Today’s tales of from the dark side covers everything from political deception to the latest heated developments in the Asian Game of Zones as Washington pushes Japan into remilitarization and anxieties and violence rise.
But we begin at home with that political decepetion, covered by the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
Bill to curb NSA spying looks like change, but isn’t really
The bipartisan bill that aims to put serious curbs on the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ communications is being hailed by Republicans and Democrats as a big breakthrough.
“The bottom line: This is largely faux reform and a surveillance salve,” said Thomas Drake, a former NSA senior official turned whistle-blower who’s critical of the agency’s collection programs. “To date, neither the House nor Senate attempts go far enough.”
Another angle, covered by the Guardian:
Everyone should know just how much the government lied to defend the NSA
- A web of deception has finally been untangled: the Justice Department got the US supreme court to dismiss a case that could have curtailed the NSA’s dragnet. Why?
If you blinked this week, you might have missed the news: two Senators accused the Justice Department of lying about NSA warrantless surveillance to the US supreme court last year, and those falsehoods all but ensured that mass spying on Americans would continue. But hardly anyone seems to care – least of all those who lied and who should have already come forward with the truth.
Here’s what happened: just before Edward Snowden became a household name, the ACLU argued before the supreme court that the Fisa Amendments Act – one of the two main laws used by the NSA to conduct mass surveillance – was unconstitutional.
In a sharply divided opinion, the supreme court ruled, 5-4, that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs didn’t have “standing” – in other words, that the ACLU couldn’t prove with near-certainty that their clients, which included journalists and human rights advocates, were targets of surveillance, so they couldn’t challenge the law. As the New York Times noted this week, the court relied on two claims by the Justice Department to support their ruling: 1) that the NSA would only get the content of Americans’ communications without a warrant when they are targeting a foreigner abroad for surveillance, and 2) that the Justice Department would notify criminal defendants who have been spied on under the Fisa Amendments Act, so there exists some way to challenge the law in court.
From Süddeutsche Zeitung, a show of resistance from Berlin:
Germany Plans To Ban Tech Companies That Play Ball With NSA
It didn’t take an Edward Snowden to figure out that American espionage service providers had access to confidential information about German citizens. It’s been known for years that the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) works for American secret services.
It’s also known that a former CSC subsidiary was involved in the abduction of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was turned over to the CIA and subjected to abuse and degradation before the agency finally admitted his arrest and torture were a mistake.
Nevertheless, German CSC subsidiaries have in past years received more than 100 contracts from state and federal governments in Germany, as Süddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcaster NDR reported last fall. The operative rule at the time was that only companies that were found guilty of crimes could be excluded from public contracts. So far, no CSC employee has been prosecuted for the abduction of el-Masri. Per se, working for the U.S. intel agencies is not punishable. So Germany’s federal government tied its own hands over the issue.
Turning the panopticon into art, via the Guardian:
Conversnitch turns covert surveillance into an art form
Somewhere in Manhattan, a lightbulb, a Raspberry Pi and a Wi-Fi card are listening in on idle chat and tweeting what they hear
In the pre-Snowden era, believing that a household object was speaking to you was enough to have you committed to correctional facilities for state-sponsored reprogramming.
In his new book, Nowhere to Hide, the journalist Glenn Greenwald explains how he and the NSA contractor turned whistleblower put their phones in a freezer with the batteries disconnected to thwart spooks’ ability to operate phones remotely as microphones. But what would happen if the fridge itself was listening to your words?
Two American artists are now taking that concept to a logical conclusion. Using only a credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer, a microphone and a Wi-Fi card hacked into a lightbulb fitting, and a piece of open source software hosted at Github, they have installed a listening device at an undisclosed spot in Manhattan, New York, and connected it to a Twitter feed.
RT covers the hackable:
Tor-provided web anonymity not PRISM-proof – Microsoft security guru
The Tor anonymity network cannot provide internet users shelter from government hackers and cyber criminals, a top Microsoft security expert has revealed.
“There is no such thing as really being anonymous on the internet. If [hackers and government agencies] want you, they will get you,” Andy Malone, of Microsoft Enterprise Security and founder of the Cyber Crime Security Forum, said at the Microsoft TechEd North America 2014.
While The Onion Router (Tor) remains more resilient than alternatives such as virtual private networks, cyber criminals are able to exploit weaknesses in the system.
From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, to tell the truth:
Spy satellite agency says it fixed its ‘broken’ polygraph program
The nation’s spy satellite agency has announced it overhauled its lie detector program after its inspector general found “significant shortcomings” that could put national security at risk.
The National Reconnaissance Office’s inspector general found the problems were so widespread that one senior official described the agency’s polygraph program as “terribly broken.”
“This official added that the current status of the NRO polygraph program is ‘bleak,’” the inspector general report said.
