Headlines: Spies, drones, zones, pols, lies


Today’s tales from the dark side and the worlds of security, threats, hackers, cops and more begins with a fix form the Washington Post:

Microsoft issues fix for major Internet Explorer bug — even for Windows XP users

Microsoft released a security update for its Internet Explorer browser Thursday to fix a bug that allowed hackers to take over a computer.

The tech company said it will be releasing a similar update for Windows XP, even though it dropped support for the 12-year-old operating system last month. Users who have automatic updates enabled should not have to take any action, Microsoft said.

Microsoft first notified users about the bug, which affects those using IE versions 6 through 11, over the weekend. Hackers could exploit the bug to trick users into opening an infected link or file attachment. Cybersecurity firm FireEye has said that about a quarter of Internet users around the world were potentially affected by the bug.

And from Associated Press, insecurity on campus, Berkeley included:

55 US schools face federal sex assault probes

From huge state universities to small colleges and the Ivy League, 55 schools across America are facing federal investigation for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

For the first time, the Education Department revealed its list of colleges under investigation on Thursday — though no details of the complaints — as the Obama administration sought to bring more openness to the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation’s campuses.

The schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools including Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Ivy League schools including Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are also on the list.

From the Guardian, nightmare scenario:

Soldier gets life sentence for murders with Georgia anti-government militia

  • Judge spares Anthony Peden, who pled guilty to killing a teenage girl and her boyfriend, the death penalty for military service

Saying his mind was scarred by combat and numbed by heroin, an army soldier told a south-east Georgia judge Thursday that he shot a teenage girl twice in the head because he thought he saw “the glint of a gun” as she opened her car door.

Sergeant Anthony Peden, 28, was sentenced to life in prison nearly a month after he pleaded guilty to murder charges in the December 2011 slayings of 17-year-old Tiffany York and her boyfriend, former soldier Michael Roark. Prosecutors say the couple was led to the woods near Fort Stewart in Georgia and slain by a group of soldiers to protect an anti-government militia group they had formed inside the military.

From the Guardian , insecurity in uniform:

US military sexual assault reports soared 50% in 2013, says Pentagon

  • Department of Defense attributes rise in reporting to greater trust in military justice system after year of pushing through reforms

It remains unclear whether the new figures signify a jump in the number of assaults or whether they could be the result of more military personnel coming forward to file reports.

The US Department of Defense, which has introduced reforms over the past year, said that they were confident the increase in reporting was down to greater trust and confidence in the military justice system among victims.

Reports of sexual assault filed by members of the military have soared by an unprecedented 50%, according to an annual survey by the Pentagon published on Thursday.

It remains unclear whether the new figures signify a jump in the number of assaults or whether they could be the result of more military personnel coming forward to file reports.

The US Department of Defense, which has introduced reforms over the past year, said that they were confident the increase in reporting was down to greater trust and confidence in the military justice system among victims.

intelNews.org raises a question:

Are America’s most senior military intel officers being forced out?

There are rumors that the two most senior military intelligence officers in the United States, who have announced their intention to step down in the coming months, are being forced out by the White House.

Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, who directs the Defense Intelligence Agency, and his Deputy Director, David R. Shedd, both said on Wednesday that they intend to quit their jobs before the end of the summer.

The Department of Defense said later on Wednesday that the two officials had been scheduled to step down “for some time” and that the leadership of the DoD “appreciates the service of these two dedicated and professional leaders”. But the announcement does not change the fact that America’s two leading military intelligence administrators have suddenly decided to quit their jobs

From BuzzFeed, a question of snooping:

Supreme Court Considers Police Cell Phone Searches, From Flip Phones To Airplane Mode

Lawyers argue at the Supreme Court over whether the Constitution protects arrested people from having their cell phones searched without a warrant.

Should the police’s ability to search through your phone be a decision made on “an app-by-app basis”? That’s one of the questions facing the Supreme Court in two cases the justices heard Tuesday.

The court will consider how changes in technology should affect the limits on searches of smartphones after arrest in the cases — and several justices expressed concerns at the court Tuesday about the broad range of information and services stored in today’s phones.

