Category Archives: Crime

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, hacks, war, weapons


For the first item in today’s compendium pf the world of spies, snoops, cops, crimes, wars, geopolitics, hackery, and the like, we turn to reassurance from the Guardian:

CIA chief: ‘If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it’

  • John Brennan expresses frustration with Senate and media while decrying lack of trust in agency at intelligence conference

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency expressed frustration with his Senate overseers and the media on Thursday, even as he and his fellow heads of US intelligence agencies pledged to win back the trust of a skeptical American public.

“I certainly believe having the public’s trust makes all of our jobs much easier and better,” Brennan said on a panel at an intelligence conference, where he was joined by his colleagues at the helms of the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But ahead of an impending clash with the Senate intelligence committee, which is due to release a public version of a report into CIA torture in the coming weeks, Brennan rejected “the narratives I see floating around the media.”

From Gigaom, someone’s takin’ a bit out of the Apple:

Apple’s “warrant canary” disappears, suggesting new Patriot Act demands

When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called “warrant canary,” which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.

Now, Apple’s warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company’s last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the “canary” language is no longer there.

From the Register, score another one for Edward the Leaker:

Snowden’s NSA leaks have galvanised the storage world

  • Vendors raise their game after gov securo-busting revealed

In a recent CyberArk survey of 373 C-level and IT security executives across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific, 37 per cent of respondents said Snowden’s breach of NSA security had influenced their security strategy more than any other incident over the past year.

Difficult decisions are having to be made across industries. Where and how to store data tops the list of priorities. Who to trust has also become a pertinent question when it comes to access management and procurement processes. Storage and security have become sexy again.

Indeed, one of the material outcomes of Snowden’s leaks has already been realised: inspired by renewed consumer and business interest in privacy, technology is becoming more secure.

From the New York Times, oversharing reported by James Bamford:

Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal

In Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

From RT, bloody irony:

GTA-ISIS: Militants hooking youngsters with ‘Jihad video game’ trailer

Islamic State (IS) militants have released a jihadist video game trailer in which the aim is to destroy Iraqi and US forces, Arabic media report. The game, styling itself as a Grand Theft Auto adaptation, appears specifically aimed at young people.

The recruitment propaganda video trailer aimed to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State,” according to the media wing of the IS (formerly known as ISIS), cited in Arabic media.

“The content includes all of the organization’s military tactics against its opponents,” the Islamic state said.

Homeland Security News Wire covers an intelligence failure:

U.S. intelligence, leaders unclear on exact danger posed by ISIS

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength of the Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength ofthe Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

From the Associated Press, The Most Transparent Administration in History™ flunks the test, again:

Journalists view Obama administration’s transparency as much worse than Bush’s

Editors and reporters meeting in Chicago raised concerns Wednesday about what they described as a lack of access and transparency undermining journalists’ work, several blaming the current White House for setting standards for secrecy that are spreading nationwide.

Criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration on the issue of openness in government came on the last day of a three-day joint convention of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers.

“The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news, said during a panel discussion.

James Risen, a New York Times reporter who is facing potential jail time as he battles government efforts to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information, also spoke at the conference. Risen said intense pressure on reporters and their sources is having a chilling effect on newsgathering.

He spoke of scaring one source just by going to his home and knocking on the front door. “He opened the door and he turned white,” Risen said. “He marches me back through the kitchen [to a back exit] and said, “‘Go out that way.’”

Guns beat butter again, via the Guardian:

UN to cut food aid to Syria

Without more money, World Food Programme warns food rations will be reduced and voucher schemes slashed

The UN warned on Thursday that it will be forced to cut food rations for more than 6 million Syrians from next month unless it received more funding.

The World Food Programme said that while it still expects to reach almost 6 million Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring states in October and November, there will be significant cuts to the amount of food delivered. The WFP said it had no money for programmes in December.

A WFP official told Reuters that the food basket for Syrians could shrink to 825 calories, well under half the daily recommended intake.

From the Associated Press, bordering on sanity:

Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

The U.S. Border Patrol will begin testing body-worn cameras on agents next month, the head of its parent agency said Thursday, a step toward seeing if the technology should be used in the field as the government seeks to blunt criticism about agents’ use of force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner since March, said a variety of cameras will be tested beginning Oct. 1 at the Border Patrol’s training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.

He didn’t say when or even if cameras will be introduced to the roughly 21,000 agents in the field.

From Sky News, making a good point:

Assange: ‘Google Like A Privatised NSA’

  • Julian Assange tells Sky News the search engine gathers and files information just like America’s National Security Agency.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused Google of behaving like a “privatised version of the NSA” in the way it collects and stores information about people.

He told Sky News the internet giant was not doing anything illegal but its behaviour was highly questionable. “It is not doing things which are illegal, what it is doing is legal,” he said. “It is collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, and using it to create profiles of people and then selling that to advertisers and others.

“Those are the same procedures that security agencies go through. That is why the NSA has latched on top of what Google is doing. Since 2009 the NSA had been engaged in the Prism system where information collected online is available to it.”

The accompanying video from Sky News:

Julian Assange ‘Will Leave Embassy With Asylum Intact’

Program note:

Sky’s Sarah Hewson talks to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

From BuzzFeed, and reminding us of the a high school joke about the cat, who crept in, crapped, and crept out:

U.S. Company Distances Itself From Egyptian Surveillance System

  • And the website of its Egyptian affiliate is taken down.

The U.S.-based Blue Coat company has issued a statement distancing itself from a project to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and Skype in Egypt, following a BuzzFeed News report.

Egyptian officials had told BuzzFeed News that a company called See Egypt had won a tender to begin providing the government with a surveillance system that would allow them to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others. In interviews, the Egypt-based SeeEgypt called itself a “sister company” to Blue Coat, and listed the company as one of their affiliates.

Now, Blue Coat has issued a response saying that their products are not being resold to the Egyptian government.

From the Dissenter, gee, are we surprised:

Email Suggests Manufacturer of Stingray Surveillance Equipment May Have Lied to FCC

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the manufacturer of StingRay surveillance products of providing inaccurate information and possibly even lying to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is the agency that is supposed to regulate communications over cable, radio, satellite, television and wire.

Harris Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of StingRay technology. The technology was “initially designed for the military and intelligence community” and “operates by mimicking cellular service providers’ base stations and forcing all cellular phones in range to register their electronic serial numbers and other identifying information,” according to the ACLU.

The ACLU of Northern California chapter managed to obtain a series of emails from 2010 between the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and Harris Corporation employees, where the “equipment authorization application for law enforcement use of Harris’ StingRay line of products” is being discussed.

After the jump, a death sentence for an Iranian blogger, beating the messenger in Russia, Plasticopalypse Now!, a horrifying traffic scenario suggested, China bases more claims in troubled waters, and a top cop’s curious pal. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Illness, fires, toxins, Fukushima


First, via Al Jazeera America, a biological bubble enlarging:

World population growing, not slowing

  • New methodology reverses earlier predictions, projects Africa population will quadruple this century

The possibility that the world’s population will climb to 11 billion by the end of the century is gaining traction now that demographers are using probability methods for their projections.

A paper published online on Thursday in the journal Science details new methodology that shows that most of the world’s anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from about 1 billion today to 4 billion by 2100.

“For the last 20 years, prevailing opinion was that world population would go up to 9 billion and level off in the middle of the century and maybe decline,” said Adrian Raftery, one of the paper’s lead authors and a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington. “Population is going to keep growing. We can say that with confidence.”

From the London Daily Mail, another outbreak closer to home:

Cases of rare and severe infant respiratory illness enterovirus 68 confirmed in 14 states as it spreads quickly among children across America

  • As of Wednesday both Minnesota and New Jersey have confirmed cases of the severe virus enterovirus 68
  • Officials say Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania together have 130 lab-confirmed cases
  • There are also suspected cases in Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Utah
  • A child in Minnesota told Children’s chief nursing officer Roxanne Fernandes it felt like he had ‘an elephant sitting on his chest’
  • The virus has caused no deaths but has put some children in intensive care and on life support

And from Science, malpractice certain to feed the ISIS media mill:

Sixteen children in Syria die in measles immunization campaign

Sixteen children, all or most under age 2, have died after receiving an injection in a measles immunization campaign in an opposition-held area of northern Syria. Up to 50 more children were sickened.

Details are hazy, says a World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Geneva, Switzerland, but at this point the cause looks like a “very bad human error,” in which a strong muscle relaxant was administered instead of the measles vaccine. The tragic deaths threaten to undermine all vaccination efforts across Syria, where childhood immunization rates have dropped precipitously after years of civil war.

WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have dispatched an investigation team but for now are dependent on secondhand information from nongovernmental organizations and other partners in northern Syria, says WHO’s Christian Lindmeier. (For security reasons, neither organization has staff on the ground in Idlib, where the deaths occurred.) Until the cause is confirmed, rumors will continue to circulate, he warns; various press accounts are alleging a plot by the government of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or perhaps the terrorist group ISIS.

According to Lindmeier, the children died almost immediately on Tuesday after receiving the shot, part of a measles immunization campaign under way in Idlib and Deir al Zour, two governorates of Syria.

Reuters covers a burning issue:

New evacuations ordered as California wildfire doubles in size

More residents of Northern California mountain communities were told to leave their homes on Thursday after an out-of-control wildfire doubled in size overnight, scorching more than 100 square miles of drought-parched timber and brush.

