Category Archives: Media

InSecurityWatch: War, spooks, hacks, zones


We begin today’s walk on the dark side with a story everyone knew was coming, via the New York Times:

U.S. Weighs Direct Military Action Against ISIS in Syria

The Obama administration is debating a more robust intervention in Syria, including possible American airstrikes, in a significant escalation of its weeks-long military assault on the Islamic extremist group that has destabilized neighboring Iraq and killed an American journalist, officials said Friday.

While President Obama has long resisted being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, officials said recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have made clear that it represents a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies. The beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, has contributed to what officials called a “new context” for a challenge that has long divided the president’s team.

Officials said the options include speeding up and intensifying limited American efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian rebel forces that have been fighting ISIS as well as fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Another option would be to bolster other partners on the ground to take on ISIS, including the Syrian Kurds.

But as Deutsche Welle notes, some things remain unsayable:

Germany ‘regrets’ comments on Qatar support for ‘IS’

  • Germany has upset Qatar, with one of Angela Merkel’s ministers saying the Gulf monarchy was funding the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” terror group, and another attempting some sensitive World Cup wordplay

The German government said on Friday that it had no direct evidence of Qatar funding the so-called “Islamic State” (“IS”) group active in Iraq and Syria.

“If there were misunderstandings, we regret these,” foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer told reporters in Berlin, after Development Minister Gerd Müller told public broadcaster ZDF earlier in the week that efforts to cut off “IS” funding had the “keyword Qatar.”

Schäfer on Friday said that Qatar had contacted the government in Berlin over the comments, and called the Gulf monarchy an important partner for Germany. However, he said that there were several issues, “where we are not always of the same opinion.”

While the Independent notes that America’s closest Arab ally is still killing people for witchcraft:

Saudi Arabia executes 19 during one half of August in ‘disturbing surge of beheadings’

Saudi Arabia has beheaded at least 19 people since the beginning of August in a surge of executions, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. The deaths relate to the period from 4 to 20 August and are included in the 34 deaths ordered since the beginning of January.

According to HRW, international standards require that capital punishment should only be reserved for the “most serious crimes” in countries that still use it.

Offences that resulted in the Saudi Arabian death penalties in August ranged from drug smuggling and sorcery.

And closer to home, the latest GOP cross-border xenophobia alert, via Mother Jones:

Iowa GOP Official Warns That Child Migrants Might Be Highly Trained “Warriors”

Iowa Republican National Committee member Tamara Scott has a special theory about the flood of child migrants entering the United States: What if they’re secretly ninjas?

Republican congressmen have previously argued that the 70,000 youths who will come across the border in 2014 are being brought over to bolster Democratic voter rolls at some point in the distant future, or that they are carrying a deadly disease that does not actually exist in their home countries. Scott, in a Thursday radio segment flagged by Right Wing Watch, sought to outdo them all:

For us just to open our borders it’s chaos we don’t know orderly who’s coming in, who’s not. When we see these kids, you and I think young kids, we think maybe 12-year-olds, maybe even…middle-schoolers. But we know back in our revolution, we had 12-year-olds fighting in our revolution. And for many of these kids, depending on where they’re coming from, they could be coming from other countries and be highly trained as warriors who will meet up with their group here and actually rise up against us as Americans. We have no idea what’s coming through our borders, but I would say biblically it’s not a Christian nation when you entice people to do wrong.

Wired threat level totes up another tab:

Personal Privacy Is Only One of the Costs of NSA Surveillance

There is no doubt the integrity of our communications and the privacy of our online activities have been the biggest casualty of the NSA’s unfettered surveillance of our digital lives. But the ongoing revelations of government eavesdropping have had a profound impact on the economy, the security of the internet and the credibility of the U.S. government’s leadership when it comes to online governance.

These are among the many serious costs and consequences the NSA and those who sanctioned its activities—including the White House, the Justice Department and lawmakers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein—apparently have not considered, or acknowledged, according to a report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

“Too often, we have discussed the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs through the distorting lens of a simplistic ‘security versus privacy’ narrative,” said Danielle Kehl, policy analyst at the Open Technology Institute and primary author of the report. “But if you look closer, the more accurate story is that in the name of security, we’re trading away not only privacy, but also the U.S. tech economy, internet openness, America’s foreign policy interests and cybersecurity.”

And the Guardian raises grounds for real domestic insecurity:

Ferguson: officer relieved of duty after ‘black little perverts’ video surfaces

  • Dan Page, among the police working at Ferguson protests, is relieved after video emerges of him saying ‘I’m into diversity, I kill everybody’

A police officer involved in the protests over Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, has been relieved of his duty after video surfaced of him describing black people as “little perverts” and Barack Obama as an illegal immigrant.

Dan Page – who was seen live on CNN earlier this week threatening to arrest the network’s anchor Don Lemon – was recorded in April giving a speech in which he railed against Muslims and gay people, saying: “I’m into diversity – I kill everybody.”

Page is the second St Louis county officer to have been stood down in controversial circumstances surrounding the Ferguson protests. Lieutenant Ray Albers was suspended on Wednesday after video emerged of him pointing his assault weapon at protestors and threatening to kill them.

And closer to Casa esnl, more grounds for insecurity from the Fairfield, California, Daily Republic:

Fairfield cops under investigation for possible database checks on potential dates

A pair of veteran Fairfield police officers are under investigation for possible felony conduct relating to their trolling of personals dating websites while on duty and possibly using confidential law enforcement databases repeatedly to screen women they found appealing.

The officers, Sgt. Stephen Ruiz and Detective Jacob Glashoff, had their desktop computers, their laptop computers, their duty cellphones and a Fairfield police iPad seized by an internal affairs investigator in June, according to court documents filed Thursday. The equipment was turned over to the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, which was joined in the investigation of the two officers by a data analyst with the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Analysis.

The investigation began in June when another detective reported to his superiors that some of his peers in the Investigations Bureau office at 1100 Texas St. were misusing the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System database. It connects to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and state and federal law enforcement records.

The Miami Herald makes a point with which we agree:

Miami-Dade mayor: ‘I want a camera on every police officer’

In the wake of national outrage over alleged police misconduct in Ferguson, Mo., Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday vowed to make “body cameras” mandatory for all county patrol officers.

His proposed budget calls for purchasing 500 of the mini cameras, enough to outfit about half of Miami-Dade’s patrol force. Made by Taser, they’re small enough to snap onto a pair of glasses or a hat in order to record everything an officer sees.

“I want a camera on every police officer,” Gimenez told the audience at a budget town hall meeting in Little Haiti.

From TechWeekEurope, friends in high places for a high-security service otherwise often decried by governments aplenty:

Tor Is Being Kept Safe By Dissenting GCHQ And NSA Agents, Claims Project Director

  • Apparently a few of the government spies want to keep Tor anonymous and secure

Employees of the UK and US intelligence services have been helping the Tor network maintain anonymity of its users, claims Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project.

Lewman told the BBC that his development team regularly gets ‘tipped off’ when the National Security Agency (NSA) or Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) find a vulnerability that could compromise the security of the network.

“There are plenty of people in both organisations who can anonymously leak data to us to say – maybe you should look here, maybe you should look at this to fix this,” he said. “And they have.”

From the Guardian, a spooky blast from the past:

Botched Nazi spy mission was act of sabotage, says historian

  • German intelligence officials opposed to Hitler’s plans chose agents with poor English for Operation Lena, book suggests

Of the 12 spies who landed in Britain as part of Operation Lena in September 1940, most were arrested without having come closing to fulfilling their mission, and “because of their own stupidity”, as British official records put it. Why Germany sent such inept agents on one of the most important missions of the second world war has remained an enduring mystery.

A book published in Germany this summer comes up with a new explanation. In Operation Sealion: Resistance inside the Secret Service, the historian Monika Siedentopf argues that the botched spying mission was not the result of German incompetence, but a deliberate act of sabotage by a cadre of intelligence officials opposed to Hitler’s plans.

Siedentopf first became interested in the story of Operation Sealion – the German plan to invade Britain – while researching a book on the role of female spies during the war. For many other missions, German spies had been meticulously well-prepared, she noticed, so why not in 1940?

From Techdirt, censorship on campus:

University Bans Social Media, Political Content and Wikipedia Pages On Dorm WiFi

My understanding is that there was once a theory that America’s public universities were havens of free speech, political thought, and a center for the exchange of ideas. I must admit that this seems foreign to me. I’ve always experienced universities primarily as a group-think center mostly centered around college athletics. That said, if universities want to still claim to be at the forefront of idea and thought, they probably shouldn’t be censoring the hell out of what their students can access on the internet.

Yet, as btr1701 writes in about, that’s exactly what Northern Illinois University appears to be doing.

Northern Illinois University enacted an Acceptable Use Policy that goes further than banning torrents, also denying students access to social media sites and other content the university considers “unethical” or “obscene.” A discussion on the ban was brought to Reddit by user darkf who discovered the new policy while trying to access the Wikipedia page for the Westboro Baptist Church from his personal computer in his dorm room. The student received a filter message categorizing the page as “illegal or unethical.” It seems possible to continue to the webpage, but the message warns that all violations will be reviewed.

While DutchNews.nl resists a similar measure on a national scale:

Dutch minister opposes new law to criminalise ‘glorifying violence’

Justice minister Ivo Opstelten has rejected calls for the government to bring in a new law making it a crime to glorify terrorist violence.

Christian Democrat MPs have called for a change in the law following the murder of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State. The government is currently not doing enough to tackle the problem, CDA leader Sybrand Buma said on Thursday.

Opstelten said in a reaction he is not in favour of the introduction of ‘thought police’. ‘There is freedom of expression,’ the minister is quoted as saying.

While the Mainichi covers a real domestic security threat:

Dominican Republic bans Miley Cyrus concert

The Dominican Republic government commission that oversees public performances is banning a Sept. 13 concert by Miley Cyrus on morality grounds.

The commission said in a statement Thursday that it took the action because Cyrus often “undertakes acts that go against morals and customs, which are punishable by Dominican law.”

Tickets ranging from $27 to $370 for the concert in the capital have been on sale since July.

PandoDaily covers a banner year:

Are the hackers winning? 2014 is shaping up as a record year in security breaches

Hackers have been busy in 2014. According to a Data Breach QuickView report by Risk Based Security (RBS), the first half of 2014 has already surpassed the record set across all of 2013 for the number of consumer records exposed.

The company writes, “Mid-year 2014 data breaches exposed over 502 million records far exceeding the mid-year point in 2013, the previous all-time record setting year… and the recently reported exposure of 1.2 billion email addresses and usernames has not been included.”

This news comes weeks after Target released an analysis of the cost of its 2013 breach which, at 110 million records exposed, was the seventh largest breach in history and and was surely among the most-widely publicized. The final tally: $148 million, plus an incalculable loss of consumer trust. The incident, and a confidence eroding response by management, also ended up cost the company its CEO and CIO.

More hackery news from RT:

User beware: Researchers have 92% success rate hacking into Gmail app

Your smartphone may be far less secure than you think. A group of computer scientists say they’ve found a way to hack into six out of seven popular apps like Gmail on Android, Windows and iOS platforms, with a success rate of up to 92 percent.

The weakness, which was discovered by researchers from the University of California Riverside, means they could get potentially sensitive information, such as looking at emails and changing passwords. Thankfully for unsuspecting citizens, the team says it has no interest in using any personal data, but will instead present its findings in a paper: “Peeking into Your App without Actually Seeing It: UI State Inference and Novel Android Attacks,” at the USENIX Security Symposium in San Diego on Friday.

The team believed they could find a fault in an app because so many are produced by so many different developers. Once a user downloads a number of apps to his or her smartphone they are all running on the same shared platform, or operating system. Therefore users leave themselves open to attacks as an Android phone allows itself to be hijacked or pre-empted.

Network World covers still more hackery:

US warns ‘significant number’ of major businesses hit by Backoff malware

Over a thousand major enterprise networks and small and medium businesses in the U.S. have been compromised by a recently discovered malware package called “Backoff” and are probably unaware of it, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a cybersecurity alert on Friday.

Backoff first appeared in October 2013 and is capable of scraping the memory contents of point of sales systems—industry speak for cash registers and other terminals used at store checkouts—for data swiped from credit cards, from monitoring the keyboard and logging keystrokes, from communicating with a remote server.

“Over the past year, the Secret Service has responded to network intrusions at numerous businesses throughout the United States that have been impacted by the “Backoff” malware,” the alert said. “Seven PoS system providers/vendors have confirmed that they have had multiple clients affected.”

Meanwhile, a privacy battle shapes up in Europe, via RT:

Facebook given deadline in ‘largest privacy class action in Europe’

Facebook has been given four weeks to respond to a class action, launched against it by an Austrian activist and supported by 60,000 users. The suit claims Facebook violated users’ privacy, by cooperating with the NSA’s PRISM program.

The class action initiated by Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer, data privacy activist and founder of Europe vs. Facebook group has passed its first review in the Vienna Regional Court.

Facebook Ireland, which runs the social network’s activities outside the US and Canada, has been given four weeks to respond to the action.

BBC News covers a crackdown on aisle three:

Venezuela plans to introduce supermarket fingerprinting

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has announced a mandatory fingerprinting system in supermarkets to combat food shortages and smuggling.

He said the system would stop people from buying too much of a single item.

But the opposition in Venezuela rejected the plan, saying the policy treated all Venezuelans as thieves.

And Factor has Robocop, Mark I:

Bots on patrol: Mobile security robot to be mass produced

In a move that will rock the job security of night watchmen everywhere, the world’s first commercially available security robot is set for mass production in the US.

Designed by Denver-based Gamma 2 Robotics, the robot will now be manufactured entirely in the States, with a process that can be scaled up to full mass production as demand grows.

The robot, which is known as the Vigilant MCP (mobile camera platform), features a digital camera and an array of sensors to detect the presence of unauthorised intruders, and will activate the alarm and send out an alert should it find someone where they shouldn’t be.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including a call for a cyberwar treaty, talks in Karachi, a nautical seizure, a Chinese question, a Sino/American aerial close encounter, North Korean missiles ahead, tensions on the high seas, an Obama administration thumbs up for Japanese militarism, an anti-propaganda call in Japan, posturing by exercise, and still more turmoil over Japanese ethnic intolerance towards Koreans and that the ongoing crisis over Japanese reluctance to fully acknowledge World War II sex slavery. . .   Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Media, malarkey, spies, zones


An explanatory note: If you’re wondering why we don’t give more coverage of the events in the Mideast, it’s because those stories are getting wide play, while we tend to focus more on seeking patterns in events that gain widespread attention only sporadically or are otherwise neglected.

First up, via The Intercept, a crucial question in an increasingly Orwellian mediascape:

Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read?

This week, the announcement by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo that the company would prohibit the posting of the James Foley beheading video and photos from it (and suspend the accounts of anyone who links to the video) met with overwhelming approval. What made that so significant, as The Guardian’s James Ball noted today, was that “Twitter has promoted its free speech credentials aggressively since the network’s inception.” By contrast, Facebook has long actively regulated what its users are permitted to say and read; at the end of 2013, the company reversed its prior ruling and decided that posting of beheading videos would be allowed, but only if the user did not express support for the act.

Given the savagery of the Foley video, it’s easy in isolation to cheer for its banning on Twitter. But that’s always how censorship functions: it invariably starts with the suppression of viewpoints which are so widely hated that the emotional response they produce drowns out any consideration of the principle being endorsed.

It’s tempting to support criminalization of, say, racist views as long as one focuses on one’s contempt for those views and ignores the serious dangers of vesting the state with the general power to create lists of prohibited ideas. That’s why free speech defenders such as the ACLU so often represent and defend racists and others with heinous views in free speech cases: because that’s where free speech erosions become legitimized in the first instance when endorsed or acquiesced to.

The question posed by Twitter’s announcement is not whether you think it’s a good idea for people to see the Foley video. Instead, the relevant question is whether you want Twitter, Facebook and Google executives exercising vast power over what can be seen and read.

From the New York Times, an indictee, making political capital:

Perry Says Terrorists Could Be Entering the U.S. From Mexico

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas warned Thursday that militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other terrorist groups may have already slipped across the Mexican border.

Mr. Perry said there is “no clear evidence” that terrorists have entered the United States illegally across the southern border. But he argued that illegal immigration should be considered a national security issue as well as a social and economic problem, and as evidence he cited the increase in violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

“I think there is the obvious, great concern that — because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across — that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be,” he said during a conference on border security and immigration at the Heritage Foundation.

Homeland Security News Wire covers a familiar tale [as when Reagan/Bush I armed Jihadists to fight communists in Afghanistan:

Kurdish group on U.S. terrorist list now ally in fight against ISIS

Factions long held to be “terrorists” by the United States government are now being seen as allies as they fight against an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) advance into the traditionally Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have waged guerilla warfare in Turkey for several decades, and have been seen as terrorists by much of the world community — until recently. The PKK is now being seen as a valuable ally in the fight against ISIS.

