noname says:

        So, what you are saying is (takings one’s cue from Jefferson slavery arguments and hypocrisy):

        The decision to emancipate American constitutional rights must first be a NSA approved process; whose restoration would be stymied until CIA consented to the large-scale act of surveillance emancipation and rights restoration of Americans. Congress will go along with whatever the CIA and DoD decides.

        Yeah, like that is going to happen!

        Welcome to America 2.0, the new improved version. Every person now and ongoing, when on American soil are required to sign an end-user license agreement (EULA) that signs away all constitutional rights and expectations.

        No doubt, courts will enforce the right of the government to arbitrarily contract with Americans as needed. For convince this requirement can quickly, easily and conveniently be done at a person’s port of entry, when getting a driver’s license, when registering to vote, getting a marriage license or any government service!

        Of no doubt, courts will uphold and enforce, as a valid contract, where citizens have no expectation or right or ability to reject this voiding of their constitutional rights!

        What, too late?!? You didn’t read the small print on government papers you sign, too bad!

  5. SKINET says:

    Democracy is necessarily despotism, as it establishes an executive power contrary to the general will; all being able to decide against one whose opinion may differ, the will of all is therefore not that of all: which is contradictory and opposite to liberty.

    Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace, II, (1795).

    People are worried that the NSA is despotic and it is not democratic.

    MI Help:Weiler’s Law:
    Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.


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