Nearly 3,700 firefighters struggled to stop the forward march of the King Fire, the largest and most dangerous of 11 major wildfires raging across California, but had managed to cut containment lines around just 5 percent of the flames as of Thursday morning, officials said.

The blaze raced across some 43,000 acres of forest land late on Wednesday and early on Thursday and has now burned more than 70,000 acres of state land in the El Dorado National Forest northeast of Sacramento.

The Associated Press covers a culprit:

Man arrested in fast-growing California wildfire

A man with a lengthy criminal history has been charged with deliberately starting a Northern California wildfire that has shown explosive growth and driven nearly 2,800 people from their homes, authorities said Thursday.

Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, was arrested late Wednesday in Placerville and booked into El Dorado County Jail, where he was being held on $10 million bail.

Huntsman faces a forest-land arson charge, along with a special allegation of arson with aggravating factors because the blaze east of Sacramento put a dozen firefighters in serious danger, forcing them to deploy their fire shields. They all escaped unharmed.

From Environmental Health News, another menace:

Kids exposed in the womb to plasticizers more likely to have asthma

New York City children exposed in the womb to moderate levels of two plasticizers had a 72 to 78 percent higher chance of developing asthma, according to a new study published today.

The study is the first to link childhood asthma, which has been increasing in recent decades, to prenatal exposure to phthalates.

“These results suggest that phthalates may be one of the factors associated with that increase,” said Robin Whyatt, a Columbia University environmental health scientist who led the study. She added, however, that more studies are needed to understand how important a risk factor these chemicals may be.

Phthalates, used in the manufacture of vinyl and some cosmetics, have been connected to a number of health effects in lab animal and human studies, including airway inflammation, altered male genitalia, attention and learning problems and premature births.

Environmental Health News again, with another menace:

Mass murder by botulism: Surge in Great Lakes bird deaths driven by invaders

The nonnative creatures have been driving a deadly surge in avian botulism in the Great Lakes over the past 15 years, killing an estimated 80,000 birds, including loons, ducks, gulls, cormorants and endangered piping plovers. Now scientists are searching for what has triggered this change in intensity of the disease: If they can unravel where and why the lethal toxin is building up in food webs, they can predict which shorelines are death traps for birds.

The botulism bacterium “is the most toxic natural substance on Earth. Just one gram could kill off like 2 million people,” said Stephen Riley, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “And for these birds it’s essentially just widespread food poisoning.”

Outbreaks were first documented in the Great Lakes in the 1960s, but they ebbed and flowed until 1999, when they intensified on Lakes Erie, Huron, Ontario and Michigan.

Common Dreams covers another controversy:

USDA’s Greenlighting of ‘Agent Orange’ Crops Sparks Condemnation

  • Following widespread outcry, Dow’s new genetically engineered corn and soybeans get approval.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision this week to approve two new genetically engineered crops is being denounced by watchdog groups as a false solution to herbicide-resistant weeds and a move that threatens human and environment safety alike.

The crops are Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist corn and soybeans, engineered to be resistant to its Duo herbicide, which contains 2,4-D, a component of the notorious Agent Orange. 2,4-D has been linked to Parkinson’s, birth defects, reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption. Dow states that the new system will address the problem of weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup.

Food and environmental safety groups, however, say that it speaks to the failure of the genetically engineered crops strategy that fosters herbicide expansion—profitable for the chemical companies—and ignores the paradigm shifted needed in the industrial agriculture system.

From Al Jazeera America, on the rise:

Canary in a coal mine: Extreme weather, rising seas plague atoll nation

  • Marshall Islands president issues a call to action ahead of international climate summit next week hosted by the UN

As global leaders gear up to meet at next week’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York, the president of a small Pacific island nation vulnerable to rising seas caused by global warming said the future of his people depends on creating a carbon-free world by 2050.

“Out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, climate change has arrived,” Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak said in a video address to his fellow heads of state. “Our atoll nation stands at the front line in the battle against climate change.”

In the video, Loeak stands in front of a sea wall he built to protect his home and family from rising seas which have already engulfed several of the nation’s atolls — making them disappear forever.

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including a decontamination claim, skeptical fishermen, a radioactive waste disposal plan, uncovering a hidden agenda, a major loss of seismic expertise, and rising chances for yet more reactors worldwide. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Drugs, warnings, murders, more


The news remains grim, and we’ll start with a critical factor, via Jiji Press:

Profit motive big hurdle for Ebola drugs — experts

Until this west African epidemic, Ebola was not a public health problem and (was) a really rare disease, says Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976.

There was very little interest in all quarters, not just pharma, Piot said in an email to AFP. Things have changed now, and two major companies are investing in a vaccine — GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and (Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) Janssen.

Sylvain Baize, in charge of the Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers Reference Centre at France’s Pasteur Institute, said Ebola had claimed fewer than 2,000 lives in almost 40 years, a minute toll compared with other diseases.

If these 2,000 deaths had occurred in industrialised countries, things may have been different, but it was 2,000 dead in the middle of Africa, so nobody cared very much, Baize said sardonically. Ebola’s extraordinary lethality was another reason why it never became a top target for research, he said.

From Reuters, the latest death total:

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

The United Nations unveiled plans on Thursday for a special mission to combat the worst Ebola epidemic on record in West Africa, as the death toll hit 2,630 and France became the latest Western nation to step up its support.

French President Francois Hollande announced the deployment of a military hospital to remote Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, where the outbreak was first detected in March.

Since then the virus has infected at least 5,357 people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), mostly in Guinea, neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

More from Al Jazeera America:

WHO: 700 Ebola cases emerge in one week

  • Sierra Leone shuts down as number of West Africans believed to have died from the virus tops 2,600

In a sign that West Africa’s Ebola crisis is worsening, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that more than 700 new cases of the deadly virus were confirmed in the last week for which data is available.

The news was announced as citizens of Sierra Leone prepared for a three-day nationwide shutdown, during which the country’s 6 million people will be confined to their homes while volunteers search house-to-house for Ebola victims in hiding and hand out soap in a desperate bid to slow the accelerating outbreak.

The number of people killed by the Ebola virus is now more than 2,600, an increase of roughly 200 from the last estimate, WHO said. Most of the deaths have been in Liberia, the hardest-hit of West African nations plagued by the virus.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore sounds the alarm:

Ebola threatens world peace, says UN Security Council

The UN Security Council on Thursday (Sep 18) adopted a resolution declaring the Ebola outbreak a threat to world peace and security, and calling on countries to provide urgent aid.

The resolution was adopted unanimously after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the number of Ebola infections was doubling every three weeks, in particular in Liberia.

The council heard a desperate appeal from Liberian medical aid worker Jackson Naimah for assistance to beat back the epidemic that has left about 2,600 dead and over 5,000 others severely ill in West Africa.

“Please send your helicopters, your centres, your beds and your expert personnel,” said Naimah, speaking on video link from Monrovia. “We do not have the capacity to respond to this crisis. If the international community does not stand up, we will be wiped out.”

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Ebola Dr. David Nabarro, said the outbreak is doubling in size every three weeks, and urged a “massively scaled up” response.

Speaking from Monrovia, Liberia, Dr. Jackson Naimah of Medicins San Frontieres, an organization that has been an outspoken critic of the U.N. and other organizations it feels have been too slow to mobilize against Ebola, painted a grim picture on the ground.

Patients are dying at the front gates of the hospital where he works, Naimah said, begging to be let in to the overflowing treatment center.

One boy, whose father had died of Ebola, approached the gate, his mouth bloodied, but there was no space to take him in, Naimah said.

“I thought to myself, that this boy is going to take a taxi, and he is going to go home to his family … infect his family, and also other people,” Naimah told the assembly via a live video feed, and added that the future of his country “is hanging in the balance.”

USA Today covers the first concrete result:

U.N. announces medical corps to fight Ebola

Six months into the West African Ebola epidemic, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to create a special medical mission to respond to the disaster. The force should be on the ground in West Africa by the end of the month.

“Ebola matters to us all,” said Ban Ki Moon, U.N. secretary-general, who oversaw the U.N. Security Council’s first meeting on the Ebola outbreak, the largest epidemic in the disease’s history. “We cannot afford delays. The penalty for inaction is high. We need to race ahead of the outbreak and then turn and face it with all of our energy and strength.”

The United Nation Mission for Ebola Emergency Response would be on the ground in West Africa by the end of the month. The world has been racing against an outbreak growing at an exponential rate, but always falling behind. To get ahead of the epidemic, the world will have to scale up its response by about 20-fold, Ban said. That will require about $1 billion.

The Monrovia [Liberia] Inquirer despairs:

“Ebola Is Winning”…CSO Expresses Great Frustration

The Chairperson of the Liberian Civil Society Taskforce on Ebola, Mr. Oscar Bloh says the deadly Ebola virus is winning and International response to Ebola outbreak has been slowed.

Mr. Bloh disclosed that the many hospitals in the country are over-run and under- staffed with fear and panic sparking serious violence while borders have also been closed and ships prevented from coming to the country. He said Liberia is running out of food and other essential things.

According to Mr. Bloh, after months of inaction in recent days, donor pledges had been made ,but Liberians still have the fear that it will take too long for government promises to translate into hands to help.

