Headlines: Snoops, dupes, pols, and trolls


Today’s tales from the dark side, our daily collection of headlines from the worlds of black ops and arts, opens the a 21st Century reality via the Guardian:

Everyone is under surveillance now, says whistleblower Edward Snowden

  • People’s privacy is violated without any suspicion of wrongdoing, former National Security Agency contractor claims

The US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that entire populations, rather than just individuals, now live under constant surveillance.

“It’s no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing,” he said. “It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.”

Snowden made his comments in a short video that was played before a debate on the proposition that surveillance today is a euphemism for mass surveillance, in Toronto, Canada. The former US National Security Agency contractor is living in Russia, having been granted temporary asylum there in June 2013.

From the Guardian again, this time with a look at peculiar habits of key players:

Technology law will soon be reshaped by people who don’t use email

  • The US supreme court doesn’t understand the internet. Laugh all you want, but when NSA, Pandora and privacy cases hit the docket, the lack of tech savvy on the bench gets scary

There’s been much discussion – and derision – of the US supreme court’s recent forays into cellphones and the internet, but as more and more of these cases bubble up to the high chamber, including surveillance reform, we won’t be laughing for long: the future of technology and privacy law will undoubtedly be written over the next few years by nine individuals who haven’t “really ‘gotten to’ email” and find Facebook and Twitter “a challenge” .

A pair of cases that went before the court this week raise the issue of whether police can search someone’s cellphone after an arrest but without a warrant. The court’s decisions will inevitably affect millions. As the New York Times editorial board explained on the eve of the arguments, “There are 12 million arrests in America each year, most for misdemeanors that can be as minor as jaywalking.” Over 90% of Americans have cellphones, and as the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a briefing to the court, our mobile devices “are in effect, our new homes”.

Most people under 40 probably would agree police should never have the right to rummage through our entire lives without a particular purpose based on probable cause.Yet during arguments, Justice Roberts insinuated that police might reasonably suspect a person who carries two cellphones of being a drug dealer. Is he unaware that a large portion of the DC political class with which he associates – including many of his law clerks – carries both a personal and business phone, daily? The chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States may have proved this week that he can throw out tech lingo like “Facebook” and even “Fitbit”, but he is trapped in the closet from reality.

From the New York Times, Snowden blowback continues:

Merkel Signals That Tension Persists Over U.S. Spying

President Obama tried to mend fences with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Friday, calling her “one of my closest friends on the world stage.” But Ms. Merkel replied tartly that Germany still had significant differences with the United States over surveillance practices and that it was too soon to return to “business as usual.”

The cordial but slightly strained encounter, which played out as the two leaders stood next to each other at a Rose Garden news conference, attested to the lingering scars left by the sensational disclosure last October that the National Security Agency had eavesdropped on Ms. Merkel’s phone calls.

It came as the two leaders sought to project a unified front against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, threatening President Vladimir V. Putin with sweeping new sanctions if Russia disrupted elections in Ukraine later this month, even as they acknowledged that not all European countries were ready to sign on to the most punishing measures.

While the London Daily Mail spots an oopsie:

U2 spy plane delays HUNDREDS of flights from LAX after it overloaded air traffic control system

  • Glitch occurred on Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m.
  • Despite U-2 spy plane flying at 60,000 feet, air traffic control software was unable to distinguish it from commercial aircraft
  • The problem at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center, which handles higher-altitude aircraft, meant planes bound for the region were also grounded
  • 200 flights at LAX alone were either cancelled or diverted
  • Other airports across the southwest were also affected

International Business Times covers virtual financial alarms:

Bitcoin A Terrorist Threat? Counterterrorism Program Names Virtual Currencies As Area Of Interest

After attracting attention from law enforcement, financial regulators and old-school Wall Street investors, bitcoin is now on the U.S. military’s radar as a possible terrorist threat.

Friday was the deadline for submissions to a counterterrorism program seeking vendors to help the military understand state-of-the-art technologies that may pose threats to national security, and “bitcoin” and “virtual currencies” are listed among them.