The Guardian covers a Russian cutoff:
Russia halts rocket exports to US, hitting space and military programmes
- Russia announces decision to halt export of crucial rocket engines in response to US sanctions over annexation of Crimea
Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, has announced it will halt the export of rocket engines crucial to the US military defence and space programmes.
The move marks a serious deterioration in US-Russian cooperation in space, which for two decades had remained largely above Earthly politics. It could prove a serious set back for the ailing US space programme.
The Russian RD-180 engine has been in production since 1999. The US has imported more than forty of them to power its Atlas V rockets into space.
From RT, an added twist to the already controversial:
GMO producers should be punished as terrorists, Russian MPs say
A draft law submitted to the Russian parliament seeks to impose punishment up to criminal prosecution to producers of genetically-modified organisms harmful to health or the environment.
The draft legislation submitted on Wednesday amends Russia’s law regulating GMOs and some other laws and provides for disciplinary action against individuals and firms, which produce or distribute harmful biotech products and government officials who fail to properly control them.
At worst, a criminal case may be launched against a company involved in introducing unsafe GMOs into Russia. Sponsors of the bill say that the punishment for such deeds should be comparable to the punishment allotted to terrorists, if the perpetrators act knowingly and hurt many people.
IDG News Service covers corporate snoopage:
Online advertising poses significant security, privacy risks to users, US Senate report says
- The online ad industry should offer better protections against ‘malvertising,’ a US Senate investigation found
The current state of online advertising endangers the security and privacy of users and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission should force the industry to offer better protections through comprehensive regulation, the U.S. Senate said in a report.
The report includes findings and recommendations of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs following an investigation into the distribution of malware through online ads — also known as “malvertising.” It was followed by a hearing Thursday that included testimony from Yahoo and Google about their efforts to combat such threats.
“Consumers can incur malware attacks [through online ads] without having taken any action other than visiting a mainstream website,” the subcommittee said, referencing two attacks that involved malicious ads distributed through Yahoo and Google ad networks.
Criminalization in the corporate interest from the Guardian [and can the “terrorism” label be far behind?]:
Sussex police under fire for ‘criminalising’ fracking protests
- Force accused of misusing section 14 orders last year with just 29 convictions resulting from 126 arrests at Cuadrilla site
Most of the people arrested during a summer of demonstrations against fracking in the village of Balcombe have been acquitted, leading to accusations that police tactics in a £4m operation criminalised peaceful protest.
The last of the criminal trials resulting from 126 arrests made by Sussex police during days of action outside the Cuadrilla site last summer finished this month. Of 114 charges, relating to 90 individuals, only 29 resulted in convictions, according to freedom of information responses from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police.
Sussex police are accused of using mass arrests, draconian bail conditions and section 14 notices under the Public Order Act 1986 to criminalise peaceful protest at the site in Balcombe, where the energy firm Cuadrilla conducted exploratory drilling.
And an appealing possibility from the Guardian:
David Miranda allowed to appeal against ruling on Heathrow detention
- Partner of former Guardian reporter to challenge high court ruling on legality of his detention under counter-terrorism powers
David Miranda, partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, has been granted permission to appeal against a ruling that he was lawfully detained under counter-terrorism powers at Heathrow airport.
The case – which also involves a challenge to the police seizure of computer material related to the US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden – will now go to the court of appeal.
In February, three high court judges – Lord Justice Laws, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Openshaw – concluded that Miranda’s detention at Heathrow under schedule 7 to the Terrorism 2000 Act in last summer was legal, proportionate and did not breach European human rights protections of freedom of expression.
From the Guardian, grounds for domestic insecurity:
Albuquerque police promote officer accused of burning off man’s ear
- Timothy Gonterman promoted despite report that was severely critical of Albuquerque police’s use of excessive force
Albuquerque police promoted a commander who was accused in a lawsuit of burning off part a homeless man’s ear with a stun gun, officials announced Thursday.
Albuquerque police department chief Gorden Eden said in a statement he was promoting two Albuquerque commanders to the newly created rank of major in response to a harsh US Justice Department report that was critical of Albuquerque police’s use of excessive force and demanded the agency adopt a number of reforms.
Foothills area commander Timothy Gonterman and criminal investigations commander Anthony Montano will now oversee the East and West Side field services divisions respectively, Eden said.
intelNews.org turns a blind eye:
US Secretary of Defense ‘not aware’ of Israel spying on America
The supreme official of the United States Department of Defense has said he is “unaware of the facts” behind recent media reports that Israel is aggressively spying on America.
Chuck Hagel, a former Republican Senator who assumed the leadership of the Pentagon in 2013, is on a three-day official visit to Israel, where he is scheduled to hold meetings with Israeli military and security officials.