Factions long held to be “terrorists” by the United States government are now being seen as allies as they fight against an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) advance into the traditionally Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

From the Guardian, more of that good old-fashioned blowback:

Pentagon: Isis is ‘beyond anything we’ve seen’ and must be contained

  • Defence chiefs describe militants as ‘apocalyptic’ group that will need to be defeated but maintain limited strikes are sufficient

Senior Pentagon officials described the Islamic State (Isis) militant group as an “apocalyptic” organisation that posed an “imminent threat” on Thursday, yet the highest ranking officer in the US military said that in the short term, it was sufficient for the United States to “contain” the group that has reshaped the map of Iraq and Syria.

Army general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in a Pentagon briefing that while Isis would eventually have to be defeated, the US should concentrate on building allies in the region to oppose the group that murdered an American journalist, James Foley.

“It is possible to contain them,” Dempsey said, in a Pentagon press conference alongside the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. “They can be contained, but not in perpetuity. This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated.”

TechWeekEurope takes us into the realm of unalloyed crime in the cybersphere:

UPS Hacked, Customer Financial Data Could Be Compromised

  • The world’s largest package-shipping company says it found malware at 51 retail outlets in the US

United Parcel Service (UPS) has revealed that earlier this year, hackers breached computer systems at 51 of its brick-and-mortar retail outlets across 24 US states, giving them the opportunity to steal customer data, including financial information.

The company didn’t specify the number of customers who might be affected, or the type of malware used in the attack. It also said it doesn’t plan to notify affected customers directly.

“As soon as we became aware of the potential malware intrusion, we deployed extensive resources to quickly address and eliminate this issue. Our customers can be assured that we have identified and fully contained the incident,” said Tim Davis, president of UPS Store.

And Defense One covers a new vein of cash for the publisher of the Washington Post:

Amazon Expands Its Cloud Services to the U.S. Military

Amazon Web Services has become the first commercial cloud provider authorized to handle the Defense Department’s most sensitive unclassified data.

Today’s announcement that AWS has achieved a provisional authority to operate under DOD’s cloud security model at impact levels 3-5 is a major win for the company, as it allows DOD customers to provision commercial cloud services for the largest chunks of their data.

And on to the latest chapter of the Asian Games of Zones, with ongoing tension in Pakistan, India border troubles [external and internal] and new arms orders and a new combat force to add muscle to rhetoric, a Chinese/Korean border buildup, Thai coup consolidation, a Sino/Canadian spooky spat, Korean/Japanese tensions, Japan goes stealthy, a Chinese hypersonic warhead delivery test fail, and yet more “comfort women” agita. . . Continue reading

New developments in the war on the press


Plus other casualties, one liely self-inflicted, a thousand more the consequence of harsh new economic “realities.”

First up, via The Real News Network, a report on the epidemic of arrests of journalists covering the unfolding drama in Ferguson, Missouri:

Police Continue to Violate Press Freedom In Ferguson

Program note:

With 11 journalists arrested thus far, Truthout.org investigative reporter Mike Ludwig describes how Ferguson police are using intimidation tactics against journalists

Next, from the Associated Press, a reporter withholding a confidential source is treated better in Afghanistan than in the U.S.:

Afghanistan orders NYT reporter to leave country

Afghanistan ordered a New York Times journalist Wednesday to leave the country in 24 hours and barred him from returning over a story he wrote saying that a group of officials were considering seizing power because of the impasse over who won its recent presidential election, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The attorney general’s office called Matthew Rosenberg, 40, into their office Tuesday and asked him to reveal his sources, which he refused to do, the Times reported. On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said the story threatened Afghanistan’s stability and security, announcing that he was being expelled. The statement suggested that the reporting, which relied largely on unnamed sources, was fabricated.

The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry and security agencies had been notified of the expulsion, the statement said.

From Deutsche Welle, finding a message in killing the messenger:

Islam expert on IS: ‘The main message is revenge’

A video depicting the beheading of a US journalist is part of a highly professional media strategy by the “Islamic State,” Islam expert Christoph Günther tells DW.

DW: The “Islamic State” (IS), previously known as ISIS, has published a video which purportedly depicts the beheading of US journalist James Foley. What was the message of this video?

Christoph Günther: The main message is revenge. The aesthetic presentation speaks a clear language. By dressing the victim in an orange jumpsuit like the detainees in Guantanamo, they’re saying, “We are turning the tables on you.”

The second message is one of deterrence: “If you use military force against us, then we will hit back with all means available to us. If need be, we will target all of your citizens that we can get our hands on: Journalists, employees of Western companies in the Kurdish region, and people who work for aid organizations.”

More from the Associated Press:

Militants use British killer as propaganda

Islamic militants are using a beheading video to send a chilling message — not just through the gruesome act, but also by the choice of messenger.

The black-clad fighter who appears to kill journalist James Foley speaks with an English accent, underscoring the insurgents’ increasing use of Western militants to mobilize recruits, terrify opponents and project the image of a global force.

He is the latest in a string of international jihadis — Britons, Australians, Chechens, Chinese and Indonesians — to appear in propaganda for the Islamic State group.

“They like to suggest they have a presence around the world much stronger than it is,” said Charlie Cooper, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank. “It does suggest that people all over the world are going off to fight in the tens of thousands.”

From the International Business Times, a mission that failed:

US Special Forces Operation Attempted Rescue Of American Journalist James Foley Before Beheading

Dozens of U.S. Special Forces conducted an operation with both air and ground components earlier this summer to rescue American citizens being held by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria, the White House said Thursday. The news came just a day after the militant group published a video showing the gruesome beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

The dangerous rescue mission focused on a “particular captor network” within the Sunni militant group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Several ISIS members were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded, according to CNN. The operation failed when no Americans were found.

“The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by ISIL,” the Pentagon said on Wednesday. “This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”

Vanity Fair hints at more potential tragedies to come:

James Foley’s Execution Raises Fears for Journalists Whose Kidnappings Remain Secret

Foley was not alone. I’d known for some time that he, along with a number of other Westerners, remained in the custody of ISIS. Many people who knew Jim, including his family and his employer, GlobalPost, had been making patient and valiant attempts to secure his release. In the video, the executioner shows off another kidnapped American journalist, Steven Sotloff, a freelancer who has contributed to Time magazine and was seized by ISIS in northern Syria in the summer of 2013, and threatens to kill him too. Foley’s family went public early with the news of his abduction, but most people don’t know about many of the other kidnappings. In large part this is because governments and families have persuaded themselves that the best strategy is to institute a “media blackout” in the hope of quietly securing the release of loved ones. Such blackouts don’t necessarily end with the release of hostages. The few who have been released from the custody of ISIS (about a half dozen, none of them American) appear to have been let go for money or other benefits—and to have been sworn to secrecy. There are arguments for and against such blackouts, and there have been lively debates among the families of the missing about their strategic value, but in principle they seem inimical to the spirit of journalism—and potentially counterproductive.

As a crime, kidnapping is uniquely cruel. Amid all the international concern about chemical weapons, thousands of ordinary Syrians have quietly been kidnapped in the last three years; there are no security companies to look out for them, and there is little outcry when they don’t come back. For a long period of time, Foley’s family, like many other families, had no idea whether their son was alive or dead. According to someone close to one of the cases, other prisoners who spent time with Foley noted that he had been severely tortured. He was also well liked: despite his travails over nearly two years of captivity, he remained upbeat and optimistic until the end. His killing will likely ignite a furious debate about the merits of President Obama’s decision to intervene in Iraq, and whether the administration could have done more to protect kidnapped Americans in Syria.

The Associated Press covers another journalistic fatality:

Press groups urge probe of Honduras reporter slay

Press freedom groups are urging Honduran authorities to thoroughly investigate the slaying of a broadcast journalist who was shot to death outside his home last week.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday condemned Nery Soto Torres’ killing and urged authorities to launch a full investigation and punish those responsible.

Police say two gunmen waiting in motorcycles shot Soto Torres to death Thursday as he arrived home in the city of Olanchito, in northern Yoro state.

The 32-year-old journalist directed and hosted a news program on Olanchito’s Channel 23. At least 46 journalists, broadcasters and media executives have been killed in Honduras since 2003.

From Reuters, the journalism body count graphically depicted:

Journalists in danger worldwide

From the London Telegraph, another kind of information control:

Viewing or sharing beheading video could be a criminal offence, police warn

  • As YouTube and Twitter suspend the accounts of people who share the graphic beheading video, Scotland Yard ones sharing it online could be a crime

Viewing or sharing the harrowing video of James Foley’s beheading online could be regarded as a terrorist offence, Scotland Yard has warned.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said specialists from the Counter Terrorism unit were continuing to examine the footage in order to look for clues as to the identity of the suspected British jihadist but said the public should refrain from viewing the video.

In a statement a spokesman said: “We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.”

While India Today covers another journalistic wound, possibly self-inflicted:

Fareed Zakaria faces fresh plagiarism charges

Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria, who two years ago got away from a plagiarism controversy claiming he made a “terrible mistake”, is facing fresh plagiarism charges from anonymous internet watchdogs.

The website “Our Bad Media” in a Tuesday report by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort cited 12 instances where Zakaria appears to have lifted passages wholesale from other authors.

“Their findings cast doubt on the three news outlets — Time Magazine, CNN and The Washington Post — which claimed to have conducted reviews of Zakaria’s work and found the so-called ‘mistake’ to be an isolated incident,” said Politico, an influential news site.

And Columbia Journalism Review spots hypocrisy bordering on the surreal:

Why Obama’s statement on reporters’ arrests in Ferguson is hypocritical

Obama defends reporters in Ferguson, but demands compliance from James Risen

In a news conference Thursday addressing the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and resulting unrest in Ferguson, MO, President Barack Obama criticized the arrests of two reporters there on Wednesday night.

“Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” Obama said in a news conference televised from Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s vacationing. On Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested when working out of a McDonald’s in Ferguson. After being taken to the Ferguson Police Department, both were quickly released.

Just minutes after the president finished his remarks, a coalition of journalism organizations at the National Press Club in Washington began a news conference condemning the Obama administration’s attempt to compel James Risen, a New York Times reporter, to identify a confidential source. The menagerie of groups this morning presented a petition, signed by more than 125,000 people, calling on the Justice Department to end its six-year effort to force Risen to testify against his source.

In June, the US Supreme Court turned down a last-ditch appeal from Risen, removing the final legal barrier for federal prosecutors who want him to take the stand.

And from Common Dreams, another war on the press, this time in the interests of another nation:

The Double Identity of an “Anti-Semitic” Commenter

  • Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.

A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.

His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.

Finally, from the Guardian, another body count:

News Corp Australia leaked accounts show 1,000 jobs cut across mastheads

  • Major leak of confidential operating accounts reveal extent of losses with the Australian losing about $30m a year

The financial health of News Corp Australia’s newspapers has been laid bare by a leak of its confidential operating accounts, which reveal the extent of the Australian losses and that the company has quietly shed more than 1,000 staff.

Earlier this month it was revealed that News Corporation’s full-year profit was more than halved as revenue from its Australian newspapers continued to slide.

But the leak gives far more detail about the picture across the mastheads.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, hacks, spooks, busts, zones


Lots going on in the realms of spies, lies, media, and that constantly shifting and increasingly inflammatory Asian Game of Zones.

buzzfeed covers an intelligence failure:

White House “Did Not Know” National Guard Was Being Deployed In Ferguson

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called the National Guard to Ferguson late Sunday without letting the White House know first.

“Folks didn’t know,” an administration official told BuzzFeed Monday. “The White House did not know they were sending it in.”

Nixon gave “no heads-up,” the official said.

From The Wire, and we hope that headline’s not literal:

Pentagon Fires Back At Critics of ‘Police Militarization’ Program

The Pentagon on Tuesday mounted a vigorous defense of the surplus military equipment transfer program that has drawn criticism following the police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Defense Department’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters during a briefing that the 1033 program was not “some program run amok,” despite images of heavily armored officers in Ferguson that have fed concerns about the “militarization” of local law enforcement.

Congress created the program in 1990 to allow police departments to apply for free transfers of excess military equipment as local authorities sought to beef up security to combat drug gangs. Transfers have increased as the Pentagon wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vocativ militarizes the neighborhood schools:

Back to School: Make Sure You Pack Your AR-15, Honey

  • If Compton schools were hoping to dispel stereotypes about their area, allowing school police to pack assault weapons is not the way

School’s back in session next week, and the campus police in Compton are packing more heat than ever. That’s not a reference to the hot drought California has faced in 2014—we’re talking guns. Specifically: controversial AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, approved for use on school campuses to prevent future gun rampages.

“This is our objective—save lives, bottom line,” Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told the city’s school board. The board has been told that select campus police officers will be allowed buy the rifles and keep them in their cars, in case of a mass shooting incident or terrorist attack.

On to the spooky front with Deutsche Welle:

Binney: ‘The NSA’s main motives: power and money’

  • Whistleblower William Binney recently made headlines when he told the German parliament that the NSA, his former employer, had become “totalitarian.” DW spoke to him about NSA overrreach and the agency’s power.

DW: In your testimony, you described the NSA as “totalitarian,” and many commentators say that Germany’s Stasi history has made the country more sensitive to NSA revelations. But others have suggested this comparison is too easy. After all, the Stasi also targeted intellectuals and general writers opposed to the East German regime.

Binney: Sure, they haven’t gone that far yet, but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen [who is fighting legal action by the Department of Justice to testify against an alleged source - the eds.]. Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that – it says exactly the same thing.

These were totalitarian processes that were instituted. And it’s not just us – it’s happening around the world. Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they’re doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That’s what’s happening – in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That’s a direct violation of our constitution.

TechWeekEurope covers a digital Baedecker:

GCHQ Is Mapping Open TCP Ports Across Whole Countries

  • The reconnaissance operation codenamed ‘Hacienda’ supplies the agency with some of the information needed to compromise systems

German journalists and academics have criticised Britain’s intelligence service GCHQ for scanning servers round the world, and maintaining a database of open ports which could be used in attacks.

British intelligence agency GCHQ has been cataloguing open TCP ports across entire countries as part of a secret programme codenamed ‘Hacienda’, reports German publication Heise Online.

The database resulting from the scans is used in other GCHQ surveillance projects and shared with the rest of the Five Eyes – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – using the secure MAILORDER transport protocol.

An open port can enable the attackers to identify services that are running on a server with the view to compromise it. According to Heise, Hacienda targeted 32 countries since 2009, and has completely mapped ports of at least 27.

From  Nextgox, and significant:

Exclusive: Nuke Regulator Hacked by Suspected Foreign Powers

Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers within the past three years were successfully hacked by foreigners twice and also by an unidentifiable individual, according to an internal investigation.

One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in “a logon-credential harvesting attempt,” according to an inspector general report Nextgov obtained through an open-records request.

The phishing emails baited personnel by asking them to verify their user accounts by clicking a link and logging in. The link really took victims to “a cloud-based Google spreadsheet.”

From the Guardian, domestic espionage:

25 Turkish police officers arrested amid Erdogan wiretapping scandal

  • Swoop in cities including Istanbul and Izmir during investigation linked to government corruption claims

Twenty-five police officers have been arrested by Turkish authorities in the latest nationwide swoop to detain suspects alleged to have illegally wiretapped key government figures, including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said.

Police carried out raids in 12 cities, including Istanbul and Izmir, as part of an investigation into allegations of espionage and illegal wiretapping, the private Dog(an news agency reported.

The swoop on Tuesday was the third such roundup since July in a probe that has resulted in dozens of arrests and raised tensions as Erdog(an prepares for his inauguration as president on 28 August.

From intelNews, evoking suspicions of Mossad?:

‘Sensitive files’ stolen as Saudi motorcade is ambushed in Paris

A 12-vehicle entourage transporting a Saudi royal to a Paris airport was ambushed on Monday in cinematic fashion by heavily armed men, who stole a suitcase full of cash and diplomatic files described as “sensitive”.

French police are trying to determine whether the ambush, which occurred on Monday evening just north of downtown Paris, was aimed at the money or the documents, which French newspaper Le Parisien described as “sensitive”. According to French police, the Saudi motorcade was heading from the renowned Four Seasons George V hotel on the Champs Elysées to Le Bourget airport, 15 miles north of Paris, which handles private jets. But as the convoy drove through Porte de la Chapelle, two BMWs without license tags suddenly made their way to the top of the motorcade and forced it to stop.

Within seconds, eight heavily armed men brandishing handguns and AK-47s stormed out of the two cars and hijacked a Mercedes minivan that was part of the motorcade. Several of them boarded the vehicle and drove away, taking with them its three occupants, a driver, a bodyguard and another official. Later on, the three hostages were abandoned by the side of the road. The minivan, as well as one of the two BMWs used by the armed assailants, were later found burnt out in the village of Saint-Mesmes, northeast of the French capital. But the thieves took with them a suitcase containing €250,000 ($330,000) in cash, as well as what the French press said were “important diplomatic documents”.

Deutsche Welle covers spooky journalistic blowback:

BND head to discuss Spiegel report with top Turkey spy

The German and Turkish intelligence heads will meet to discuss reports that Berlin routinely spied on its NATO partner. On Monday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador in Ankara, Eberhard Pohl.

