Category Archives: Fundamentalism

InSecurityWatch: Cuba, cops, Sony, war, woes


We open with the long-overdue, via the New York Times:

Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Relations

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

Hosting a sit-down with the Associated Press:

Canada hosted secret meetings between Cuba and US

Canada hosted about seven meetings between the U.S. and Cuba that helped lead to President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the two countries will establish full diplomatic relations, a senior Canadian government official said.

The meetings were held in Ottawa and Toronto from 2013 to 2014, according to the official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authority to discuss the meetings publicly.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada did not play a role in the discussions themselves.

“I don’t want to exaggerate Canada’s role. We facilitated places where the two countries could have a dialogue and explore ways on normalizing relations,” Harper told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “We were not trying in any way to direct or mediate the talks. We just wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to have the kind of dialogue they needed to have.”

Anticipating another missile crisis, presumably non-Cuban this time, via the Christian Science Monitor:

Pentagon’s floating missile defense future: a pair of billion-dollar blimps

  • The Pentagon previewed two helium-filled surveillance airships Wednesday. The giant dirigibles are expected to be deployed over the East Coast in February as the United States’ new missile defense system.

Two US military blimps flying 10,000 feet above the East Coast will act as a new missile defense system for the United States.

The giant airships, known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS within the Pentagon, will be able to scan the oceans and coastline in a 340-mile radius, or from Norfolk, Va., to Boston.

It is designed to defend against cruise missile attacks, or the sort of rogue aircraft incursions that happened during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The US military previewed the giant balloons, which cost a reported $2.8 billion, in the skies near Baltimore for the media on Wednesday. They are expected to be fully operational by February and will be integrated into the defense systems of US Northern Command, which can respond with patriot missiles in the event of an attack on the US homeland.

On to U.S. domestic issue of the day, via the Smoking Gun:

“Witness 40″: Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson

  • TSG unmasks witness who spun fabricated tale

The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him “like a football player, head down,” is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a “complete fabrication,” The Smoking Gun has learned.

In interviews with police, FBI agents, and federal and state prosecutors–as well as during two separate appearances before the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson–the purported eyewitness delivered a preposterous and perjurious account of the fatal encounter in Ferguson.

Referred to only as “Witness 40″ in grand jury material, the woman concocted a story that is now baked into the narrative of the Ferguson grand jury, a panel before which she had no business appearing.

That cop thing, much closer to Casa esnl, via the Oakland Tribune:

Berkeley: Police Department denounced at raucous City Council meeting

A smaller-than-expected crowd showed up at a rescheduled, venue-changed City Council meeting on a rainy Tuesday night, but what the gathering may have lacked in size, it more than made up in passion.

More than 50 speakers denounced, in often scathing terms, the conduct of Berkeley police and other cities’ forces that assisted them during recent, mostly peaceful protests against decisions by grand juries in Missouri and New York not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men.

But perhaps the biggest beating Tuesday was to Berkeley’s image as the most liberal city in America, a phrase used derisively by several speakers. Many painted a picture of a Berkeley not much different from Ferguson, Missouri, or the New York City borough of Staten Island, as a place where people of color as well as people with mental health issues bear the brunt of police suspicion and use of force.

“We haven’t come to grips with some of the issues that have plagued us for over 400 years in this country,” Councilman Max Anderson said during a break. “For us to have to declare, in 2014, that black lives matter, is an indictment of our failure to address the problems that beset us in this society.”

Terror ties question from StarAfrica:

Mauritania trade union wants CIA links clarified

The General Confederation of Mauritania Workers (CGTM) has demanded the government to clarify its alleged cooperation with the CIA over the presence of secret prisons in the country.

Over the last few days, some of the nation’s media have published articles, quoting [The Independent], suggesting information relating to a CIA program to build secret prisons in some countries, CGTM claimed in a statement.

According to the statement published in Nouakchott on Tuesday, the newspaper listed Mauritania among countries cooperating with the program.

For CGTM, “these practices banned by international conventions, including the Geneva Convention, must be prohibited and denounced by all those who have deep love for peace and justice.”

Old school spookery, via intelNews:

Estonian intel officer comes out as Russian spy in TV interview

Estonian authorities have charged a retired officer in the country’s internal intelligence service with espionage, after he revealed in a television interview that he spied for Russia for nearly 20 years.