He was responding to a question posed by an Israeli reporter about allegations, made by American newsmagazine Newsweek on Tuesday, that Israel’s spies “have gone too far” in targeting American interests. In
From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, prodding the bear:
Ukraine crisis may lead to Western military bases closer to Russia
When Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and other NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels in early June, their summit will be dominated by questions that would have seemed surreal just a few months ago.
How should Western leaders respond to military aggression by Moscow in Ukraine?
With defense budgets flat or declining in most of NATO’s 28 member countries and U.S. forces in Europe at their lowest levels in decades, is the trans-Atlantic alliance adequately prepared to defend its vast territory?
In the most extreme scenario, are the United States and its European allies strong enough to go to war against Russia?
Military dream come true: One system, many drones
One of the strongest wishes of America’s increasingly digital defense industry is to find a way to monitor or control several pieces of equipment on a single operating system. This is especially true in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), where too often, each manufacturer creates a unique platform for its drone, and customers who buy several different kinds of drones cannot easily coordinate operation between them.
Now, buyers of a version of one of the most prolific UAVs on the market will soon be able to buy an operating system that can work with other drones. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has been given permission by the Defense Department to sell unarmed versions of its famed Predator, called the Predator XP, to international customers in places like the Middle East, or friendly allies bordering the Ukraine and Russia, like Poland.
As for Skynet, consider a clip from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines:
Skynet takes over
But it’s not just drones, as another CNBC story reports:
Defense tech in 2039: The robots are coming
In 25 years, the U.S. military will operate under the principle of “less is more.”
Less manpower. More robots.
Robots on the battlefield of the future will carry a heavier load, both literally and figuratively. They will operate with more freedom and begin to think for themselves. They will be armed and take on more tasks.
“I think you’ll see many of the high-risk missions done by autonomous platforms,” said Tim Trainer, vice president of product management for defense and security at iRobot.
IRobot is perhaps best known for its Roomba vacuum, but it has a growing arsenal of defense and security robots—everything from a five-pound robot that can be easily tossed and even dropped on its head, to a 500-pound robot that can lift close to its own weight. A trainer demonstrated some of the robots at the company headquarters in Bedford, Mass., and he sees a future where one person can control multiple machines operating on a single software system without having to constantly monitor them.
With so many American drones striking at with Pakistan’s borders, Defense One joins the club:
Pakistan Wants Drones and It Doesn’t Need America’s Permission to Get Them
one breath to the next, Pakistani officials make the case for and against drone strikes. Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development, for instance, calls American drone operations “very counterproductive.” He says, “If they hit one target, they also bring collateral damage…. The whole tribe stands up, we get into more problems, and the U.S. gets bad publicity.”
But, Iqbal offers, Pakistan “should have the technology to do it.
Already, Pakistan has remote-piloted aircraft. Islamabad uses surveillance drones to provide the military with a real-time picture of its restive border areas or counterterrorism operations. Pakistan unveiled two new drones in November: Burraq, named after the winged horse from the heavens that transported Islamic prophets, and Shahpar. They were developed by Pakistan’s defense industry, the government said, and would not be armed.
From BBC News, an underwater drone tanks:
Malaysia flight MH370: Defective drone delays search
The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane has been delayed after the discovery of a technical issue with the underwater drone used in the hunt.
The communications equipment on the Bluefin-21, on loan from the US, has a “defect”, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said.
It is now awaiting spare parts from the UK before it can continue its search in the southern Indian Ocean.
Nextgov catches a virus:
Heartbleed Superbug Found in Utility Monitoring Systems
Software that monitors utility plants and other operations at several military installations has been found to be affected by the recently discovered superbug Heartbleed, when configured a certain way, according to the Homeland Security Department and the software’s manufacturer.
“The latest release of Schneider Electric Wonderware Intelligence Version 1.5 SP1 is not susceptible to the OpenSSL vulnerability. However, users have been known to reinstall Tableau Server, the vulnerable third-party component that is affected. Therefore, Schneider Electric Wonderware has issued a patch and a security bulletin addressing this vulnerability in all versions,” states a bulletin from the DHS Cyber Emergency Response Team.
Exploits made by hackers “that target this vulnerability are known to be publicly available” on the Web, DHS said. Heartbleed is a defect in common Web encryption software that researchers discovered in early April.
From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, considerations of privacy:
Sector-specific guidelines to offer clarity on personal data matters
SINGAPORE: The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) will be releasing advisory guidelines for the education, social services and healthcare sectors to provide greater clarity on the sectors’ obligations under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).
The guidelines will be open for public consultation on Friday.
In his opening address at the Personal Data Protection Seminar 2014 on Friday morning, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the guidelines will address sector-specific matters.
After the jump, the Asian Game of Zones intensifies, with Chinese fleeing Vietnam as the body count and burned business costs become clearer inthe ake of violent portest over Chinese oil drilling on an Island claimed by Hanoi, Japan raises the pressure as remilitarization becomes a done deal, and a lot more. . . Continue reading