The program is being conducted by the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, a division of the Department of Defense that identifies and develops counterterrorism abilities and investigates irregular warfare and evolving threats.

From the Associated Press, an insecure imperialist:

Condoleezza Rice backs out of Rutgers commencement

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed out of delivering the commencement address at Rutgers University following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War.

Rice said in a statement Saturday that she informed Rutgers President Robert Barchi that she was declining the invitation to speak at the graduation.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

The school’s board of governors had voted to pay $35,000 to the former secretary of state under President George W. Bush and national security adviser for her appearance at the May 18 ceremony. Rutgers was also planning to bestow Rice with an honorary doctorate.

From Military Aerospace Electronics, kicking the drone thing up a notch:

Army orders UAV control for attack helicopters

Military RF communications experts at Longbow LLC in Orlando, Fla., will build 17 sensor and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control subsystems for the Army’s AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter under terms of a $22.2 million contract modification announced Wednesday.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., are asking Longbow LLC to provide Radar Electronics Units (REUs), Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTAs), a P4.00 software upgrade, and related hardware for production testing for the AH-64D helicopter.

Longbow LLC is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. The REU is part of the Apache Block III upgrade, and will replace two line-replaceable units. The REU provides growth capabilities to the Longbow fire-control radar and reduces maintenance costs.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on a security insecurity:

Death threats stop gun store from selling ‘smart’ gun. Why?

The White House has urged gun companies to invent safety technology that could limit a gun’s use to its owner. But two gun shops decided not to sell such guns after receiving death threats.

Andy Raymond, a Rockland, Md., firearms dealer, found out how much some people who love guns and the Second Amendment really hate some guns, causing the owner of Engage Armament this week to reverse his plan to sell the Armatix iP1, the nation’s first “smart” gun.

The German-made Armatix iP1 won’t fire unless it’s in proximity of a special watch, thus making it useless if stolen. Gun control advocates, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have cited such technology as potential life savers.

But the NRA and many gun owners say it’s a government Trojan horse intended to open the door for laws that will mandate “smart” technology in new guns in order to identify gun owners – a notion that’s widely seen by gun owners as a threat to Second Amendment rights.

And Bloomberg Businessweek covers parents in revolt over too much snooping on their children:

Privacy Fears Over Student Data Tracking Lead to InBloom’s Shutdown

A year ago, every public school student in New York State fell under the watchful eye of InBloom, a data analytics company. Schools sent the company an enormous batch of data spanning 400-odd fields that included a wide range of personal details, from test scores and special-education enrollment to whether kids got free lunches. The idea was to compile enough information so teachers or software could tailor assignments to each student’s needs. InBloom had contracts to do the same for millions of public school kids across nine states, tracking their work to draw conclusions about their academic performance. InBloom promised to analyze its data and make the results accessible to teachers and parents. That made InBloom the hottest company in the emerging field of personalized learning, pitched as a way to help overcrowded, underfunded schools to better teach each student. That was until April 21, when InBloom abruptly announced it soon planned to shut down.

For many parents, the software got a little too personal. Although there weren’t any documented cases of InBloom misusing the information, parents and privacy advocates around the country argued that digital records on kids as young as 5 could easily be sold to marketers or stolen by hackers. Six of InBloom’s nine client states had pulled out over privacy concerns by the time the company said it was closing shop. “The risk far outweighs any benefits,” Karen Sprowal, a mother of a fifth grader, testified before a New York State Senate committee in November. “Just know that there’s a lot of parents like me that’s out there that say, ‘Hell, no.’ “

From CNNMoney, insecurity in significant places:

Defense, energy, banks hit by Internet Explorer bug

The cyber offensive nicknamed “Operation Clandestine Fox” is being used to attack PCs.

Hackers have attacked the government agencies, defense contractors, energy companies and banks by exploiting the software flaw in Internet Explorer.

That’s according to FireEye (FEYE), the cybersecurity firm that revealed the software flaw last week. The company discovered that hackers took advantage of a bug in the Internet Explorer Web browser to secretly take control of computers.

The cyber offensive has been dubbed “Operation Clandestine Fox,” and affects all versions of Microsoft’s Web browser.