Another measure from the Liberian Observer:

AU to Deploys 200 Health Workers in Ebola Affeted Countries

The African Union (AU) is expected to deployed 200 health workers and other professionals,including nurses and doctors to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to help combat the deadly Ebola virus in the sub-region.

Africa Union’s Special Representative to Liberia, Amb. Toyin Solaja,said the deployment is a part of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission code named African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA).

He puts the cost of the operation to more than 25 million United States Dollars. The Ambassador said a total of two hundred (200) professionals are expected to be deployed in the three countries.

According to Amb.Solaja, additional professionals from across the continent are undergoing training in the Ugandan Capital, Kampala, to form part of the operation which aim is to ensure that Ebola is put under control.

Reuters covers one tragic consequence of mounting fear:

Eight bodies found after attack on Guinea Ebola education team

Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

“The eight bodies were found in the village latrine. Three of them had their throats slit,” Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters by telephone in Conakry.

However, Guinea’s Prime Minister Mohamed Saïd Fofana, speaking in a television message that had been recorded earlier, said 7 bodies of 9 missing people had been found.

He said six people have been arrested following the incident, which took place on Tuesday in Wome, a village close to the town of Nzerekore, in Guinea’s southeast, where Ebola was first identified in March.

Meanwhile, via RFI, another patient from the North wins favored status:

First French Ebola patient to be airlifted home

A French volunteer for the Doctor Withouth Borders (MSF) NGO, infected by the Ebola virus in Liberia, was to be airlifted to Paris on Thursday. The woman is the first French national working in affected areas, to contract the virus .

“She will be repatriated to France in conditions of maximum security in a specially dedicated air ambulance,” said the French health ministry without giving further details about when exactly the patient would be airlifted.

French authorities have readied several hospitals in Paris and the rest of the country to take charge of any potential patients.

While a non-European patient is rebuffed, via BBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Malta rejects ship carrying suspected case

Maltese authorities have turned away a ship travelling from Guinea to Ukraine over fears one person on board may be infected with the Ebola virus.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the captain of the ship had made a request for assistance for a sick Filipino passenger on board.

The decision to turn the ship away was “morally and legally correct”, Mr Muscat said.

From the Independent, fearful anticipation:

The powerhouse of West Africa waits for Ebola to strike

If Ebola reaches Ivory Coast, the powerhouse of French-speaking West Africa, the economic consequences could be huge. The country exports 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa – the raw material for chocolate – and supplies its landlocked neighbours with everything from rice to fuel. The country is therefore taking the kind of aggressive anti-infection measures which its poorer, smaller western neighbours were slow to adopt. Handwashing stations have appeared at government buildings and office towers in Abidjan. People have also abandoned the traditional three-kiss greeting.

The government has sent mass text messages to the public and children, exposed to warnings on radio and television, quarantine their classmates in a playground game they call “Ebola”. “It’s without precedent,” said Daouda Coulibaly, who is leading the effort. “We started back in March to explain to people that this is a real disease. It must be taken seriously.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned that several neighbouring countries are at risk. With the outbreak gathering pace, the WHO has said a $1bn international response will be needed to keep the number of those infected within the “tens of thousands”.

After the jump, screening pilgrims to Mecca, a Liberia presidential plea, a shutdown delayed in Sierra Leone and a video report on the shopping rush in anticipation, tragedy in one Liberian town and more healthcare workers dead, food aid for liberal, educational programs in Liberia and Nigeria [including an educational video], and an emerging black market. . .
Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Law, wars, hacks, cops, spies


We begin with a hopeful finding, via the Guardian:

High school students care more about free speech than adults, poll finds

  • For first time in poll’s history, American students are more in favour of the first amendment than adults

American high school students are more concerned about freedom of speech and the first amendment than adults, including their teachers, a new poll has found.

The national study of 10,463 high school students and 588 teachers was released Wednesday to coincide with the celebration of Constitution Day and was funded by the John S and James L Knight Foundation.

This was the first time in the poll’s history that students were more in favour of the first amendment than adults. Ten years ago when the poll began 35% of students said the amendment went too far compared with 30% of adults.

The poll also found that students who consumed the most news online were the most supportive of free expression. And those who had been taught about the first amendment were more supportive still.

Salon covers a half-measure:

Los Angeles schools will relinquish grenade launchers … but not rifles or armored vehicles

  • L.A. Unified says that M-16 automatic rifles are “essential life-saving items”

The Los Angeles Unified school police announced on Tuesday their intention to give up military-grade weaponry obtained through the 1033 federal program that gives civilian police departments surplus military equipment. The school police said it intended to relinquish three grenade launchers, but notably will keep 61 rifles and one Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle.

The Yomiuri Shimbun investigates:

Attorney general: U.S. will launch study of policing bias

Broadening its push to improve police relations with minorities, the Justice Department has enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement in five American cities and recommend strategies to address the problem nationally, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

The police shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri underscored the need for the long-planned initiative, Holder said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the three-year project, which will involve training, data analysis and interviews with community residents, could be a “silver lining” if it helps ease racial tensions and “pockets of distrust that show up between law enforcement and the communities that they serve.”

And from Al Jazeera English, heading down a familiar road:

US lawmakers back plan to arm Syrian rebels

  • House of Representatives vote 273 to 156 to approve President Obama’s train-and-equip plan meant to defeat ISIL

US lawmakers have voted to authorise training and arming of vetted Syrian rebels to combat fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a crucial step in President Barack Obama’s bid to thwart the self-declared jihadist group surging across Iraq and Syria.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 273 to 156 to approve Obama’s train-and-equip plan despite misgivings by both Democrats and Republicans.

Some war-weary Democrats say the move could open the door to full-blown American military intervention in the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times coveys reassurance:

Obama reiterates that U.S. forces have no ‘combat mission’ in Iraq

Emphasizing the American military’s unrivaled expertise, President Obama thanked service members Wednesday and repeated that U.S. forces taking on the Islamic State militant group would not serve in combat, a day after his top general repeatedly raised that prospect.

American forces “do not and will not have a combat mission,” Obama told troops at the U.S. Central Command headquarters here. “They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists.”

He made that pledge a day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military’s top officer, described for a Senate panel the challenges of fighting the militants without combat troops on the ground.

But the New York Times conveys counterspin:

U.S. Army Chief Says Ground Troops Will Be Needed Against ISIS

The United States general who beat back Islamic extremists in Iraq in 2007 suggested on Wednesday that the battle against Islamic State jihadis would only succeed with the use of ground forces.

Speaking a day after his commander, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops might be needed in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno was careful not to specify that those ground troops had to be American. But he made clear that success would be dependent on the presence of forces from all of Iraq’s sectarian groups.

Airstrikes have halted the advance of the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, General Odierno, now the Army chief of staff, told journalists from four news organizations, including The New York Times, in what aides said were his first public comments on the current situation in Iraq. Ultimately, though, “you’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting them out,” he said, referring to the Islamic extremists.

And from the Washington Post, tramp, tramp, tramp:

U.S. boots are already on the ground against the Islamic State

Talking with U.S. and foreign military experts over the past week, I’ve heard two consistent themes: First, the campaign against the Islamic State will require close-in U.S. training and assistance for ground forces, in addition to U.S. air power; and, second, the best way to provide this assistance may be under the command of the Ground Branch of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, which traditionally oversees such paramilitary operations.

There are some obvious drawbacks with this approach: These “special activities” may be called covert, but their provenance will be obvious, especially to the enemy; they will build irregular forces in Iraq and Syria that may subvert those countries’ return to a stable, transparent system of governance and military operations; and history tells us (from Vietnam to Central America to the Middle East) that black operations, outside normal military channels, can get ugly — opening a back door to torture, rendition and assassination. That’s why clear guidelines and congressional oversight would be necessary.

Though these paramilitary operations are rarely discussed, the United States has extensive experience with them, especially in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East. The 2001 campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan was led by the CIA, using teams of Special Operations forces to mobilize fighters from the Northern Alliance. In 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, Kurdish special forces were brought to a base in the Western United States and trained in insurgency tactics. They conducted fierce attacks as the war was beginning.

In other words, it’s the same old foreign policy so eloquently expressed by Nancy Sinatra way back in 1966:

From Defense One, points we often made back in the days of Vietnam:

The Constitution Is More Than Just an Obstacle To Fighting ISIL

Congress seems to be on track to authorize President Obama to address the situation in the Middle East. Strikingly enough, however, it is authorization for one small part of it—to provide arms to Syrian rebels. Currently, U.S. law prevents the president from transferring weapons to rebel groups, and Obama wants an exception for Syria.

What about the prolonged campaign he announced last week to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy?” Obama’s strategy—systematic airstrikes against ISIS targets “wherever they are”; material support to Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian forces fighting ISIS on the ground; intelligence and counterterrorism campaigns against ISIS; and humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the fighting—sounds like what I will call, for lack of a better term, “war.”

And war needs authorization from Congress. Not little dribs and drabs of authorization, and not small measures tucked onto spending bills, but a resolution, adopted after a serious debate, authorizing the whole thing, setting out our war aims, and indicating when or how the authority will expire.

