Category Archives: Latin America

Image of the day: Remembering the other 9/11


We repeat a short item that has been one of our most popular posts ever:

BLOG 12 September other 911You know, the CIA/Nixon-backed 1973 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of socialist President Salvador Allende in Chile and resulted in 60,000 deaths. Via PRAWN, the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network.

InSecurityWatch: War, law, cops, hacks, zones


We begin today’s walk on the dark side with the latest in Obama’s drive to push Japan back into the past, via Reuters:

Exclusive: Japan, U.S. discussing offensive military capability for Tokyo – Japan officials

Japan and the United States are exploring the possibility of Tokyo acquiring offensive weapons that would allow Japan to project power far beyond its borders, Japanese officials said, a move that would likely infuriate China.

While Japan’s intensifying rivalry with China dominates the headlines, Tokyo’s focus would be the ability to take out North Korean missile bases, said three Japanese officials involved in the process.

They said Tokyo was holding the informal, previously undisclosed talks with Washington about capabilities that would mark an enhancement of military might for a country that has not fired a shot in anger since its defeat in World War Two.

From BuzzFeed, another blast from the past:

Obama Will Fight ISIS With George W. Bush’s Legal Theories

  • John Yoo: “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.”

By ordering the military into action without explicit congressional authorization, Obama is falling back, at least in part, on the same controversial legal theories of executive power that he once rejected.

Not everyone is surprised by the presidential about-face. John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer and one of the primary architects of the “strong executive” theory of presidential power, told BuzzFeed News, “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.”

In a preview of his speech on Sunday, Obama told Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press that he was “confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people.” Obama repeated that same line in meetings with foreign policy pundits on Monday and again in meetings with congressional leaders on Tuesday.

While El País covers blowback:

Spain raises terror threat level due to risk of jihadist attacks

  • Security forces to step up monitoring at airports, train stations, hospitals and government buildings

Spain’s security agencies are stepping up their monitoring efforts at the country’s airports, train stations, hospitals, government buildings and other key sites in response to the heightened risk of jihadist attacks.

The secretary of state for security, Francisco Martínez, ordered increased security measures as the government raised the level of the terror threat in Spain from low to high.

The latest crimes claimed by the Islamic State group and the progressive deterioration of the situation in Iraq and Syria are evidence of “a direct threat by jihadist terrorism against Western countries, with particular concern for US, French and British interests,” said the Interior Ministry.

The Japan Times covers the justifiable:

Protests, anger, doubt prevail at Ferguson meeting

Elected leaders in the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer hoped to use their first public meeting since his death as a chance to promote community healing. Instead, they were greeted Tuesday night with anger, outrage and warnings of voter retribution at the ballot box.

Proposals to overhaul the municipal courts and create a citizen police review board were greeted warily, if not with outright skepticism.

“You’ve lost your authority to govern this community,” said St. Louis activist John Chasnoff. “You’re going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal.”

From Salon, revising the unspeakable:

Pennsylvania town will no longer evict domestic violence victims who call the police seeking help

  • Yes, that was a real thing that was happening in Pennsylvania — and still happens throughout the country

A Pennsylvania ordinance that targeted domestic violence victims for eviction has been repealed.

In addition to striking down the law, the city of Norristown will pay Lakisha Briggs, a domestic violence victim who faced eviction because she called the police to report the abuse, $495,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under the “nuisance property ordinance,” landlords were encouraged to evict tenants if the police were called to a residence more than three times during a four month period. Women like Briggs who called the police to intervene in domestic violence incidents were, under the ordinance, labeled “disorderly.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, sad and horrendous [see examples at the link]:

Misconduct at Justice Department isn’t always prosecuted

Dozens of Justice Department officials, ranging from FBI special agents and prison wardens to high-level federal prosecutors, have escaped prosecution or firing in recent years despite findings of misconduct by the department’s own internal watchdog.

Most of the names of the investigated officials, even the highest-ranking, remain under wraps. But documents McClatchy obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time a startling array of alleged transgressions uncovered by the department’s inspector general.

From Associated Press. Once it was jewelers, now fashion:

9 arrests in fashion hub money laundering probe

Federal authorities arrested nine people and seized more than $65 million Wednesday in a crackdown on suspected drug money laundering by Mexican cartels in the fashion district of Los Angeles.

About 1,000 law enforcement officers fanned out across the city’s downtown to search dozens of businesses suspected of taking bulk cash for clothing exported to Mexico as a way to launder money obtained from the sale of cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs in the United States.

The raids came after three separate federal indictments on charges of money laundering and other financial violations. Nine people were arrested, and authorities were searching for four others charged in the alleged schemes, including three in Mexico, federal prosecutors said.

Postmedia News covers spooky revelations:

Accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter takes aim at former colleague Stephen Harper in new memoir

From his jail cell in Panama, accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter dishes the dirt on his once-thriving political connections with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in a new wide-ranging memoir that is bound to incense both Harper and Couillard while providing ammunition to their critics.

Porter, who at one point served as chairman of Canada’s spy watchdog, also provides details on the inner workings of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that is entrusted with the country’s most sensitive surveillance secrets.

Porter, 58, has been languishing in a Panamanian prison since the end of May 2013, fighting extradition to Quebec to face criminal charges alleging he was part of a conspiracy to defraud $22.5 million from the McGill University Health Centre he once headed over the awarding of a superhospital construction contract.

From intelNews, booby-trapped buggery:

Mystery spy device found in Lebanon detonates remotely, kills one

A mysterious spy device found in Lebanon was detonated remotely by what some say was an Israeli drone, killing one man and injuring several others.

According to Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV, the alleged spy device was uncovered last week by a Lebanese military patrol near the village of Adloun in southern Lebanon. Most of the region is firmly controlled by Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that governs large swathes of the Lebanese territory.

The report was later confirmed by the Lebanese Army, which said that the device had been attached, probably by Israel, to the telecommunications network belonging to Hezbollah.

And from Ars Technica, hardly iDeal:

iPwned: Mining iPhones, iCloud for personal data is terrifyingly simple

  • High-end tools, simple hacks can still make iPhone data less private than we’d like

Apple executives never mentioned the word “security” during the unveiling of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, and Apple Watch yesterday, choosing to focus on the sexier features of the upcoming iOS 8 and its connections to Apple’s iCloud service. But digital safety is certainly on everyone’s mind after the massive iCloud breach that resulted in many celebrity nude photos leaking across the Internet. While the company has promised fixes to both its mobile operating system and cloud storage service in the coming weeks, the perception of Apple’s current security feels iffy at best.

In light of one high profile “hack,” is it fair to primarily blame Apple’s current setup? Is it really that easy to penetrate these defenses?