Uno Puusepp retired from the Internal Security Service of Estonia, known as KaPo, in 2011. He first joined the Soviet KGB as a wiretapping expert in the 1970s, when Estonia was part of the USSR. Following the dissolution of the USSR, when Estonia became an independent nation, he was hired by KaPo and worked there until his retirement, three years ago, at which time he moved permanently to Russian capital Moscow.

Last Sunday, however, Puusepp was the main speaker in a documentary entitled Our Man in Tallinn, aired on Russian television channel NTV. In the documentary, Puusepp revealed that he was a double spy for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is KGB’s successor, from 1996 until his retirement.

And the possibly related, via RT:

Italian ex-MEP arrested, kicked out of Estonia & called Russian ‘agent of influence’

Journalist and former European Parliament member, Giulietto Chiesa of Italy, was detained by the Tallinn police due to his pro-Russian views, which make him a threat to Estonia’s national security, the country’s Foreign Ministry told RT in an e-mail.

Chiesa spent several hours behind bars after being taken into custody from his hotel in center of the Estonian capital Monday. The police told the Italian politician that he had violated a ban on entering the country imposed on him on December 13.

“Due to the current activities of Mr Giulietto Chiesa, there is a good reason to believe that he is involved in the Russian influence operations and his stay in Estonia may pose threat to Estonia’s security, its public order and public safety,” Mari-Liis Valter, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, wrote in answer to questions from RT.

On to the hack of the year, first with the Los Angeles Times:

Sony Pictures cancels Christmas Day release of ‘The Interview’

Sony Pictures Entertainment has canceled the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” after the nation’s major theater chains said they would not screen the film.

The studio said “we respect and understand our partners’ decision” and “completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatergoers.”

Regal, AMC and Cinemark — the three largest chains in the United States — decided not to screen “The Interview” starting on Christmas Day in the wake of threats made by Sony hackers, said people familiar with the decision. The chains asked Sony to postpone the release date of the controversial film.

“Due to the wavering support of the film “The Interview” by Sony Pictures, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats, Regal Entertainment Group has decided to delay the opening of the film in our theatres,” Regal said in a statement.

And it’s not just theatrical release that’s DOA, reports USA Today:

Some industry insiders speculated Sony might release the film in the video-on-demand format, but the studio tells USA TODAY there will be no further release plans of any kind.

“I think they just want to wash their hands of it,” says Matthew Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

Internal blowback, again via the Los Angeles Times:

Sony hack draws lawsuits by former employees

The massive computer breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment could test laws that require companies to protect their employees’ personal and medical information.

Lawyers representing former Sony Pictures employees have separately filed in Los Angeles two lawsuits that seek class-action status, alleging Sony Pictures Entertainment was negligent in the months leading up to the devastating hack. One of the complaints — a 45-page federal lawsuit, which seeks to represent former and current Sony employees — contends that Sony ignored warnings that its computer network was prone to attack.

Sony “failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years” and “subsequently failed to timely protect confidential information of its current and former employees from law-breaking hackers,” according to the federal complaint filed late Monday.

The other suit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, also alleges negligence and invasion of privacy of former Sony employees.

The United Press International fingers a suspect:

Reports: U.S. officials blame Sony hacking on North Korea

U.S. officials believe those responsible for hacking into Sony Pictures were working under the direction of the North Korean government, several media organizations reported Wednesday.

Sources with direct knowledge of a U.S. government investigation into the security breach told the Wall Street Journal it is believed a North Korean government hacking team known as Unit 121 is behind the attack. The sources were not identified.

CNN, also quoting unnamed sources, reported that an official announcement is expected Thursday blaming the Pyongyang-based group called Bureau 121.

The London Daily Mail covers the sadly inevitable:

State Department saw graphic Kim Jong-un death scene in ‘The Interview’ and ‘approved of it,’ hacked emails reveal

  • Sony executives hired an foreign policy analyst to consult after North Korea called the film The Interview ‘an act of war’ for depicting the assassination of Kim Jon-un
  • The consultant gave a greenlight and said the scene showing the dictator’s death could be good for Koreans – on both sides of the dividing line
  • Consultant also said he spoke about the film to US envoy for North Korean issues
  • Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton said he also talked to a ‘very senior’ official at the State Department

And from the London Daily Mail again, , another film dies:

Hollywood studio pulls the plug on Steve Carell’s new movie Pyongyang just hours after Sony scraps release of The Interview

New Regency decided to cancel production of the thriller based on graphic novel by Guy Delisle

  • Movie that was set to be directed by Gore Verbinski, with Carell playing an American living in Pyongyang
  • The cancellation comes in the wake of Sony hacking scandal

The Sony hacking scandal continued reverberating throughout the Hollywood film industry Wednesday, leading New Regency studio to pull the plug on a new film about North Korea starring Steve Carell.