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported that the chiefs of the two countries’ spy agencies had agreed to meet after Turkey’s Ahmet Davutoglu spoke by phone with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his German counterpart, whose office confirmed that the two foreign ministers engaged in a “long talk.”

A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, would neither confirm nor deny the meeting to news agencies on Tuesday.

Turkish officials have demanded an explanation after news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Germany had repeatedly eavesdropped on officials from the country. Anakara called the spying “unacceptable.”

From MIT Technology Review, a red light alert:

Researchers Hack Into Michigan’s Traffic Lights

  • Security flaws in a system of networked stoplights point to looming problems with an increasingly connected infrastructure.

With permission from a local road agency, researchers in Michigan hacked into nearly 100 wirelessly networked traffic lights, highlighting security issues that they say are likely to pervade networked traffic infrastructure around the country. More than 40 states currently use such systems to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible, helping to reduce emissions and delays.

The team, led by University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, found three major weaknesses in the traffic light system: unencrypted wireless connections, the use of default usernames and passwords that could be found online, and a debugging port that is easy to attack.

“The vulnerabilities we discover in the infrastructure are not a fault of any one device or design choice, but rather show a systemic lack of security consciousness,” the researchers report in a paper they’re presenting this week at a computer security conference. They did not disclose exactly where in Michigan they did the research.

Network World takes wing:

Senator questions airlines’ data privacy practices

A senior U.S. senator is asking airlines about their data privacy practices, saying he’s concerned about what information the companies are collecting and sharing with third parties.

Some consumer advocates have raised concerns that airline privacy policies “can contain substantial caveats and that it is difficult for consumers to learn what information airlines and others in the travel sector are collecting, keeping, and sharing about them,” Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, wrote in a letter to 10 U.S. airlines Monday.

The airlines receiving the letters included United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Airlines contacted about Rockefeller’s letter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.

From the Los Angeles Times, security for conspicuous consumers:

New Corvette will record every move a valet driver makes

  • Attention valet drivers: Don’t get frisky with the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette — big brother is watching.

General Motors is offering next year’s model of the famous sport coupe with a data recorder that captures video, audio and driving data from the vehicle when switched into a special “Valet Mode.”

Valet Mode is displayed on the touchscreen panel of the 2015 Corvette. Data and video can be viewed instantly by the owner on the screen when the car is parked, or it can be downloaded to a computer. (GM / Associated Press)

The Vette’s owner can come back from dinner and check out if the valet was testing the sports car’s 3.8 second zero to 60 mph time. The car will have recorded data such as speed, engine RPM, which gears have been used and the highest level of g-force incurred on that joy ride to the parking garage.

EUobserver covers critique:

EU justice chief criticises Google on ‘right to be forgotten’

The EU’s justice commissioner has accused internet giant Google of leading a campaign to shoot down data protection reforms.

Speaking in Lyon, France on Monday (18 August), the commissioner, Martine Reicherts, said: “Google and other affected companies who complain loudly” about a recent EU court verdict on personal data are “detractors … attempting to throw a new spanner in the works”.

The Luxembourg-based EU court in May ruled that Google must remove links to any content that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” or face a fine.

From Deutsche Welle, with a suggestion that they try American police departments:

Uncertain outlook for German arms industry

  • German tanks, submarines and weapons are in high demand. They’re exported to Israel despite the war in Gaza, and Kurdish fighters would also welcome a shipment. Yet the defense industry is worried about its future.

When trade unions look to politicians for help, they’re generally hoping for backing in the fight against managers planning job cuts. But when workers’ representatives from the German arms industry met at the Ministry for Economic Affairs on Tuesday, it was for a very different cause.

In this case, it’s the minister of economic affairs himself, Sigmar Gabriel, who is putting their jobs at risk by approving fewer and fewer German arms shipments to worldwide customers. In a letter sent to Gabriel in July, the unionists said that the minister’s decisions were threatening the very existence of a number of corporations in the security and defense industry.

Ernst-August Kiel, an employee representative with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, said after the meeting with Gabriel that they’d debated some “dicey deals,” involving thinner order books and fewer follow-up orders.

And from Sky News, semantics rebooting on the ground:

Exclusive: US Recruits Iraq Security ‘Advisers’

  • The US Army looks to beef up its ‘Office of Security Assistance’, despite Barack Obama ruling out sending troops back to Iraq.

Barack Obama may have ruled out sending “boots on the ground” back to Iraq but in the face of a growing threat from the Islamic State (IS), the Pentagon appears to have hit upon a way to get them back in by the back door.

The US Army’s Contracting Command has issued a tender notice for companies capable of deploying security assistance mentors and advisers in Iraq.

These individuals would be required for a 12-month contract, potentially extendable to a total of 36 months.

After the jump, that latest from the Asian Games of Zones — including Indo-Pakistani tensions rising, Pakistani protests, an Aussie/Malaysian rift abated and terrorism foiled in Malaysia, a high-level Taiwanese security sacking, Chinese border and terror strategems, Japanese armaments move, Shinzo Abe’s militarism redux, Japanese Korean fears, semantic riffs, and a Nazi pasta invasion. . . Continue reading

Arrests, a notable death in the war on the press


Notable headlines of the day, first from The Wire:

ISIL Claims to Behead an American Photojournalist

A video posted by ISIL terrorists on Tuesday purported to the show the beheading of an American photojournalist who has been missing since 2012. The group claims the beheading is a message to President Obama to end the American intervention in Iraq. The incident is reminiscent of the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. Pearl was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, taken hostage and killed by Al-Qaeda.

James Foley was a photojournalist who has worked for a variety of news organizations. He was working at Agence France-Presse’s company GlobalPost when he went missing while covering the conflict in Syria in 2012. His disappearance was ruled a kidnapping by the FBI. Before Foley was killed, he was forced to give an anti-American speech.

In the video, the group also shows journalist Steven Joel Soltoff, a journalist who worked for Time, The National Interest, and Media Line. He last tweeted on August 3, 2013. Soltoff went missing on August 4, 2013 outside of Aleppo, Syria. His family was aware of the situation and was advised not to publicize the information for his safety. He was held in Raqqa.

From Reuters, the video minus the gruesome finale:

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Program note:

Islamic State insurgents release a video which purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago, and images of another U.S. journalist whose life they said depended on U.S. action in Iraq. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

UPDATE: Another journalist detained, this time in Afghanistan. Via the Washington Post:

Afghanistan bars New York Times reporter from leaving country

Afghanistan’s attorney general banned a New York Times reporter from leaving the country Tuesday pending an investigation into a controversial story about purported plans by unidentified officials to take power if a political crisis continues.

Matthew Rosenberg, 40, said Tuesday night that he was summoned to the attorney general’s office in the afternoon and asked numerous questions about the story. He said he rejected requests to reveal his sources and was then told to return the next day with a lawyer to face more questions.

“They did not explicitly tell me I couldn’t leave the country, but it was clear I was not free to go,” Rosenberg said. He said he was questioned by three men who were “polite but insistent” and who seemed equally concerned by the “idea” of the story and which officials and political leaders had spoken with him. He said the Times was consulting lawyers about his next step.

Next woes closer to home, first from The Intercept:

Intercept Reporter Shot With Rubber Bullets and Arrested While Covering Ferguson Protests

reporter Ryan Devereaux was arrested this morning while on the ground covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, who witnessed the apprehension, Ryan and a German reporter he was with were both taken into custody by members of a police tactical team. They were handcuffed and placed in a wagon, and Carson was told they were being taken to St. Louis County jail.

We haven’t been able to reach officials with the St. Louis County Police Department or Ferguson Police Department to find out if Ryan has been charged, or under what pretext he was detained. But needless to say, it’s an outrage that he was stopped and handcuffed by police in the course of lawfully doing his job on the streets of Ferguson. We are trying to contact Ryan now.

At a press conference early this morning, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told reporters in Ferguson that 31 arrests had been made, including members of the “criminal element” from “as far away as New York.” When asked by a reporter if any of those 31 had been reporters, he immediately–and falsely–replied, “these people were not journalists that were arrested.”

TheLocal.de covers two more of those “not journalists” arrested in Ferguson:

German journalists arrested in Ferguson

“To be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America,” writes veteran reporter of his ordeal.

Ansgar Graw and Frank Hermann were cuffed and jailed for three hours the day after arriving in the beleaguered suburb of St. Louis. Graw and Hermann were there to cover the town of Ferguson, whose African-American population has clashed fiercely with local police since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer on August 9.

The journalists had wanted to take pictures of a burned out gas station on Florissant Avenue, the street at the centre of the week-long protest. The building was looted and burned the night of Brown’s death.

From RT, an interview with one of the German journalists:

‘I was handcuffed where I took thousands of photos’

Program notes:

A senior political correspondent for Die Welt – a major German newspaper – was among those detained during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Ansgar Graw talks to RT about his experience.

Wait, we’re still not done. Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Getty photographer Scott Olson arrested in Ferguson

SAG-AFTRA, which represents broadcast journalists, issued a statement on Monday criticizing authorities in Ferguson, Mo., for arresting journalists as they covered ongoing protests over the police shooting of a black teenager.

Last week, the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly were among the reporters arrested as they were covering the scene. On Monday, Reilly reported that Getty Images photographer Scott Olson was arrested.

NBC News confirmed with Getty Images that Olson was arrested. When NBC News asked police why Olson was arrested, one of the officers reportedly responded, “He was supposed to keep moving, just as you’re supposed to keep moving.”

The last images he captured prior to his arrested were posted here by the National Journal.

Vocativ summarizes:

Press in Ferguson Become Targets Themselves

  • Of the 31 arrests in Ferguson on Monday night, a startling number were journalists simply standing around doing their job

Monday night saw even more disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, as police failed to quell protesters who continued to take to the streets in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. A total of 31 people were arrested overnight, with four police injured by rocks and two people shot. As the National Guard arrived on the streets, journalists’ numbers swelled to the point that some questioned who were there in greater force, protesters or those covering the protests. Police frustration at the media presence has been evident since the first arrests of journalists in Ferguson on Wednesday. Targeting the media has become commonplace.

The arrests weren’t restricted to American journalists. Two German reporters were detained for standing still. They had been warned not to loiter around a shopping center where police had gathered, and police told them to keep moving. When they asked the officer to identify himself, he gave his name as Donald Duck.

Parsing O’Reilly’s rhetoric: Russell Brand nails it


Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to parse the rhetorical shroud spun by our mainstream media, and so we were delighted with this edition of British comedian Russell Brand’s YouTube video show.

His deft dissection of Bill O’Reilly’s bilious bilge on the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

From Russell Brand The Trews:

Ferguson Protests: Where Do We Stand?

Program notes:

This episode concentrates on the situation in Ferguson, St Louis, where demonstrations continue following the police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

InSecurityWatch: Buggery, hacks, spies, zones


Though it’s a Saturday here in ol’ Berzerkeley, the news from the dark side continues to flow unabated.

We open with the disingenuous, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Germans say they accidentally tapped Clinton, Kerry calls

The German Foreign Intelligence Agency has admitted tapping “at least one” phone call each by current Secretary of State John Kerry and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while they were aboard United States government jets, according to German media reports.

The reports claim Kerry’s intercepted communication was a satellite phone call from the Middle East in 2013. Clinton’s communication was also a satellite call, in 2012, and was reportedly to then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Both calls were reported to have been intercepted accidentally while German intelligence was targeting terror suspects in the Middle East and northern Africa.

The intelligence agency (the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND) told German media that terror groups often use the same frequencies that the secretaries phone calls were made over, so the calls were picked up. The calls were among what the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said intelligence sources described as several cases of U.S. official phone calls being picked up accidentally during anti-terror communications monitoring.

From the Guardian, more buggery deprecated:

Tony Abbott says phone hack did not compromise talks with Julie Bishop

  • The prime minister responds to a report the foreign minister’s phone was hacked saying sensitive discussions were secure

Following reports the foreign minister’s phone was hacked, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said sensitive discussions were conducted over secure phone lines and were not monitored.

The Herald Sun reported that Julie Bishop’s mobile phone was compromised while she was overseas. The newspaper said Australian intelligence officials seized the phone when she returned from a trip negotiating access to the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

Australian intelligence agencies know which country those responsible for compromising the phone were from, the report said. The phone was not used to discuss sensitive communications and was replaced.

And Network World goes for the vulnerable:

British spy agency scanned for vulnerable systems in 32 countries, German paper reveals

British intelligence agency GCHQ used port scanning as part of the “Hacienda” program to find vulnerable systems it and other agencies could compromise across at least 27 countries, German news site Heise Online has revealed.

The use of so-called port scanning has long been a trusty tool used by hackers to find systems they can potentially access. In top-secret documents published by Heise on Friday, it is revealed that in 2009, GCHQ started using the technology against entire nations.

One of the documents states that full scans of network ports of 27 countries and partial scans of another five countries had been carried out. Targets included ports using protocols such as SSH (Secure Shell) and SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), which are used for remote access and network administration.

The results were then shared with other spy agencies in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. “Mailorder” is described in the documents as a secure way for them to exchange collected data.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, they’d tell us, but then they’d have to kill us:

(REDACTED) memo released on killing (REDACTED) American overseas

The government on Friday made public a heavily redacted memo that was used to legally justify the killing of an American overseas.

Acting under pressure from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the New York Times, the Justice Department turned over the long-sought Feb. 19, 2010 Office of Legal Counsel memo relating to the killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi.

Characterized as “egregiously over-redacted” by ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, the seven page memo is signed by then-Acting Assistant Attorney General David J. Barron. Barron is now a judge on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

The only words that survive the redacting knife on pages 2 and 3 are “top secret.” Snippets that survive include the ominous sounding word play “killings in self-defense are not assassination.” More elaborately, the memo declares that “the use of lethal force would not violate the Fourth Amendment” if certain conditions prevail, including a “capture operation ts infeasible and the targeted person is part of a dangerous enemy force and poses a continued and imminent threat to U.S. persons or interests.”

Ars Technica covers the action:

Five American Muslims sue FBI, attorney general over travel watch list

  • Plaintiffs decry “invisible web of consequences that are imposed indefinitely.”

A group of five Muslims (four of whom are United States citizens) have sued top American government officials, alleging that their constitutional rights have been violated for having been put on a federal watch list.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday in federal court in Detroit, accuses numerous leaders—including the attorney general, the directors of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and others—of violating their constitutional rights to due process and the right to be free from religious discrimination.

In the complaint, each person outlines a similar story: being detained at the border, often having digital devices seized, and being subject to prolonged physical searches. One was told that he was on the no-fly list and was later offered a chance to work on behalf of federal law enforcement in exchange for removal. He seems to have declined.

Next up, with all the talk about militarized police in the U.S., just how well has Uncle Sam armed them. A Los Angeles Times graphic has the numbers:

BLOG Cop arms

From International Business Times, context for Missouri misery:

Mike Brown Shooting: What It’s Like To Grow Up Black In A Town Where 94% Of Cops Are White

When Gregory Carr was growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, his father gave him and his four brothers advice about dealing with the police.

“He’d say ‘let me tell you something, when you’re black and you get stopped by the man you just say, yes sir, no sir, and cooperate. Because that man will crack your head.’”

A generation later, Carr, 49, who teaches speech and theater at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, said that he tells his own son the same thing.

“I’m very concerned, he’s only six years younger than Mike Brown,” he said, referring to the shooting of Brown, 18, who was unarmed when he was killed by police Saturday in this St. Louis suburb, an incident that sparked six days of protests, a violent police backlash, sympathetic protests across the country and a national discussion about race and segregation in America.

From the Independent, hooded bigotry gone bananas:

Michael Brown shooting: Ku Klux Klan raises ‘reward’ for officer who shot unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri

The Missouri chapter of a faction of the Ku Klux Klan is allegedly raising money as a reward for the white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson a week ago.

On its website, the South Carolina-based New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has published a series of racist posts describing Brown as “a black punk” and “not a good kid”, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch (SCPLCHW) blog has reported.

The group has also advertised a fundraiser asking for donations of $10 (£6) and above, with all proceeds going to “the cop who did his job against the negro criminal”.

And from Boing Boing, a note about a podcast for the modern journalist:

Essential gadgets while reporting on civil unrest

In this episode, we talk to journalist Quinn Norton, who writes about digital rights, hacker culture, copyright, and the strangeness of the world and the complexity of the people who inhabit it for Medium and other outlets. She has covered the Occupy Wall Street movement and civil unrest around the world for Wired and other publications.

News Corp Australia covers aquatic hack attacks:

Sharks eat the internet but Google fights back

A NEW food craze is sweeping the underwater world with sharks taking a fancy to Google’s undersea data cables.

Vision has emerged showing sharks munching away on the cables, mistaking them for dinner.

Google has been forced to take action, reinforcing parts of the trans-Pacific fibre-optic cables and wrapping them in material to keep the sharks at bay.

From TheLocal.dk, information control in the name of IP. [And if you do want to see a picture, Wikipedia has ‘e here]:

Denmark’s icon… that we can’t show you

  • The Little Mermaid is perhaps the most photographed attraction in the entire country, but Danish media outlets are extremely hesitant to publish a photo of the sculpture.

Earlier this week, The Local reported that Seoul’s mayor wants a miniature version of Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue for his own city.