In the name of security, we did a little testing using family members as guinea pigs. To demonstrate just how much private information on an iPhone can be currently pulled from iCloud and other sources, we enlisted the help of a pair of software tools from Elcomsoft. These tools are essentially professional-level, forensic software used by law enforcement and other organizations to collect data. But to show that an attacker wouldn’t necessarily need that to gain access to phone data, we also used a pair of simpler “hacks,” attacking a family member’s account (again, with permission) by using only an iPhone and iTunes running on a Windows machine.

As things stand right now, a determined attacker will still find plenty of ways to get to iPhone data.

From RT, they’ve got mail [yours]:

5 million ‘compromised’ Google accounts leaked

A database of what appears to be some 5 million login and password pairs for Google accounts has been leaked to a Russian cyber security internet forum. It follows similar leaks of account data for popular Russian web services.

The text file containing the alleged compromised accounts data was published late on Tuesday on the Bitcoin Security board. It lists 4.93 million entries, although the forum administration has since purged passwords from it, leaving only the logins.

The accounts are mostly those of Google users and give access to Gmail mail service, G+ social network and other products of the US-based internet giant. The forum user tvskit, who published the file, claimed that 60 percent of the passwords were valid, with some users confirming that they found their data in the base, reports CNews, a popular Russian IT news website

Defense One makes it clear:

Every Part of the US Government Has Probably Already Been Hacked

Consider the testimony today from some of the nation’s top cybersecurity experts before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

High-profile cyber breaches – such as those affecting Target, Home Depot and even celebrities’ private photos – trickle out on a near daily basis. But it’s clear the vulnerabilities aren’t relegated to the commercial sector.

When committee members asked Robert Anderson, the executive assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services branch, how much of government hasn’t been hacked yet, he offered a stark reply.

Despite demurring that he probably couldn’t answer the question exactly “off the top of his head,” Anderson said any part of government that hasn’t been hacked yet probably has been hacked – and hasn’t realized it yet.

Nextgov covers hacks with an ulterior purpose:

Hackers Attacking Israeli Think Tank Aren’t Interested in State Secrets

The website of a respected Israel-based foreign policy institute — the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs — has been infected with code that is trying to steal bank account information from visitors.

The campaign looks like an “advanced persistent threat-style attack” devised to siphon intelligence from government officials browsing the site, but “the threat is ultimately designed to pilfer banking credentials,” Kaspersky Lab reports.

The cyber strike against the think tank is part of a larger operation. Users who visit are redirected through a chain of seemingly innocuous sites affiliated with the music industry and law firms. Ultimately, users are led to a malicious server located in Russia.

And from PandoDaily, uninformed consent:

Study: 85% of mobile apps fail to disclose how they use consumer data

It sometimes seems like every new product begs the same question: Is using this worth giving up whatever privacy I have left?

So many applications and websites request or require access to address books, location history, contact information, and other data that the idea that we even have any privacy left can seem ridiculous. But the important thing is in the asking — it’s better to give that information over willingly than to have it stolen without our knowledge or consent.

Unfortunately, many application developers haven’t learned this lesson. The Global Privacy Enforcement Network — a group meant to enforce privacy laws across borders — studied 1,200 mobile apps and found that many of them gather data without a consumer’s informed consent.

After the jump, on to Asia, with Chinese censorship, China admonishes, more submarine anxieties and anticipation in Vietnam and Taiwan, claim-staking expansion and anger, a Tainwanese espionage conviction, and growing belief in the inevitably of a Sino/Japanese war. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, pols, spies, hacks, zones


Lots of ground to cover and some very interesting stories from the world of deep politics, spooks, hacks, blunders, and the Asian Game of Zones.

First up, from the New York Times, ignorance of history or simply slippery politics?:

A President Whose Assurances Have Come Back to Haunt Him

The comment that has caused Mr. Obama the most grief in recent days was his judgment about groups like ISIS. In an interview last winter with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Mr. Obama sought to make the point that not every terrorist group is a threat like Al Qaeda, requiring extraordinary American action.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Remnick. He drew a distinction between Al Qaeda and “jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

Asked about that by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” last weekend, Mr. Obama denied that he necessarily meant ISIS. “Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.

“I’ve said that regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally — weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11,” Mr. Obama said. And some groups evolve, he noted. “They’re not a JV team,” he added of ISIS.

But the transcript of the New Yorker interview showed that Mr. Obama made his JV team comment directly after being asked about terrorists in Iraq, Syria and Africa, which would include ISIS. After Mr. Obama’s initial answer, Mr. Remnick pointed out that “that JV team just took over Fallujah,” a city in western Iraq seized by ISIS. Mr. Obama replied that terrorism in many places around the world was not necessarily “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

From Want China Times, blowback metastasis:

Influence of ISIS felt in China, Southeast Asia

The influence of the brutal jihadist group known as the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), may be spreading in Southeast Asia and China despite strong opposition from governments in the region.

According to a report from Singapore’s New Straits Times, Malaysian security authorities have identified four new terror groups that have the same broad goals as Islamic State and may eventually join forces to carve out territory in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to form an independent, unified “super” Islamic caliphate to rule parts of Southeast Asia.

The four organizations, identified by the acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are said to have strong links with similar groups active in the Southeast Asia region as well as Islamic State and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

From RT, maybe they should bust ‘em for trademark infractions:

‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Program note:

RT looks at how sharing the same name as the infamous extremist group is causing a major headache for a number of companies with no links to jihad. And it’s not just corporations that are suffering because of being called ISIS.

From the London Daily Mail, another intellectual property assault?:

ISIS declares war on Twitter: Terror group warns employees they will be assassinated for closing down Islamist propaganda accounts

  • Jerusalem-based group connected to ISIS tweeted threat to Twitter
  • Called on ‘lone wolves’ to assassinate employees for closing accounts
  • Issued specific warning to staff at headquarters in Silicon Valley
  • The social media site is a key platform for the group’s propaganda

From Reuters, blowback in Africa continues to rage:

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya

Pro-government Libyan forces, already reeling from the fall of the capital, are fighting to prevent Islamist militants from seizing the eastern city of Benghazi and splitting the North African country into three warring parts.

Three weeks after losing Tripoli to a different militia, the army now faces an offensive in Libya’s second-largest city from the Islamists of Ansar al-Sharia, which has overrun special forces bases and is attacking Benghazi airport.

Losing the port city would not only leave the government looking impotent and irrelevant. It would also increase the risk of the country crumbling into de facto autonomous regions: the militants demand Islamist rule, while other armed groups want greater powers for the eastern region they call by its ancient name of Cyrenaica.

