Headlines of the day I: Spies, threats, hacks, pols


We begin today’s compendium of life on the dark side with an attempt to keep things dark, via the New York Times:

White House Tries to Prevent Judge From Ruling on Surveillance Efforts

The Obama administration moved late Friday to prevent a federal judge in California from ruling on the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance programs authorized during the Bush administration, telling a court that recent disclosures about National Security Agency spying were not enough to undermine its claim that litigating the case would jeopardize state secrets.

In a set of filings in the two long-running cases in the Northern District of California, the government acknowledged for the first time that the N.S.A. started systematically collecting data about Americans’ emails and phone calls in 2001, alongside its program of wiretapping certain calls without warrants. The government had long argued that disclosure of these and other secrets would put the country at risk if they came out in court.

But the government said that despite recent leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, that made public a fuller scope of the surveillance and data collection programs put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks, sensitive secrets remained at risk in any courtroom discussion of their details — like whether the plaintiffs were targets of intelligence collection or whether particular telecommunications providers like AT&T and Verizon had helped the agency.

And a Canadian judge has harsh things to say about his countries CIA counterpart, via CBC News:

CSIS slammed for end-running law to snoop on Canadians abroad

Spy agency made ‘deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark’

Canada’s spy agency deliberately withheld information from the courts in an effort to do an end-run around the law when it applied for top-secret warrants to intercept the communications of Canadians abroad, a Federal Court judge said Friday.

In doing so, the judge said in written reasons, the agency put Canadians abroad at potential risk.

The situation arose five years ago when Canadian Security Intelligence Service asked Federal Court for special warrants related to two Canadian citizens — already under investigation as a potential threat to national security — that would apply while they were abroad.

The Toronto Globe and Mail covers another Canadian case and discovers a pattern in a decision by the country’s highest court:

Reach of unanimous ruling extends beyond prostitution issue

Laws that heighten the dangers to vulnerable prostitutes violate Canada’s basic values and cannot stand, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The unanimous 9-0 ruling shows that the country’s most influential court, which now has a majority of its members appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is as unwilling as ever to defer to government when it perceives government using criminal laws in ways that put vulnerable people at risk of severe harm or death.

Canada’s high court has struck down prostitution laws, giving Parliament one year to reshape social policy on the issue. Terri-Jean Bedford, a retired dominatrix involved in the case, says she wasn’t expecting the ruling.

The ruling is one of the biggest since Canada’s criminal law of abortion was struck down in 1988. A similar principle was at the heart of that case: Criminalizing people at risk will not be tolerated if it is done in such a way as to heighten risks. In this case, Ottawa argued that prostitutes bring the risks on themselves, but the court accepted that vulnerable people are not always in a position to avoid risk. “Many prostitutes have no meaningful choice,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the court.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau looks at a leak investigation with a Hollywood twist:

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ leak investigators now target of leak probe

More than two years after sensitive information about the Osama bin Laden raid was disclosed to Hollywood filmmakers, Pentagon and CIA investigations haven’t publicly held anyone accountable despite internal findings that the leakers were former CIA Director Leon Panetta and the Defense Department’s top intelligence official.

Instead, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office is working to root out who might have disclosed the findings on Panetta and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers to a nonprofit watchdog group and to McClatchy.

While the information wasn’t classified, the inspector general’s office has pursued the new inquiry aggressively, grilling its own investigators, as well as the former director of its whistle-blowing unit, according to several people, including a congressional aide. They requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues surrounding the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

The Guardian looks at the past:

National intelligence chief declassifies Bush-era documents on NSA programs

  • James Clapper documents relate to bulk collection origins
  • Disclosures part of campaign to justify NSA surveillance

The director of national intelligence is declassifying more documents that show how the National Security Agency was first authorised to start collecting bulk phone and internet records in the hunt for al-Qaida terrorists.

James Clapper explained in a statement Saturday that President George W Bush first authorised the spying as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, just after 9/11.

Deutsche Welle suspects:

Snowden ally Appelbaum claims his Berlin apartment was invaded

Jacob Appelbaum, a US Internet activist and one of the people with access to Edward Snowden’s documents, has told a Berlin paper that his apartment was broken into, saying he suspected US involvement.

And CNBC seeks to preclude:

Germany should ban contractors from NSA links: Report

U.S. contracting companies such as Cisco, which manages much of the German armed forces’ data, should be contractually barred from passing sensitive information to the U.S. security services, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives was quoted saying.

German news magazine Focus on Saturday cited Hans-Peter Uhl, parliamentary spokesman on interior policy for the conservatives, as saying Cisco needed to be required by contract not to pass sensitive material to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

He said the German government wanted to monitor U.S. contracting companies more closely in future.

Firstpost suspects:

Devyani Khobragade case: Maid may be CIA agent, says father

Uttam Khobragade, former IAS officer and father of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, today alleged her daughter’s former maid Sangeeta Richards could be a “CIA agent”.