The announcement was made just hours after Sony scrapped the release of the controversial Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview, which was scheduled to premiere Christmas Day.

Titled Pyongyang, New Regency’s now-defunct film has been described as a thriller based on Guy Delisle’s eponymous graphic novel about his experiences living in the totalitarian state, reported The Wrap.

Following the news that Pyongyang has been scrapped, Steve Carell tweeted to his 3.64million followers: ‘Sad day for creative expression,’ followed by the hashtag, ‘feareatsthesoul.’

After the jump, it’s on to drone anxieties and a proposed Big Apple ban, Arab Springs succeeded by what was before, a born again demand on Swedish Jews, Nigerian mutiny ends in 54 death warrants, top Afghan spook bids a sad farewell to Western boots on the ground, a plea from Pakistan to Afghanistan to help catch the butchers of children, a lethal retaliatory assault, another killer drone strike, Pakistan’s peculiarly spooky complications, and the zealot in question whose most notable prior action made a Pakistani girl a Nobel Peace Price winner, and a solidarity demonstration for the children in Berkeley, Thai police launch an international hunt for lese majeste suspects, Chinese nuclear aircraft carrier ambitions, Obama and Abe — Trans-Pacific BFFs, and a university stands up to Tojo revisionism. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, fear, cops, threats


We begin with the latest from the war of the moment, via the Los Angeles Times:

Islamic State executes scores of fellow Sunni Muslims

Islamic State forces have carried out another mass killing of civilians in western Iraq, officials said Saturday – the systematic executions of at least 50 fellow Sunni Muslim men and women belonging to a tribe that has defied the extremist militants.

Amid a months-long onslaught by the Islamic State, Iraq is growing ever more violent. The United Nations mission in Baghdad reported Saturday that at least 1,273 Iraqis had been killed in October, about two-thirds of them civilians.

In the latest grisly episode, members of the Albu Nimr tribe were lined up by the militants and shot dead late Friday in the village of Ras al-Maaa, in Anbar province, according to Naim Al-Kaood, an Albu Nimr tribal leader. He spoke to the Iraqi broadcaster Al-Sumariyah.

The Observer sees light at the end of the tunnel:

Uprising could trigger Isis undoing, says study

  • Former counter-terror head at MI6 says Islamic State’s biggest challenge will be controlling dissent

A large-scale uprising from people living under the totalitarian regime of Islamic State (Isis) is the most likely trigger that will lead to the undoing of the self-declared caliphate, according to an authoritative report into the jihadi group by the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6.

A detailed appraisal of the organisation, obtained by the Observer, says that, although Isis has performed strategically well so far, its biggest challenge will be controlling dissent and coping with the difficulties of administration in the vast territory it governs.

The report by Richard Barrett, who headed the UN’s al-Qaida and Taliban monitoring team and helped establish the UN’s working group on terrorism, is one of the most comprehensive portraits yet of the group and examines its genesis, revenue streams and cohort of foreign fighters along with its ambitions.

And from RT, a look at one ISIS fighter:

Face to Face with ISIS: RT speaks to jihadists in Lebanon (Exclusive)

Program notes:

Mass executions, kidnappings and beheadings are just some of the atrocities committed by Islamic State, as the bloodthirsty jihadists try to establish a caliphate across large areas of Syria and Iraq. The group has also killed a number of Western journalists.

CBC News admonishes:

ISIS warning given to U.K. travellers by government

Britain has taken the unusual step of issuing a general terror warning to all U.K. travelers overseas because of fears that they could be targeted by Islamic State group terrorists seeking revenge for coalition actions in the Middle East.

The Foreign Office normally offers travel warnings for individual countries. The government, for example, already warns against travel to Syria, where the Islamic State group has seized territory.

But the Foreign Office updated travel advice pages Friday to reflect a generalized threat of terrorism globally.

“There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against U.K. interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. “You should be vigilant at this time.”.