“It has always been the case that an occasion of an arrest did not give the police officers authority to search through the private papers and the drawers and bureaus and cabinets of somebody’s house,” attorney Jeffrey Fisher argued Tuesday, in defense of David Leon Riley, who was found with photos and notes on his phone that police used to show involvement in gang-related activity. “That protection should not evaporate more than 200 years after the founding because we have the technological development of smartphones that have resulted in people carrying that information in their pockets.”

From the Washington Post, defiance:

Apple, Facebook, others defy authorities, notify users of secret data demands

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.

Fueling the shift is the industry’s eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

MintPress News rejects:

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To NDAA’s ‘Indefinite Detention’ Clause

The nation’s highest court refused to hear a case that is challenging the authority and legality of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Indefinite Detention” clause. The refusal to hear the case has plaintiffs calling for action.

Citing failure to prove that journalists, authors and political activists could be detained under the controversial National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it would not hear the case commonly known as Hedges v. Obama, about a month after the federal government requested the court not take up the case.

Filed in January 2012, the Hedges v. Obama lawsuit specifically challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, which the plaintiffs argue contains vague language that allows the government to unlawfully and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, including journalists, who “associate” or “substantially support” enemies of the U.S. such as terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

By declining to hear the case the nation’s  highest court leaves a July 2013 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intact. In the court’s ruling, the justices explained they ruled against the plaintiffs — journalist Chris Hedges, former Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and a senior fellow at the Nation Institute, linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, journalist and activist Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla — because the court believed the plaintiffs failed to prove at the U.S. government would unlawfully detain journalists and political activists, and therefore had no standing to sue.

But others protest, via the Guardian:

US immigration rights activists rally to condemn detentions in courthouses

  • May Day rally targets surge in detentions at US courthouses
  • Activists say undocumented people now fear to enter courts

Courthouses are ostensibly sanctuaries of justice, but immigrant rights advocates say undocumented people now fear to enter them lest they end up deported.

An apparent surge of detentions last year and early this year at courthouses around the country has fed a perception that turning up for any reason – to testify, pay a fine or just accompany a relative – can end in shackles and deportation.

Activists in Wisconsin amended the route of the traditional May Day march on Thursday to end with a rally at the Milwaukee county courthouse, where speakers denounced immigration authorities for nabbing people inside its hallways, a practice they said sabotaged confidence in the justice system.

Similar outcries from California, Kentucky and Washington state recently prompted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to issue new internal guidelines, but they have not been published, leaving activists wary.

From the Guardian, a curious rejection:

Germany blocks Edward Snowden from testifying in person in NSA inquiry

  • Officials say a personal invitation for US whistleblower to attend hearing would put ‘grave strain’ on US-German relations

The German government has blocked Edward Snowden from giving personal evidence in front of a parliamentary inquiry into NSA surveillance, it has emerged hours before Angela Merkel travels to Washington for a meeting with Barack Obama.

In a letter to members of a parliamentary committee obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung, government officials say a personal invitation for the US whistleblower would “run counter to the political interests of the Federal Republic”, and “put a grave and permanent strain” on US-German relations.

Opposition party members in the committee from the Left and Green party had for weeks insisted that the former NSA employee was a key witness and therefore would need to appear in person, not least because of concerns that Russia otherwise could influence his testimony.

Droning on with the Los Angeles Times:

FAA under pressure as clamor for small commercial drones grows

  • It seems like a perfect time to get into the drone business.

With easy access to technology and patchy regulation, small commercial drones already have been used to film box-office hits and market expensive real estate.

Internet retailer Amazon is testing its sixth generation of an unmanned aircraft system that could one day whisk packages to customers within hours. With big corporations like FedEx and Domino’s Pizza flirting with the technology, law firms, trade groups and insurers are lining up to capitalize on an expected economic gold mine.

There’s only one catch: Commercial drones are illegal.

The McClatchy Foreign Staff resists:

As border security expands, complaints of abuse rise among Americans

Critics say the lawsuits, all three filed by U.S. citizens, are part of a pattern that’s become endemic to the nation’s efforts to secure its southern border. In addition to complaints that U.S. Border Patrol agents have used deadly force when their lives were not at risk _ agents have killed 21 people since the beginning of 2010, most of them unarmed migrants _ agents from the two federal agencies that monitor the borders stand accused of mistreating American citizens.