The president says he has the authority to do what he wants but wouldn’t mind if Congress wants to tag along by voting him “more” authority. Members of Congress say, variously, Why is he asking us? Why isn’t he already doing more without it? Can’t we wait to see what happens? Can we go now?

From the Guardian, media mania:

Islamic State video threatens to target White House and US troops

  • Video purports to be trailer for film entitled Flames of War with strapline ‘fighting has just begun’

Islamic State militants have threatened to target the White House and kill US troops in a new slickly made video response to Barack Obama’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” the organisation.

The video, in the style of a blockbuster movie trailer for what is “coming soon”, purports to show a masked man apparently about to shoot kneeling prisoners in the head. Towards the end of the clip there is shaky footage of the White House filmed from a moving vehicle, suggesting the building is being scoped out for attack.

It was released on Tuesday after US defence chiefs suggested that American troops could join Iraqi forces fighting Isis, despite Obama’s assurance that US soldiers would not be engaged in fighting on the ground.

While the video has been yanked from YouTube, it was still available at LiveLeak when last we looked [and WordPress doesn’t enable embedding videos from that site].

More on that media thing from the Christian Science Monitor:

How Islamic State is wielding the Internet in new ways

Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of a New York man on charges he was trying to recruit for the Islamic State. US officials say they are increasingly concerned about the possibility of a home-grown terror threat.

[E]ven as a handful of Americans attempt to get more engaged with extremist groups, media observers say IS has become one of most sophisticated social media operations yet seen.

“I think that what’s new is the sophistication and focus of the groups like ISIS,” says Nicco Mele, a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Boston, who focuses on the intersection of media, politics, and power in the digital age. “The frequency and quality and quantity of what’s happening here is significant – it’s sophisticated, clearly planned, and executed with a well-oiled team.”

Up to a hundred Americans have tried to travel abroad to fight alongside IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in recent weeks – including some killed by the US bombing campaign in Iraq. But officials say they are also worried about the solitary, would-be domestic terrorist, inspired by propaganda and instructions found online, who would then attempt to carry out an attack similar to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.

Business Insider covers the furor Down Under:

Australian Authorities Say Terrorists Planned To Drape People In ISIS Flags And Behead Them In Public

Police have confirmed Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism operation targeted a group planning “random acts of violence” against a member, or members of the public, on the streets of Sydney.

News agencies are reporting court documents, to be released later this morning, are expected to reveal the terror group planned to behead a member of the public in Sydney, or potentially engage in a random mass shooting.

Australian Federal Police and intelligence officials launched the “largest counter-terrorism operation” in Australia across a number of suburban areas in Sydney and Brisbane this morning.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani blackout continues:

Two years on, no light at the end of the tunnel for YouTube

Two years, a new government and the promise of change, and at least 20 court hearings later, internet users from Pakistan are still denied access to YouTube. This restriction of access has become the symbol of a state which has increasingly become obsessed with controlling the online space in a non-transparent manner.

The ban had been imposed on September 17, 2012 by then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf following national outrage over a sacrilegious video clip. The video had prompted outrage across the Muslim world and prompted temporary bans on the website in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan. Threat of bans in Saudi Arabia prompted YouTube to selectively curb access in that country and it took a court order to censor it in Brazil.

But even after a US court ordered YouTube to take down versions of the video following a suit filed by one of the actors appearing the clip, the site remains inaccessible in Pakistan. The refrain, that the clip hurts religious sentiments of the people, is obscene or hurts national security has acted as an effective screen for a process which is less than transparent and has gone on to impact services and content beyond just pornography and blasphemous videos.

From The Intercept, spooky high dudgeon:

Irate NSA Staffer Doesn’t Like Being Filmed in Public, for Some Reason

The NSA sent someone bearing the nametag “Neal Z.” to the University of New Mexico’s Engineering and Science Career Fair today, in the hopes of recruiting young computer geniuses to help manage the yottabytes of data it is collecting about you. But instead of eager young applicants, Mr. Z. encountered University of New Mexico alumnus Andy Beale and student Sean Potter, who took the rare opportunity of being in the room with a genuine NSA agent to ask him about his employer’s illegal collection of metadata on all Americans. Mr. Z. did not like that one bit.

In two videos posted on YouTube—each shot from a slightly different perspective—you can watch Beale politely question Mr. Z. about NSA programs, and watch Mr. Z. attempt to parry those queries with blatant falsehoods like, “NSA is not permitted to track or collect intelligence on U.S. persons.” As Beale continues to attempt to engage the recruiter on the legality of the NSA’s mass surveillance initiatives, Mr. Z. becomes increasingly angry, calling him a “heckler,” saying, “You do not know what you’re talking about,” and warning, “If you don’t leave soon, I’m going to call university security to get you out of my face.”

After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Mr. Z announces, “You’re done,” and attempts to grab the phone that Potter had been using to film the encounter, literally at the very moment he says, “I’m not touching your phone.” Beale and Potter were later ejected from the facility by campus police for “causing a disturbance,” though their on-camera behavior is unfailingly quiet and civil.

Here’s one of the videos, posted by Andy Beale:

NSA Attacks Student at University of New Mexico

After the jump, a German demand on Google, spooky Danish blowback, a twisted Kiwi concession, public intelligence endangered, spying in the bovine interest, committing covert journalism on the farm, hacks at your bank account at home and abroad, Papuan police punished, allegations of Chinese defense contractor hacks, Chinese line-crossing, a spooky Japanese coup on China, Korean diplomatic shifts, a Japanese panopticon extension, an Asian test of the American fog of war, and a Thai sartorial security alert. . .
Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, threats, hacks, weapons


Lots of ground to cover, so straight ahead with the Guardian:

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

  • Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey refuse to rule out greater role for US ‘advisers’ if airstrikes

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

A day after US warplanes expanded the war south-west of Baghdad, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, preferring the term “close combat advising”.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau takes action:

U.S. hits Islamic State south of Baghdad in first strike under new Obama orders

The United States bombed an Islamic State position southwest of Baghdad on Monday in what the U.S. Central Command said was the first airstrike undertaken under expanded rules of engagement President Barack Obama outlined in a speech last week.

The Central Command statement posted Monday night provided no details of the strike, but the area southwest of Baghdad is a Sunni Muslim stronghold where Islamic State forces have been active since June. The statement said the Islamic State forces were firing on Iraqi security forces.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president’s speech last Wednesday,” the statement said, using the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, hands wringing in anticipation:

Growing global conflict a bonanza for arms makers

Geopolitical instability has left many global corporations jittery.

But the world’s biggest arms producers are doing well, with shares of the top 12 publicly listed firms – based on a list by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – rising by almost 30 per cent on average in the last year.

Stock price data on the 12 companies reveal most have benefitted in a year in which the number of conflict zones in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has risen. While some companies have under-performed during the period, many have risen by more than 50 per cent.

Customers line up, via Defense One:

Governments Line Up To Buy the Drone That Terrorized Gaza

A few weeks after Israel and Hamas signed an open-ended truce to end their nearly two-month-long war in Gaza, Israeli defense contractors are parading weapons used in the conflict at a conference in Tel Aviv. The annual Israel Unmanned Systems conference, which began Sunday and runs through Friday (Sept. 19), is jointly hosted with the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. According to its website, attendees include “senior officials from commercial and government entities” from Europe, Asia, North and South America.

The conference’s sponsors include the largest Israeli private defense contractors, among them Haifa-based Elbit Systems. Elbit’s Hermes 450 (pdf), a “multi-role tactical high-performance unmanned aircraft system” (UAS)—in other words, a battle drone—operated this summer in the Gaza Strip, and may have carried out attacks.

Photos taken by an Agence France-Presse photographer that appeared in a July post on The Aviationist, a blog, showed the aircraft flying over the skies of Gaza. It had a pod under each wing that looked like it could be a fuel tank, but which, according to an Israeli source quoted by the blog, was “a firing pod for a light missile.” The source would not independently confirm or deny that it was used in attacks on Hamas positions but David Cenciotti, founder of the blog, told Quartz that it’s highly likely that the Hermes 450 was the IDF’s vehicle of choice for such attacks.

But it looks like one deal came undone, via RT:

Israel nixes drone deal with Ukraine to not anger Russia – report

Israel’s Foreign Ministry blocked the proposed sale of military hardware to Ukraine to avoid a strain in relations with Russia – even after the country’s Defense Ministry approved the transaction – Israeli media reported. The deal with Kiev included UAVs.

Ukraine sent a delegation into Israel in order to arrange for a purchase of weapons and hardware – which reportedly included Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones – to be used against self-defense forces, Israel’s Channel Two reported.

The report revealed that the country’s Defense Ministry approved the sale of drones manufactured by Aeronautics. Later, however, the decision was blocked by the Foreign Ministry out of fear of angering Russia and provoking it to sell more weapons to Syria and Iran, which Israel views as direct threats.

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, semantics and legality:

Blinding them with science: Is development of a banned laser weapon continuing?

It is clear that lasers are being aimed at eyes in combat situations, but the militaries involved say the intent is not to blind, but to warn or protect against attack.

A 2010 article in the UK version of Wired says that laser “dazzlers” have been used by British soldiers against fighters in remote parts of Afghanistan—well away from public scrutiny. The Green Laser Optical Warner, or GLOW, is meant to temporarily stun, or “dazzle” the eye with glare. With an effective range of 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet, GLOW is intended to be used to stop suspicious characters from approaching a military checkpoint. It has been called an escalation of force option, providing an intermediate step before shooting starts. US forces used a similar device in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Green Laser Interdiction System, which has an effective range of a few kilometers at night, Laser Focus World wrote in 2012.