He said her daughter had been made a “scapegoat” and the possibility of a conspiracy behind the visa fraud allegations against her could not be ruled out.

Phoenix New Times triumphs over censorship-by-jail:

Joe Arpaio Loses: New Times Co-Founders Win $3.75 Million Settlement for 2007 False Arrests

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors this afternoon voted unanimously to approve a $3.75 million settlement for New Times’ co-founders, whose false arrests in 2007 were orchestrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and jailed on misdemeanor charges alleging that they violated the secrecy of a grand jury — which turned out never to have been convened.

Lacey was pleased with the settlement but expressed disbelief that the arrests ever occurred six years ago: “It was outrageous! Where in America do you arrest journalists for what they write?”

Nextgov wages cyberwar:

Agencies to Focus on Illegal Cyberweapons Trade in 2014

Agencies governmentwide over the next nine months must work together on guidelines for controlling the trade of cyberwar technology, under newly approved military legislation.

In programming, a cyberweapon often refers to malicious code that takes advantage of a software glitch unknown to developers, called a “zero day,” to insert itself and manipulate data. For example, Stuxnet, an alleged U.S-Israeli cyberweapon, upended Iranian’s nuclear program by exploiting a flaw in the country’s centrifuge systems.

The concern in Congress is that war worms, let loose in the black market, are being sold to the public and overseas aggressors.

Boing Boing sells privatizes another piece of the Pentagon, one of deep concern to anyone seeking information:

US Department of Defense’s public domain archive to be privatized, locked up for ten years

Archivist Rick Prelinger sez, “The U.S. Department of Defense has entered into a contract with T3 Media to get its gigantic still and moving image collection digitized at no cost to the government. In exchange, T3 Media will become the exclusive public outlet for millions of images and videos for ten years. Unlike most other developed nations, the U.S. Government does not claim copyright on video, film, photographs and other media produced by its workers. The immense number of works in the U.S. public domain have enabled countless researchers, makers and citizens to read, view and make many new works. True, those wishing to use modern military materials (1940s-present) in DoD’s archives often need to negotiate their release with military public affairs, but these materials have traditionally been available for just the cost of duplication. This is soon to change.”

The Washington Post wages war on the dark side:

Covert action in Colombia

U.S. intelligence, GPS bomb kits help Latin American nation cripple rebel forces

The 50-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), once considered the best-funded insurgency in the world, is at its smallest and most vulnerable state in decades, due in part to a CIA covert action program that has helped Colombian forces kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, according to interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.

From TheLocal.fr, in your heart you know he’s Reich:

French army to suspend Nazi slogan soldier

The French military has removed a picture from an army website in which one of its soldiers deployed in the Central African Republic was sporting an insignia with a Nazi slogan and said he will be suspended as soon as he is identified.

The picture showed a soldier with his gun in his hand wearing a shoulder insignia bearing the French flag, the number 32 and the motto of Adolf Hitler’s SS — “My honour is called loyalty” — said news channel BFMTV. The army took the photo down on Friday.

“This is an unacceptable attitude that doesn’t reflect the reality of the armed forces,” said army spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron. He said the soldier would be “immediately suspended” as soon as he had been identified.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore does corruption:

More revelations due in US Navy’s bribery scandal

The civilian chief of the US Navy said on Friday he expects more revelations to emerge in a multi-million dollar bribery scandal that has already implicated several senior naval officers.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said he told investigators examining ship supply contracts from Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) to take the case “wherever it leads.”

“I think it’s fair to say that there will be more disclosures coming on GDMA,” Mabus said when asked if others would be charged.

On to the Asian crises, first with another blast from Beijing from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

China slams Japan defence spending plan

China has denounced Japan’s plans to boost military purchases, accusing it of playing up regional tensions as an “excuse” to ramp up defence spending.

The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Tuesday to spend 24.7 trillion yen ($240 billion) between 2014 and 2019 — a five percent boost to the military budget over five years.

Japan plans to purchase stealth fighters, drones and submarines as part of its efforts to boost military hardware that will beef up defence of far-flung islands amid a simmering territorial row with China.

China is “firmly opposed” to Japan’s spending plans, defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement released late Friday. He accused Tokyo of playing up the perceived military threat from China as an “excuse” to expand its military.

Korea next, with the latest from the London Telegraph:

‘Hundreds’ of Jang’s relatives sent to gulags by North Korean regime

After Kim Jong-un regime ordered the execution of his uncle, it is reported that hundreds of his relatives have now been sent to prison camps

Several hundred relatives of Jang Song-thaek, executed recently on charges of plotting to overthrow the North Korean state, have been rounded up and sent to political prison camps.