Violent confrontations are only part of the picture. U.S. citizens who live along the border complain that U.S. agents have become a virtual interior police force _ disrespectful of private property, looking for pretexts to search vehicles and detaining residents for hours at checkpoints.

“In the last three years, the Border Patrol has caused me more damage than the illegals,” said John Ladd, whose family has operated a ranch in southeast Arizona for the past 118 years. “They’ve abused private property rights immensely.”

And from the Guardian, Old Blighty loses luster:

UK slips down global press freedom list due to Snowden leaks response

  • British government’s draconian response to the Guardian’s reporting sees UK drop five places on Freedom House list

Britain has slipped down the global rankings for freedom of the press as a result of the government’s crackdown on the Guardian over its reporting of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures.

The annual index of media freedom, published on Wednesday, attributes the UK’s drop to “negative developments”, mainly the way the government responded last year to the Guardian with threats of legal action, the destruction of computer hard drives and the nine-hour detention of David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Freedom of Press 2014 is published by the US-based Freedom House, an NGO established in 1941 that has been ranking countries worldwide since 1980 in relation to democracy, human rights and press freedom.

From BBC News, dark arts at work?:

Gerry Adams arrest: Sinn Féin claims ‘dark side’ to NI police

  • Martin McGuinness said the arrest of Gerry Adams was an attempt to influence the outcome of the elections

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has claimed Gerry Adams’ arrest is due to a “dark side” within policing conspiring with enemies of the peace process.

He added that the detention was a “deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of elections” in three weeks.

Mr Adams is being questioned about the 1972 murder of Jean McConville but has denied involvement in her death.

From MercoPress, when security become oppression:

Amnesty International accuses Spain of repressive legislation and heavy hand with protestors

The Spanish government is using the full force of the law to suffocate legitimate peaceful protest, Amnesty International in Spain has said. Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director for Amnesty, published a brief report last week in which he said that the excessive use of force by Spanish police and plans to strengthen repressive legislation are a damning indictment of the Spanish government’s determination to crush peaceful protest.

“The Spanish government is using the full force of the law to suffocate legitimate peaceful protest,” said Tigani. “The police have repeatedly used batons and rubber bullets against demonstrators, injuring and maiming protestors and by-standers alike. The police act with complete impunity, while peaceful demonstrators and leaders of social movements are continually harassed, stigmatized, beaten, sometimes arrested to face criminal charges, imprisonment and fines.”

Amnesty International’s report, Spain: The right to protest under threat, sets out to expose violations by police against demonstrators, the lack of accountability for these violations and the determination of the Spanish authorities to strengthen repressive legislation. Since the economic and financial crisis hit Spain, the loss of jobs, austerity measures and the perceived lack of transparency in decision-making, have led thousands of people to take to the streets.

In 2012, there were nearly 15,000 demonstrations throughout Spain, amounting to around 40 per day. In 2013, there were 4,500 demonstrations in Madrid alone: an increase of 1,000 from the year before. But Amnesty says that, as the Madrid government itself has recognized, demonstrators committed violence in less than one per cent of the rallies.

From the Independent, tensing up:

Ukraine crisis: Military conscription to be reintroduced by interim government

President Turchynov said he made the decision in light of Russian “threats” against “Ukrainian integrity”Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov announced on Thursday that the country will renew military conscription, in response to what the government views as an intensifying security threat from Russia.

The decision came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine should end its military presence in the eastern and southern regions of the country, where pro-Moscow insurgents have seized buildings.

After the jump, the latest from Asia, including the latest dramatic posturings and escalations from the Game of Zones underway as Washingotn and its Asian allies struggle desperately to contain the Chinese dragon. . .

And on to Asia and the latest developments in the Game of Zones, first from SINA English:

Philippines says treaty obliges US to help in South China Sea

Manila said Wednesday the United States had a treaty obligation to help the Philippines if it is attacked on its own territory or in the South China Sea, as it rejected criticism of a security agreement.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared the US would support its ally in the event of being attacked, a day after his government signed an agreement allowing a greater American military presence on Philippine bases over 10 years.