Rather than illustrate the photo with a beautiful picture of the sculpture – thousands of which can be found all over the internet – we chose a photo in which the famous landmark was surrounded by tourists and thus not the main focus of the image.

There was a reason for that. The family of sculptor Edvard Eriksen is known for being very aggressive about the sculpture’s copyright and numerous Danish media outlets have received a large bill in the mail for using a photo of the Little Mermaid – even though it is arguably the most recognisable image in all of Denmark.

The newspapers Politiken, Berlingske and the now-closed Nyhedsavisen have all been fined for using an image of the Little Mermaid. Berlingske had to pay 10,000 kroner ($1,800) for using a photo of the statue in connection with a 2005 story on Denmark’s tourism industry.

From Ars Technica, check your grocery bills:

Grocery shoppers nationwide probably had credit card data stolen

  • Coast-to-coast: Albertsons, Acme Markets, Jewel-Osco and more were hit

Two major supermarket chains announced that their customers’ credit card information may have been stolen during a network intrusion.

SuperValu, the Minnesota parent company of Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Shop ‘n Save, and Shoppers Food and Pharmacy, announced that 180 stores in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota, and Minnesota were affected.

“The Company has not determined that any such cardholder data was in fact stolen by the intruder, and it has no evidence of any misuse of any such data, but is making this announcement out of an abundance of caution,” SuperValu said in a statement Friday.

Consortiumnews.com covers a sin of MSM omission:

The Hushed-Up Hitler Factor in Ukraine

Behind the Ukraine crisis is a revision of World War II history that seeks to honor eastern European collaborators with Hitler and the Holocaust by repackaging these rightists as anti-Soviet heroes, a reality shielded from the U.S. public, as Dovid Katz explains.

Would America support any type of Hitlerism in the course of the State Department’s effort to turn the anti-Russian political classes of Eastern Europe into paragons of PR perfection that may not be criticized, howsoever mildly?

It was frankly disconcerting to see Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, embracing the leader of Ukraine’s far right, anti-Semitic, pro-fascist Svoboda party last December. It was disturbing to learn of the neo-Nazi elements that provided the “muscle” for the actual Maidan takeover last February (BBC’s Newsnight was among the few major Western outlets to dare cover that openly).

Most disturbing of all has been the mainstream Western media’s almost Soviet-grade wall somehow erected against critical mention of the far-right component of Ukraine’s 2014 history, rendering any such thought as worthy of ridicule on New York Times opinion pages last spring.

And the Associated Press covers an offer:

EU Offers to Take Charge of Gaza Border, Says Status Quo ‘Is Not an Option’

The European Union offered Friday to take charge of Gaza’s border crossings and work to prevent illegal arms flows, insisting on a durable truce and saying a return to the status quo for the region “is not an option.”

As EU foreign ministers held an urgent meeting in Brussels about global conflicts, Hamas negotiators met with the Islamic militant group’s leadership in Qatar to discuss a proposal for a long-term truce with Israel. An official said the group was inclined to accept the Egyptian-mediated offer.

The Gaza blockade remains the main stumbling block. It has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

After the jump, the last from Asia, where the Game of Zones continue to boil. There’s turmoil in Pakistan, Indian assertiveness, bellicose rhetoric, avowals and disavowals, dubious ploys, and data protectionism — plus a flatulent tale from up north and an apology that’s not nearly enough. . . Continue reading

The war on the press: A petition and a victory


Two significant stories to cover in the ongoing war of Washington politicians and law enforcement agencies at all levels to rein in what’s left of the badly depleted news media.

First up, from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

Free press groups petition Attorney General on behalf of journalist James Risen

More than 100,000 people, including 20 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition submitted to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder today urging the administration to rethink its policy of subpoenaing journalists to reveal their sources.

Seven representatives of free press organizations announced the delivery of the petition at the National Press Club this afternoon and called on the administration to drop its threatened subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

Risen has been fighting since 2007 to protect a confidential source he used in writing a book about the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined the panel at the press conference today.

“The events today are part of a very strongly accelerated effort across this country to lance a boil of fear and intimidation,” said Norman Solomon, whose Institute for Public Accuracy and RootsAction.org started the petition.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Government Accountability Project, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders were also represented on today’s panel, along with veteran journalist Phil Donahue.

“Freedom of the Press is the most important freedom,” said Delphine Halgand, the director of Reporters Without Borders’ Washington office. “It is the freedom that allows us to verify the existence of all other freedoms.”

Risen said the level of support the petition generated “leaves me speechless.”

Read the rest.

And a video report from The Real News Network:

Freedom of the Press in Jeopardy as Obama Goes After Times Reporter Risen

From the transcript:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: In Washington, D.C., on August 14, journalists and advocates spoke out at the National Press Club and demanded the Obama administration stop its efforts to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his source in the 2006 book State of War that detailed a botched attempt at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

JAMES RISEN, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The Justice Department and the Obama administration are the ones who turned this, really, into a fundamental fight over press freedom in their appeal to the Fourth Circuit. They said that this case, the central issue of this case was not some details or specifics or anything, that the fundamental thing that this case was about was that there was no such thing as a reporter’s privilege. If you read the government’s brief in the Fourth Circuit appeal, that’s what they say: there is no such thing as a reporter’s privilege. And so they turned this case into a showdown over the First Amendment and over the freedom of the press in the United States. And so I’m happy to carry on that fight, but it wasn’t me who really started it.

NOOR: Risen has been fighting the subpoena since 2008. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Risen’s appeal of a lower court decision ordering him to testify and reveal his source.

RISEN: I think what–you know, this has been a long case. I got subpoenaed in 2008 first. But what I can say now is with all of these people showing their support, I’m willing to keep fighting, because now I know that I have just an enormous group of people supporting me.

And one of the things that I’d like to say is that the real reason I’m doing this is for the future of journalism. My oldest son, Tom, standing right there, is a journalist, and I want to make sure that the same protections that I’ve had in my career are there for the future reporters in America, because there is no way we could do our jobs if we don’t have the ability to have aggressive investigative reporting in America and to have the ability to maintain confidential sources.

NORMAN SOLOMON, COFOUNDER, ROOTSACTION.ORG: It was 60 years ago that in perhaps his most well-known and well-remembered TV broadcast Edward R. Murrow said, “we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” He said that at a time when it was essential for journalists to step forward to lance a boil of fear and intimidation that had gripped official Washington for years and the entire country as well. That was 1954. Here we are in 2014, and the events today are part of, I think, a very strongly accelerating effort across this country to lance a boil of fear and intimidation.

On a related note, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Missouri law enforcement agencies following arrests of reporters covering the event, seeking to enforce the right of press and public to record officers in public. Here’s a video report from MSNBC via Mox News:

ACLU Sues St Louis Cops for Telling People They Can’t Film Them

Their action bore prompt results, reports the St. Louis American tonight:

ACLU confirms right to film officers with Ferguson, County and Highway Patrol

The City of Ferguson, St. Louis County and the Missouri Highway Patrol have signed an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union acknowledging the right of the public and the media to film the actions of police officers.

The agreement was reached after the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the entities after numerous complaints of media and public intimidation, specifically those videotaping officers.

Wednesday, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post were arrested by St. Louis County Police officers only to be released later the same day with all charges dropped.

Reports: Ferguson, Missouri, and militarized cops


Three video reports, two from Democracy Now! and one from RT America, look at the Washington-fund-and-armed militarization of American police and the ongoing war on photographers and journalists by police unhappy with their reports.

From Democracy Now!:

Program notes:

Protests are continuing in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager who was shot by police on Saturday. But the mood in Ferguson has changed drastically over the past 24 hours. On Wednesday night, the city looked like a warzone as police fired tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs. Police arrested at least 10 people, including a St. Louis alderman and two journalists. But last night the mood was less tense after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put an African-American highway patrol captain, Ron Johnson, in charge of security in the town of Ferguson. Johnson marched with protesters and ordered the riot gear put away. We go to St. Louis to speak with the Rev. Renita Lamkin, who was hit with a rubber bullet by police on Wednesday while attending the protest, and Patricia Bynes, Democratic committee member of Ferguson Township.

[Editor's Note: Rev. Renita Lamkin was incorrectly identified during the interview. Democracy Now! regrets the error.]

From Democracy Now! again:

Cops or Soldiers? Pentagon, DHS Helped Arm Police in Ferguson with Equipment Used in War

Program notes:

The events in Ferguson over the past week have sparked a national debate over racial profiling and the militarization of local police forces. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message.” What Holder did not mention was the federal government’s role in supplying local police forces with military-grade equipment. The New York Times reports Department of Homeland Security grant money paid for the $360,000 Bearcat armored truck on patrol in Ferguson. Most of the body armor worn by officers responding to the Ferguson protests was also paid for with federal money. We speak to Radley Balko, author of the book, “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.” “When we take domestic police officers and we train them like soldiers and we give them military gear and we dress them up like soldiers and we tell them they’re fighting a war — a war on crime or a war on terror — they’re going to start to see themselves as soldiers,” Balko says.

And from RT America:

Controlling the narrative: Ferguson police target journalists

Program notes:

Journalists reporting on the unrest in Ferguson, MO were in the crosshairs of police Wednesday night, with violence and intimidation directed at many prominent journalists. Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post made headlines after being confronted, assaulted and arrested without reason or justification given, while a crew from Al Jazeera America was targeted by SWAT forces who fired tear gas directly at the team while filming a protest. Christopher Chambers, a journalism professor at Georgetown University, explains to RT’s Ameera David why law enforcement seem to be targeting members of the media.

UPDATE: On a related note, consider this chart from Reuters:

BLOG Noteworthy

Chart of the day: That Gartner Hype Cycle


Technology consultants at Gartner, Inc., have created a chart to map the cycle of hype surrounding technological innovations as they progress from notions touted by medias and technorati sector buzz into well-established products. Here’s their latest edition:

BLOG Hyoe

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spooks, zones, drones


Today we open our coverage with the ongoing tragedy in Missouri, with a particular focus on the transformation of America’s cops from officers on the beat into an occupying paramilitary.

First up, a major development from Canada’s National Post:

Security of Ferguson will be taken over by Highway Patrol after local and county police lose community trust

Captain Ron Johnson of Highway Patrol, will be leading the security efforts in Ferguson, Missouri, going forward after several nights of racially charged provocation has left residents feeling little trust in local and county police forces.

The St. Louis suburb has been the scene of violent protests since a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on Saturday.

Gov. Jay Nixon said the change is intended to make sure “that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region appropriately.”

Johnson, who is black, said he grew up in the community and “it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence.”

And on to our primary focus, first from Businessweek:

A Federal Effort to Reuse Military Gear Turned Cops Into Commandos

The heavily militarized police force in a St. Louis suburb is hardly an anomaly. Local police departments across the country deploy not just military-style equipment but actual castoffs from the U.S. military.

Federal grant programs fund the police acquisition of military weapons and vehicles, and a U.S. law has sent more than $4 billion of surplus Pentagon gear to law enforcement over the past 17 years. Now protests following the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.—and the heavily armed response by local police—seem likely to spark a national debate on the militarization of law enforcement. Do local cops from from Maine to New Mexico need military rifles and armored personnel carriers to do their jobs?

“I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country,” President Barack Obama said Thursday, urging calm amid the investigation of the Aug. 9 shooting. Police have said Brown fought with a police officer and tried to grab his service weapon, while witness have said the 18-year-old did not struggle with police and was surrendering when he was shot.

But Businessweek is somewhat disingenuous, as witness this from Pacific Standard:

Lockdown Nation

How military-style policing became America’s new normal.

In the fascinating and sometimes terrifying Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, journalist Radley Balko traces the changes in American policing from colonial times to the present. His focus, though, is law enforcement’s increased reliance on military hardware and strategy in the last 45 years, especially in the form of SWAT (special weapons and tactics) teams.

As recently as 1969, the Los Angeles Police Department had one of the only SWAT teams in the country. Its first raid targeted a group of Black Panthers. Four police officers and four Panthers were shot and wounded. After hours of gunfire, the raid’s leader, Daryl Gates, called the mayor, who received permission from the Department of Defense to use a grenade launcher. “My words seemed unreal,” Gates would later remember. “Anytime you even talk about using military equipment in a civil action, it’s very serious business. You’re bridging an enormous gap.” The Panthers were charged with conspiracy to murder police officers, but acquitted on self-defense grounds. “Practically, logistically, and tactically,” Balko writes, “the raid was an utter disaster. But in terms of public relations, it was an enormous success.”

Paramilitary policing quickly spread across the country. Today there are more than 1,000 U.S. police forces with SWAT or SWAT-type units. In 1980, nationwide, they carried out an average of eight paramilitary raids a day; now there are well over 100. Balko attempts to explain why this happened, and why it matters.

Nextgov has some details:

The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons

According to Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency, the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program called 1033, in which the Department of Defense distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S.

That surplus military equipment doesn’t just mean small items like pistols or automatic rifles; towns like Ferguson could become owners of heavy armored vehicles, including the MRAPs used in Afghanistan and Iraq. “In 2013 alone, $449,309,003.71 worth of property was transferred to law enforcement,” the agency’s website states.

All in all, it’s meant armored vehicles rolling down streets in Ferguson and police officers armed with short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters hovering near the citizens they’re meant to protect.

Glenn Greenwald offers a specific focus at The Intercept:

The Militarization of U.S. Police: Finally Dragged Into the Light by the Horrors of Ferguson

The intensive militarization of America’s police forces is a serious menace about which a small number of people have been loudly warning for years, with little attention or traction. In a 2007 paper on “the blurring distinctions between the police and military institutions and between war and law enforcement,” the criminal justice professor Peter Kraska defined “police militarization” as “the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model.”

The harrowing events of the last week in Ferguson, Missouri – the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Mike Brown, and the blatantly excessive and thuggish response to ensuing community protests from a police force that resembles an occupying army – have shocked the U.S. media class and millions of Americans. But none of this is aberrational.

It is the destructive by-product of several decades of deliberate militarization of American policing, a trend that received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security.” This has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public.

And one hopeful response, via BuzzFeed:

Democratic Congressman Will Introduce Police Demilitarization Bill

  • Rep. Hank Johnson pivots off Ferguson to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”

Amid growing criticism of the military-style equipment and tactics deployed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a Democrat from Georgia plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month.

Rep. Hank Johnson asked his all his colleagues Thursday to join him in supporting the bill, which he said in a letter “will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for.”

Images of assault rifle-carrying camouflaged police riding through Ferguson on military vehicles similar to the IED-resistant equipment used by American armed forces in combat have proven to be a jolt of energy for a long-simmering debate about police militarization.

While the Independent makes a telling point:

America is one nation, still divided: Protests over the shooting of a black teenager could have erupted in any number of US cities

While Ferguson is the latest flashpoint in America’s struggle to overcome a legacy of racial tension going back to slavery, it could just as easily have been somewhere else; Los Angeles, where 24-year-old Ezell Ford, also black, was shot and killed by a police officer on Monday, or perhaps New York, where the death of Eric Garner while in custody, after an officer held him in an illegal chokehold last month, is still fuelling anger.

The grievances still felt by many African-Americans are rooted in the life experiences of many of them, particularly young men, which are also reflected in the sometimes shocking statistics. Statistics just from Ferguson are startling but by no means unique to the town, which, on the edge of downtown St Louis, became majority black after whites fled decades ago to escape rising violence and sinking schools.

Until last weekend, few beyond Ferguson will have known that only three of its 53 police officers are black, even if the community is overwhelmingly more black than white. Or that 483 blacks were arrested in town last year but only 36 whites. Or that blacks, who make up less than two thirds of the driving-age population, account for 86 per cent of all traffic stops by police.

From International Business Times, an intersection of two threads:

Anonymous Twitter Suspended Amid St. Louis Police Hack; Other Anon Accounts Decry Naming Officer

The St. Louis County Police confirmed to multiple outlets Thursday that the department has been hit by a cyberattack, with the agency’s website and emails down since Wednesday. Word of the hack came at the same time Twitter suspended the account of the Anonymous hacker collective, who’ve been feuding with the police online over details withheld in the Mike Brown shooting.

The confirmation also comes after the Ferguson, Missouri, police reported their system was infiltrated, with Anonymous claiming responsibility for briefly rendering the department’s phones and computers useless.

More from The Wire:

Anonymous Stops Releasing Information on Alleged Officer Who Shot Michael Brown

The online activist group Anonymous has threatened to reveal the identity and other personal information of the police officer they say is responsible for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. However, they have called that effort (for now) after denials from St. Louis area police that they had the right person, and after Twitter suspended one of their accounts. No other media outlets have been able to verify whether their information is correct or not. Read below for the latest updates…

The latest:

1:21 p.m.: After switching to a secondary account (@TheAnonMessage), the group that named the alleged shooter says they won’t be releasing any more information for the time being.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau takes us to another scene of conflict and a triumphant declaration:

U.S. declares Yazidi intervention a success, says rescue mission unneeded

The United States military has concluded that there are too few Yazidi refugees still trapped in the mountains of northern Iraq to warrant mounting a potentially risky rescue, the Pentagon said late Wednesday.