But something bright enough to dazzle at 300 meters can cause permanent eye damage at 50 meters, and these devices can be set to deliver a narrow (and more intense) beam. To get around the ban against blinding weapons, systems like the GLIS run off of a low-power source.

But the developers of the dazzler systems seem to be tiptoeing closer and closer to the line that defines what is a banned weapon and what is not—and their products are becoming more and more readily available. (One dazzler can be purchased for $15,999 on the Internet, although the seller notes that it is subject to government restrictions.)

From the Guardian, boots in the wings:

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

  • Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey refuse to rule out greater role for US ‘advisers’ if airstrikes

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

A day after US warplanes expanded the war south-west of Baghdad, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, preferring the term “close combat advising”.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, bombs away:

U.S. hits Islamic State south of Baghdad in first strike under new Obama orders

The United States bombed an Islamic State position southwest of Baghdad on Monday in what the U.S. Central Command said was the first airstrike undertaken under expanded rules of engagement President Barack Obama outlined in a speech last week.

The Central Command statement posted Monday night provided no details of the strike, but the area southwest of Baghdad is a Sunni Muslim stronghold where Islamic State forces have been active since June. The statement said the Islamic State forces were firing on Iraqi security forces.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president’s speech last Wednesday,” the statement said, using the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

Al Jazeera America carries a caution:

Iran warns US against using ISIL threat to push a hostile agenda

  • Analysis: Tehran has played a key role against ISIL in Iraq, but fears a Saudi effort to isolate and pressure Iran

Despite already having demonstrated its centrality to the campaign to push the Islamic State (ISIL) out of Iraq, Iran was pointedly excluded from Monday’s conference in Paris to forge a military coalition against the extremist group. And Tehran was far from happy, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashing out against the Obama administration’s new war plans.

Khamenei decried the Paris conclave as a dangerous effort by the United States and Arab countries hostile to Iran to use the challenge of ISIL as an opportunity to promote an anti-Tehran agenda in Syria and throughout the region. “Iran sees this as an effort by Saudi Arabia and its allies, and the United States, to exert leverage and pressure on Iranian interests, to degrade or weaken Iranian influence in Syria,” said Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council.

Khamenei called Secretary of State John Kerry a liar for saying in Paris that Iran had not been invited to join the coalition, listing numerous moments at which the U.S. had solicited Iranian involvement. “The West assembled a coalition of 40-50 countries against Syria and couldn’t do a damn thing,” Khamenei said, referring to Washington’s previous efforts to rally allies to oust Syria’s Assad regime, which remains a key ally of Iran.

From BuzzFeed, playing the border card:

Texas Congressman: ISIS Could Work With Drug Cartels To Get Into U.S.

  • “I mentioned several weeks ago if ISIS wants to come into the United States they’ll contact the drug cartels.”

“I asked the chief border patrol section…chief, I said, ‘Who’s coming across the border from Mexico?’” Texas Rep. Ted Poe said during an appearance on Tony Perkins’ radio program Washington Watch Monday. “And he said, ‘Since January, people from 144 countries have come across.’ He said, ‘Just before you got here three Ukrainians came across the Texas-Mexico border.’ It’s because it’s open. Wide open for anyone who wishes to cross.”

The Texas congressman also claimed ISIS could work with Mexican drug cartels to enter the United States.

“I mentioned several weeks ago if ISIS wants to come into the United States they’ll contact the drug cartels who bring people to the United States illegally and they will bring them,” he said. “The Pentagon at first said, ‘Oh, that’s not true.’ And now the Pentagon is backing off. So let’s do the obvious. Let’s protect the southern border of the U.S.”

From the Independent, another threat alleged:

Islamic State: Pope is ‘being targeted by Isis’, Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns

The Islamic State (Isis) is intent on killing the Pope, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See has warned the Vatican.

Habeeb Al-Sadr, who has been the ambassador since 2010, has advised that one of Isis’ goals is to assassinate the Pontiff and warned that the jihadists “don’t just threaten”, according to Italian newspaper La Nazione.

Mr Al-Sadr confirmed he did not have any specific intelligence on an impending attack but said that their “genocide” of Yazidi Christians and destruction of holy Islamic sites was an indication of their intent.

“What has been declared by the self-proclaimed Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope,” he told La Nazione on Tuesday, adding: “The threats against the Pope are credible.”

The Intercept debunks:

No, Snowden’s Leaks Didn’t Help The Terrorists

Did Edward Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance compromise the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist groups? Contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of the subject says no. As reported by NBC:

“.…Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups….. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.”

The report itself goes on to make the point that, “Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them.” This point would seem obvious in light of the fact that terrorist groups have been employing tactics to evade digital surveillance for years. Indeed, such concerns about their use of sophisticated encryption technology predate even 9/11. Contrary to claims that such groups have fundamentally altered their practices due to information gleaned from these revelations, the report concludes. “The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden.”

And while we’re at it, at RT story from April 05, 2014, and the links between spooks and the corporateer agenda:

US blasts Europe’s plan for anti-snooping network as ‘unfair advantage’

US officials on Friday slammed plans to construct an EU-centric communication system, designed to prevent emails and phone calls from being swept up by the NSA, warning that such a move is a violation of trade laws.

Calling Europe’s proposal to build its own integrated communication system “draconian,” the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said American tech companies, which are worth an estimated $8 trillion per year, would take a financial hit if Brussels gives the initiative the green light.

“Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a ‘Schengen cloud’ by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them,” the USTR said in its annual report.

In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing activities at the National Security Agency, which proved that much of the world’s telecommunication meta-data is being stored away in the United States, European countries – notably Germany and France – are desperate to get a handle on their own networks without relying on a meddlesome middleman.

RT again, though from today this time, beat the press:

Governments spy on journalists with weaponized malware – WikiLeaks

Journalists and dissidents are under the microscope of intelligence agencies, Wikileaks revealed in its fourth SpyFiles series. A German software company that produces computer intrusion systems has supplied many secret agencies worldwide.

The weaponized surveillance malware, popular among intelligence agencies for spying on “journalists, activists and political dissidents,” is produced by FinFisher, a German company. Until late 2013, FinFisher used to be part of the UK-based Gamma Group International, revealed WikiLeaks in the latest published batch of secret documents.

FinFisher’s spyware exploits and monitors systems remotely. It’s capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers, as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile portable devices. Three back-end programs are required for the spy program to operate. FinFisher Relay and FinSpy Proxy programs are FinFisher suite components that route and manage intercepted traffic, redirecting it to the FinSpy Master collection program. The spyware can steal keystrokes, Skype conversations, and even connect to your webcam and watch you in real time.

From Techdirt, implementation prior to evaluation:

FBI Rolls Out Biometric Database On Schedule, Accompanying Privacy Impact Assessment Still Nowhere To Be Found

  • from the move-along,-nothing-to-see-but-millions-of-faces dept

The FBI has just announced that all systems are go for its biometric database.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division announced today the achievement of full operational capability of the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System. The FBI’s NGI System was developed to expand the Bureau’s biometric identification capabilities, ultimately replacing the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) in addition to adding new services and capabilities.

This puts the agency pretty much right on schedule for its stated goal of “full operational capacity in fiscal year 2014.” As was to be expected from its earlier foot-dragging, the press release makes no note of the Privacy Impact Assessment that was supposed to precede the roll out.

The system itself has been in the works since 2008. Coincidentally, this is also the last time anyone at the FBI delivered a Privacy Impact Assessment. Since then, the database’s sweep and power has increased immensely. The PIA promised in 2012 still hasn’t been delivered and there’s no indication at the FBI’s website that one is right around the corner.

More from News Corporation Australia:

FBI’s facial recognition system will combine faces of criminals and ordinary citizens

THE FBI has launched its “next generation” facial recognition system — and the implications are terrifying.

It not only draws on a database of criminal mugshots, it searches through ordinary people too. Anyone who has ever had a background check when applying for a job could be identified in a police hunt.

And the system is hardly infallible — a search will pull up 50 faces, with only an 85 per cent likelihood that the suspect will be on list, by the FBI’s own estimation.

From Salon, endorsement:

Obama administration throws support behind body cameras for cops

  • One of the most widely supported reforms being pushed in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing gets a big endorsement

Responding to an online petition made in response to the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown that quickly racked-up more than 150,000 signatures, the Obama administration announced on Monday through a written statement from White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs Roy Austin that while it cannot force the nation’s policy to wear small cameras on their uniforms by decree, it supported the growing movement within law enforcement itself to embrace the practice, reports the Associated Press.

“We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation,” Austin wrote in response to the petition, after noting that such a law would have to come from Congress, not the White House. Austin also noted that while the White House’s support for the idea was secure, the administration was not unmindful about the policy change’s likely costs (both financial and in terms of personal privacy).

Austin announced that the Department of Justice had plans to launch a thorough evaluation of how body cameras on police uniforms were working out for those forces that had already decided to use them. According to the Associated Press, the DOJ also has a report suggesting that when cops and civilians know their interactions are being recorded, both behave more calmly and cooperatively. The footage could prove valuable for training purposes, too.

