Ellen Nakashima

Supreme Court to hear Microsoft case: A question of law and borders

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could have far-reaching implications for law enforcement access to digital data and for US companies that store customer emails in servers overseas. What began as a challenge by tech giant Microsoft to a routine search warrant for a suspected drug dealer’s emails has become a marquee case over data access in the Internet age. At issue is whether a US company must comply with a court order to turn over emails, even if they are held abroad — in this case in a Dublin server.

Russian spies hacked the Olympics and tried to make it look like North Korea did it, US officials say

Russian military spies hacked several hundred computers used by authorities at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, according to US intelligence. They did so while trying to make it appear as though the intrusion was conducted by North Korea, what is known as a “false-flag” operation. Analysts surmise the disruption was retaliation against the International Olympic Committee for banning the Russian team from the Winter Games due to doping violations. As of early February, the Russian military agency GRU had access to as many as 300 Olympic-related computers, according to an intelli

The nation’s top spies said Russia will attempt to undermine the 2018 midterm elections

The nation’s top intelligence chiefs testified Feb 13 that they fully expect Russia to seek to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections. Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said that Russia will continue using propaganda, false personas and social media to undermine the upcoming elections.

Nunes memo centers on a 40-year-old law written to prevent surveillance abuses

At the center of the firestorm over a congressional memo that President Trump and his allies say reveals federal authorities’ missteps is a 40-year-old law passed in the wake of explosive domestic spying scandals. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) grew from congressional investigations into spy agencies’ eavesdropping on Americans, including civil rights activists and protesters against the Vietnam War, without warrants. The law created a warrant requirement for federal authorities to intercept the communications of anyone in the United States, including foreigners.

House poised to vote this week on renewal of major surveillance program

After months of wrangling between national security hawks and privacy advocates, the House will vote this week on a long-term extension of a surveillance program that allows the government to gather foreign intelligence on US soil. Should the bill pass unchanged, Senate leaders say they expect their chamber to approve it before it expires on Jan. 19. But privacy advocates in the House are backing an amendment that would impose a set of restraints.

FBI chief calls encryption a ‘major public safety issue’

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray renewed a call for tech companies to help law enforcement officials gain access to encrypted smartphones, describing it as a “major public safety issue.”  Director Wray said the bureau was unable to gain access to the content of 7,775 devices in fiscal 2017 — more than half of all the smartphones it tried to crack in that time period — despite having a warrant from a judge. “Being unable to access nearly 7,800 devices in a single year is a major public safety issue,” he said, taking up a theme that was a signature issue of his predecessor, James B. Comey.

Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options

The events surrounding the FBI’s NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: US intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions. Top US policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back.

Senate bill would impose new privacy limits on accessing NSA’s surveillance data

Sens Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) released their bipartisan proposal to renew a powerful surveillance authority for collecting foreign intelligence on US soil, but with a new brake on the government’s ability to access the data. The bill would require government agencies to obtain a warrant before reviewing communications to or from Americans harvested by the National Security Agency under the surveillance authority known informally as Section 702. The measure stands little chance of passage.

President Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

President Donald Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

President Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the President. President Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

DOJ debating charges against WikiLeaks members in revelations of diplomatic, CIA materials

Federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring criminal charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, taking a second look at a 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents and investigating whether the group bears criminal responsibility for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cyber-tools, apparently.

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama decided not to charge WikiLeaks for revealing some of the government’s most sensitive secrets — concluding that doing so would be akin to prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information. Justice Department leadership under President Trump, though, has indicated to prosecutors that it is open to taking another look at the case, which the Obama administration did not formally close. It is not clear whether prosecutors are also looking at WikiLeaks’ role in 2016 in publishing e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John D. Podesta, which US officials have said were hacked by the Russian government.