Military advisers who earlier in the day visited the Sinjar mountains, where as many as 30,000 people were thought to still be trapped, said that they found “far fewer” Yazidis than expected and that those who were there were in better condition than anticipated. Food and water dropped in recent days have reached those who remain, the Pentagon statement said.

The Pentagon said the visit proved that the actions the United States had taken in recent days had succeeded in preventing the Islamic State from capturing and executing the Yazidis, members of a religious sect that Sunni extremists view as heretics. It said the assessment team encountered no hostile forces during its visit and “did not engage in combat operations.”

While the Guardian foreshadows:

British SAS sent to Iraq on ‘intelligence’ mission before airlift of Yazidi refugees

  • Deployment to Mt Sinjar ahead of US-led rescue of civilians follows plan for RAF to deliver arms to Kurds fighting jihadists

British SAS soldiers have been deployed to northern Iraq to “gather intelligence” ahead of any potential rescue operation, led by the US, to airlift thousands of Yazidi refugees from Mount Sinjar.

In the most dramatic sign of Britain’s growing involvement in the Iraqi crisis, the SAS soldiers have moved to the region near Mount Sinjar where US special forces are coordinating the rescue effort.

Last night, a small team from the US landed on Mount Sinjar to assess the situation, and said that an evacuation mission was less likely as “there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared”, according to Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Deutsche Welle covers a related development:

Morocco breaks up recruitment cell for ‘Islamic State’

  • Moroccan police have dismantled a jihadist network suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight with the radical “Islamic State” group in Iraq and Syria. The operation was carried out with help from authorities in Spain.

The Moroccan Interior Ministry said on Thursday that it had broken up a network that was used to recruit and send volunteers to fight with the “Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

“The operation, based on detailed investigations carried out in close collaboration with Spain, stems from a proactive security approach aimed at battling terrorist threats,” a ministry statement said.

According to Moroccan police, the group was operating in the Moroccan cities of Fez and Tetouan, as well as the town of Fnideq, close to the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.

On to rampant Orwellianism, first with the New York Times:

Reagan-Era Order on Surveillance Violates Rights, Says Departing Aide

After President Obama delivered a speech in January endorsing changes to surveillance policies, including an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ domestic calling records, John Napier Tye was disillusioned.

A State Department official, Mr. Tye worked on Internet freedom issues and had top-secret clearance. He knew the Obama administration had also considered a proposal to impose what an internal White House document, obtained by The New York Times, portrayed as “significant changes” to rules for handling Americans’ data the N.S.A. collects from fiber-optic networks abroad. But Mr. Obama said nothing about that in his speech.

So in April, as Mr. Tye was leaving the State Department, he filed a whistle-blower complaint arguing that the N.S.A.’s practices abroad violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. He also met with staff members for the House and Senate intelligence committees. Last month, he went public with those concerns, which have attracted growing attention.

While Techdirt notes another development:

Newly Released Documents Show NSA Abused Its Discontinued Internet Metadata Program Just Like It Abused Everything Else

  • from the so,-more-of-the-same,-then? dept

James Clapper’s office (ODNI) has released a large batch of declassified documents, most of which deal with the NSA’s discontinued Section 402 program. What this program did was re-read pen register/trap and trace (PR/TT) statutes to cover internet metadata, including sender/receiver information contained in email and instant messages. (Not to be confused with the Section 702 program, which is still active and harvests internet communications.)

Notably, this marks only the second time that the ODNI has acknowledged the document release has been compelled by a FOIA lawsuit.

Following a declassification review by the Executive Branch, the Department of Justice released on August 6, 2014, in redacted form, 38 documents relating to the now-discontinued NSA program to collect bulk electronic communications metadata pursuant to Section 402 of the FISA (“PRTT provision”). These documents are also responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

As EPIC’s site notes (and the ODNI’s doesn’t), the program was authorized in 2004, but no legal justification was provided to Congressional oversight until a half-decade later

And Nextgov adds a touch of the Kafkaesque:

Watchdog: The FBI Spied on the Wrong People Because of Typos

The FBI unintentionally spied on the communications data of some Americans who were not targets of investigations because of typographical errors, according to a government watchdog.

The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in a report Thursday that the FBI has improved its overall handling of national security letters, which permit the agency to collect telephone and Internet data of suspects believed to be tied to a national security investigation.

But the inspector general identified a number of areas that “require additional effort and attention,” such as a tendency to collect data on the wrong person because of routine mistakes.

From The Hill, another bizarre revelation:

IRS wrongly allowed contractors access to sensitive data

IRS contractors without background checks had access to sensitive information, potentially putting confidential taxpayer data at risk, according to a federal audit.

The Treasury inspector general for tax administration found more than a dozen cases in which the IRS awarded contracts that required access to taxpayer information without background investigations or before those checks were completed.

Under IRS policy, background checks are mandatory for contractors who work with that kind of data.

More from Nextgov:

IRS Gave Sensitive Data to Convict Sentenced to 21 Years

At the IRS, contractors hired for courier, printing, document recovery, and sign language and interpreter services who accessed sensitive information had not undergone investigations, which is a policy violation.

A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released today details several situations where employees had ample opportunity to steal data.

In one, a courier who daily delivered IRS documents and mail to post offices and other locations had previously served 21 years in prison for arson, retaliation and attempted escape.

The Intercept takes action:

Five Muslim-Americans Sue Feds Over Watchlisting

Relying in part on recent Intercept reporting on the vast breadth of the government’s watchlisting system, several Muslim Americans filed a complaint in a Michigan federal court today, arguing that they have been wrongly ensnared in an unaccountable system without any opportunity to defend themselves.

Citing “recent media accounts,” including secret government documents published exclusively by The Intercept, the complaint claims that the plaintiffs—five men on the terror watchlist—have been falsely stigmatized and punished without trial by a system motivated by “bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”

“This lawsuit is an expression of anger grounded in law,” the 28-page complaint begins. “Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon the Americans who have filed this action, as well as thousands of others.”

From the London Telegraph, a fascinating tale:

Google removes Telegraph stories about explosives arrests

  • Google has removed links to two Telegraph articles, each more than a decade old, describing arrests for possession of explosives after receiving requests under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’

Google has removed links to two Telegraph articles from certain search results describing arrests for possession of explosives after receiving requests under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’.

The first story is a news article from June 2001 reporting that three men had appeared in court after being arrested when explosives were found in a Dublin apartment.

The three men had been seen looking at something in a car, then refused to stop when police later attempted to pull them over. Inside the car were balaclavas and plastic boxes with switches attached to them, which “could be used as incendiary devices”.

Follow-up searches of a number of homes found explosives and similar equipment to that found in the car.

The second story is a collection of brief articles, one of which refers to the case above.

On to the hacking front, first with the National Post:

Several rallies planned to support alleged hacker Matt DeHart before his Canadian refugee hearing

The bizarre case of a former U.S. airman seeking asylum in Canada — claiming he was tortured by U.S. authorities probing his links to the shadowy Anonymous hacker collective — is sparking protest rallies and an international day of action.

Matt DeHart, 30, is in prison in Ontario awaiting an Aug. 20 refugee hearing in Toronto during which he will argue his claim for refugee protection.

“It is a very serious case that could set a lot of dangerous precedents for activists, hacktivists whistleblowers and journalists,” said Stacie Te Korako, director of #FreeMattDeHart, a support group based in New Orleans.

SecurityWeek covers another front:

Ukrainian Hackers Claim Attack on Polish Websites

Ukrainian hackers hostile to the government claimed Thursday to have launched a cyber attack against the websites of Poland’s presidency and the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

The hacker group Cyber Berkut said it blocked the sites, both down on Thursday afternoon, in response to what it said were Poland’s actions as “sponsors of fascism in Ukraine”.

“Our western neighbour on orders from Washington renders political, diplomatic and military assistance to nationalists and oligarchs who destabilise and wreck Ukraine,” the group alleged on its website.

SecurityWeek again, charting a hack attack whack:

Lockheed: Attackers Went Quiet After APT1 Report Exposed Chinese Hackers

Threat actors targeting Lockheed Martin immediately halted their cyberattacks against the defense contractor following the release of Mandiant’s APT1 report, Lockheed executives said Wednesday.

In February 2013, Mandiant released its bold, unprecedented report that made direct allegations and exposed a multi-year, massive cyber state-sponsored espionage campaign from a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The threat actor group, dubbed APT1 by FireEye-owned Mandiant, is alleged to be one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors, which the security firm claims has “systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data” from at least 141 organizations.

China Daily tracks another web crackdown that could make a reader Yelp!:

Micro-blogger in court charged with spreading rumors

A popular Chinese micro-blogger went on trial on Thursday for allegedly spreading rumors to attract followers and helping others delete posts for profit.

Yang Xiuyu, founder of Erma Co and with the online identity Lier Chaisi, was accused of illegal business operations after receiving 531,200 yuan ($86,312) for helping people remove Internet posts and publish rumors, according to Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court.

Yang, 41, from Northeast China’s Jilin province, was charged with running the illegal operation between May 2012 and September 2013, the court said.

From the Independent, bids to cop a deal:

Chief Constable bombarded with offers for private contracts

One of Britain’s most senior police officers has repeatedly rebuffed attempts by former service colleagues to use their contacts to push for contracts on behalf of their new private sector employers.

Lynne Owens, the Chief Constable of Surrey Police, said that she had been “bombarded” with requests for meetings from people who used to work in policing to tap into the £2.3bn market in private police services.

Industry watchers say the approaches signal a new drive by security companies for deals with police forces after the political furore died down over the failure of the world’s biggest security company G4S to supply enough security staff for the 2012 Olympics. Under pressure from 20 per cent budget cuts, some police forces have done deals with outside companies for technology, human resources and detention services.

On the drone front, there’s this from Aviation Week & Space Technology:

France, U.K. Move Toward Joint UCAV

  • UCAV feasiblity study renews French-British aerospace industry cooperation

New low-observable technologies, a highly reliable turbofan engine and multifunction radar are among the technologies that could be destined for an Anglo-French unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) in the 2030s.

A two-year feasibility study, signed by defense ministers from the two countries at the Farnborough air show last month, could mark the return to an era of close cooperation between the British and French aerospace industries not seen since the development of the Concorde in the 1960s.

Now more details have emerged of some of the ambitious capabilities and technologies being envisaged for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which both nations hope will give them a leading edge in air power and defense exports in the coming decades.

After the jump, it’s off to Asia with an allegation of a seditious Like and a non-illegal ISIS fan club, tensions in Pakistan, and the latest in the Game of Zones, including Korean missiles and a papal plea, Chinese arms developments, another “comfort women” demand, Japanese protests, Russo-Japanese tensions, the real Men in Black, and much, much more. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: A defining American moment


From the Guardian, recounting a defining moment of American history when the war on photography and the nation’s greatest shame intersect.

And note that very last line:

Journalists across the US are up in arms about the arrest of two reporters who were covering a demonstration in Ferguson, Missouri.

And it appears that their release followed a call from a concerned Los Angeles Times journalist, Matt Pearce, to Ferguson’s police chief.

Pearce said on Twitter that when he informed the chief, Thomas Jackson, about the arrests of the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, he replied: “Oh God.”

The reporters were in the city to report on protests that have followed the shooting dead of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer on 10 August.

They were writing their copy in a local branch of McDonald’s when police in riot gear arrived. The journalists, who were ordered to leave, began to video and take pictures.

Officers demanded they stop and at one point, as Lowery later tweeted, some “officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of”.

Later, asked on Twitter who he feared more, the protesters or the police, Lowery replied: “Easy answer. I’m a black man – the police.”

Lowery’s account of the event is posted here.

Gullible’s Travels: John Oliver dissects a U.S. myth


What is it that most distinguishes Britons from Americans?

It’s what one might call [A]merito-utopianism, the dysfunctional adherence of the mass of the American people to believe that material well-being — defined by the media as extravagant and lavishly photographic consumption of corporate-produced goods, ranging from telephoto shots of yachting celebrity down to the suburban tenth-grader’s Tweeted and YouTubed selfies.

Wealth, the media imply or declare overtly [Fox being merely the most blatant], results from talent or some other form of merit, a legacy in part of Calvinism, thought vastly reinforced by corporate media shaped by the sales needs of other corporations who often spend more on producing a thirty-second commercial than entertainment companies spend producing sixty-minute programs.

And then there’s that American that we’re really a classless society, a view unsustainable in a history-burdened Britain, as John Oliver explains in this segment from his HBO series.

What makes his debunking delightful is the final section, an upending of tropes so vividly illustrated.

Enjoy. . .

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Wealth Gap (HBO)

Program note:

John Oliver discusses America’s growing wealth gap and why it may be a problem in the future.

And yes, it’s froim last month, but we only chanced upon it only yesterday.

Blood on the newsroom & statehouse floors


The sad plight of reporting on state politics can be seen in two charts from the Pew Research Center’s report on state government reporting.

First, the makeup of the press corps covering state politics, in which newspapers remain the dominant medium for covering the ins and outs of state government:

BLOG State house pressNote that nearly half of the coverage is by reporters who don’t have full-time positions, including growing numbers of student interns and stringers, whose hopes for advancement of permanent employment depend not on serving the needs of readers but on pleasing editors..

And, second, the sharp and sad decline of the print press corps in state capitals:

BLOG Statehouse papers

Quote of the day: Media, cars, & loss of place


From an interview of California author and journalist Richard Rodriguez by New America Media Executive Director Sandy Close:

To what extent is the fall, the decline in literacy, related to what’s happening to news sources and the changes in the news landscape?

The greatest catastrophe of the news right now is that we’ve given up the notion of news related to place. That’s related I think to the fact that people are not living in the place where they are living anymore. So they no longer care what’s going on in Omaha, Nebraska because they don’t live in Omaha, Nebraska. They listen to Rush Limbaugh and he’s in Florida. They argue with John Stewart and he’s in New York. And they live in a kind of global news empire that has nothing to do, or very little to do, with place. They’re not interested in Omaha, Nebraska.

So what do you see replacing the city newspaper? Is it global news sources? And are people preoccupied with news?

I think people are preoccupied largely with the official news operations with national news out of Washington and groups like Politico. The movement of magazines, the Atlantic Monthly from Boston to Washington, for example, was a very shrewd move because the elite interest right now is in politics! National politics. And in so far as Omaha, Nebraska is concerned it’s only in relationship to Washington.

The essay I wrote on the death of the American newspaper is written as an obituary, precisely because what I was trying to suggest in the piece is that the obituary itself is out of date. People are dying now in my society and their deaths are not being noted in any official obituary.

In some way the death of the American newspaper is related to the death of the American cemetery. People are not being buried in cemeteries anymore. There’s no place for the dead go to, so in some sense Gramps died and we spill his ashes somewhere in the lake or by the sea and no one knows where it is. Or we put Gramp’s ashes in the call-set next to the Christmas tree ornaments. That lack of place I would argue is very deep and I think it’s related to the rise of digital technology.

In what way?

I’m of the opinion that we invented Henry Ford. Henry Ford didn’t invent us. We wanted something, we wanted mobility, we wanted to get away from our in-laws, and we invented this man who gave us a cheap automobile and then we invented the interstate highway system to get as far away from our in-laws and then we found in the suburbs that we were lonely and we invented Steve Jobs, who himself was a son of the suburbs.

Jobs grew up in Mountain View, CA, which is suburban. He was bullied in junior high school and told his parents that because of the black and Mexican kids, “If I have to stay at this school, I’m going to drop out of school.” So they moved to a suburb more suburban, Los Altos, and in many ways what Jobs intuited was this ability to connect to the world without connecting to the world. You could go shopping without leaving your chair. You could meet the entire world without leaving your chair. You could have sex without leaving your chair. And in many ways the success of the Internet is related to the loneliness that generated it and that it tries to, in some sense, alleviate.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, bluster, spooks, Asiana


With Iraq inflame and political and military posturing ramping up in Asia, American spookery in the spotlight, hacks, drones, and all the rest, there’s lots of ground to cover.

First up, via CBC News, the Iraqi meltdown continues:

Iraq conflict: Political crisis deepens as PM deploys militia

  • Canada increases humanitarian aid amid U.S. airstrikes and reports of civilians buried alive

Shia militia forces loyal to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki stepped up patrols around Baghdad on Sunday night after he delivered a tough televised speech indicating he would not cave in to pressure to drop a bid for a third term.

Political deadlock has prevented Iraqi politicians from uniting against Islamic State militants whose advance in the north has rattled the Baghdad government and its Western allies.

A senior U.S. official for Iraq said on Sunday he fully supported Iraqi President Fouad Masoum after al-Maliki, who the United States has blamed for stoking Iraq’s security crisis, accused Masoum of violating the constitution.

U.S. jet fighters and drones conducted four more airstrikes on ISIS militants in Iraq over the weekend, taking out armoured carriers and a truck that were firing on civilians, as Iraq’s human rights minister said ISIS militants killed at least 500 members of the Yazidi ethnic minority.

The Observer delivers a warning:

Obama warns of long campaign as Iraq strikes continue against Isis

  • US president admits there is no quick fix as minorities flee Islamist onslaught and British planes join relief effort

Barack Obama has committed the US to long-term involvement in Iraq, warning that the rapidly evolving crisis in the north would not be solved quickly.