And from the Guardian, what is it about Missouri cops?:

FBI investigate Missouri police stun gun incident that left teenager injured

  • Police in Kansas City used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him in critical condition

The FBI is investigating after a police officer in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

An Independence police officer used the stun gun on Bryce Masters of Independence on Sunday afternoon after stopping a car Masters was driving because it had a warrant attached to it, police said in a statement.

The officer, identified by the police department as Tim Runnels, has been placed on administrative leave.

After the jump, Italian payoffs, a petro hack attack, Google keeps mum on its Koch Brothers ties, drone deals canceled, Obama sends subs to counter China, a Chinese crackdown justification, Private spy cams and bugs banned in China, another kind of worrisome nuclear stockpile in Japan, and the open Mideast nuclear secret. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Money, misery, fight, flight, woes


First up, a belated move from Washington via BBC News:

Obama says Ebola outbreak a ‘global security threat’

President Barack Obama has called the West Africa Ebola outbreak “a threat to global security” as he announced a larger US role in fighting the virus.

“The world is looking to the United States,” Mr Obama said, but added the outbreak required a “global response”. The measures announced included ordering 3,000 US troops to the region and building new healthcare facilities.

Ebola has killed 2,461 people this year, about half of those infected, the World Health Organization said.

More from the New York Times:

Obama Urges World Powers to Bolster Ebola Response

President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to ramp up the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging three West African countries, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers are deployed quickly, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives.

“This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Obama said at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. But “right now, the world still has the opportunity to save lives.”

He said “the world is looking” to the United States to lead the fight against Ebola. “This is a responsibility that we embrace,” he said. But he called on other nations to respond as well.

Still more from the Washington Post:

U.S. military will lead $750 million fight against Ebola in West Africa

President Obama will announce Tuesday that the U.S. military will take the lead in overseeing what has been a chaotic and widely criticized response to the worst Ebola outbreak in history, dispatching up to 3,000 military personnel to West Africa in an effort that could cost up to $750 million over the next six months, according to senior administration officials.

By the end of the week, a general sent by U.S. Africa Command will be in place in Monrovia, Liberia — the country where transmission rates are increasing exponentially — to lead the effort called Operation United Assistance. The general will head a regional command based in Liberia that will help oversee and coordinate U.S. and international relief efforts while a new, separate regional staging base will help accelerate transportation of urgently needed equipment, supplies and personnel.

In addition, the Pentagon will send engineers to set up 17 treatment centers in Liberia — each with a 100-bed capacity — as well as medical personnel to train up to 500 health-care workers a week in the region.

Here’s Obama’s statement, via PBS NewsHour:

President Obama announces plan to combat Ebola in Africa

Program notes:

President Obama spoke from the Centers for Disease Control today after a debriefing from doctors there. The President pledged support in the form of personnel, setting up an “air bridge” into regions difficult to reach, and the establishment of a mobilization center in Senegal.

From The Hill, gettin’ the word:

Obama, Ebola survivor meet in Oval Office

President Obama met in the Oval Office Tuesday with a U.S. doctor who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia, a spokesman said.

Obama met with Kent Brantly, the Ebola survivor, and his wife, Amber, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One.

The meeting occurred shortly before Obama left Washington to announce an escalated U.S. response to the virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Brantly and another American medical worker, Nancy Writebol, were successfully treated for Ebola at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both were given an experimental therapy called ZMapp and fully recovered from the virus, which kills roughly half of those who contract it.

The Christian Science Monitor asks a question:

Why is US deploying the military to fight Ebola?

On Tuesday, White House officials outlined a new plan to assign 3,000 members of the American armed forces to supply medical and logistical support to help treat Ebola epidemic victims.

Why is the Defense Department fighting the war on Ebola? The short answer is because it is the largest and most capable US organization available for emergency action, and has money to pay for the effort.

The military’s extensive airlift and health-care infrastructure can quickly plug holes in the current international fight to try and contain the Ebola outbreak. US personnel should be flowing into the area in force in about two weeks, according to the White House.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon plans to move some $500 million of unspent funds within its budget into an account to fund Ebola action. The US has already spent some $175 million and moved 100 civilian experts from the Centers for Disease Control into West Africa.

And what are those soldiers learning about the invisible enemy they’re being dispatched to fight? Here’s the answer in the from of a video just posted [we were viewer 116] by the U.S. Army Public Health Command:

EVD: Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak

Program note:

Information for service members deploying in response to the West African Ebola virus disease outbreak.

It’s concise and hits most of the key points, though we’d be a little more comfortable if they hadn’t used that gunsight graphic a bit too often. . .

From the New York Times, a price tag:

U.N. Sees Need for $1 Billion to Fight Ebola

The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa risks ballooning into a humanitarian catastrophe without a major surge in international efforts to contain it, senior United Nations officials said Tuesday, estimating the cost of this effort at $1 billion.

The number of people affected by the disease is still rising at an “almost exponential” rate, Bruce Aylward, an assistant director general of the World Health Organization, said at a news conference in Geneva. He said the number of reported cases had climbed to 4,985, including 2,461 deaths. Half of the infections and deaths occurred in the past 21 days, he said, underscoring the acceleration of the outbreak. “We don’t really know where the numbers are going with this,” Mr. Aylward said.

A road map he announced nearly three weeks ago to guide the international response had called for the capacity to manage 20,000 cases, but “that does not seem like a lot today,” he said.

“The numbers can be kept in the tens of thousands,” he said, “but that is going to require a much faster escalation of the response if we are to beat the escalation of the virus.”

Deutsche Welle admonishes:

WHO warns Ebola cases could double every three weeks

The World Health Organization has warned that the number of Ebola cases could double every three weeks, with medics stressing it could soon become too late to contain the disease

The number of Ebola cases in West Africa could begin to double every three weeks, according the UN’s official health agency, with doctors warning that the likelihood of limiting the spread of the outbreak is becoming progressively smaller.

In a report released on Tuesday, the WHO claimed $987.8 million (770 million euros) was needed to cover expenses already incurred, including the payment of health workers and the cost of supplies.

At a meeting of the UN in Geneva, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urged governments to act to halt the spread of the disease.

“The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind,” said MSF President Joanne Liu. “The window of opportunity to contain this outbreak is closing. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater deployment, and we need it now.”

The Associated Press avers:

Ban: UN ‘taking lead’ on global fight of Ebola

The head of the United Nations said Tuesday that the world body is “taking the lead now” on international efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed some 2,400 people and could spread further.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a press briefing that the U.N. General Assembly next week will follow-up with a high-level meeting — the disease, he said, taking on “a special focus” at an event that will welcome more than 140 heads of state and government. Before that, an emergency meeting will be held Thursday in which Ban and World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan plan to “outline the international action plan to contain this threat.”

The U.N.’s response so far has drawn criticism, with the president of France-based humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders on Tuesday calling it “dangerously behind.”

The World Health Organization gives thanks:

WHO welcomes Chinese contribution of mobile laboratory and health experts for Ebola response in west Africa

WHO welcomes the commitment from the Government of the People’s Republic of China to dispatch a mobile laboratory team to Sierra Leone to enhance the laboratory testing capacity for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the country.

The contribution comes in response to WHO’s appeal for further assistance to Ebola response efforts in Africa and requests by the government of Sierra Leone. In addition to laboratory experts, the 59-person team from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control will include epidemiologists, clinicians and nurses. They will support Ebola response efforts at the China-Sierra Leone Friendship Hospital, which was built in 2012 with assistance from the Chinese Government.

“The most urgent immediate need in the Ebola response is for more medical staff,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The newly announced team will join 115 Chinese medical staff on the ground in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone virtually since the beginning. This is a huge boost, morally and operationally.”

Liberian Observer offers optimism:

“We can Win This fight”, UNICEF Deputy

In support of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has opened a five-day Training of Trainers (TOT) of social workers and mental Health clinicians across Liberia.

At the opening of the workshop yesterday at the Corinna Hotel in Sinkor, the Deputy Representative, Dr. Fazlul Haque, said the training is intended to provide the relevant skills and ability to roll out the needed psychosocial services to meet the needs of the Ebola-affected  communities.

“We are fully delighted to provide support to the government of Liberia to train these social workers and mental health clinicians of various counties to ensure that we meet the necessary needs of affected communities,” Dr. Haque stated.

StarAfrica decries:

Kenya lashes out at West over slow Ebola response

Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday called for concerted efforts against Ebola, saying the global reaction to the deadly disease would not have been the same if it had happened in Europe or America.Speaking during a round table discussion panel of high level delegates comprising of Heads of States and leaders of Government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Kenyatta said time has come for African leaders to look for homegrown solutions to the continent’s problem.

He said the global response to Ebola outbreak is a wakeup call to African leaders to partner and set aside resources to tackle health challenges facing the continent.

He urged African leaders to work in solidarity in tackling various challenges facing the continent, including health and security problems.

StarAfrica again, with another number:

Kenya: $7m sets aside to ward off Ebola

Kenya’s Director of medical services, Dr. Nicholas Muraguri said on Tuesday the country has set aside $7 million as part of its contingency plan to prevent the entry of Ebola into the country, local media reported.This was revealed at the ongoing regional health minister’s conference in Nairobi seeking to address the challenges in tackling the spread of the Ebola virus in the continent.