From Want China Times, recognition:

US planned industrial espionage against China, Russia: report

Though the United States claims that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage to benefit American corporations, a secret document issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that Washington had plans to steal information from corporations in China, Russia, India and Iran, says the Intercept, a news platform established to report on the documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The secret document known as 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review anticipates a series of potential scenarios that the United States may face by 2025 from China, Russia, India and Iran. “One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of US corporations,” said the report.

It then recommended that the US government launch a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through clandestine penetration and counterintelligence. Furthermore, the report envisions cyber operations penetrating covert centers of innovation such as R&D facilities. The report also suggested the use of cyber espionage to bolster the competitive advantage of American corporations.

From the Guardian, takin’ it to court:

‘Five Eyes’ surveillance pact should be published, Strasbourg court told

  • Appeal lodged at European court of human rights for disclosure of intelligence sharing policies of UK and foreign agencies

The secret “Five Eyes” treaty that authorises intelligence sharing between the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand should be published, according to an appeal lodged on Tuesday at the European court of human rights.

The application by Privacy International (PI), which campaigns on issues of surveillance, to the Strasbourg court is the latest in a series of legal challenges following the revelations of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden aimed at forcing the government to disclose details of its surveillance policies.

The civil liberties group alleges that the UK is violating the right to access information by “refusing to disclose the documents that have an enormous impact on human rights in the UK and abroad”.

Network World lobbies:

Tech industry groups ask US Senate to ‘swiftly pass’ NSA curbs

Tech industry organizations have written a letter to leaders in the U.S. Senate, to ask them to swiftly pass the USA Freedom Act, legislation that is expected to end the collection of bulk domestic phone data by the National Security Agency.

Disclosures about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs since June 2013 have led to an erosion of public trust in the U.S. government and the U.S. technology sector, anti-software piracy group BSA, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Reform Government Surveillance and the Software and Information Industry Association wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell on Monday.

Reforms contained in the USA Freedom Act “will send a clear signal to the international community and to the American people that government surveillance programs are narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight,” the industry groups added.

But California’s plutocratic senator suggest a politically convenient delay, via the Guardian:

Feinstein: CIA torture report will be delayed as Democrats decide redactions

  • Though 600-page report was planned for September, top senator says arguments may not finish until after midterms

The public release of a long-awaited US Senate report detailing the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques could be held up for weeks as the Senate Intelligence Committee and Obama administration negotiate what material can be included in the document, the committee’s chairwoman said on Monday.

The committee had hoped to release its 600-page summary of the report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of tactics many label as “torture” before Congress left for its August recess, a target that was pushed to September as discussions continued.

On Monday, as Congress returned from its five-week break, Senator Dianne Feinstein said the document would not be released this week, and might not come out before lawmakers leave later this month to campaign for the 4 November congressional elections.

Vice News covers a homicidal excuse:

A Justice Department Memo Provides the CIA’s Legal Justification to Kill a US Citizen

“This white paper sets forth the legal basis upon which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could use lethal force in Yemen against a United States citizen who senior officials reasonably determined was a senior leader of al-Qaida or an associated force of al-Qaida.”

So begins a 22-page, heavily redacted, previously top-secret document titled “Legality of a Lethal Operation by the Central Intelligence Agency Against a US Citizen,” which provides the first detailed look at the legal rationale behind lethal operations conducted by the agency. The white paper [pdf below] was turned over to VICE News in response to a long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department.

It’s one of two white papers the Justice Department prepared in 2011 after lawmakers demanded to know what the administration’s legal rationale was for targeting for death the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen. The first white paper, released last year, addressed why the targeted killing by the US military of an American abroad was lawful. This second white paper addresses why it was lawful for the CIA to do so. Neither white paper identifies Awlaki by name.

The May 25, 2011 document is based on a 41-page Justice Department memo that lays out the government’s legal basis for targeting Awlaki without affording him his right to due process under the US Constitution. For years, the Obama administration was pressured by lawmakers to share the memo, but officials refused — and wouldn’t even confirm that such a memo existed.

From The Intercept, the usual suspects, pocketing loot:

Murky Special Ops Have Become Corporate Bonanza, Says Report

The U.S. government is paying private contractors billions of dollars to support secretive military units with drones, surveillance technology, and “psychological operations,” according to new research.

A detailed report [PDF], published last week by the London-based Remote Control Project, shines a light on the murky activities of the U.S. Special Operations Command by analyzing publicly available procurement contracts dated between 2009 and 2013.

USSOCOM encompasses four commands – from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – and plays a key role in orchestrating clandestine U.S. military missions overseas.

Researcher Crofton Black, who also works as an investigator for human rights group Reprieve, was able to dig through the troves of data and identify the beneficiaries of almost $13 billion worth of spending by USSOCOM over the five-year period. He found that more than 3,000 companies had provided services that included aiding remotely piloted drone operations in Afghanistan and the Philippines, helping to conduct surveillance of targets, interrogating prisoners, and launching apparent propaganda campaigns.

From the Guardian, don’t hold your breath:

Police using military gear in riots could be forced to repay millions in grants

  • Senators express concern over scenes in Ferguson in review hearing on federal militarisation of local police forces

US police forces that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearings into this summer’s riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Department of Justice and the White House were already investigating whether to limit federal programs that have showered local law enforcement agencies with armoured vehicles and military-style equipment in recent years.

But the Department of Homeland Security, one of three US agencies primarily responsible for providing the equipment, said it was now considering whether to demand that its grants be repaid if police are found to have broken a little-known rule prohibiting its use in riot suppression.

More from USA Today:

Senators: ‘Police militarization’ needs more oversight

The federal government is sending more than $1 billion a year to police departments across the country — in the form of equipment and grants — with little assessment of whether that aid is needed and with minimal follow-up on how the weapons or money is used, according to testimony at a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The hearing — co-chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to probe “police militarization” in the wake of the police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo. — focused on three federal programs designed to help local police departments respond to drug crime and terrorist attacks. Lawmakers and witnesses suggested those programs have run amok, haphazardly doling out military equipment and federal funds and transforming some local police into paramilitary forces.

Pressed by McCaskill and others on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, federal officials who oversee the programs testified they had no way to track any “military-grade” equipment supplied by the government or purchased with federal dollars.

Next, from Mother Jones, a story close to Casa esnl:

Video: What We Saw Before Being Kicked Out of the SWAT Convention

This weekend, my colleague Prashanth Kamalakanthan and I attended Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by more than 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security. The five-day confab included a trade show where vendors display everything from armored trucks to sniper rifles to 3-D printable drones. (We documented a few of the more remarkable offerings here.) It also involved the largest SWAT training exercise in the world. Some 35 SWAT teams competed in a 48-hour exercise involving 31 scenarios that included ambushing vehicles, indoor shootouts, maritime interdiction, train assaults, and a mock eviction of a right-wing Sovereign Citizens group. The teams came from cities across the San Francisco Bay Area, Singapore, and South Korea and included a University of California SWAT team, a team of US Marines, and a SWAT team of prison guards.