US aircraft have targeted armoured vehicles and militant positions in a second day of strikes against Islamic State forces. A mix of US fighters and drones attacked and destroyed armoured personnel carriers after Yazidi civilians near Sinjar came under attack from the vehicles, US central command said.

US forces “successfully [conducted] four air strikes to defend Yazidi civilians being indiscriminately attacked” near Sinjar, said a statement from the United States Central Command (Centcom), which covers the Middle East.

The Independent covers an inciting incident:

Iraq crisis: Islamic militants ‘buried alive Yazidi women and children in attack that killed 500′

Militants in north-western Iraq have buried women and children alive during their offensive against the Yazidi ethnic minority, according to Iraq’s minister for human rights.

The bodies were reportedly found in a mass grave in the wake of Isis’s push towards the Sinjar mountain range, where tens of thousands of Kurdish-speaking refugees have been trapped to the point of starvation.

Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said his government had evidence that 500 Yazidi civilians had been killed so far, and that some of the victims had been buried alive. A further 300 Yazidi women have been kidnapped as slaves, he added.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, more context:

In backing Kurds, Obama ‘confident’ in protecting refugees

Obama was elected largely on the promise that he would extricate the United States from its two long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a promise he then took to a further extreme by refusing to get militarily involved to any significant degree in the Syrian civil war despite tremendous outside pressure.

But the rapid advance by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq against Kurdish positions in the wake of June’s collapse of the Iraqi Army and most of central and northern Iraq to the radicals suddenly changed the equation.

West of the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul, the takeover of Sinjar, a city heavily populated by the ancient Persian Yazidi sect considered heretics by the Islamic State, sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing last week into a barren mountain range, where harsh heat and a lack of food and water have pushed the situation into a humanitarian catastrophe shadowed by the threat of an even larger massacre by the Islamic State.

At the same time, another offensive by the Islamic State against forces protecting the Kurdish capital of Irbil captured not only Iraq’s largest dam and hydro electric plant, but also took over four of Iraq’s largest Christian villages. That drove a wave of refugees into a Kurdish region already hosting tens of thousands of refugees from the June collapse of the Arab sections of Iraq. And as Islamic State forces closed to within 25 miles of Irbil, the United States said it was forced to act with both air strikes to protect the capital and a humanitarian airlift to help alleviate the Yazidi suffering.

While The Hill amps up, rhetorically:

McCain: Iraq airstrikes ‘clearly ineffective’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday blasted President Obama’s strategy for limited airstrikes in Iraq, calling it “very, very ineffective.”

“Launching three strikes around a place where horrible humanitarian crisis is taking place, meanwhile [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)] continues to make gains everywhere, yes is clearly very, very ineffective, to say the least,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

ISIS is making gains in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, McCain said.

McCain said the president’s decision to approve targeted airstrikes and drop humanitarian aid to refugees under siege in northern Iraq was “far from sufficient to meet the growing threat that ISIS poses.”

And the Jakarta Globe covers metastasis:

Police Arrest Suspected Terrorist Involved With ISIS in Bekasi

The National Police on Saturday arrested a member of hard-line Islamic group Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, for his alleged involvement in funding a paramilitary training camp in Aceh, which is suspected to be a training ground for Al Qaeda-linked extremists, in 2010.

“We have taken action against Afif Abdul Majid … in Jatiasih, Bekasi [West Java] at 10:45 p.m. on Saturday,” National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said on Sunday.

Ronny said that the arrest was a cooperation between the Jakarta Police and anti-terrorism agency Detachment 88 (Densus 88).

And from The Wire, bringing it home:

Republican Leaders Warn Obama ISIL is Coming to U.S.

Republican leaders took to the Sunday talk show circuit to criticize what they see as a weak response by the Obama administration to the crisis in Iraq, making the case that the emboldened militant group ISIL is also a threat to the United States.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accused Obama of having no game plan for handling ISIL and simply attempting to avoid “a bad news story.”

“So Mr. President, you have never once spoken directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq,” said Graham. “What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland? They have expressed a desire to do so.”

On to the latest from the world of spooks, first with The Hill:

Left to Obama: Check spy agencies

  • Activists on the left are demanding President Obama flex his muscle over the country’s spy agencies.

The CIA’s admission that a handful of officials spied on Senate staffers is proof that the White House has lost control of the intelligence agencies, critics say. They are also discomforted by the continued support Obama has offered for agency Director John Brennan.

“This is not an isolated incident,” said Becky Bond, political director with the progressive group Credo.

“The fact that these intelligence officials are able to keep their job when major breaches or major assaults on the Constitution are made public — let alone all the things that are happening that we don’t know about — it sets a very dangerous precedent,” she added.

New Scientist covers consequences of loose reins:

US is wasting money on too many spy satellites

THE US government is wasting billions of dollars on spy satellites. According to a report released by Congress last week, the US National Reconnaissance Office, which maintains the nation’s eyes in the sky, is buying new satellites at a faster rate than necessary.

The NRO says that regular purchases are the only way to maintain the nation’s satellite-building expertise. The Congress report questions this assumption, arguing that any saving in efficiency through increased expertise is outstripped by the cost of launching extra satellites.

We already know the NRO has excess satellites, thanks to its surprise donation in 2012. The spy agency gave NASA parts for two Hubble-quality telescopes that it had lying around. NASA is still deciding how to use the scopes, but to avoid any suspicion of spying will not point them at Earth.

And from the Washington Post, spooky chutzpah:

The CIA isn’t reporting any data to federal transparency site

Among the revelations in a new Government Accountability Office report on the completeness, or lack thereof, of the federal transparency site USASpending.gov is that the CIA not only doesn’t disclose contracting data on its classified programs, which isn’t so surprising. But the agency also doesn’t share data with the site on its unclassified programs, despite the fact that, as GAO notes, “[the White House Office of Management and Budget] does not have guidance that clearly exempts agencies from doing that.”

The CIA argues that because its unclassified programs are in support of its classified work, reporting on the former inexorably leads to insights about the latter. As the GAO reports in its assessment of the transparency site’s 2012 data, a CIA “official added that the agency also does not report unclassified contract information because of the risk that an individual could use it, along with other publicly available information to develop a picture of Central Intelligence Agency requirements.”

That’s exactly right, says CIA spokesperson Preston Golson. The policy wasn’t merely in effect in 2012, the time scale of the report, he confirms — it’s in effect now, too. Of course, the CIA’s budget, as well as the budget of the intelligence community writ large, has been the subject of debate, with the Obama administration opting to release a top-line number on total intelligence spending, only. What we know about the CIA budget comes in the form of leaked documents first reported by The Washington Post. In 2013, the CIA’s budget, we’re now aware as a result, was a requested $14.7 billion.

From The Hill, don’t hold your breath:

Feinstein squares off with Obama

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is squaring off with President Obama again, this time over a long-awaited Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s harsh interrogation practices.

Feinstein, the senior senator from California and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has repeatedly battled the administration on a string of different issues.

An institutionalist who has repeatedly sought to defend congressional power, Feinstein takes her oversight role seriously. And while she is from a left-leaning state, the five-term senator frequently pushes Obama from a centrist point of view.

VICE News covers another report, other secrets:

Campaign Mounts to Declassify 9/11 Report’s References to Alleged Saudi Involvement

Nearly 13 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the extent of Saudi involvement in the deaths of almost 3,000 people remains unclear — but according to members of Congress and the families of victims, information about this has been suppressed ever since the publication of a 2002 congressional investigation into the plot.

Prior to the release of the final report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration classified a 28-page section in the name of national security.

Though speculations, accusations, and denials have swirled around these pages over the past decade, the call for their declassification has steadily grown since December 2013, when House Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced Resolution 428, a two-page document urging President Obama to release them to the public. Nine other representatives from both parties have co-sponsored the resolution.

And from News Corporation Australia, hints of spooky things to come:

Satellite photos reveal new hangars being built at Area 51, the United States top-secret testing facility

  • WHAT’S going on in Area 51? The mysterious US government air base in the middle of nowhere is undergoing an expansion. But nobody knows why.

Dreamland. Watertown. The Ranch. Whatever its name, the facility has entered common culture as Area 51 through a string of novels, movies, and far-fetched alien conspiracy theories.

Which may be why many people eagerly watch for every clue as to what may be going on in the dried-up lake bed.

Now, new satellite photos reveal ongoing construction work.

From RFI, hacker or spook?:

Franco-Israeli hacker poses as police officer to harass journalist

French hacker Grégory Chelli, who lives in the Israeli city of Ashdod, is under investigation for allegedly harassing a French journalist with the news website Rue89 and his family.

Known by the pseudonym of Ulcan or Violvocal, Chelli, 32, has been accused of making threatening calls to journalist Benoît le Corr and his parents since he published a profile of the hacker on July 29.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging the French justice system to pursue legal action against Chelli on the grounds that his actions “have combined violence, perversity and foolishness in an attempt to intimidate Le Corre and silence Rue89.”

However, the investigation launched in France could be difficult as there is no extradition agreement between Tel Aviv and Paris.

BBC News delivers a call:

John McAfee in surprise rant over Google and privacy

Notorious computer security pioneer John McAfee has used a surprise appearance at a hacking conference to warn of threats against “freedom” thanks to privacy issues with technology.

Speaking at Def Con in Las Vegas, Mr McAfee called on hackers to “make a stand” against companies that seek highly personal information.

He blamed laziness for the spread of apps and websites that glean information from users.

And from The Register, another kind of digital threat?:

Twitter can trigger psychosis in users

  • 140 characters or less leaves too much to symbolism, study finds

Twitter can trigger psychosis in predisposed users, according to a team of doctors from the Universitätsmedizin hospital in Berlin.

A study Twitter Psychosis A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome? concluded that Twitter may have “a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users” based on the case of a 31 year-old woman who developed the condition from spending too much time reading and writing in 140 characters or less.

The unnamed woman named “Mrs C” imagined non-existent connections between tweets sent from random users that she during the time of her psychosis considered to be hidden messages from a celebrity.

Meanwhile, the British camel’s nose sniffs deeper into the tent, via the Guardian:

Police want right to see medical records without consent

  • Greater Manchester chief constable says move is needed to help police deal with people struggling to look after themselves

Police want new and expanded rights to access medical records and other confidential data without an individual’s consent, a senior police chief has told the Guardian.

Sir Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester chief constable, said the extra access to sensitive data was needed to help police cope with growing numbers of vulnerable people.

Fahy said police frequently dealt with people struggling to look after themselves, including elderly people, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, those with drug or alcohol problems, those with mental health issues and problem families. Perhaps most controversially, he said medical professionals should share information about women suffering from domestic abuse, even against the victim’s wishes.

TheLocal.de objects:

German coalition bickers over arms exports

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has met opposition from conservatives in the coalition government with plans to tighten rules on arms exports, amid tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia.

“If you’re not very careful, (selling arms abroad) can very quickly become a deal with death,” Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor, warned recently on public television.

Normally, the position of deputy chancellor is largely a symbolic one. But Gabriel, a Social Democrat, is taking advantage of the absence on holiday of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to lobby publicly for a topic close to his heart.

And from Want China Times, a perfect transition to the jump:

Sanctions prompt Russia to turn to China for precision components

Russia is looking to acquire electronic precision components worth several billion dollars from China in light of economic sanctions from Europe and the United States, reports Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Citing Russian media reports, Global Times said Russian manufacturers will struggle to meet demand for electronic components required for the country’s aerospace and military fields over the next two years due to ongoing sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

As a result, Russia is turning to China to fill the gap, with one source from the Russian Federal Space Agency telling media outlets that they are currently working with the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation, the main contractor for the Chinese space program. The Chinese company’s research and development center has already offered several dozen proposals on how their products can replace those previously acquired from the US, the source said, adding that they are currently in the process of translating the technical data, testing product sensitivity, temperatures and vibrations to assess component compatibility.

After the jump, all the latest on the Asian Game of Zones, with China, Japan, the Koreas, and others, all jockeying for position and power a global economic might shifts Eastward. We’ve got hack attack, political approaches [both those spurned and those embraced], military arsenal enlargement, plus a uniquely fitting punishment that’s so wrong but so gol-derned right. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Idiots, spooks, hacks, threats


An extra-long edition today because, well, there’s a lot of ground to cover, ranging from the latest Obama idiocy revelation to the last developments in the Asian Game of Zones.

We open with the Obamanation, via the Guardian:

USAID programme used young Latin Americans to incite Cuba rebellion

  • HIV workshop was ‘perfect excuse’ for political goals
  • Revelations follow failure of ‘Cuban Twitter’ effort

An Obama administration programme secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change, a clandestine operation that put those foreigners in danger even after a US contractor was sent to a Cuban jail.

Beginning as early as October 2009, a project overseen by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of ginning up rebellion. The travelers worked undercover, often posing as tourists, and traveled around the island scouting for people they could turn into political activists.

In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called “the perfect excuse” for the programme’s political goals – a gambit that could undermine America’s efforts to improve health globally.

But their efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk, an Associated Press investigation found. Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers nearly blew their mission to “identify potential social-change actors”. One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.

International Business Times gets close to the crux of the matter, given that earlier use of polio vaccination programs in Pakistan have played a major role in the resurgence of the disease:

How USAID Cuba Revelations May Threaten Global Health Programs

It’s getting harder for the United States to keep its secrets when it comes to democracy-promotion programs in Cuba. The Associated Press revealed this week a U.S. International Development Agency-funded operation to spur antigovernment activism among Cubans, this time through an HIV-prevention program. U.S. lawmakers and health advocates are lambasting USAID’s use of a health program for political ends, saying it puts the U.S.’s other global health and development programs at risk.

“This blatant deception undermines U.S. credibility abroad and endangers U.S. government-supported public health programs, which have saved millions of lives in recent years around the world,” said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, in a statement Monday. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont also said the program “tarnishes USAID’s long track record as a leader in global health.”

Global aid network InterAction also told the Associated Press that the United States “should never sacrifice delivering basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal.”

And the latest leak from the Intercept:

Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers

Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.

Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.

Here’s the chart accompanying the article:

BLOG Intercept

And from PandoDaily, a spoilsport story:

“That was our bad.” US government “spoils” the Intercept’s scoop, tips off rival outlet

According to a report by the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) had “spoiled the scoop,” tipping off the AP that the Intercept was preparing a story.

Why would the government care? Grim explains:

To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

A source told Grim that the Intercept promptly hopped on a conference call with the NCTC after the stories hit, during which an official reportedly said the agency did not expect the AP reporter, Eileen Sullivan, to publish her story first. “That was our bad,” the official added, which is perhaps the greatest mea culpa from a government official in US history.

The Verge covers the source:

US officials say someone else is leaking documents in the wake of Snowden

  • New documents shed light on US terror watch list, revealing almost half the people on it don’t have any known connections to terror groups

Almost a year since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaked information was first revealed to the world, US officials today confirmed to CNN a new leaker is responsible for providing additional secret documents to The Intercept. The Intercept is an investigative website cofounded by Glenn Greenwald, the reporter to whom Snowden entrusted the bulk of his documents, and it has recently been publishing a series on the inner workings of the US government’s terror watch list. Just today, The Intercept published a new article based on leaked information indicating that 40 percent of the 680,000 total people listed on the watch list have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.”

The documents, which The Intercept reported were leaked by someone within the intelligence community, further show that the separate “no fly” list banning people from air travel has expanded under President Obama to include 47,000 names, the highest number since the list was created in 2001. The new information raises the question of why 280,000 names remain on the terrorist watch list if there isn’t evidence linking them to specific terror groups. Are all of these people potentially homegrown terrorists, or are they part of groups that the government hasn’t identified yet, or perhaps they have shown interest in terror groups but haven’t joined them?

Newsweek covers another source of insecurity:

Israel Flagged as Top Spy Threat to U.S. in New Snowden/NSA Document

Israel was singled out in 2007 as a top espionage threat against the U.S. government, including its intelligence services, in a newly published National Security Agency (NSA) document obtained by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden, according to a news report Monday.

The document also identified Israel, along with North Korea, Cuba and India, as a “leading threat” to the infrastructure of U.S. financial and banking institutions.

The threats were listed in the NSA’s 2007 Strategic Mission List, according to the document obtained by journalist/activist Glenn Greenwald, a founding editor of The Intercept, an online magazine that has a close relationship with Snowden, a former NSA and CIA contractor who fled the U.S. with thousands of top-secret documents last year.

From RT, an emergence:

Snowden makes first public appearance, secretly visits Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has visited Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre in his first public appearance since coming to Russia a year ago. Reporters were hardly able to recognize the former CIA employee without his signature look glasses.

The NSA whistleblower apparently decided to mark a year of asylum in Russia by making a public appearance. He attended the Tsar’s Bride opera in Moscow’s historic Bolshoi Theatre.

Snowden slipped in almost unnoticed. He sat in one of the theatre’s boxes, admiring Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera that recounts a tragic love story during the time of Ivan the Terrible’s reign in Russia.