He was quoted saying by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Television that the country remains on high alert to ensure the disease is kept at bay.

At the same the government has maintained that the ban on travelers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the epicenters of the epidemic remains in force.

From Punch Nigeria, partial border closure continues:

Kenya maintains flight ban to Ebola-hit nations

The Kenyan government will not lift a travel ban to West African countries affected by an outbreak of Ebola virus until the risk reduce to a manageable level, state officials said on Tuesday

Director of Medical Services, Nicholas Muraguri, told journalists that Kenya remains vulnerable to Ebola transmission, and hence needs to intensify surveillance at ports of entry.

“The travel ban to Ebola-hit countries is temporal and since we are not convinced the risk levels are low, the ban will stay. However, we are closely monitoring the situation,” Muraguri said in Nairobi during the regional ministerial meeting on preparedness and response to Ebola.

From the Liberian Observer, a call from Ghana:

In Order to Eradicate Ebola, Ghanaian Prexy Wants Supports Expedited

The Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, has called on international partners and friendly countries that have pledged to assist Liberia with human, financial and material resources in the fight against the dreadful Ebola virus to expedite the process.

President Mahama said though several promised donations would adequately help in combating the virus in the Mano River sub-regions, the problem is that those resources are very slow in coming and as such, there is the need for the process to be fast-tracked in order to augment the government efforts in the fight.

The ECOWAS’s Chair spoke Monday, September 15, when he paid “a solidarity visit” with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He was addressing a joint press briefing along with President Sirleaf in the Foyer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ghanaian leader revealed at the briefing that he had held talks with United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, on the issue of expediting support to the governments of Ebola affected countries if the virus is to be fought effectively and contained. President Mahama revealed that his visit is to show solidarity from the people of Ghana to Liberia as the country goes through this difficult period.

More from the Monrovia Inquirer:

Ghanaian Leader Braves Ebola Storm…Pays One-Day Visit To Liberia

In spite of fear amongst citizens of non-affected countries in the wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Ghanaian President, John D. Mahama has ended a one day visit to Liberia.   President Mahama is the first President to visit the West African country that now has the highest number of Ebola cases since the outbreak of the epidemic in Liberia in early March. The Ghanaian leader briefly met his counterpart, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before addressing a joint press conference yesterday.

President Mahama, who spent less than two hours in the country, expressed optimism that with determination, awareness, the Liberian people will be able to reciprocate. President Mahama said his visit is mainly about the observation of the guidelines by the Ministers of Health of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS).

He added, “From the onset of the outbreak of this disease, actions and measures were taken out of panic. Now that we have a clearer understanding of the disease and how it spreads and all of the ramifications; we should not panic or take measures that will isolate countries that are affected by this outbreak because by doing that will make it more difficult for the disease to be brought under control.”

A video report from FrontPageAfrica:

FPA WEB TV: Standing in Solidarity with Liberia

Program note:

Ghanaian President John Mahama, also the current ECOWAS Chairman, on a stop in Monrovia, Monday, outlines a number of measures and review mechanisms underway to end the isolation of countries hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak.

The Liberian Observer hears the shout of fire in a crowded political theater:

Ebola Fear Grips Lawmakers

The fear of the deadly Ebola virus has forced the House of Representatives to suspend its Extra Ordinary Sitting for Tuesday, September 16, 2014.

According to a statement issued from the House’s Press Bureau, leadership of the House took the decision based “on medical advice.” “The House Chambers and surrounding offices are expected to be disinfected due to a probable case of Ebola,” the statement said.

“Members and chamber staff have been asked to stay away for 48 hours after the fumigation.  “The Chief Clerk of the House, Madam Mildred Siryon, has been instructed to communicate the House’s decision to the Liberian Senate. The House took the decision after one of the Chamber’s doorkeepers, Captain James Morlu suddenly died.

From the Liberian Observer again, a call for action:

Health Advocacy Group Wants GOL Improves Its Ebola Response

The National Health Advocacy Network of Liberia (NHANL) has called on the Liberian Government to focus on improving responses on the removal and burial of bodies.

The group also urged the GOL to trace people who have made contacts with infected persons. The National Coordinator of the NHANL, Mark Marvey, spoke to newsmen Monday at his Sinkor offices.

Marvey said his organization has encouraged the government to prioritize the re-opening of health facilities in order to avoid preventable deaths and maternal mortality.

Punch Nigeria pleads:

Ebola: Jonathan begs NUT to shelve strike

President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to the Nigerian Union of Teachers to shelve its plan to embark on strike in protest against government’s directive that schools should resume on September 22.

The NUT had maintained that it would be unsafe for schools to resume on September 22 until the country was completely rid of the Ebola Virus Disease.
But President Jonathan, who spoke with state house correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday, said instead of going on strike, the NUT should commend government on its handling of the outbreak of the Ebola disease.

He said, “I will plead with NUT and other unions that this does not require industrial action. They should commend government. They worked with us, they are Nigerians; all Nigerians must work together to make sure that we contain Ebola. Why do we want to create problems while it is not necessary? It is uncalled for.”

Punch Nigeria again, covering the deplorable:

NAFDAC impounds expired hand sanitisers, Ebola kits

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, has impounded 104 brands of expired hand sanitisers and fake Ebola testing kits at various borders in the country.

The NAFDAC Director-General, Dr. Paul Orhii, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos, where importers of the fake products were paraded on Tuesday, warned that counterfeiters have flooded the Nigerian market with expired hand sanitisers and  fake Ebola testing kits

Orhii said,”So far, we have quarantined 104 brands that were illegally imported into the country without certification by NAFDAC. It is worrisome to observe that some unscrupulous businessmen have turned the country into a dumping ground by bringing in all sorts of products including expired hand sanitisers.

And for our final item, via the Liberian Observer, market mobilization:

ABIC Takes Ebola Awareness to Markets

The Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Liberia office yesterday launched a massive Ebola Awareness campaign at the Rally Time Market on UN Drive in Monrovia.

Yesterday’s activities were in collaboration with the youths and marketers, and are expected to include all markets in Monrovia as well as in the counties.

The ABIC Ebola awareness campaign was launched under the theme “Spread the Word, not the Virus.”

The center is run on the basis to unite women to lift the world with the latest intention to stop the Ebola’s denial and to join the fight against the EVD together.

InSecurityWatch: Spies, lies, pols, arms, wars


First up, via The Hill and redolent with irony:

Republicans to limit Obama’s aid to moderate Syrian rebel forces

House Republicans expect to unveil legislation Monday evening that would give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, but with some limits on that authority.

The House Armed Services Committee is drafting the bill in consultation with the administration. It is expected to take the form of an amendment to a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through Dec. 11, according to a senior committee aide.

Votes on the spending bill and the Syrian aid could come as soon as Wednesday.

From the London Daily Mail, covering a staunch ally:

Dozens of Christians ‘including women and children’ are arrested in Saudi Arabia after tip-off to state’s Islamist police force

  • 28 people were arrested at home of Indian man in the eastern city of Khafji
  • Reports claim women and children were among the congregation
  • Human rights activists have appealed to the U.S. to help secure release
  • In Saudi Arabia it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith

Islamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported.

The raid was the latest incident of a swingeing crackdown on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia by the country’s hard-line Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.

Vice News partners up:

The US and France Are Teaming Up to Fight A Sprawling War on Terror in Africa

In July of this year, France launched Operation Barkhane, an ambitious counterterrorism initiative spread across five countries in Africa’s Sahel and Sahara regions. The mission seeks to build upon the success of the French military intervention that drove al Qaeda-linked jihadi militants from northern Mali in 2013, and comes at a time when the US is expanding its own counterterrorism operations on the continent, setting the stage for what some analysts consider a burgeoning Franco-American alliance in Africa.

“This is a new chapter in French-American relations,” Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst who is now a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, told VICE News. “There is an unprecedented level of cooperation going on.”

In an August 11 memo to US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama, citing an “unforeseen emergency,” authorized the transfer of up to $10 million “to assist France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremism.” The move hints at a division of labor in which the US foots the bill for a cash-strapped French military that is both logistically and politically better placed than the US to engage in combat operations in the Sahel.

Al-Akhbar English raises a very interesting question:

The mysterious link between the US military prison Camp Bucca and ISIS leaders

Beyond conspiracy theories – which are often justified in an era where everything appears as though it is part of a plan or a scheme – we have the right to ask why the majority of the leaders of the Islamic State (IS), formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had all been incarcerated in the same prison at Camp Bucca, which was run by the US occupation forces near Omm Qasr in southeastern Iraq.

In the context of conspiracy theories, there are a lot of rumors about links between IS and the US intelligence or affiliated organizations. But to what extent are these theories credible? Is there evidence that corroborate them?

These questions seem legitimate, provided that ready-made answers are not accepted without convincing evidence. However, it is difficult to get this kind of evidence, and we might need another Edward Snowden or WikiLeaks to learn the real truth about the relationship between IS and US intelligence.