But on Sunday, at a competition site near the Bay Bridge, our coverage was cut short. A police officer confiscated our press badges, politely explaining that his captain had called and given him the order. The captain, he said, told him we had been filming in an unauthorized location, though he could not tell us where that location was. (We’d been advised earlier that it was okay to film so long as we did not go on the bridge itself.) After several phone calls from both me and my editors, no one could tell us exactly what we had done wrong, but Sergeant J.D. Nelson, the public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department (which hosts the Department of Homeland Security-funded event) made it clear that we could not have our passes back.

And the video, also via Mother Jones:

Inside Urban Shield: The World’s Largest SWAT Training Event

Program note:

At Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by over 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security, our coverage was cut short by police.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers another misbehavior:

Former Atlanta officer indicted for alleged brutal assault

A Fulton County Grand Jury has indicted a former Atlanta police officer accused of assaulting a suspect, the District Attorney said Wednesday.

Nicholas J. Dimauro, 32, was indicted on two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of violation of oath by a public officer and one count of aggravated assault for the 2010 attack, DA Paul Howard’s office said.

The indictment alleges that in 2010, Robert Wormley was returning to his home at 3 a.m. on Woods Drive when he was approached by Officer Dimaur, Howard said. Dimauro claimed that Wormley was illegally walking on a public street and ran when he tried to question him.

Dimauro apprehended Wormley behind a house on Hood Street, where the officer allegedly hit and kicked a man on the ground, later identified as Wormley, for 15 minutes, according to prosecutors. A resident of the home allegedly witnessed the assault.

After the jump, protesting a Mexican cop’s conviction, a clarion call for reform, a Confederate militia forms, remilitarizing the Axis powers, major league malware, cyberbuffing and cyberamnesia, terrorism allegations in Pakistan, a Chinese admonition, hints of Sino/American thaw?, neo-Nazi woes in Japan and the view from Beijing, a Sino/Indian feeler, verbal sparring over Chinese jets [and problems thereof], and a Sino/Japanese sit-down sought. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Including a tragic Ebola update


Though we broke out Ebola coverage for today’s earlier EbolaWatch, we have one crucial update — a demonstration once again that racism, tinged with eugenics, lies at the heart of today’s Grand Old Party. [And there’s lot of environmental news, including a series of very serious alarms.]

First, via The Hill, the deplorable:

GOP cuts funding request to fight Ebola

House Republicans indicated Tuesday that they will provide less than half of the White House’s funding request to fight Ebola in the next government spending bill.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) agreed as of Tuesday morning to spend a total of $40 million to fight the epidemic in the 2015 spending bill.

This would include $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $15 million for the Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to ramp up production of an experimental anti-Ebola drug, the source said.

The White House had asked for $88 million for Ebola in total, including $58 million for BARDA, which is involved in coordinating experimental treatments during public health emergencies.

On to that other outbreak we’ve been coverage, first with JapanToday:

81 dengue fever cases reported in 15 prefectures

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Tuesday that the number of reported dengue fever cases stood at 81 in 15 prefectures as of Tuesday morning.

The ministry is working with Tokyo metropolitan government health officials to spray insecticide in three parks in Tokyo, where the disease spread by mosquitoes, is believed to have originated, TV Asahi reported.

Since the weekend, parts of Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyoen and Meijijingu Gaien parks have been closed to the public, resulting in the cancellation of many events.

Jiji Press notes a spread:

1st Dengue Case outside Tokyo Reported

A man in his 60s is believed to have been infected with dengue fever in Chiba, east of Tokyo, the first infection outside the capital since the first domestic case in nearly 70 years was reported last month, the health ministry said Tuesday.

This is the third infection confirmed outside Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park and surrounding areas, where most of the recent infections originated.

It remains unclear whether the man has come into contact with others infected with the virus. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is now investigating.

And from the Mainichi, same disease, another continent, another notable development:

Brazil looks to introduce genetically modified mosquitoes to tackle dengue fever

While Japan is experiencing a domestic dengue fever outbreak for the first time in decades, the same virus claimed 603 lives in Brazil last year. The Brazilian government is implementing numerous efforts to prevent the mosquito-borne virus from spreading.

Last year, some 1.4 million people were infected with the dengue virus in Brazil. While the country had tried to eliminate dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes by spraying insecticide and informing residents about the disease, pest control could only be done in limited areas, and the effect was temporary.

Recently, the Brazilian government has focused on eliminating puddles of water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Local governments have advised residents not to leave water in items such as empty cans, old tires and dishes under plant containers while fining home owners when mosquito larva are found on their premises.

From Environment News Service, another epidemic, one we created ourselves:

Poor European Air Quality Linked to Poor Adult Lung Health

Children who suffer poor lung health from breathing polluted air are not alone – so do adults.

In the first study of its kind, published Saturday, researchers from across Europe evaluated the correlation between air pollution and lung function in European adults and found that the harmful effects of breathing polluted air persist into adulthood.

The researchers used indicators of vehicle traffic in the area and modeled the exposure levels to different pollution measures, including nitrogen oxides (NO2 and NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

Their conclusions may seem obvious, but the study’s authors, Nicole Probst-Hensch and Martin Adam from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute based in Basel, say their findings are “crucial” as they demonstrate that air pollution is having a negative effect, not only on children, as previously demonstrated, but also on adults.

Along the same lines, via the Guardian:

South Africa’s coal-fired power stations carry heavy health costs

In the settlement of Masakhane near the Duvha plant, residents wear masks to avoid breathing in the coal dust

South Africa’s dependence on coal to generate 85% of its electricity is taking a substantial toll on human health, according to environmental groups. A report from Greenpeace (pdf) in February estimates that up to 2,700 premature deaths are caused every year by emissions from the country’s 16 coal-fired power plants.

Greenpeace released the report in the wake of an application by Eskom, South Africa’s public power utility, to postpone compliance with new minimum emissions standards aimed at reducing the damaging health impacts of air pollution.

These new standards are particularly vital for the country’s north-eastern Mpumalanga province where 12 coal-fired power plants are clustered on the western high-altitude side of the Highveld. They pump out sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM) at levels often more than double the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). As a result, levels of air pollution in Mpumalanga’s Highveld are the highest in the country and among the highest in the world, according to news reports.

From BBC News, alarms shriek:

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty. But the UK’s energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.

Reuters covers a consequence:

Climate change increases possibility of megadrought in Southwestern U.S.

  • A new study finds an increased possibility of severe and long-term megadrought affecting Southwestern United States

The Southwestern United States could face a decade long drought according to a new study by Cornell, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey researchers.