Obama cited a 1951 mutual defence treaty but did not specifically mention coming to Manila’s aid in the South China Sea, where China and the Philippines are in dispute over tiny islets, reefs and rocks.

From the Japan Times, hands across the sea:

Abe, Cameron agree to boost Japan-Britain security cooperation

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Thursday with his British counterpart David Cameron to boost bilateral security cooperation, including sharing military supplies and jointly developing defense equipment.

Meeting at 10 Downing Street, the two leaders also agreed to seek a substantive agreement in 2015 on free trade negotiations between Japan and the European Union, the first time such a specific goal has been stated in a leaders’ statement. Britain is one of the 28 members of the bloc.

On security issues, Abe and Cameron said in a statement released after the summit that their countries will launch negotiations on sharing supplies and transportation services between Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the British military under an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, also known as an ACSA.

Posturing with allies, from Global Times:

China, Russia to hold joint military exercise in May

China and Russia will stage joint naval drills in the East China Sea off Shanghai in late May, China’s ministry of national defense has said.

The “Joint Sea-2014″ drills are regular exercises held by Chinese and Russian navies, and is aimed to enhance practical cooperation between the two militaries and to strengthen their capabilities to jointly deal with maritime security threats, said a report published on the ministry’s website.

China and Russia held similar drills off the coast of Russia’s Far East last year, which saw seven vessels from China’s North Sea Fleet and South Sea Fleet and 12 vessels from Russia’s Pacific Fleet take part in the weeklong exercises.

And the Japanese response from Want China Times:

Japan to launch naval drill in face of Sino-Russian exercise

Japan has responded to the announcement that China and Russia will conduct a joint naval exercise in the waters off the disputed Diaoyutai islands (known as Senkaku to Japan and Diaoyu in China), by stating that it will hold its own exercise in the region, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK on May 1.

The exercise will be held next month in the waters off Kagoshima prefecture at the southwest tip of Kyushu, the broadcaster said.

Tokyo’s announcement follows reports that the People’s Liberation Army Navy and Russian Navy will deploy a total of 20 vessels to take part in the joint naval exercise in the East China Sea later this month. Reuters reported that the joint drill poses a serious challenge to the US and Japan as China aims to show its strengthening military ties with Russia.

And Want China Times, escalating:

US spurring new submarine arms race: Russian expert

The United States has launched a new arms race by announcing the order of 10 brand new SSN 774 Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines on Apr. 28, according to Andrei Frolov, chief editor of the Russian magazine Arms Export.

The US Navy currently operates 10 Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. Under the new contract worth US$17.6 billion, the construction of the 10 new submarines will be completed in five years, assuring submarine orders for prime contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat and chief subcontractor Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding through to 2018, the Washington-based Defense News reported.

With two vessels completed each year, Frolov said that the United States will have far more nuclear-powered attack submarines than Russia by 2020. At that time, Russia will have around 20 nuclear-powered attack submarines, but only three to five of them will have the capability to compete against the Virginia-class, according to Frolov. In addition to its 20 Virginia-class subs, the US Navy also operates three Seawolf-class and 41 Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Internal security woes from China Daily:

China’s Xi orders ‘crushing blow’ to terrorism

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered troops stationed in Xinjiang to deal a “crushing blow” to terrorists.

Xi, chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks when visiting the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops stationed in Xinjiang.

Speaking with senior PLA officials on Sunday, Xi ordered PLA forces to assist local government and party departments in combating terrorism and safeguarding social stability.

And from the Japan Times, the lingering past:

Hiroshima vows central role in anti-nuke push

Hiroshima Prefecture is aiming to promote efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons by becoming a hub for international peace, Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki said.

“Destruction by nuclear weapons does not stop at physical damage, such as death and structural damage, but literally wipes out the entire histories of communities to which people belonged, as well as the memories of the families that lived there,” he said Wednesday.

Yuzaki made the comments during the opening speech for a panel discussion at U.N. headquarters in New York on the sidelines of a meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Jiji Press reaches out:

Japan Seeks N. Korea’s Concrete Actions over Abductions

Japan on Thursday urged North Korea to take concrete actions immediately toward the return home of Japanese people abducted to the reclusive state decades ago.