And from the Marine Corps Times via USA Today, a little paper goes a long way:

Possible ISIL leaflets found near Quantico Marine base

Officials have launched an investigation into leaflets found near Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., that “may or may not be associated with the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State.”

Quantico is a major Marine Corps installation that includes several important units and commands, such as Training and Education Command, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, which transports President Barack Obama in Marine One and tests experimental aircraft. The base is also close to the FBI Academy.

A government employee came upon seven leaflets Wednesday afternoon while running through the town of Quantico, base spokesman Maj. Andrew J. Bormann told Marine Corps Times on Friday. The leaflets have a reversed image of the Islamic State group’s flag and writing in Arabic that is translated as “We are here from Mexico and came by train,” Bormann said in an email.

From the Washington Post, diminshed expectations:

Pentagon’s plans for a spy service to rival the CIA have been pared back

The Pentagon has scaled back its plan to assemble an overseas spy service that could have rivaled the CIA in size, backing away from a project that faced opposition from lawmakers who questioned its purpose and cost, current and former U.S. officials said.

Under the revised blueprint, the Defense Intelligence Agency will train and deploy up to 500 undercover officers, roughly half the size of the espionage network envisioned two years ago when the formation of the Defense Clandestine Service was announced.

The previous plan called for moving as many as 1,000 undercover case officers overseas to work alongside the CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command on counterterrorism missions and other targets of broad national security concern.

From the New York Times, a person of interest:

Former U.S. Envoy to Moscow Says Russians Are Still Spying on Him

During two years as ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul was constantly followed, harassed and demonized on state television. But though Mr. McFaul has left government service and returned home, the spying on him doesn’t seem to have stopped.

Mr. McFaul, who finished his tour as President Obama’s envoy in Moscow in February just as the clash over Ukraine was escalating, told an audience here on Friday that he believed that Russian agents were tapping his telephone as well as that of his wife, Donna Norton. He said his suspicions were confirmed recently when Ms. Norton’s boss at her nonprofit advocacy group, MomsRising, tried to reach her. “She called my wife’s cellphone and a Russian answered it,” said Mr. McFaul, who has returned to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where he is a professor.

What remained unclear, he added, was whether that was a glitch that accidentally exposed the spying or an intentional act to send him a warning. “Were they sloppy?” he asked during a talk at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. “Or was that a shot across the bow to say, ‘We know you’re in Palo Alto and we’re still around’?”

And from the Washington Post, questions are raised:

Probe of FBI agent leads to release of convicted drug dealers from prison

An investigation into possible misconduct by an FBI agent has forced authorities to quietly release at least a dozen convicts serving prison sentences for distributing drugs in the District and its suburbs, according to law enforcement officials, court documents and defense attorneys.

In addition, several suspects awaiting trial on drug charges and a man convicted but not yet sentenced have also been freed. Officials said more cases- that could involve the agent are under scrutiny, including one involving 21 defendants.

None of the suspects or felons have had their charges dropped or convictions overturned. Most are on home detention in what many of their attorneys describe as a holding pattern, awaiting the outcome of the investigation into the agent, who was assigned to a D.C. police task force.

The New York Times covers an agreement:

Albuquerque Agrees to Changes on Use of Force

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the City of Albuquerque over excessive use of force by the Police Department.

Under an agreement announced Friday, an independent monitor will be installed to oversee reforms at the department for at least two years, and the department will adopt new policies aiming to ease conflict with citizens.

The Justice Department in April found a pattern of excessive force in the Albuquerque Police Department, after a string of shootings in which 23 people were killed and 14 others wounded over four years, an usually high number for a city of about 550,000 people.

Under the agreement, the Police Department will undertake a host of sweeping changes, many of them designed to reduce the use of force. Officers will be trained to handle people who are mentally unstable; the way that the department investigates shootings involving officers will be changed; and officers will be required to wear body cameras to record many interactions with the public.

From the Daily Dot, oops:

Dashcam captures two Austin police officers joking about rape

The Austin Police Department is launching an investigation into a dashcam video showing on-duty officers joking about rape.

Austin attorney Drew Gibbs made the video public after acquiring the footage during a routine car crash investigation. The footage, which is from May, shows two police officers, later reported to be Officer Mark Lyttle and Officer Michael Castillo. They appear to be sarcastically discussing what would happen if the police force “rode out” for a week.