The Hill gets wiki’d:

House staffer edited Wikipedia page to label Snowden a ‘traitor’

Someone working on a House computer updated Wikipedia to call government leaker Edward Snowden an “American traitor who defected to Russia” on Tuesday.

The change, which was picked up by a Twitter account that automatically notes edits from congressional Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, occurred on the Wikipedia page for United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Last month, Pillay said that the world owes a “great deal” to Snowden and called him a “human rights defender.”

And from Down Under via the Guardian, another victory for the spooky panotpicon:

Data retention proposal revealed to media before cabinet

  • Ministers understood to hold strongly differing views on retaining metadata as part of national security legislation

Federal cabinet has been caught unawares by media reports of a national security committee plan to require telecommunications companies to retain customers’ metadata for at least two years.

Cabinet is likely to be briefed on Tuesday morning about the plan, but had no knowledge a decision had been taken before it was revealed in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. The issue is not on the formal cabinet agenda.

Telecommunications companies had not been briefed on the decision before it was revealed in the media and were frantically seeking information on Tuesday morning, although they have responded to several parliamentary inquiries on the issue.

And back to the U.S. for the latest Obama cover-up push via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Obama officials, Senate intelligence panel spar over deletions from torture report

The Obama administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee are sparring over the administration’s deletions of fake names from the public version of a long-awaited report on the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists, McClatchy has learned.

The outcome of the debate could impact the clarity and narrative flow of the report, the product of the most intensive congressional investigation of CIA operations since lawmakers examined the agency’s role in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal of the Reagan presidency.

“Redactions are supposed to remove names or anything that could compromise sources and methods, not to undermine the source material so that it is impossible to understand,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., a member of the committee, said Sunday in a statement. “Try reading a novel with 15 percent of the words blacked out. It can’t be done properly.”

And yet another, even more ridiculous coverup try, via DeepLinks:

UNSEALED: The US Sought Permission To Change The Historical Record Of A Public Court Proceeding

A few weeks ago we fought a battle for transparency in our flagship NSA spying case, Jewel v. NSA. But, ironically, we weren’t able to tell you anything about it until now.

On June 6, the court held a long hearing in Jewel in a crowded, open courtroom, widely covered by the press. We were even on the local TV news on two stations. At the end, the Judge ordered both sides to request a transcript since he ordered us to do additional briefing. But when it was over, the government secretly, and surprisingly sought permission to “remove” classified information from the transcript, and even indicated that it wanted to do so secretly, so the public could never even know that they had done so.

We rightly considered this an outrageous request and vigorously opposed it. The public has a First Amendment right not only to attend the hearing but to have an accurate transcript of it. Moreover, the federal law governing court reporting requires that “each session of the court” be “recorded verbatim” and that the transcript be certified by the court reporter as “a correct statement of the testimony taken and the proceedings had.” 28 U.S.C. § 753(b).

The Court allowed the government a first look at the transcript and indicated that it was going to hold the government to a very high standard and would not allow the government to manufacture a misleading transcript by hiding the fact of any redactions. Ultimately, the government said that it had *not* revealed classified information at the hearing and removed its request. But the incident speaks volumes about the dangers of allowing the government free rein to claim secrecy in court proceedings and otherwise.

We couldn’t tell you anything about that fight because the government’s request, our opposition to it, and the court’s order regarding it were all sealed. But with today’s order by Judge White, the transcript and the arguments over the government’s request to revise it are finally public documents.

Meanwhile, the war on photography continues, as Techdirt reports:

Documents Show 100 Officers From 28 Law Enforcement Agencies Accessed A Photographer’s Records

  • from the the-First-Amendment-right-to-be-hassled-endlessly dept

Here’s what exercising your First Amendment rights gets you in certain parts of the US. Photographer Jeff Gray has been filming cops and photographing public structures, as well as documenting the reactions of law enforcement to his activities.

The Department of Homeland Security apparently felt Gray was enough of a “threat” that it opened an investigation on him. After scrutinizing publicly-available information (like Gray’s own YouTube account), it came to the conclusion that his activities were completely protected… it just didn’t like the way he acted.

This subject is exercising his first amendment rights, however the manner in which he lures the officers in is concerning.

Well, you can’t be “lured” if you just respect citizens’ rights — rights that were recently upheld by a Supreme Court decision. Despite the DHS declaring Gray’s actions perfectly fine, local law enforcement officers still took it upon themselves to send social services to his home (after being “tipped” that Gray owned guns) and interviewing his kids at school without his knowledge.

And from Homeland Security News Wire, a major shift in the top threat as seen by cops across the country:

U.S. law enforcement agencies perceive Sovereign citizen movement as top terrorist threat

Sovereign citizen, Islamist extremist, and militia/patriot groups are perceived by law enforcement agencies to pose the greatest threats to their communities, according to a new study from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). While sovereign citizens were the top concern of law enforcement, assessments about whether most groups were a serious terrorist threat actually declined for most groups (for example, the KKK; Christian Identity; Neo-Nazis; Racist Skinheads; Environmental Extremists; Animal Rights Extremists) when compared to a previous study.

START researchers David Carter, Steven Chermak, Jeremy Carter, and Jack Drew recently conducted in-depth surveys with more than 364 officers representing 175 state, local, and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agencies to examine perceptions of: the threat of terrorism; the nature of information-sharing; and whether agencies are prepared to deal with terrorist attacks. Their results are published in Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes.

A START release reports that the Sovereign Citizen movement was the most highly ranked threat, with 86 percent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that it was a serious terrorist threat. This is a significant increase in ranking from an earlier survey implemented in 2006-2007, which showed Islamist extremists to be law enforcement’s top concern at the time. In that survey, approximately 67 percent agreed or strongly agreed that Islamist extremists were a serious terrorist threat.

Here’s the breakdown from the report [PDF]. Click on it to embiggen:

BLOG Terror

Next, as at home, Obama’s bucks-and-bombs Realpolitick trumps Hope™ and Change™ in Africa, via the Guardian:

Africa leaders’ summit: why human rights are off Obama’s agenda

  • As much of the continent’s leadership meets in Washington, security and trade have trumped pressing issues ranging from suppression of democracy to the criminalising of gay people

Barack Obama has had plenty to say about human rights in Africa over the years but the issue is glaringly absent from this week’s summit with much of the continent’s leadership in Washington.

Activists have taken to reminding Obama of his own soaring rhetoric about the one item not on an agenda that takes in trade and conflict, health and even how to combat of wildlife trafficking.

On his visits to Africa Obama has spoken about human rights with a passion rarely heard from earlier US presidents. “History offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not,” he told Ghana’s parliament in 2009.

And from Europe, drones ahoy via TheLocal.dk:

Danish drones want to soar above the rest

  • A drone test centre in Odense is positioning itself to take advantage of the rapid growth in the unmanned aircraft market.

The skies of the future will be filled with drones and Denmark wants to lead the way.

An EU Commission report from April predicted bright times ahead for the European drone market.

“The technology for drones is maturing and the market for civil drones is evolving fast. On some estimates in the next ten years civil drones could be worth ten percent of the aviation market. That’s 15 billion euro per year,” a commission report read. “Drones manufacturing may create up to 150,000 European jobs by 2050.”

And a global hackery alert from Mint Press News:

Over 2 Billion Smartphones Are Hacker-Friendly

  • Researchers reveal a smartphone security vulnerability that puts the data and private communiques of millions at risk of being hacked and stolen.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that, for the first time, most American adults own a smartphone. With 55 percent of the survey’s respondents using either an iPhone or an Android-enabled device, and with only 44 percent indicating they do not use a microcomputer-based cellphone, it’s apparent that smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life for many.

Two researchers from Accuvant Labs — Matthew Skolnik and Marc Blanchou — have discovered, however, that this dependency on smartphones has put the data and private communiques of millions at risk of being stolen. Utilizing device management software that carriers and phone manufacturers embed into mobile devices for remote servicing, the researchers have discovered that by using a femtocell and a third-party software package, a hacker can remotely and covertly install malicious code into a device and take it over — something that could potentially affect over two billion smartphones worldwide.

A femtocell is a privately-owned small-range cellular-to-broadband connector used to extend cellular range in a residence or business. They are typically available for sale from the major wireless carriers and retailers for $150 to $250, and are thought to offer “5-bars” reception to any device located within 10 meters.

Another one, from Nextgov:

Invisible Web Infection Poses Threat to Federal Computers

A surge of malicious software hit news media websites during the first half of 2014, unleashing a threat to federal agencies that rely on those sites to get information, cybersecurity researchers say.

Media networks were almost four times as likely to attract malware as the average enterprise network, likely because of an increasingly popular hacking tactic called “malvertising,” according to a new Cisco threat intelligence report.

Web publications are magnets for online ads that harbor malware and pass it on to readers. The media industry depends on advertising for revenue, but ads are hardly ever vetted for subversive code.

The Verge confronts the bleak reality:

The internet doesn’t care about security

  • Paypal’s two-factor problems are the rule, not the exception

Companies rarely care about security, even if various people within the companies do. Good security is expensive. It often means structuring your service in a certain way that pushes users through an extra step or two, and that’s a sacrifice most companies simply don’t want to make.

Paypal’s bug is a great example. Paypal wanted to make it easy for eBay users to link their accounts, so the company set up a special cookie that identified anyone coming in from eBay. As it turned out, that cookie also let Rogers bypass Paypal’s two-factor protections. Fixing it should be simple, just disable the cookie and make eBay users log in the old-fashioned way. But if PayPal did that, fewer users would link the accounts and it would cost the company money — more money than they’re likely to lose as a result of this bug. Given the choice between security and usability, companies will take usability every time.

This is the central problem of every vulnerability report: researchers want to fix it and companies don’t. I’m usually more sympathetic to the security side, but the companies have a point too. It’s hard to make software with no vulnerabilities, just like it’s hard to make a door that can’t be broken into. As security ramps up, diminishing returns set in fast. You could put a three-inch steel door on your house, but it would be ugly and heavy and you don’t want to. Instead, you trust that no one will want to kick in your door. Aside from once-in-a-generation bugs like Heartbleed, most security failures don’t have much fallout, particularly for the companies that spawn them. Six months later, it’s hard to argue that Goto-Fail had much effect on Apple’s bottom line.

And from the New York Times, another massive hack attack:

Russian Gang Amasses Over a Billion Internet Passwords

A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, security researchers say.

The records, discovered by Hold Security, a firm in Milwaukee, include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, ranging from household names to small Internet sites. Hold Security has a history of uncovering significant hacks, including the theft last year of tens of millions of records from Adobe Systems.

Hold Security would not name the victims, citing nondisclosure agreements and a reluctance to name companies whose sites remained vulnerable. At the request of The New York Times, a security expert not affiliated with Hold Security analyzed the database of stolen credentials and confirmed it was authentic. Another computer crime expert who had reviewed the data, but was not allowed to discuss it publicly, said some big companies were aware that their records were among the stolen information.

Meanwhile, the Big Box goes Big Brother, via CBC News:

Robin Walsh upset Wal-Mart withheld ‘inappropriate’ baby photos

  • Wal-Mart ‘deeply regrets’ any inconvenience for Gander, N.L., teacher and mother of 2

A mother in central Newfoundland says she was surprised and upset when a Wal-Mart employee said she couldn’t pick up her photos because they were flagged as “inappropriate” by a processing technician.

Robin Walsh, a mother of two and a teacher in Gander, said she dropped off a batch of roughly 100 photos to be processed at the local Wal-Mart, but an employee refused to return three of them. “Initially I laughed, especially when I saw what photos they were referring to, ‘cause I kind of thought that it was a joke, but I was surprised,” said Walsh.

Two of the photos were of Walsh’s infant daughter holding an empty beer bottle. Another picture showed her daughter and five-year-old son lying partially naked on their stomachs before a bath.

Paris gets its own version of the French Connection heist, via France 24:

€2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

French investigators have launched an inquiry after more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of seized cocaine, worth approximately €2.5 million, went missing from the Paris police headquarters, French media reported Friday.

The cocaine, which was seized in multiple police raids in northern Paris in early July, had been stored in a special room secured with an armoured door at the imposing Paris police headquarters located at 36 quai des Orfèvres in the heart of the French capital, just steps away from famed Paris monuments such as Notre Dame.

According to the French daily Le Parisien, the cocaine was last seen on 23 July. The disappearance was reported Thursday and an investigation was immediately launched.

On to Russia, and another casualty of the war on the press, via the Guardian:

Russian journalist’s body found after disappearance

The body of an independent Russian journalist was found in a wood the day after he had gone missing following threats from law enforcement authorities.

Timur Kuashev worked for the magazine Dosh (or Dosch) as its correspondent in Nalchik, the capital of the autonomous Kabardino-Balkar republic in the Russian Caucasus.

His body was found on Friday (1 August) in a wood near the Nalchik suburb of Khasania after he went missing the previous evening. There were no visible signs of violence. At the time of his burial on Saturday, the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of his death were unknown.

Kuashev had written about alleged human rights abuses by the security forces in the course of anti-terrorism operations. He also criticised Russian policy in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Business Insider sounds an alert from Moscow:

Russia Calls For Emergency UN Security Council Meeting As Troops Fortify On The Border

Russia called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday over what it called an urgent humanitarian situation in Ukraine, according to a report from the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.

“We are convening an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine,” Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin was quoted as saying.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed “readiness” to discuss its plan to deploy a “humanitarian mission” to Ukraine, which some consider to be a pretext for an invasion by Russian forces.

After the jump, the latest from the ever-intensifying Game of Zones in Asia, including a raft of inflammatory rhetoric reaching form Afghanistan to the Philippines, including attacks both military and rhetorical, orders to arm Vietnam’s fishing fleet, spy arrests, and new problems much closer to home. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Partners, hacks, threats, more


Today’s collection of tales from the realms of espionage, privacy hacks, bellicosity, and that ol’ Games of Zones begins with Glenn Greenwald’s latest, via The Intercept:

Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack

The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the GCHQ and CSEC.

The relationship has, on at least one occasion, entailed the covert payment of a large amount of cash to Israeli operatives. Beyond their own surveillance programs, the American and British surveillance agencies rely on U.S.-supported Arab regimes, including the Jordanian monarchy and even the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, to provide vital spying services regarding Palestinian targets.

Wired threat level listens in:

How the NSA Could Bug Your Powered-Off iPhone, and How to Stop Them

Just because you turned off your phone doesn’t mean the NSA isn’t using it to spy on you.

Edward Snowden’s latest revelation about the NSA’s snooping inspired an extra dose of shock and disbelief when he said the agency’s hackers can use a mobile phone as a bug even after it’s been turned off. The whistleblower made that eye-opening claim when Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, holding his iPhone aloft during last Wednesday’s interview, asked, “What can the NSA do with this device if they want to get into my life? Can anyone turn it on remotely if it’s off? Can they turn on apps?

“They can absolutely turn them on with the power turned off to the device,” Snowden replied.

The Register covers mislabeled “reforms”:

NSA leaker Thomas Drake says Oz security reforms are ‘scary’

  • Australians urged to oppose NatSec laws before they silence whistleblowers

National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake says Australia’s looming national security reforms makes him ‘shudder’, labelling them ambiguous and a plot to stamp out legitimate public-interest whistleblowing.

Drake, who Edward Snowden said was his inspiration for leaking the NSA spy documents, blew the lid in 2006 on the NSA’s massively inefficient Trailblazer Project while at the agency that wasted billions of US dollars in spy operations post 9/11.

He along with NSA colleagues had built ThinThread what he said was a much more efficient intelligence program that cost a fraction of the Trailblazer Project and had more checks and balances in place to prevent wholesale collection of private data.

Nextgov partners up, spooks and the Washington Post’s owner are BFFs:

CIA’s Amazon-Built Cloud Goes Live

The Central Intelligence Agency is now officially an Amazon Web Services cloud consumer.

Less than 10 months after a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge ended a public battle between AWS and IBM for the CIA’s commercial cloud contract valued at up to $600 million, the AWS-built cloud for the intelligence community went online last week for the first time, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The cloud — best thought of as a public cloud computing environment built on private premises — is yet far from its peak operational capabilities when it will provide all 17 intelligence agencies unprecedented access to an untold number of computers for various on-demand computing, analytic, storage, collaboration and other services.

From BBC News, they’re reading all your emails, then snitching:

Google ‘reveals user’ over Gmail child abuse images

Police in Houston told the local news station that Google detected explicit images of a young girl in an email being sent by John Henry Skillern. After the existence of the email was referred to them by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the police obtained a search warrant and arrested the man.

The 41-year-old is a convicted sex offender. He has been charged with possessing child pornography, it was reported. “I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can,” Detective David Nettles said.

Emma Carr, the acting director of privacy lobby group Big Brother Watch, told the BBC: “With the rate that Gmail messages are scanned, and the fact that all US companies are bound by US law to report suspected child abuse, it is hardly surprising that this individual has found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

“However, Gmail users will certainly be interested to know what action Google proactively takes to monitor and analyse Gmail messages for illegal content, including details of what sorts of illegal activity may be targeted. Google must also make themselves very clear about what procedures and safeguards are in place to ensure that people are not wrongly criminalised.”

