Lots of ground to cover and the hour’s growing late, so on with the show, starfing with the latest from the Asian wild card via SINA English:
North Korea threatens nuclear strike on White House
A top-ranking North Korean military official has threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The threat came from Hwang Pyong-So, director of the military’s General Political Bureau, during a speech to a large military rally in Pyongyang on Sunday on the anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Hwang, who holds the rank of vice marshal in the Korean People’s Army, said a recent series of South Korea-US military drills, one of which included the deployment of a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, had ramped up tensions.
Heading to the other wise of the Pacific and the not-so-surprising but tragic, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
Obama’s crackdown on leakers damages constitutional protections, activists say
Recent revelations of the U.S. government’s pervasive surveillance program and its crackdown on leaks are making it increasingly difficult for American journalists and lawyers to do their jobs, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released Monday.
It’s becoming impossible to ensure privacy for sources and clients by protecting their information, the report found. Government officials not only are substantially less willing to be in contact with journalists than they were a few years ago, but they also are even refusing to discuss unclassified matters or personal opinions.
“They are afraid of losing their security clearances, being fired or even being prosecuted,” Alex Sinha, the author of the report and a fellow at Human Rights Watch, said in a news conference at the National Press Club.
More from Common Dreams:
Government Surveillance Threatens Journalism, Law and Thus Democracy: Report
- Interviews with dozens of leading journalists and attorneys found that U.S. government overreach is eroding critically important freedoms
The impunity with which the American government spies on journalists and attorneys is undermining the American people’s ability to hold their leaders accountable, thus threatening the core of our democracy, charged a joint report published Monday by two leading rights organizations.
The report—With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy, published by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch—draws from extensive interviews with dozens of top journalists, lawyers and senior government officials. What the authors found is that recent revelations of widespread government surveillance have forced many professionals to alter or abandon work related to “matters of great public concern.”
According to the report, “Surveillance has magnified existing concerns among journalists and their sources over the administration’s crackdown on leaks.” With increasing prosecution of whistleblowers, restrictions on communication between intelligence officials and the media, and snitch programs for federal workers, journalists say that their sources have become “increasingly scared to talk about anything.”
On a related note, there’s this from MintPress News:
You’ve Got Mail: Judge Grants Feds Unrestricted Access To Gmail Account
In giving law enforcement unfettered access to search for “some needles” in one individual’s “computer haystack,” a judge fans the flames of the data debate.
Privacy advocates were dealt a major blow on July 18, when a federal judge in New York ruled that law enforcement has the legal authority to search the entire email account of an unnamed individual who police believe was involved in a money laundering scheme.
Google is now legally required to hand over the entire contents of the unnamed individual’s Gmail account — including all emails sent, received and drafted, all contacts, and other information — to federal prosecutors.
In his 23-page ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein wrote that email accounts should be treated like hard drives when it comes to search and seizure principles. In other words, Gorenstein believes law enforcement should be able to go through an individual’s entire email account if prosecutors can demonstrate probable cause showing a “sufficient chance of finding some needles in the computer haystack.”
Next up, the latest on the iSpy — er, iPhone, via PandoDaily:
Apple hit with class action suit for spying on iPhone users
Apple has been hit with a class action suit on behalf of 100 million iPhone users who, allegedly, are being spied on by the phone’s location tracking tools.
According to the suit, filed in Federal Court in San Jose by lead plaintiff Chen Ma…
In or around September 2012, Apple released iPhone 4 which contains an iOS operating system software that enables iPhone 4 to track its users’ whereabouts down to every minute, record the duration that users stay at any given geographical point, and periodically transmit these data stored on the users’ devices to Apple’s data base for future references.
…Plaintiff alleges that while using her iPhones, including her current iPone [sic] 5S, she was not given notice that her daily whereabouts would be tracked, recorded, and transmitted to Apple database to be stored for future reference. She was not asked for and thus has not given her consent, approval and permission nor was she even made aware that her detailed daily whereabouts would be tracked, recorded and transmitted to Apple database.
Want China Times adds insult to injury:
Apple admits iPhone security flaw
Consumer electronics giant Apple has admitted for the first time that company employees can circumvent backup encryption to extract personal data including text messages, contact lists and photos from user iPhones, according to a report from Reuters.