After speculating that the crime rate would drop and “the world would be at peace for a week” if the cops did their ride-out, the conversation turns. One officer suggests that they’d simply “turn a blind eye” to crimes being reported. “I want to report a robbery! You probably deserved it,” the first officer jokes.

The video itself, posted by Austin’s Finest:

“They can’t unrape you.” – Austin’s Finest

Program notes:

Two Austin PD officers yucking it up about what bad asses they are while investigating a fender bender collision, until the appearance of an attractive female. One officer then blows his whistle at the female and says to his fellow officer, “Go ahead. Call the cops. They can’t unrape you.”

The critical moments after the officers started joking about not responding crime calls, transcribed by KXAN television:

Officer 1: Either that, or, you’d think that because we’d turn a blind eye towards everything.
Officer 2: Or that.
Officer 1: (Expletive) who cares.
Officer 2: Or that. It could be that.
Officer 1: I want to report a robbery! You probably deserved it.

Officer 1: Look at that girl over there.
Officer 2: (blows whistle) Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t unrape you. (laughter)
Officer 1: You didn’t turn your camera off, did you?
Officer 2: They can’t unrape you

Pursuing the exploltable with the Yomiuri Shimbun:

‘Bug hunters’ wanted by security firms

A vulnerability reward program, in which information technology companies pay bounties to good-willed engineers who find flaws in their computer programs, is attracting attention as a new defensive measure against cyber-attacks.

Vulnerabilities caused by computer bugs and other problems tend to become security loopholes that can be misused in cyber-attacks. Information on them is said to be traded at high prices among hackers.

Vulnerability reward programs attempt to encourage the identification of bugs with the help of good-willed outsiders, allowing the bugs to be fixed before potential cyber-attackers become aware of them. But, it is not yet clear whether such reward programs will flourish within the culture of Japanese companies, which tend to dislike the disclosure of vulnerabilities in their computer programs and may even consider efforts to find them as criminal.

From TheLocal.it, an offer they thought they couldn’t refuse:

Italy president: Mafia tried to blackmail state

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano told a trial in which state officials are accused of making a secret deal with the Mafia that mobsters carried out bombings in the 1990s to coerce the government, a transcript released Friday showed.

Napolitano, who is not accused of playing a role in the alleged deal, gave evidence Tuesday as prosecutors attempt to unearth fresh evidence on mob bombings two decades ago which killed 21 people including two top anti-Mafia judges.

According to a transcript of the hearing released by the president’s office, he told prosecutor Nino Di Matteo the attacks were a form of “extortion or outright pressure aimed at destabilizing the entire system, on the premise that there there might be disarray among state authorities”.

InSecurity in Mexico from Punch Nigeria:

Seven kidnapped triathletes freed in Mexico

Seven triathletes kidnapped while training in Mexico City have been released, a spokesman for the National Security Commission said on Saturday, amid reports of a ransom payment.

The Director of the Police Anti-abduction Unit, Renato Heredia, made this known to newsmen in Mexico.

“The four women and three men were freed after negotiations over an unspecified ransom were successful. Another man captured at the same time managed to escape and contact police,” Heredia said.

He said the group was seized on Thursday in a wood in Ajusco, a southern part of the Mexican capital, after completing a training session on their bicycles.

Opposition from CCTV News:

China strongly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan

China has urged the United States and Italy not to go forward with a proposed arms deal with Taiwan, saying the people of China and its government “have always been firmly opposed” to such arms sales.

Hong Lei, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterates that “China is resolutely opposed to any foreign countries selling weapons to Taiwan and any form of exchange or cooperation in military technology. We demand that the relevant countries respect China’s core interests, abide by the One China principle, and take concrete action to support the peaceful development of Cross-Strait relations and the reunification of China.”

The strong Chinese statement comes after reports that the US company Lockheed-Martin and the Italian company Intermarine have signed a deal to help build six minesweepers in Taiwan.

And from the Japan Times, abominable intransigence:

The uncomfortable truth about ‘comfort women’

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his chief Cabinet secretary have accused the Asahi Shimbun of “shaming Japan.” In August, the newspaper retracted articles based on the testimony of a Japanese solider, Masao Yoshida, who claimed to have rounded up “comfort women.”