According to lead author and Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Toby Ault, climate change is increasing the possibility of a “megadrought” – a drought that could last over thirty years.

The study is based on historical data of previous droughts and uses current changes in precipitation patterns caused by global warming to evaluate the risks of severe droughts in the near future.

MercoPress covers another:

Antarctica sea levels rising faster because of fresh water from melting glaciers, say researchers

  • Sea levels around Antarctica are rising faster than anywhere else in the southern ocean. The global average rise in ocean heights in the last 19 years has been 6cms, but the rise in seas around Antarctica is 2cms higher.

This seemingly counter-intuitive finding is certainly a consequence of melting ice in the Southern Ocean, but the connection with global warming is, for the moment, tenuous. The agency that is behind the rising sea levels is simply an excess of fresh water from melting glaciers – about 350 billion tons of it.

“Fresh water is less dense than salt water, and so in regions where an excess of fresh water has accumulated we expect a localized rise in sea level,” says Craig Rye, an oceanography researcher at of the University of Southampton in the UK, who, with colleagues, has published the findings in Nature Geoscience.

From New Europe, yet another:

Spain sees increased damage by forest fires in 2014

Forest fires in Spain burned a total of 39,410 hectares of land in the first eight months of 2014, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment said Monday.

The amount of damage to the nation’s forests has increased by 15 percent, compared to the 34,268 hectares burned down during the same period in 2013, data showed.

2014 has seen a 40.5 percent rise in the number of fires burning an area of over a hectare. This implies that fires have been able to both become established and to spread faster this year than in 2013.

And yet another, via the Guardian:

North America’s key birds facing extinction, study finds

  • 314 species, including the bald eagle and 10 state birds of US at risk from climate change

Half of North America’s bird species, from common backyard visitors like the Baltimore oriole and the rufous hummingbird to wilderness dwellers like the common loon and bald eagle, are under threat from climate change and many could go extinct, an exhaustive new study has found.

Seven years of research found climate change the biggest threat to North America’s bird species.

Some 314 species face dramatic declines in population, if present trends continue, with warming temperatures pushing the birds out of their traditional ranges. Ten states and Washington DC could lose their state birds.

And from RT, more anthropogenic environmental havoc:

Lake Baikal, world’s deepest body of freshwater, turning into swamp – ecologists

The world’s oldest and deepest body of freshwater, Lake Baikal, is turning into a swamp, Russian ecologists warn. They say that tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and water transport vehicles is being dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake.

One of the natural wonders and the pearl of Russia’s Siberia, Lake Baikal has recently been a source of alarming news, due to an increased number of alien water plants which have formed in the lake waterlogging it, ecologists said at a roundtable discussion recently held in the city of Irkutsk.

A recent scientific expedition discovered that 160 tons of liquid waste are produced every season in Baikal’s Chivyrkui Bay, said the head of Baikal Environmental Wave, one of Russia’s first environmental NGOs, according to SIA media outlet.

From BBC News, another tragedy:

Four Peruvian anti-logging activists murdered

Four Peruvian tribal leaders have been killed on their way to a meeting to discuss ways to stop illegal logging.

The men from the Ashaninka community were attempting to travel to Brazil when they were murdered. Campaigners say the men had received several death threats from illegal loggers, who are suspected of being behind the killings.

Correspondents say indigenous people have felt under increasing threat from deforestation in recent years.

An optimistic note from Business Insider:

The End Of Fracking Is Closer Than You Think

Canadian geologist David Hughes has some sober news for the Kool-Aid-drinking boosters of the United States’ newfound eminence in fossil fuel production: it’s going to go bust sooner rather than later.

Working with the Post Carbon Institute, a sustainability think-tank, Hughes meticulously analyzed industry data from 65,000 US shale oil and natural gas wells that use the much-ballyhooed extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking. The process involves drilling horizontally as well as vertically, and then pumping a toxic cocktail of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals deep underground in order to break apart the rock formations that hold deposits of oil and gas.

Hughes found that the production rates at these wells decline, on average, 85 percent over three years. “Typically, in the first year there may be a 70 percent decline,” Hughes told VICE News. “Second year, maybe 40 percent; third year, 30 percent. So the decline rate is a hyperbolic curve. But nonetheless, by the time you get to three years, you’re talking 80 or 85 percent decline for most of these wells.”

But if you really want some to worry about, consider this from RT America:

Yellowstone supervolcano eruption to be a countrywide disaster

Program notes:

Although the odds are low for a major eruption happening anytime soon, a new study is once again raising fears over the Yellowstone supervolcano. A paper in the “Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems” journal lays out the suffering the US would undergo in a worst-case scenario disaster, predicting most major cities in the US being covered in layers of potentially deadly volcanic ash. RT’s Lindsay France takes a look at the study and breaks down its findings.

And for our final item, today’s lone Fukushimapocalypse Now! event, via the Guardian:

Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages

  • Last month Tokyo Electric Power was ordered to pay $500,000 compensation, now workers sue for promised danger money

The legal net has started to tighten around the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as victims of the accident, and those responsible for clearing it up, take their grievances to the courts.

Last week, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it would not contend a court ruling ordering it to pay almost $500,000 in compensation to the family of a woman who killed herself two months after being forced to flee her home near the plant.

That claim, which could pave the way for similar suits, has been followed by a unprecedented attempt by four Fukushima Daiichi workers to sue the utility for unpaid wages.

InSecurityWatch: Dragons, spooks, hacks, drones


First up, from Vocativ, no comment needed:

“Game of Thrones” Author George Martin: Dragons Could Destroy ISIS

  • He means nuclear weapons, but to Martin they’re the same thing

From the Japan Times, Bushian justification:

Bush-era memos show president had authority to wiretap Americans at all times

The U.S. Justice Department has released two memos detailing the Bush administration’s legal justification for monitoring the phone calls and email messages of Americans without a warrant.

The documents, released late Friday, relate to a secret program dubbed Stellar Wind that began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It allowed the National Security Agency to obtain communications data within the United States when at least one party was a suspected al-Qaida or al-Qaida affiliate member, and at least one party in the communication was located overseas.

“Even in peacetime, absent congressional action, the president has inherent constitutional authority . . . to order warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance,” then-assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith said in a heavily redacted 108-page memo dated May 6, 2004.

Cryptome has posted the documents here [PDF]:

From Ars Technica, outsourcing at its worst:

When NSA and FBI call for surveillance takeout, these companies deliver

  • “Trusted third party companies” serve up ISPs’ subeona’d and FISA warrant data.