Tech researcher Jonathan Zdziarskiv said at a conference presentation last week that because Apple is collecting a lot more data as part of its diagnostic services than necessary, the company’s staff, law enforcement agencies or anyone else with access to “trusted” computers to which Apple devices have been connected can use the same methods to gain access to this highly personal data.
The problem is compounded by the fact that Apple users are not notified that the services are running, meaning there is no way they can know what computers have been granted trusted status. They also cannot disable the service by “unpairing” a device from a computer unless the phone is formatted, Zdziarski said.
From CNN, making out like bandits:
Pentagon security clearance holders owe $730M in taxes
About 83,000 Defense Department employees and contractors with security clearances to protect the nation’s secrets have delinquent federal tax debts totaling $730 million, according to an internal government audit.
The findings in the new Government Accountability Office study raise security concerns for the U.S. government. Officials say employees and contractors who have financial problems are top targets of foreign intelligence agents.
Federal regulations governing security clearances say that a person “who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds” and that indebtedness should be among factors considered when someone applies for a clearance, the GAO study said. But the study found that government agencies in charge of the issue can’t readily collect data on tax debt, in part because IRS privacy rules prohibit sharing certain taxpayer data.
And from intelNews, a blast from the past that fortunately fizzled:
FBI searched for Soviet atom bombs in 1950s’ New York, files show
American authorities suspected that Soviet intelligence had smuggled atom bombs in New York City and that Moscow was planning to detonate them “at an expedient time”, according to declassified documents. The revelation comes from a set of internal FBI files, which were declassified and released in redacted form in 2010.
Copies of the documents, which date from the early 1950s, were posted (.pdf) on The Government Attic, a website specializing in publishing US government files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents were then noticed last week by The Village Voice’s Anna Merlan. The file, titled “Atomic Bomb in Unknown Consulate, New York City”, is nearly 80 pages-long. It indicates that the search for a supposed Soviet atomic weapon in New York began shortly after the summer of 1950, when the FBI received a tip from a source in Brazil. The source reportedly told the Bureau that Soviet operatives had “placed an atom bomb in a consulate [...] in New York City to be detonated at such time as the Soviets consider expedient”.
The problem was that the FBI was not aware of the identity of the consulate, which was presumed to belong to the USSR or to a country politically aligned with it. The Bureau thus actively engaged in searching for the bomb during the years of 1951 and 1952.
Off to Europe and a more contemporary blast [of sorts] from TheLocal.no:
Swedish terror expert slams Norway terror alert
A Swedish terrorism researcher has blasted Norway’s handling of its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a “total intelligence failure”.
Sweden has started analysing Norway’s reaction to its recent threat.
“It created unnecessary anxiety in Norway,” Magnus Ranstorp, terrorist expert at the Swedish National Defence College, told The Local.
Norway has been on high-powered, ultra-defensive tip-toe for the past few days, since its intelligence service (PST) said last Thursday that it suspected an “imminent” terror attack.
And from TheLocal.se, a pullback:
Norway set to reduce terror alert
Norway’s terror alert level will be reduced from Tuesday, but security will still be somewhat tighter than normal, police chiefs said on Monday.
Police director Odd Reidar Humlegård informed at a press conference on Monday afternoon in Oslo that all police forces have received a directive to lower security across Norway.
Humlegård said: “The police are still going to be armed, but we are to start preparing for a reduction of visible presence.”
He announced a gradual reduction and change of measures, now more focused towards intelligence and analysis. Humlegård said that the increased security alert level has already come at the cost of several tens of millions of kroner of police resources.
The Guardian covers a setback for Washington:
Venezuelan government joy as Aruba frees former military intelligence head
- President Maduro’s supporters jubilant after Hugo Carvajal is released instead of facing extradition to the US
Venezuela’s former military intelligence head Hugo Carvajal, wanted by the United States over drug accusations and arrested four days ago on the Caribbean island of Aruba, was released on Sunday.
Instead of being extradited to the US, the retired general flew home after the Netherlands government ruled he had diplomatic immunity, his lawyer and Venezuelan officials said.
Jubilant Venezuelan officials at a congress of the ruling Socialist Party celebrated the release as a “victory” over their ideological foes in Washington who wanted to extradite him.