Comfort women is a euphemism for the females serving as prostitutes to the Japanese military during World War II. The conservative press, led by the ultranationalist Sankei Shimbun and the Yomiuri Shimbun, seized upon the Asahi’s partial retraction of past reporting as absolute proof that the government had no role in coercing women into working as prostitutes.

The right-wing argument seems to work like this: If there are 1,000 pieces of evidence and one or two of them are wrong, they’re all wrong by extension.

By this logic, the Japanese military wasn’t involved in sexual slavery and no women were victimized — in short, that all women testifying to their deplorable experience are money-grubbing whores.

After the Asahi retraction, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party issued a statement demanding that newspapers worldwide correct their mistaken reports — which, they seemed to imply, was based solely on Yoshida’s testimony. The LDP has also pledged to conduct an investigation into the comfort women issue.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, pols, and ‘security’


Today’s compendium of events in the wordl of spooks and enforcers begins with signs of the times, via The Guardian:

From Quebec to Spain, anti-protest laws are threatening true democracy

The clash between neoliberal austerity and popular democracy has produced a crisis of ‘ungovernability’ for authorities

From Deutsche Welle, the latest in cosmetic repairs:

US lawmakers in Berlin for NSA talks

German officials have urged the US to restore trust between the countries following allegations of spying by intelligence services. Berlin and Washington are currently working on a new agreement regarding espionage.

And while they’re there, they can take heart from the latest breaking news: It wasn’t just the NSA tapping Merkel’s mobile, reports TheLocal.de:

UK, China and Russia ‘tapped Merkel’s phone’

It was not just the US – Britain, Russia, China and North Korea were also tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, German security services believe, according to magazine reports.

From the Wall Street Journal, a resignation refused for political reasons:

Shaken NSA Grapples With an Overhaul

Agency’s Director Offered to Resign Last Summer in Wake of Snowden Leaks

Shortly after former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself in June as the source of leaked National Security Agency documents, the agency’s director, Gen. Keith Alexander, offered to resign, according to a senior U.S. official.

[O]fficials also didn’t think his resignation would solve the security problem and were concerned that letting him leave would wrongly hand Mr. Snowden a win, the former defense official said.

Techdirt covers a dirty little secret [at least to some]:

How The FBI Actually Does Much Of The NSA’s Spying, But Is Keeping That Quiet

from the like-they-don’t-have-a-history-of-abuses? dept

And Reuters covers low fears in high places:

Spies worry over “doomsday” cache stashed by ex-NSA contractor Snowden

British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a “doomsday” cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.

One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden’s “insurance policy” against arrest or physical harm.

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, the latest hypocrisy for The Most Transparent Administration in History™:

Obama’s overhaul of spy programs so far cloaked in more secrecy

President Barack Obama has faced withering criticism around the globe for his secret spying programs. How has he responded? With more secrecy.

Obama has been gradually tweaking his vast government surveillance policies. But he is not disclosing those changes to the public. Has he stopped spying on friendly world leaders? He won’t say. Has he stopped eavesdropping on the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? He won’t say.

Even the report by the group Obama created to review and recommend changes to his surveillance programs has been kept secret.

From Slate, metadata as supersnitch:

Taking the “Meh” out of Metadata

How the government can discover your health problems, political beliefs, and religious practices using just your metadata.

CNBC covers a flight considered:

Google mulled ditching US after NSA scandal

Google, the giant of the Internet, thought about moving its servers out of the U.S. after the NSA debacle, said Eric Schmidt, the company’s chairman, on Friday at the Paley International Council Summit in New York.

And The Guardian covers conflicting security claims:

Japan’s PM demands China revoke claim to air zone over disputed islands

China, Japan and US exchange increasingly testy accusations, as airlines say they will have to notify China of flight plans

More from the South China Morning Post:

Beijing’s air defence zone over East China Sea branded ‘dangerous act’ by Japan

Beijing’s declaration of an air defence zone in the East China Sea kick-started a diplomatic free-for-all yesterday.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers other Asia heat, ratcheting upwards:

US hints at more sanctions on North Korea after Iranian deal

Washington’s point man on North Korea on Monday hinted at more sanctions against Pyongyang over its atomic weapons programme in the wake of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The Jakarta Globe covers ongoing blowback:

Lawyer Says Australian Diplomats May Face Removal

The Indonesian government can remove Australian diplomats from the country should the letter sent by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in response to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s request for clarity regarding the wiretapping issue fail to address the president’s concerns, an expert says.