Not every Internet provider can handle the demands of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant or law enforcement subpoena for data. For those companies, Zack Whittaker reports on ZDNet, the answer is to turn to a shadowy class of companies known as “trusted third parties” to do the black bag work of complying with the demands of the feds.

Under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), phone companies and Internet providers can charge back the government for their efforts in responding to warrants. AT&T charges the CIA more than $10 million per year for access to its phone call metadata. But smaller ISPs who aren’t frequently hit with warrants can’t afford to keep the infrastructure or manpower on-hand to respond to requests—so they sign up with a “trusted third party” capable of doing the work as an insurance policy against such requests.

Companies such as Neustar, Yaana Technologies, and Subsentio contract with smaller providers and reap the profits from charging federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies for the data. Neustar and Yaana are also essentially private intelligence companies, providing large-scale data capture and analytics (though probably not on the scale of NSA’s Xkeyscore.) Neustar is also in the phone number portability business, and owns a number of the new top level domains approved by ICANN.

Al Jazeera America sees a profit:

Immigration seen as bonanza for slumping global defense industry

  • Technologies built for wars abroad are repurposed along the US-Mexico boundary and other international frontiers

A desolate patch of terrain in southern Arizona — crossed mostly by coyotes, jackrabbits and Border Patrol agents — is one of the planned sites for a 120-foot-tall lattice-steel tower. Located two miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, the tower will be outfitted with sensors to allow Customs and Border Patrol to detect and record the movement of migrants and smugglers up to 7.5 miles away.

The simple structure will contain advanced technology that has been already used halfway across the globe in Israel, where its makers, Israeli defense company Elbit Systems Ltd., have deployed their border security products for more than a decade.

The towers being erected in Arizona shed light on the fierce and ongoing debate over U.S. border strategy where they symbolize efforts to adopt a more militaristic policy. At the same time the presence of a foreign company at the heart of such a project also highlights a booming niche in the global defense industry: one where hefty profits can be made by fortifying international frontiers.

From Boing Boing, a major source of domestic insecurity:

NYPD arrest human rights lawyer waiting outside restaurant while kids used bathroom

Chaumtoli Huq, former general counsel for NYC Public Advocate Tish James, attended a rally in Times Square with her family, and afterwards, waited on the sidewalk outside of a Ruby Tuesday restaurant while her husband took their children (10 and 6) to the bathroom.

NYPD Officer Ryan Lathrop and another cop told Huq that she had to move along. She stated that she had the right to stand on the sidewalk and asked what the problem was. She was then spun around, roughly pinned against the wall and cuffed, and then taken away without being allowed to tell her family what had happened to her.

When Huq’s husband figured out — eventually — what had happened and went to the precinct house, the officers on duty questioned him as to why he had a different surname to his wife. One then told Huq that “In America wives take the names of their husbands.”

Here’s hoping, via PandoDaily:

New York, Washington DC, and other cities hope body cameras will keep police officers honest

Members of several New York Police Department precincts in each of the city’s five boroughs and a public housing area will soon be outfitted with body cameras, the police commissioner announced Thursday, to see if the devices can improve relations between police and the public.

If ever there were relations that need to be improved, it’s between police officers and the people they’re supposed to serve. The NYPD itself has been caught up in scandal after scandal, whether it was the racial profiling encouraged by stop-and-frisk laws or the murder of an unarmed black man who repeatedly told officers that he couldn’t breathe before he was killed during an arrest.

The NYPD isn’t the only police department that needs to learn how to better serve the public. Perhaps the most prominent example of the strained relationship between officers and civilians comes courtesy of Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where a police officer killed unarmed Michael Brown in August, prompting numerous protests and drawing attention to the militarization of police.

And it’s not just U.S. police who are jumping on the militarization bandwagon. From China’s CCTV America:

Militarization of Mexico’s police forces

Program note:

The Mexican government is conducting a new experiment with a military unit that will be used as a police force, despite the fact that this has been shown to lead to more violence. Laura Carlsen answers questions about all sides of this issue from Mexico City.

From Ars Technica, Goggle this!:

Google silent on support for group opposing net neutrality and muni broadband

  • Nonprofit that Google is part of also supports Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger

Common Cause and more than 50 other advocacy groups this week called on Google to end its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that has pushed state laws limiting the rights of cities and towns to create community-owned broadband networks. ALEC also opposes network neutrality rules that Google used to be a staunch supporter of and last month urged the FCC to quickly approve Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner Cable without imposing any regulatory conditions on the merger.

In a letter to Google’s top executives, Common Cause et al wrote that “Over the last year, hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions asking Google to end its ALEC membership because of their concerns about the harmful role ALEC has played in our democratic process… The public knows that the ALEC operation—which brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors to discuss proposed legislation and share lavish dinners—threatens our democracy. The public is asking Google to stop participating in this scheme.”

Common Cause also complained about ALEC’s nonprofit status to the IRS in 2012, saying the group “massively underreports” lobbying it does on behalf of corporate members.

And then there’s this from MIT Technology Review, donning our own personal lie detectors for Big Brother?:

Google Glass Can Now Track Your Stress Level

  • A new way to track heart and breathing data, demonstrated with Google Glass, could heighten interest in wearable sensors

Besides projecting directions and e-mails in front of your face, Google Glass can also measure biological signs like heart and breathing rates, according to new research. The work suggests a new way for wearable devices to track a person’s stress level and provide instant fitness feedback.

Researchers from MIT’s Media Lab and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing say that they can accurately ferret out this data by monitoring a Glass wearer’s head movements with the gyroscope, accelerometer, and camera built into Google Glass. A paper on the research will be presented at the MobiHealth conference in Athens, Greece, in November.

The project, called BioGlass, could lead to biometric-tracking apps for Google Glass. Looking beyond the controversial head-worn computer, researchers hope their work leads to less obtrusive sensors for self-monitoring via wearable devices.

From Nextgov, a cloudy security horizon:

Senator Demands Answers About iCloud Security Measures

A top Senate Democrat is demanding more information from Apple after hackers obtained nude photos of several celebrities.

In a statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said he wants the company to brief his staff on the “security protocols in place for its cloud databases.”

“Apple is expected to introduce a new version of its iPhone that will enable, if not encourage, users to store more information with its cloud services, and I want to learn whether these focused, targeted attacks are symptomatic of wider, systemic vulnerabilities,” the West Virginia Democrat said.

Apple is expected to unveil the new iPhone 6 next week.

Nextgov again,, with more security overcast:

How Do Agencies Feel About iCloud?

Cracking open iCloud accounts — though the exact nature of the hack is still unknown — has proven to be not impossible, as evidenced by the explicit images of Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence now floating around the Internet.

Some agencies, such as the General Services Administration, remotely ban iCloud use on personal — commonly called Bring-Your-Own-Device — phones. GSA relies on a “mobile device management” system that links with each iPhone to deactivate the service.