Microsoft has issued a fix, but FireEye’s announcement on Thursday showed there are already victims. FireEye also spotted that hackers are now specifically targeting older computers running on the outdated Windows XP operating system and those using the Internet Explorer 8 version of the browser.

After the jump, is off to Asia and the Game of Drones, a possible Chinese death sentence, plus growing Japanese divisions over remilitarization. . .

From Want China Times, a looming specter:

Corrupt PLA general Gu Junshan may get death sentence

Former PLA general Gu Junshan has become the highest ranking military official to be brought down for corruption and may receive the death sentence, the Guangdong-based Southern Weekly reports, citing experts familiar with China’s military justice system.

The 57-year-old Gu, former deputy commander of the PLA’s General Logistics Department, was found to have been involved in scandals involving property. He built a luxurious mansion in his hometown and even brazenly claimed that he “had affairs with every Chinese female star.”

After Gu’s lifestyle came to light, he became one of the first targets of President Xi Jinping in his efforts to strengthen military reforms. On March 31, the Chinese military procuratorate charged Gu with corruption, bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

And from Tokyo, remilitarization pressures ramp up, via the Asahi Shimbun:

NHK, Okinawa newspaper employees standing up to political pressure

Employees of Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) describe the current atmosphere at the public broadcaster as oppressive.

They feel obliged to cater to the whims of the people in charge. Foreign employees at NHK have heard allegations that they are spies bent on influencing programming on behalf of China.

And the words and actions of the new NHK president reduced one frustrated director to tears.

But something else is happening at NHK. The workers there are trying to fight back.

Jiji Press covers a house divided:

Supporters, Revisionists of Constitution Separately Rally in Tokyo

Supporters of the current Japanese constitution and those who call for a revision separately held rallies in Tokyo on the Constitution Memorial Day on Saturday, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming to lift Japan’s self-imposed ban on the exercise of its collective self-defense right by changing the government’s constitutional interpretation.

About 3,700 supporters of the constitution gathered at Hibiya Public Hall near the Kasumigaseki government district in Chiyoda Ward, according to the organizers.

“The collective self-defense right is an illusion with no grounds,” Japanese Communist Party head Kazuo Shii said before the participants. “We should never let the government make the country ready for war.”

More signs of division from Kyodo News:

Parties engage in heated debate on collective self-defense

Senior officials from major political parties engaged in a heated debate Saturday on the drive of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to lift a self-imposed ban on Japan’s use of the right to collective self-defense as the country marked the 67th anniversary of the pacifist Constitution coming into force.

“We should allow use of the minimum (force)” to fulfill the country’s duties in the event of a Japanese ally coming under attack, Masahiko Komura, vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said in a television program on the national broadcaster NHK.

The government’s intent to allow such limited use of force by the Self-Defense Forces has been gaining public support, Komura said, citing results of a recent media opinion poll.

And the strongest indicator yet from the Mainichi:

51 percent oppose amending war-renouncing Article 9 of Constitution: Mainichi poll

Over half the people who responded to a recent Mainichi Shimbun poll do not think war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution should be amended.

The survey, conducted on April 19 and 20, showed 51 percent of respondents were against changing Article 9, while 36 percent thought the clause should be revised. In an earlier poll in in April 2013, 37 percent were opposed to changes while 46 percent supported them.

The percentage of the respondents opposing revisions to Article 9 topped supporters in every generation.

Among supporters of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 51 percent favored the idea of amending the Article 9 while 36 percent did not. In contrast, among those who do not support the Abe government, 75 percent said they did not want Article 9 to be changed while 18 percent said they did.

While the Asahi Shimbun stands pat, our final headline:

Abe refuses to bend in quest for constitutional revision

Concerns expressed by the junior partner in the ruling coalition have done nothing to deter Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from his ultimate goal of amending the Constitution.

At a high-level meeting April 2, Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, suggested delaying Cabinet approval for changing the government interpretation of the Constitution out of consideration for partner New Komeito.

“The words ‘collective self-defense’ must be included” in any Cabinet approval decision, Abe said, rejecting Ishiba’s proposal.

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