Deutsche Welle brings the newest drone power:

Anger over US drones mounting, Pakistan builds own unmanned sky army

Pakistan has unveiled locally built drone aircraft capable of surveillance. The United States claims its drone strikes in the country are aimed at taking out high-profile al Qaeda and Taliban targets.

While the Washington Post covers drone power politicals in the black world:

CIA not ready to relinquish role in drone strikes

Six months after President Obama signaled his desire to shift responsibility for the missile attacks to the military, his plan for the lethal counterterrorism program remains a distant goal.

How to buy friends and influence people, via TheLocal.de:

German universities use Pentagon research cash

German universities are breaking ethics rules by taking millions of euros from the US military for research projects into munitions, environmentally-friendly explosives and drone software, critics claim.

At least 22 universities and research institutes have confirmed accepting more than €10 million in Pentagon research grants since 2000, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said on Monday.

From Spiegel, Old Father Hubbard’s German groupies get a reprieve:

Waning Numbers: Germany To Suspend Monitoring of Scientology

Germany’s domestic security agency has reportedly decided to suspend monitoring of the controversial Scientology organization in the country. The decision, part of wider reforms, has led to criticism by some states.

The agency is currently trying to focus its efforts towards counter-espionage in light of recent allegations that Germany’s allies, including the United States, have been spying on the country. This move comes after the considerable strengthening of BFV’s department dealing with right-wing extremists following the uncovering of the National Socialist Union neo-Nazi terror cell.

Back to Japan with the Mainichi and resistance to a key ingredient in the emerging national security state:

Top adviser to PM admits difficulty in external evaluation of special secrets

A top adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has admitted to the difficulty in the government designating information as special secrets to be evaluated by an independent third party, if the government-sponsored special state secrets bill is passed into law.

Yosuke Isozaki, special adviser to the prime minister who is in charge of the state secrets bill currently under Diet debate, expressed the view during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on Nov. 19, underscoring fears that the scope of the government’s designation of information as special secrets could be indefinitely expanded.

From the South China Morning Post, China’s own march in the same direction:

Will new security panel be US or Soviet flavoured?

Plenum resolution was typically vague on the role and structure of new intelligence panel

From Reuters, an intensifying Asian security crisis in a very familiar venue:

New conditions appear to push U.S., Afghanistan farther from striking security deal

From the London Telegraph, another legacy of the Crusade for Freedom™:

Afghanistan ‘plans to reintroduce public stoning as punishment for adultery’

Human Rights Watch calls on international donors to withhold funds if government presses ahead with controversial new law to bring back stoning

From the Bangkok Post, a security crisis in Southeast Asia:

Protesters storm key ministries

PM imposes ISA in city, parts of nearby provinces

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has imposed the Internal Security Act (ISA) across the capital and in nearby areas after protesters stormed key ministries in a bid to topple the government

Quartz has an interesting sidebar:

Bangkok’s unlikely embrace of drone journalism shows the extent of the government’s problems

From Independent.ie, security problems on familiar terrain:

Warning of surge in dissident activity after bomb explodes under shopping centre

NORTHERN Ireland’s top police officer has warned of a surge in dissident republican activity after a bomb partially exploded under a shopping centre.

From the London Daily Mail, creepy but justifiable?:

New York State Troopers given tall, unmarked SUVs to peer down and catch drivers who text

New York has given state police 32 of the SUVs, part of one of the nation’s most aggressive attacks on texting while driving.

What’s next? Tanks? Well, consider this from Business Insider:

The Spoils Of War: Sheriffs, Police Nationwide Getting Armored Vehicles Left Over From Iraq

Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The South China Morning Post has the latest on an embarrassed news service:

Bloomberg hits China roadblock over reporting of sensitive issues

Concern growing that journalism is being compromised to allow financial network to maintain business ties and appease Beijing

From TheLocal.no Big Brother watched, acted:

Police in Norway arrest racist tweeter

Police in Norway have arrested a man for making racist comments on the micro-blogging service Twitter under the account name “@Negerjeger”, or “Nigger hunter”.

The man, who is in his 20s, was arrested on Friday in the northern city of Tromsö after being tracked down by the NCIS, the Norwegian police’s serious crimes unit.