NHK WORLD assesses:

Intelligence: Execution will not affect N.Korea

Japan’s security agency says it doesn’t see the North Korean regime being immediately affected by the recent execution of Jang Song Thaek, an uncle of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

The Public Security Intelligence Agency expressed this view in its annual report released on Friday.

It also says Kim Jong Un has tried to strengthen the regime’s ideological basis by revising for the first time in 39 years the “10 Fundamental Principles” of the ruling Workers’ Party. The principles are regarded as the country’s supreme rules.

South China Morning Post plays ball:

Dennis Rodman admits NBA veterans afraid to go to North Korea for game

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman held try-outs yesterday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday next month – though he hasn’t convinced all the players on the American team that it’s safe to come to Pyongyang.

The flamboyant Hall of Famer said plans for the January 8 game were moving ahead but some of the 12 Americans he wants were afraid to come.

Russia next, and more online censorship from RT:

Russia to block websites that call for rioting, ‘extremism’ without court ruling

Russia’s lawmakers have passed a bill authorizing prosecutors to issue emergency orders without a court ruling that block websites promoting rioting, racial hatred or extremism. Critics fear the law may infringe constitutional rights.

Under the bill, which has passed its third and final reading in the State Duma, a special agency can be set up within the Prosecutor General’s Office to surf the web in search of provocative messages. Only the Prosecutor General and his deputies will be able to order the blocking of websites.

The site owner will find out about the blocking after it happens. The website would be unblocked immediately after the content deemed to be illegal is removed.

From Techdirt, more web-watching, Italian style:

Italy’s Communications Watchdog Assigns Itself Extrajudicial Powers To Order ISPs To Stop Copyright Infringement

from the no-judges-required dept

The last six months have seen a fierce debate in Italy over a proposal by the Italian communications watchdog Agcom to grant itself wide-ranging powers to address alleged copyright infringement online.

PCWorld Googles gotcha:

Google fined $1.2 million by Spain over privacy practices

Spain’s data protection authority has fined Google $1.2 million and ordered the company to fall in line with the country’s data protection rules without delay.

The Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), said Thursday that Google does not provide users enough information about the personal information it collects, and the purposes it uses it for. It also objects to Google combining data gathered from its various services in violation of local laws.

Want China Times has the latest on Amazon, cloud conjurer for the CIA and headed by the same fellow who publishes the Washington Post:

Amazon taps into China’s cloud computing market

US retail giant Amazon will set up a data center to pilot its cloud computing services in collaboration with enterprises in China in early 2014.

Since 2006, Amazon had been using its experience in e-commerce sales to launch its cloud computing services, namely Amazon Web Services, and has now become the largest service supplier in the sector.

News Corp Australia denies:

No evidence to back Nelson Mandela Mossad training claims, say Foundation

THE Nelson Mandela Foundation says it has no evidence that the anti-apartheid icon received training from Israel’s Mossad agency in 1962.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported this week that intelligence documents from Mossad indicated the spy agency had given Mandela weapons training in Ethiopia.

“In 2009, the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s senior researcher travelled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela’s training,” the foundation said on Saturday. “No evidence emerged of an Israeli connection.”

Nature World News covers a disappearance:

Majority of Scientific Data Lost Due Within 20 Years, Study Finds

The vast majority of scientific data are evaporating, never to be heard from again.

The reason, based an analysis published in the journal Current Biology, is almost boring – old email addresses and obsolete storage devices are making off with hard-earned research, according to Tim Vines, a visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia, and his colleagues.

In all, Vines and his team estimated that some 80 percent of data are lost within 20 years of the publication of their accompanying study.

The Washington Post finds priorities:

Americans uneasy about surveillance but often use snooping tools, Post poll finds

The Post’s poll found that Americans’ attitudes about surveillance are anything but consistent, whether the sample is the entire nation or a single, conflicted person.

Nearly seven in 10 Americans are concerned about how much personal information government agencies and private companies collect, the poll found. But among parents 40 or older — the group most likely to have teenagers — 70 percent said they monitor the Web sites their children visit. Many also review their kids’ texts, e-mails and social-media use. A small number of Americans also report tracking the movements of their spouses or using video feeds to monitor elderly parents.

And for our final item, when spying goes bad from TheLocal.no:

Peeping tom installs spy camera in girls’ showers

A boy who fixed a spy camera in the girls’ showers at a high school in Skien unwittingly snapped a picture of himself as he mounted the camera on the wall, VG has reported.

The camera, which was disguised as a plastic clothes’ hook, was discovered by two schoolgirls on Thursday morning.

“It is disgusting to think that someone has hung a spy camera in the girls’ shower, with the clear purpose of filming us naked,”  Malene Austad, one of the girls, told VG newspaper.

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One response to “Headlines of the day I: Spies, threats, hacks, pols

  1. Pingback: Democrats reject NSA court rulings « Musings of the Angry Webmaster

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