And from the Independent, playing by the rules of a familiar game:
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- The slickness of Israel’s spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by the pollster Frank Luntz
Israeli spokesmen have their work cut out explaining how they have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, compared with just three civilians killed in Israel by Hamas rocket and mortar fire. But on television and radio and in newspapers, Israeli government spokesmen such as Mark Regev appear slicker and less aggressive than their predecessors, who were often visibly indifferent to how many Palestinians were killed.
There is a reason for this enhancement of the PR skills of Israeli spokesmen. Going by what they say, the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those “who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel”.
Every one of the 112 pages in the booklet is marked “not for distribution or publication” and it is easy to see why. The Luntz report, officially entitled “The Israel project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary, was leaked almost immediately to Newsweek Online, but its true importance has seldom been appreciated. It should be required reading for everybody, especially journalists, interested in any aspect of Israeli policy because of its “dos and don’ts” for Israeli spokesmen.
Off to Asia and the latest on the Game of Zones, starting with a headline from Kyodo News:
Japan announces additional sanctions on Russia over Ukraine
Japan will impose additional sanctions on Russia for failing to defuse the crisis in Ukraine, where the recent downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet killed all 298 people aboard, the government said Monday.
Assets held in Japan by individuals or groups directly involved in Russia’s annexation of Crimea or the instability in eastern Ukraine will be frozen, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a daily press briefing.
Japan will also follow the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s recent decision to freeze funding for new projects in Russia, and limit imports of Crimea-made products, Suga said.
But the McClatchy Washington Bureau makes an interesting point:
U.S. sales to Russia have only risen since sanctions imposed
In the months since the United States imposed sanctions on Russian businesses and close associates of President Vladimir Putin’s, an odd thing has happened: U.S. exports to Russia have risen.
U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade data show that exports rose 17 percent from March through May _ the most recent months for which the data is available _ compared with the previous three months, before sanctions were imposed. The value of exports has risen in each consecutive month this year, an unusual trend in a trade relationship that historically fluctuates on a monthly basis.
Russian markets account for less than 1 percent of U.S. exports, but what the U.S. sells to Russia is largely high-tech and expensive goods, including technology and equipment for the energy sector, which faces the threat of targeted sanctions.
Meanwhile, Japan makes a push ion a new venue. From Nikkei Asian Review:
Japan moves to counter China, Russia influence in Caribbean
Japan’s prime minister met here Monday with leaders and top officials representing 14 Caribbean nations, in a bid to shore up ties in a region where Russia and China have recently made robust overtures of their own.
Attending a summit of the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, Shinzo Abe pledged continued economic assistance and sought support for Japan’s bid for a nonpermanent seat in the United Nations Security Council election next year.
As an ally of the U.S., Japan also aims to counter recent moves by China and Russia to strengthen their influence in what is effectively “America’s backyard.”
And from Xinhua, another blast from the past:
Japanese war criminal confession reveals persecution of Chinese
A written confession by Japanese war criminal Ryusuke Sako made public on Sunday revealed the persecution of thousands of Chinese including underground anti-Japanese operators during World War II.
The document is the latest in a series published on the website of China’s State Archives Administration (SAA) following denials of war crimes by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese right-wing politicians.
According to Sako’s confession, before his capture in August 1945, he served as section chief of Inspection Department of the Railway Security Police Forces of the “Manchukuo” puppet state and major general and brigade commander of Railway Security Forces in Jilin and Mudanjiang.
And for our final item, Frontera NorteSur covers a travesty of justice:
Massive Rights Violations Charged at New Mexico Detention Facility
After touring a New Mexico detention facility housing Central American refugees, immigrant advocates and lawyers have charged the Obama Administration with violating due process rights.
In a July 24 telephonic press conference hosted by the National Immigration Law Center, representatives of an advocates’ group that were allowed to conduct a short visit July 22 of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLTEC) in Artesia, New Mexico, where hundreds of Central American women and children are being held, detailed a laundry list of grievances.
In comments to reporters, advocates said women and children were held in crowded conditions; not adequately informed of their due process rights or given timely access to legal counsel, as per U.S. refugee law; hustled through deportation proceedings; and forced to read complex forms in English. Additionally, serious concerns were raised about the physical and emotional health of children and their mothers.