Tokyo made the demand at a working group meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council. At the meeting, held at the European headquarters here of the United Nations, participating nations examined the human rights situation in North Korea.

Japanese representatives also expressed concerns about serious human rights violations in North Korea.

And form the Japan Daily Press, exploring the surreal:

PM Abe says Japan cannot emulate Germany’s post-war actions

On his visit to Germany on Wednesday, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that his country will not be able to follow what the European country did in the aftermath of World War II. He emphasized that the circumstances of the two countries war actions were vastly different and their post-war dealings should not be compared.

The question from the Frankfurt journalist was probably in reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s remarks earlier this year that Japan should look to what Germany has done to atone for its actions. This includes official public apologies from their leaders, full compensation to neighbouring countries as well as publishing textbooks for German schools that discuss in detail what their country and leaders did during World War II. Abe stressed that Europe needed that level of atonement from Germany because they were aiming for an integrated region. He believes Japan has gone a different route by signing treaties with former colonies like China and South Korea, and supporting the poorer Asian countries with development aid and programs.

However, its two closest neighbours have not been satisfied with Japan’s actions and this has been a source of tension within the region. South Korea in particular has been very vocal about their demands that Japan compensate individually the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery during the war. China meanwhile has also repeatedly asked Abe’s administration to make reparations and to formally apologize for their militaristic actions, despite past governments’ apologies that Abe says his cabinet will uphold.

On a related note, this from the Asahi Shimbun:

Disturbing trend: Japanese protesters use Nazism to attack Chinese, Koreans

Although young Japanese protesters have recently increased their use of Nazi symbols in demonstrations, the rallies are not targeted at Jews. In their minds, the demonstrators seem to believe that Hitler was justified in trying to protect the German race from a rising threat, and that Nazi-style persecution offers way to save Japan from the increasing power of China and South Korea.

Their numbers remain small, and they may simply be disgruntled youth ignorant about history. However, their praise for a man considered the most evil in the 20th century has raised fears about where their movement is heading.

“One characteristic of the latest cases is the connecting of Nazism with calls spreading through the Internet to throw out ethnic Koreans and Chinese living in Japan,” said Mitsuharu Akao, an assistant professor at Osaka University specializing in Jewish cultural studies. “As China and South Korea increase their presence in the political and economic spheres, Japan is being criticized for what it did during World War II. At the root of the latest trend is a feeling that such developments are a threat.”

From the Asahi Shimbun, a hopeful sign:

Books on Constitution selling briskly as Japan weighs change in posture

Although hardly the stuff of bedtime reading, weighty tomes on Japan’s Constitution are a surprise hit on the book circuit this year.

Public interest in the issue has been fueled by the Abe administration’s move to amend the government interpretation of the pacifist Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Book outlets are even setting up special sections for books on the Constitution, and a decades-old work by a renowned manga artist on the issue has been reprinted for the first time in more than a decade.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers the wild card:

North Korea number two replaced as army political chief

The de-facto number two in the North Korean hierarchy after Kim Jong-Un has been replaced as head of the army’s political department, the official KCNA news agency said on Friday, signalling a major leadership change.

In a report on May Day celebrations in Pyongyang, KCNA named Hwang Pyong-So as the director of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) General Political Bureau, not Choe Ryong-Hae, who previously held the position.

Hwang’s appointment comes just days after KCNA reported his promotion to the rank of vice marshall on April 28 — a rank shared with Choe and four others.

And for our final item, more from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

UN diplomats urge North Korea to end rights abuses

North Korea must act immediately to halt a litany of abuses and crimes against humanity, diplomats said on Thursday during a UN review of the isolated Asian nation’s rights record.

But North Korea — backed by its main ally, China — hit back at the criticism and said a recent report by UN investigators was designed to “defame” the country.

Diplomats who took the floor at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva voiced outrage at the “systematic, widespread and gross rights violations” detailed in the February report, which documented a range of grave abuses in the country, including extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual violence.

“We note with concern that… human rights violations and crimes against humanity continue to take place with impunity,” British representative Karen Pierce said.

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