From Techdirt, but of course:

CIA’s John Brennan Refuses To Tell Senate Who Okayed Spying On The Senate

  • from the constitutional-crisis dept

As you may recall, over the past few months, there’s been a rather big story brewing, concerning how the CIA spied on Senate staffers. Specifically, after having explicitly promised not to do so, the CIA snooped on a private network of Senate staffers who were putting together the giant $40 million report on the CIA’s torture program. The CIA tried to spin the story, claiming that they only spied on that network after realizing that those staffers had a document that the CIA thought it had not handed over to the staffers (they had), believing that perhaps there had been a security breach. However, when read carefully, the CIA’s spin actually confirmed the original story: the CIA, against basically all of its mandates and the basic concept of the Constitutional separation of powers, had spied on the Senate. While both the Senate and the CIA asked the DOJ to investigate, eventually the DOJ said the matter was closed and there would be no prosecutions.

At the end of July, the CIA finally came out and admitted that it had spied on the Senate, and effectively admitted that CIA boss John Brennan had flat out lied about it back in March. The CIA’s inspector general then revealed that the spying went even further than people had originally believed. This raised even more questions, but with Brennan “apologizing” and Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that she was satisfied with the apology, it seemed like this unfortunate incident may have been over and done with.

Apparently not. Last week, in the latest meeting concerning the torture report redactions, apparently some Senators asked Brennan to reveal who authorized the spying on the Senate staffers, and Brennan refused to tell them, leading to a bunch of very angry Senators — which may create some further issues, given that the Senators are supposed to oversee the CIA.

From Edward Snowden in the Intercept:

Snowden: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Isn’t Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance

Like many nations around the world, New Zealand over the last year has engaged in a serious and intense debate about government surveillance. The nation’s prime minister, John Key of the National Party, has denied that New Zealand’s spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. This week, as a national election approaches, Key repeated those denials in anticipation of a report in The Intercept today exposing the Key government’s actions in implementing a system to record citizens’ metadata.

Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance.

The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.

The Intercept again, this time with Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher:

New Zealand Launched Mass Surveillance Project While Publicly Denying It

The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted.

Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key, who said the law was merely designed to fix “an ambiguous legal framework” by expressly allowing the agency to do what it had done for years, that it “isn’t and will never be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” and the law “isn’t a revolution in the way New Zealand conducts its intelligence operations.”

Snowden, in a post for The Intercept published today, accused Prime Minster Key of fundamentally misleading the public about GCSB’s role in mass surveillance. “The Prime Minister’s claim to the public, that ‘there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance’, is false,” the former NSA analyst wrote. “The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.”

And last chronologically, from Ryan Gallagher in the Intercept:

The Questions for New Zealand on Mass Surveillance

In response to our story, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (pictured above) has said that the Speargun project was not finalized. What he claims is that the project was instead eventually replaced by a narrower initiative. In a radio interview on Monday morning, Key described this as a toned down version of what he called “mass cyber protection.” What’s now in place, he said, is a “bespoke functionality which an individual company or agency could deploy,” apparently to mitigate cyber attacks.

In a bid to prove this, Key declassified documents later on Monday (after we published our story) that outlined a project called Cortex. Key seemed to think — or perhaps hope — that these documents would kill off any concerns and put the controversy to a swift end. But they fail to address a number of crucial issues — critics have already dismissed them as a “red herring” — and in fact only seem to cloud matters further.

First of all, the Cortex documents contradict what Key said on the radio show, because they state that under Cortex GCSB “is not proposing to procure or develop bespoke systems” and that “all of the technology has been in use for some time.” Again, Key had described the system as a “bespoke functionality” and suggested the technology had been newly introduced.

The Cortex files show that the government signed off on a new “proactive” cybersecurity effort aimed helping government agencies and other organizations detect malware attacks. But what Key has not mentioned in any of his interviews is that the monitoring that was enabled by this system also, by design, has to filter through private communications to identify malware in the first place. The documents Key declassified clearly state that under Cortex “technology can be used to separate personal communications from other data, so that privacy issues associated with GCSB activities to be proportionate to cyber threats.” (Emphasis added.) In the United States, the cybersecurity bill CISPA was opposed by privacy advocates and eventually killed because of widespread concerns associated with the type of activity Cortex appears to enable.

Consequences from the Christian Science Monitor:

New Zealand spying row: Snowden as election wildcard?

  • The former NSA contractor serves up timely allegations ahead of New Zealand’s elections on Sept. 20, potentially undermining incumbent Prime Minister John Key

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden today accused the New Zealand government of spying on its citizens, just days before the country goes to the polls in national elections.

“If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Intercept, an online news site run by journalist Glenn Greenwald. In it, he said that he regularly saw data from New Zealand when he was working for the NSA.

His allegation threatens to upend what has so far been a predictable campaign – a poll three days ago showed Prime Minister John Key as the choice of 61.6 percent of voters, compared to 17.9 percent for his closest challenger, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Reuters provides cover:

Swiss say would shield Snowden from ‘political’ extradition to U.S.

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden could be granted safe passage in Switzerland if he helped a potential criminal inquiry into U.S. spying there, the Swiss public prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

He would probably not be extradited to the United States if Washington asked, but it was also unlikely that he would be granted political asylum, according to a document laying out Switzerland’s legal options if Snowden were to visit.

The prosecutor’s office, which provided the document to Reuters, stressed the issue was “purely hypothetical” because Snowden had not been invited to come from his current refuge in Russia. It had no further comment.

From Common Dreams, that’s why it’s called CONgress:

‘More Harm Than Good’: Congressional NSA Reforms a Sham, say Critics

  • Intelligence community whistleblowers and civil liberties groups call on Congressmen to reject ‘gutted’ USA Freedom Act

The current “gutted” version of the U.S.A. Freedom Act (S. 2685) will only serve to legalize government’s currently illegal surveillance of innocent civilians, charged a coalition of whistleblowers and civil liberties organizations in a letter published Monday calling on members of Congress to reject the empty reform.

“Governmental security agencies’ zeal for collecting Americans’ personal information without regard for cost, efficacy, legality, or public support necessitates that Congress act to protect the rights of residents across the United States and around the globe,” writes the group under the banner of the OffNow campaign. The letter is signed by a number of intelligence community whistleblowers, including Thomas Drake and Daniel Ellsburg, as well as over 15 publications and organizations, such as RootsAction.org, CREDO Action, Fight for the Future, Restore the Fourth and the Sunlight Foundation.

The U.S.A. Freedom Act, they charge, “is not the substantive reform originally envisioned and supported by the public” after it was introduced to both houses by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in October 2013. In late May, H.R 3361 passed the House of Representatives—after being heavily marked up by the House Judiciary subcommittee—and moved on to the Senate where it has languished in the Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

TheLocal.at ramps up:

Austria boosts anti-terrorism measures

The Austrian government plans to step up its fight against Islamic terrorist organizations such as Isis, by extending laws against sedition.

These laws will only be applied if ten or fewer persons are involved. Dual citizens will lose their Austrian passport, should they engage in combat.

At a joint press conference on Monday morning, Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter – all members of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) – also announced that the Badges Act would be toughened. Insignias of organizations such as Al Qaeda and Isis cannot be publicly displayed.

From the Guardian, raising a spooky challenge:

EU court to investigate laws allowing GCHQ to snoop on journalists

  • Bureau of Investigative Journalism files application with European court of human rights over protection of sources

The European court of human rights (ECHR) is to investigate British laws that allow GCHQ and police to secretly snoop on journalists.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has gone straight to Strasbourg in a bid to get a finding that domestic law is incompatible with provisions in European law which give journalists the right to keep sources confidential from police and others.

Its application was filed on Friday and has been accepted by the ECHR, which has indicated in the past it will expedite cases on surveillance through its legal system.

The move follows concerns arising out of Edward Snowden’s revelations last year that GCHQ had been secretly gathering intelligence from the country’s largest telecoms companies using a secret computer system code-named Tempora without the knowledge of the companies.

United Press International beefs up the BMOC, with M as in Militarization:

Campus police acquiring surplus military gear

The militarization of police extends to college campuses, as campus police forces acquire surplus armored vehicles, assault rifles and other equipment from the Pentagon.

Amid national debate about militarized police forces, highlighted by police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, a Freedom of Information Act request reveals colleges and universities around the country are using the Pentagon’s 1033 program to outfit campus police with surplus military equipment, including body armor, armored vehicles, and assault rifles.

Supporters argue the gear is needed to respond to school shootings and other “special situations,” while detractors claim college campuses are no place for military-grade weaponry.

A report in the Indianapolis Star found community and campus police in Indiana acquired more than 4,400 items — including Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles, Humvees, M-14 and M-16 rifles — through the Pentagon program, which supplies surplus defense equipment to local law enforcement, requiring them to pay only the cost of shipping.

Nextgov activates the panopticon:

FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology Goes Live

The FBI’s futuristic identification powers are ready for prime time.

The Next Generation Identification System, a controversial biometric database that relies heavily on facial-recognition technology, is now fully operational, the agency announced Monday.

The program is designed to help law-enforcement officials identify criminal suspects, but it has endured repeated scrutiny from civil-liberties groups that say the database will endanger the privacy of everyday citizens guilty of no wrongdoing.

After the jump, yet another iPhone security flaw, corporatizing your heirs, a Peruvian security murder charge, Austrian online spying, internal turmoil and a military win in Pakistan, major moves in India’s Game of Zones, an Indonesian security ramp-up, Malaysia and China add arms, North Korean sub uncertainty, and Google’s com drones plan. . . Continue reading