NASA is in the process of installing mobile management software that would do the same for its employees, Alexander said.

She added, “We are always concerned with the protection of government information, whether via iCloud or other storage sites, and stress that importance through ongoing IT security awareness training, continuous monitoring and other assessments.”

The London Daily Mail drones on:

Attack of the drones: Hollywood celebrities are besieged by paparazzi spies in the sky. Worried? You should be… because they’ll soon be a regular fixture over YOUR home

  • Camera-wielding aircraft terrorise celebrities by flying over their homes
  • Stars fear photographers could use devices to track and follow them
  • Divorce lawyers hope to use devices to keep tabs on cheating spouses
  • American legislators are scrambling to extend privacy to include drones
  • Controlled from miles away, many fear pilots will be impossible to track down

From the New Zealand Herald, another kind of online security threat?:

NZ pupils struggling to speak

  • Use of gadgets and parents too busy to talk suspected of hindering children’s language development

Fewer children starting school can speak in sentences, prompting an investigation by education chiefs.

Primary schools around the country have noted a decline in the spoken-language abilities of new entrants and the Ministry of Education will look into the reports.

School leaders and a specialist in linguistics suspect the problem could be caused by factors including children using gadgets too often and parents not talking to them enough.

The ability of youngsters to express themselves in the classroom is essential to their cognitive development and future learning.

From the Guardian, signing up for the Internot [apologies to Ignacio Chapela]:

Vermont cafe finds a ban on laptops and tablets earns better business

  • Owners of the August First bakery shut down their Wi-Fi as behemoths like Starbucks take a mixed line on wireless devices

While being glued to a mobile device has become a dangerously common part of 2014 life, a couple in Vermont has reaped financial rewards by rejecting 21st-century technology at their bakery, August First.

Wife-and-husband team Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick banned laptops and tablets from their Burlington-based bakery earlier this year, after determining that laptop patrons spent much more time, and much less money, at the eatery than the average customer.

The pair decided to do away with tech as they faced more and more customers glued to their screens. Whalen said when they envisioned creating August First, they didn’t plan on it being a place where people settled for hours to do work.

After the jump, on to the Game of Zones, including a Russian move on the oil-rich Arctic, where both East and West are staking claims, more tension in the Koreas, a little Russo/Sino angst, a Chinese spooky mystery, Japanese diplomacy hits the road, and Tokyo aims for a security council, with a little Bengali help, with an agenda in hand. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Shifting migration patterns


From the Pew Research Center, evidence of a dramatic shift in patterns ix extra-legal immigation:

BLOG Migrants

InSecurityWatch: History, bombs, drones, zones


And lots more.

First, some history with the Associated Press:

US trained Alaskans as secret ‘stay-behind agents’

Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S. government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show.

Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950.

“The military believes that it would be an airborne invasion involving bombing and the dropping of paratroopers,” one FBI memo said. The most likely targets were thought to be Nome, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Seward.

So FBI director J. Edgar Hoover teamed up on a highly classified project, code-named “Washtub,” with the newly created Air Force Office of Special Investigations, headed by Hoover protege and former FBI official Joseph F. Carroll.

More history from PetaPixel:

US Spy Satellites Used to Drop Photos in ‘Film Buckets’ from Space for Airplanes to Catch in Mid-Air

So, you think taking your film to the local shop to get developed is a pain? Try being an American spy satellite in the 1960s. Getting your film developed then meant dropping it in a special ‘film bucket’ capsule from space, which the US Air Force then had to catch in mid-air.

Strange as this seems, this is in fact how it worked, as you can see in the video above. Photographs captured by these so-called “Corona” satellites were shot on special 70 millimeter Kodak film using two panoramic cameras that evolved over the course of the program.

The satellites carried anywhere between 8,000 and 16,000 feet of film per camera (depending on the year and thickness of the film) and once one of these rolls was spent, it would be jettisoned in a GE reentry capsule nicknamed “film bucket.” This is where it gets interesting.

Der Spiegel offers the latest Snowden leaks:

A Two-Faced Friendship: Turkey Is ‘Partner and Target’ for the NSA

  • Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal wide-scale spying against Turkey by America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ. They also show the US worked closely with Ankara to battle Kurdish separatists.

Documents from the archive of US whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The US government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, DC, has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

The Associated Press brings us up to date:

German security official warns of terror threat

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency expects that Islamic extremists who have traveled to Syria and Iraq will return and commit terror attacks.

Unlike Britain, Germany hasn’t raised its national threat level for terrorism recently. But Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that there was an “increased abstract threat” of attacks in Germany.

At least 400 people from Germany have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic extremist groups, though the real figure may be significantly higher, Maassen told Deutschlandfunk radio.

And the Register covers iCloud insecurity:

JLaw, Upton caught in celeb nude pics hack

  • 100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped

Naked photos of US celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande have been published online by an anonymous hacker who reportedly obtained the explicit pics from the victims’ Apple iCloud accounts.

Nude photos of 17 celebrities have been published online. The anonymous hacker posting on grime-‘n-gore board 4Chan claimed to have naked pics on more than 100 celebrities in total.

Lawrence’s publicist Bryna Rifkin confirmed the validity of the photos and condemned their publication.

More everyday insecurity from Threatpost:

Backoff Sinkhole Reveals Sorry Point-of-Sale Security

Kaspersky Lab researchers say that a recent analysis of two Backoff malware command and control servers paints “a very bleak picture of the state of point-of-sale security.”

Kaspersky Lab sinkholed two of the malware’s command and control servers. In just two days, nearly 100 infected systems, mostly in the U.S. and Canada but also in a number of other countries, attempted to contact the servers which are now no longer controlled by Backoff’s authors. Victims are said to include a popular Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S., a North American freight shipping and transport logistics company, a liquor store chain in the U.S., a North American payroll association and more.

Backoff is a piece of malware that targets the point-of-sale terminals that process payment information at retail locations. This year has been something of a golden age for such malware. Breaches at Target and Michael’s are known to have been caused by point-of-sale malware, and breaches of customer payment data at various other locations like the Albertson’s and Supervalu grocery store conglomerates, UPS, and others are all but confirmed to have been caused by point-of-sale malware as well.

In the past year, we’ve written about at least four different point-of-sale threats: Chewbacca, Dexter, a class of malware known as RAM scrapers and now Backoff.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers another kind of domestic insecurity:

Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry

A union leader in the oil industry in the central Colombian province of Meta was gunned down by hired killers riding a motorcycle, officials said Saturday.

Edith Santos was hit with two bullets in the chest while in her office at San Isidro de Chichineme in Acacias, Meta Province, the USO petroleum workers union said in a communique.