He was then released on Saturday after being charged with violating Norway’s racism law. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Meanwhile, India continues to struggle with impact of of a scandal involving what NSA staffers jestingly call “Loveint.” From the Times of India:

Gujarat snooping: Modi govt sets up panel to probe scandal

Under fire for using the state machinery to illegally snoop on a woman, the Gujarat government formed a two-member commission of inquiry to investigate the charge on Monday. The snooping was allegedly supervised in 2009 by then junior home minister Amit Shah at the behest of his ‘saheb’.

Computerworld covers corporate tracking:

LoJack system will allow parents, auto makers and insurance companies to track vehicles

Insurance companies, auto makers will also have tracking capabilities

And we close with a very important question, raised by The Guardian:

JSoc: Obama’s secret assassins

The president has a clandestine network targeting a ‘kill list’ justified by secret laws. How is that different than a death squad?

Chart of the day II: mulling suicide bombers


Fox News performed a fete of semantic legerdemain, transforming the suicide bomber into the homicide bomber. The term is inaccurate, because it encompasses, by the very definitions of the words, folks ranging from drone pilots, to order-giving generals, malcontents of all political types and degrees of mental anguish, and anyone else who kills another person by means of an explosive device.

No, suicide is definitely the right word. The bomber, deprived of drones, tanks, and missiles, uses him/herself as the delivery vehicle, with — for some Muslims — the belief that a sensual paradise awaits.

As the American navy neared the Japanese home islands, a new phenomenon arose, the Kamikaze, or Divine Wind — suicide bombers sitting in pilot’s seat, invoking the typhoons that saved Japan from Mongol invaders seven centuries earlier.

But the suicidal fighter is legendary in the West as well, starting the those 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. I also remember a comic book from childhood celebrating an American fighter/bomber pilot who refused to eject and remained at the controls of his disabled plane, steering it and its bomb payload into a Japanese cruiser. A real hero, that guy, right?

Recall, too, that all those who took up the Cross on those crusades that spread blood and gore across Europe and the Middle East were assured a straight ticket into heaven — a papal get-out-of-purgatory-free card — should they die in their endeavor to seize and hold that often-gore-drenched land they — and others — believed holy.

And all in the name of one who had taught his followers forgiveness and cheek-turning.

Recall also that during one crusade in France, a commander of the papal-sanctioned crusaders was legendarily said to have instructed his troops, when asked what to do to sort out the Albigensian heretics from the honest Catholics in a city just taken by siege, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” Or, and more formally, according to Wikipedia,

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. [Kill them. For the Lord know those that are His own.]

The bottom line: God would take care of those who died in His service, and to hell [literally] with the rest. If you happened to lose your head along the way, heaven awaits.

Consider also those American soldiers who’ve been honored posthumously for saving the lives of comrades by throwing themselves on grenades, a suicide by bombing of another sort.

Note also that most cultures honor warriors who knowingly gave their lives to save their comrades in honor of a cause.

Remember the Alamo!

And you can rest assured, occupants of German working class neighborhoods intentionally firebombed to disrupt military production certainly thought of the American and British pilots delivering the firestorms as homicide bombers. But target residential neighborhoods we did, using knowledge developed by bombing mockups of apartments built in deep isolation in the Utah desert.

Bombers suffered enormous casualty rates, and pilots who bailed out over Germany were often lynched as murderers [homicide bombers as it were] before police or troops could arrive. And instead of breaking working class morale, the bombing appeared to embitter them against the Americans and British. All of this was known to the bomber crews, along with the certainty that their chances of survival diminished with every mission [an interesting word in itself].

For today’s suicide bomber as for those ancient Spartans and so many others, believes their actions justified by their cause, even to the point of certain death.

And in most cases, the act is one of passionate sincerity, which can itself frighten those who don’t happen to espouse their own differing views with the same intensity.

Enough musings.

From Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups, Much Diminished Support for Suicide Bombing, a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project on a survey of 11 Muslim populations in countries “from South Asia to the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.”:

BLOG Suicide

Charts of the day: Okay, we’re stumped


First, consider the results of a survey of American attitudes from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life:

BLOG Gay marriage

Next, consider this from Gallup, conducted a month after the Pew survey:

BLOG evolution

We leave the explanations to you, dear reader.

Quote of the day: If it’s rape, relax. God wills it


Anti-abortion Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in a Tuesday night debate with Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly, via the BBC:

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realise that life is that gift from God.”

“And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”