The union leader’s family took her to a medical center in the region where she soon died.

Santos was president of a community association and assessor for the National Security Professionals Union, or Sinproseg, which represents bodyguards and security guards in all Colombia.

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the London Telegraph:

Top general blasts Cameron’s weakness on Putin and Islamic State

  • A former British commander of Nato accuses the Prime Minister of demeaning himself with a ‘flaccid’ stance against the Islamic State

David Cameron has demeaned himself with a “flaccid” response to the crisis in Iraq a former British Nato commander has said in scathing attack on Government foreign policy.

Gen Sir Richard Shirreff likened the Prime Minister’s stance to the appeasement of the 1930s and said it would embolden Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Sir Richard, who until recently was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Nato Europe, accused Mr Cameron of losing his nerve and undermining Nato by declaring he does not want to send troops abroad to fight.

SINA English fires a counterblast:

Don’t mess with nuclear Russia, Putin says

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence.

He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.

Vocativ covers ad hoc dronage:

Poor Man’s Drone Warfare in Eastern Ukraine

  • Crowdfunded pro-Ukrainian “nerd units” are using unarmed drones to spot separatist forces and guide their mortar attacks on target

Ukraine’s military geeks are bringing the fury to the front line. The pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighters were frustrated with the lack of organization and funding of the Ukrainian army, so the self-proclaimed “nerd units” decided to take matters into their own hands. They crowdsourced funds to purchase drones and quadcopters. And now the eye-in-the-sky machines are proving to be a game-changer in the fight against pro-Russian separatists.

Aerial information about enemy fighters is key in any conflict, but for a largely underfunded and inefficient army, like Ukraine’s, it’s hard to come by. The lack of such information hurts in terms of both intel and financing: Every badly aimed mortar is just more money wasted.

With their newfound aerial support, the pro-Ukrainian forces are now using a drone named “The Fury” to call in coordinates for their mortar attacks against the pro-Russian rebels. The Fury has located enemy tanks near Gorlivka, Ukraine, which the soldiers later destroyed, according to a drone pilot whose identity was withheld.

More drone from the Los Angeles Times:

Israeli military reports downing drone that entered from Syria

Israel’s air force shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered the nation’s airspace over the Syrian border Sunday, Israeli military officials said.

According to an army statement, the drone crossed the border near Quneitra and was destroyed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile.

The military said that despite “sensitivity to recent occurrences in the proximity of the border,” it would respond to any breach of Israeli sovereignty. “We will continue to act to maintain safety and security” of Israeli civilians, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

From the London Daily Mail, a case of possession:

‘Dawn of Libya’ Islamist militia lets journalists TOUR American embassy in Tripoli after storming the compound evacuated by diplomats amid mounting violence

  • Footage reportedly taken inside the compound shows men gathered around the embassy villa’s swimming pool, with some even jumping in
  • An official claims the compound is being ‘safeguarded’ and was not ‘ransacked’
  • The compound has been unoccupied since July 26 when U.S. diplomats evacuated to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort
  • It comes near the two-year anniversary of the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi

And a video report from the Wall Street Journal:

Raw Video: Militia Members at U.S. Embassy Grounds in Libya

Program note:

Amateur video shows what appears to be Libyan militia members enjoying the pool on the grounds of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. The embassy was evacuated in July due to security concerns. Photo: AP/Amateur UGC Video

From Deutsche Welle, the enemy of my enemy:

PKK – from terrorist threat to ally?

  • The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is banned in Germany. The EU deems it a terrorist group. Now, however, regarding the threat from ‘IS,’ some German politicians appear ready to begin discussions over reconsidering.

Summer 1993: Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members storm the Turkish consulate in Munich. They take hostages and demand of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that he increase support for Kurdish rights.

The PKK carried out dozens of attacks that year on Turkish institutions in Germany, often as arson attacks. The battle that the PKK had been fighting against Turkey since the 1980s had also arrived in Germany.

The Kurds have long fought for their own state, an independent Kurdistan, as their settlements are spread across several countries: Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. In these attacks, primarily in eastern Turkey and neighboring border regions, tens of thousands of people were killed – Turkish soldiers, PKK fighters, and thousands of civilians as well.

Al Jazeera English covers a crackdown:

Bahrain arrests top human rights activist

Maryam al-Khawaja, who campaigns against abuse in Gulf state, charged with insulting king and assault on arrival.

The prominent Bahrain human rights activist and critic of the ruling family, Maryam al-Khawaja, has been arrested by authorities on her arrival at the Gulf state’s airport.

Posts on the Twitter account of Khawaja said she had been charged with insulting the king, assaulting police officers, and faced charges for her involvement with the rights campaign, Wanted For Justice.

Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, is the daughter of Shia Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been in custody in Bahrain since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

From International Business Times:

Al-Qaeda Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill Six Soldiers In Yemen

An Al-Qaeda affiliate killed six soldiers in Yemen Sunday, announcing on Twitter the deaths marked the start of a “widespread campaign.” The attacks by Ansar Al-Shariah were among the deadliest and most coordinated in southern Yemen since the army launched a campaign earlier this year to rid Abyan and Shabwa provinces of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants.

Ansar al-Sharia announced on Twitter it had launched a “widespread campaign in Shabwa province on Sunday at noon that targeted a number of military and security locations for the Sanaa regime.” The attacks were in the form of suicide bombings — one in the Gol al-Rayda district, the other near a checkpoint in Azzan, both in Shabwa province.

Reuters reported security forces killed five militants who tried to take over a police station in the eastern province of Hadramount. Last week, thousands of supporters of the Shiite Houthi group protested in the streets, demanding the overthrow of the government. They expressed anger at corruption within the state an the recent increase in fuel prices.

Deutsche Welle covers an assault on a spook shop:

Al-Shabab militants attack Somali intelligence headquarters

  • Militant group al-Shabab has bombed Somalia’s intelligence headquarters in the capital, Mogadishu. The rebels were trying to reach a high-security prison within the facility.

The militants carried out a bomb and gun attack against the facility in central Mogadishu on Sunday. The complex is a key interrogation center for Somalia’s intelligence agency, and contains a high security prison. Many suspected militants are believed to be held there, along with political prisoners.

The attack took place at about midday, when a car bomb exploded outside the Godka Jilacow facility. At least three further explosions and a gun battle took place afterwards.

Al-Shabab has confirmed its militants were behind the assault.

After the jump, it’s on to Asia, with turmoil in Pakistain, plus the latest developments in the Game of Zones, including Indo/Pakistani cross-border clashes, Thai coup consolidation, an Indonesian social media crackdown, a Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong electoral rules and a promised response, Taiwanese regrets and Chinese drones, and much, much more. . . Continue reading