The Guardian covers yet more sharing to come:

Whitehall tries to revive plans to share confidential personal data

  • Proposals to share people’s details resemble Labour’s 2009 plans which critics said could ‘wipe out privacy at a stroke’

Whitehall officials are trying to revive plans that could allow the government to share confidential details about people’s finances, health and criminal records across different providers of public services.

The data sharing plans being drawn up by the Cabinet Office appear to be similar to proposals dropped by Labour in 2009 after a backbench revolt. At the time, the plans were described by critics as having the potential to “wipe out privacy at a stroke”.

Details emerged in minutes of a meeting held in April by the Cabinet Office’s data team. Under the most radical option, data could even be shared with “all bodies providing public services”, which might allow private contractors to gain access to the data.

From We Meant Well, Uncle Spooky’s trans-Atlantic reach:

Caught Stealing Data in Europe, U.S. Now Seeks to Legalize the Theft

Nearly unique among nations, the U.S. broadly imposes extraterritoriality– in the case, the enforcement of U.S. laws in other, sovereign nations.

Many examples of extraterritoriality grow out of America’s archipelago of military bases around the world, where Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) allow service members exemption from local laws, even when they commit crimes against host country people. The U.S. also stations Customs and Border Patrol agents in other nations, denying boarding on U.S.-bound flights from Canada, for example, to Canadian citizens otherwise still standing in their own country. Imagine the outcry in America if the Chinese were to establish military bases in Florida exempt from U.S. law, or if the Russians choose which Americans could fly out of Kansas City Airport. Never mind drone strikes, bombings, deployment of Special Forces, invasions and CIA-sponsored coups.

The snowballing NSA revelations have already severely damaged U.S. credibility and relationships around the world; nations remain shocked at the impunity with which America dug into their private lives. NSA spying has also cost American tech firms $180 billion in lost revenues, as “We’re not an American company” becomes a sales point.

An American court has just taken things to a new level of extraterritorial offensiveness by requiring Microsoft to turn over to the U.S. government emails it holds on its servers. But in this case, those servers are located in Ireland, a European Union nation with its own privacy laws. Those laws are apparently of no real concern to the United States.

Europe Online covers a challenge for Zuckerberg:

12,000 join class action suit against Facebook

Some 12,000 Facebook members have joined Austrian privacy advocates in suing the US social network over its use of personal data, activist Max Schrems said Monday.

“We are surprised by the positive feedback,” said Schrems, who had issued a call on Friday to join his lawsuit.

Schrems heads an Austria-based group called Europe vs. Facebook, which has been campaigning against Facebook’s use of member data, arguing that its policies are intransparent and run counter to EU law.

PandoDaily covers another secret snitch:

Your wearable fitness tracker is a narc. You should probably stay home and eat cake

  • Oh good, your wearable device is telling the world how lazy you are.

Researchers from Symantec have revealed that they were able to intercept data from fitness trackers simply by hanging out in parks and at athletic events with a Raspberry Pi device programmed to sniff the data out of the air.

According to a blog post published by the company:

Symantec also found vulnerabilities in how personal data is stored and managed, such as passwords being transmitted in clear text and poor session management.

The fitness snoopers also discovered that 20% of the devices broadcast their login credentials as plain text.

From Techdirt, droning on, secretly:

FBI Refuses To Let Public Know How Its Drone Usage Affects Their Privacy

  • from the I’ve-got-plenty-of-nothing-and-nothing’s-plenty-for-[REDACTED] dept

The FBI’s production of privacy impact assessments (PIAs) lags far behind its deployment of privacy-impacting technology. From facial recognition software to Stingray devices to its drone usage, the FBI has always violated privacy first and assessed the damage later. In some cases, it hasn’t bothered to assess the impact at all, despite repeated assurances to questioning lawmakers that the required report (and it is required) is (forever) nearing completion.

Its biometric database, which pulls in photos from all over the place for its facial recognition software to peruse, rolled out without the required PIA in 2012. Two years later, the FBI is still promising Eric Holder that the PIA will be completed literally any month now, even as it hopes to have the system fully operational by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

It has supposedly cranked out a PIA for its drone use — again lagging far behind its first reported deployments in “late 2006.” But the public apparently isn’t allowed to know how the agency’s drone use impacts its privacy. Instead of placing the assessment on its website for public viewing (the default method), the FBI has stashed it behind every shady government entity’s favorite FOIA exception: b(5).

From RT, airborne spookery turns tail:

Confirmed: US spy plane fleeing Russian jet invaded Swedish airspace

US officials have confirmed Swedish media reports of a mid-July incident in which an American spy plane invaded Sweden’s airspace as it was evading a Russian fighter jet. The maverick plane was spying on Russia when it was intercepted.

The incident, which happened on July 18, went public last Wednesday after a classified document from Sweden’s Defense Ministry was leaked to the press.

The plane, a Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint, entered Sweden’s airspace after permission to do so was denied by traffic control, Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper said. It passed from the east over the island of Gotland and flew more than 200km over 90 minutes before leaving.

And from TheLocal.de, another aerial panic:

French scramble jet after German’s wayward flight

French aviation authorities were forced to dispatch a fighter jet to intercept a German tourist who had sparked a security alert by flying over sensitive sites in his microlight aircraft, French media reported.

A Mirage 2000 fighter jet was scrambled after the German tourist set off alarm bells after flying over two nuclear power stations in the south of France, French TV station TF1 reported.

The German, who had taken off from Avignon on August 1st  for a day’s flying, was forced by authorities to land in the town of Valence, France’s air transport police (CGTA) said.

From Reuters a really chilling airborne threat:

Hacker says to show passenger jets at risk of cyber attack

Cyber security researcher Ruben Santamarta says he has figured out how to hack the satellite communications equipment on passenger jets through their WiFi and inflight entertainment systems – a claim that, if confirmed, could prompt a review of aircraft security.

Santamarta, a consultant with cyber security firm IOActive, is scheduled to lay out the technical details of his research at this week’s Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, an annual convention where thousands of hackers and security experts meet to discuss emerging cyber threats and improve security measures.

His presentation on Thursday on vulnerabilities in satellite communications systems used in aerospace and other industries is expected to be one of the most widely watched at the conference.

From Wired threat level, hackery gone keyless :

Watch This Wireless Hack Pop a Car’s Locks in Minutes

Shims and coat hangers are the clumsy tools of last century’s car burglars. Modern-day thieves, if they’re as clever as Silvio Cesare, may be able to unlock your vehicle’s door without even touching it.

As part of a talk on the insecurity of wireless devices at the Black Hat security conference later this week, Cesare plans to reveal a technique that could allow anyone to spoof the signal from a wireless key fob and unlock a car with no physical trace, using a codebreaking attack that takes as little as a few minutes to perform. “I can use this to lock, unlock, open the trunk,” says Cesare, an Australian researcher for the security firm Qualys. “It effectively defeats the security of the keyless entry.”

For now, Cesare’s hack requires off-the-shelf tools that cost just over $1,000, and in some cases may require the attacker to remain within wireless range of the car for as long as two hours. He’s also only tested it on his own car, which is ten years old.

While the London Daily Mail sounds a Skynet alert:

AI is ‘potentially more dangerous than nukes’: Elon Musk claims a robot uprising could be a serious threat to humanity

  • Comment tweeted by Musk while recommending a book by Nick Bostrom
  • The book ‘Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies’, asks major questions about how humanity will cope with super-intelligent computers
  • Musk previously said ‘Terminator-like’ scenario could be created from AI
  • 42-year-old is so worried that he said his investment in AI group, Vicarious, was purely to keep an eye on the technology rather than make money

Elon Musk is one of the driving forces behind super-intelligent computers that could improve everything from space travel to electric cars.

But the Tesla-founder claims the technology could someday be more harmful than nuclear weapons.

At the weekend, the billionaire tweeted a recommendation for a book that looks at a robot uprising, claiming ‘We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.’

Another airborne alert from Deutsche Welle:

Russia launches huge air defense exercises close to Ukraine

Russia has announced large-scale air defense exercises along its Ukraine border. The move is being perceived as a show of strength by Moscow, and is likely to further raise tensions in the region.

Russia has announced large-scale air defense exercises along its Ukraine border. The new military drills will involve around 100 aircraft, and will be staged from Monday through to Friday this week, a Russian air force spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

Fighter jets, supersonic interceptor jets and attack helicopters are expected to take part in missile-firing practice and target training maneuvers in the central and western military districts.

Air force spokesman Igor Klimov told AFP the drills were “a routine event.” He said they were not related to the ongoing conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

And from Want China Times, a new chapter in the Game of Zones?:

Russia might win China as ally: Canadian military magazine

Russia may speed up siding with the East after the Crimea crisis and it is inevitable that neighboring China and Russia will forge closer ties, reports the military magazine of Canada-based news organization Kanwa Information Center.

The report said the stalemate among Russia, Europe and the United States may last for a long time, so China-Russia’s military cooperation may also enter a new era.

A Russian newspaper reported on March 29 that Russian president Vladimir Putin had agreed to the arms sales of the S-400 Triumf to China. It is unusual for a major media outlet to link Putin’s name with S-400 sales to China and is being interpreted as Russia sending a strong political message to the West and Japan.

And yet another one, this time from JapanToday:

Japan to launch military space force: report

Japan is planning to launch a military space force by 2019 that would initially be tasked with protecting satellites from dangerous debris orbiting the Earth, a report said.

The move is aimed at strengthening Japan-US cooperation in space, and comes after the countries pledged to boost joint work on monitoring space debris, Kyodo news agency said Sunday.

Japan would provide the US military with information obtained by the force as part of the joint bid to strengthen ties in space, the so-called “fourth battlefield”, Kyodo said, citing unnamed sources.

And for our final item, yet another airborne alert from Want China Times:

Chinese DF-41 missile can penetrate US air defense: German expert

None of the air defense systems the United States currently employs are capable of intercepting China’s newly developed DF-41 solid-fueled road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, reports the Berlin-based Die Welt.

Intercepting the DF-41 in the air is as challenging as trying to shoot a rifle bullet into another, Karl Josef Dahlem, chief advisor of air defense with the European guided weapons manufacturer MBDA, told Die Welt during an interview. Early detection by reconnaissance and radar facilities is a must for the US to intercept intercontinental missiles, Dahlem said.

“Depending upon the flight path a missile takes roughly 20 to 25 minutes to launch from Asia to a target in the USA,” said Dahlem. The DF-41 is capable of ascending over 1000 kilometers into space, twice as far as the International Space Station circling the Earth. For this reason, it is better for the defender to destroy the incoming missile when it is still far away from the ground.

InSecurityWatch: Taps, torture, zones, crime


We’ve been under the weather these last few days, so today’s collection of tales from the dark side has beaucoup items, starting with the latest buggery headline from the Independent:

Israel-Gaza conflict: John Kerry’s phone calls ‘tapped by Israeli government’ while he mediated Middle East peace talks

Israeli intelligence agencies reportedly tapped John Kerry’s phone while the US Secretary of State was in the Middle East trying to negotiate an end to the Gaza conflict.

According to reports in Sunday’s Der Spiegel, Israeli spies listened in on Mr Kerry’s conversations with other high-profile negotiators during the peace talks last year.

Mr Kerry was said to have used both encrypted and standard telephones to discuss issues between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states – and some of those normal calls were reportedly picked up by the authorities in Jerusalem.

Details from the Spiegel report:

During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but instead on normal telephones, with the conversations transmitted by satellite. Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.

In the current Gaza conflict, the Israelis have massively criticized Kerry, with a few ministers indirectly calling on him to withdraw from peace talks. Both the US State Department and the Israeli authorities declined to comment.

Only one week ago, Kerry flew to Israel to mediate between the conflict parties, but the Israelis brusquely rejected a draft proposal for a cease-fire. The plan reportedly didn’t include any language demanding that Hamas abandon its rocket arsenal and destroy its tunnel system. Last year, Kerry undertook intensive diplomatic efforts to seek a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they ultimately failed. Since those talks, relations between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been tense.

And on to the latest evidence of spooks spooking on Congress, via Techdirt:

CIA Spying On The Senate Went Much Further Than Originally Reported

  • from the because-of-course-it-did dept

We already covered how the CIA has admitted to and apologized for its spying on the Senate, but the CIA’s official “unclassified” statement on the matter shows that what the CIA did was even worse than the initial allegations. Here’s the basic summary, according to the CIA’s Inspector General:

  • Agency Access to Files on the SSCI RDINet: Five Agency employees, two attorneys and three information technology (IT) staff members, improperly accessed or caused access to the SSCI Majority staff shared drives on the RDINet.
  • Agency Crimes Report on Alleged Misconduct by SSCI Staff: The Agency filed a crimes report with the DOJ, as required by Executive Order 12333 and the 1995 Crimes Reporting Memorandum between the DOJ and the Intelligence Community, reporting that SSCI staff members may have improperly accessed Agency information on the RDINet. However, the factual basis for the referral was not supported, as the author of the referral had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based. After review, the DOJ declined to open a criminal investigation of the matter alleged in the crimes report.
  • Office of Security Review of SSCI Staff Activity: Subsequent to directive by the D/CIA to halt the Agency review of SSCI staff access to the RDINet, and unaware of the D/CIA’s direction, the Office of Security conducted a limited investigation of SSCI activities on the RDINet. That effort included a keyword search of all and a review of some of the emails of SSCI Majority staff members on the RDINet system.
  • Lack of Candor: The three IT staff members demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities during interviews by the OIG.

From The Hill, that paragon of Hope™ and Change™ springs to the defense:

President gives vote of confidence to CIA chief

President Obama issued a strong defense of CIA Director John Brennan on Friday in the face of revelations that his agency spied on congressional staffers’ computers.

“I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said in a White House press conference. “I think he has acknowledged — and directly apologized to [Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman] Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.] — that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation into how certain documents that were not authorized to be release to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff.

“It’s clear from the [inspector general] report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled,” Obama added. “Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.”

And from The Wire, gettin’ all folksy and whatever:

Obama Condenses History With These Four Words: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’

President Obama is known for being long-winded, but on Friday he uttered a phrase that may be as blunt as any modern president has ever made.

“We tortured some folks,” the president said toward the end of a White House news conference as he responded to the release of a Senate report on the C.I.A.’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the months after 9/11.

“We crossed a line,” Obama continued. “That needs to be understood and accepted, and we as a country need to take responsibility for that so we don’t do it again in the future.”

From C-SPAN, the money shot:

President Obama: “We tortured some folks.”

Program note:

President Obama answers questions on CIA Spying and Torture Tactics and says, “We tortured some folks.”

MintPress News covers the Big Spin:

State Dept. ‘Torture Talking Points’ Reveal White House PR Machine Ahead Of Senate Report

  • Obama administration to argue that revelation of CIA torture program is an example of “America’s democratic system”.

A State Department document obtained by the Associated Press reveals part of the Obama administration’s attempt to ready its public relations response to an upcoming Senate report on the CIA’s torture program.

Due to be declassified in the coming days, the report is said to criticize the agency for its post-9/11 illegal torture of detainees in secret prisons. The document details some of the administration’s prepared talking points to be used once a White House-approved version of the report is released.

Reportedly sent by accident via email to the AP, the State Department memo describes the report as a demonstration of American democracy, rather than as an indictment of the CIA’s torture practices. The document states that “no American is proud” of the CIA’s tactics, but that “the story” of illegal, indefinite torture and imprisonment is part of a larger message, one in which “America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.” That story, the document proclaims, is one in which Americans can take pride.

While the Observer covers a hoped-for coverup:

Britain ‘attempts to censor’ US report on torture sites

  • US Senate report may confirm that Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition after 9/11

The government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.

The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11. In advance of the release, Barack Obama admitted on Friday: “We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition.

And from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, California’s plutocratic senator and a mandated delay:

Citing redactions, Feinstein delays release of report on CIA interrogations

The Obama administration censored significant portions of the findings of an investigation into the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists, forcing the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to delay their release “until further notice.”

The postponement late Friday added to serious frictions over the investigation between the administration and lawmakers, who have been pressing for the swiftest, most extensive publication of the findings on one of darkest chapters in the CIA’s 65-year history.

Feinstein announced the delay only hours after the White House returned the document to her after it completed its declassification review. It also came after Obama acknowledged hours earlier that interrogators for the spy agency had tortured suspected terrorists.

While the Guardian covers the inevitable torture advocacy:

Senate Republicans to issue minority report on CIA ‘torture’ techniques

  • Saxby Chambliss: ‘information gleaned took down Bin Laden’
  • Majority to allege techniques were unnecessary and unhelpful

Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee will soon release a minority report asserting that the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques helped bring down Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, the panel’s top Republican said on Sunday.

“Information gleaned from these interrogations was in fact used to interrupt and disrupt terrorist plots, including some information that took down Bin Laden,” the Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

The Senate intelligence committee reports will come five years after it authorised an investigation into the use of possible torture by the CIA after the September 11 attacks.

Heading north of the border and a put-up-or-shut-up response via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

China challenges Canada to produce evidence of cyberattacks

China’s ambassador to Canada says if Ottawa has evidence that Beijing is responsible for a cyberattack on a top Canadian research body, it should turn it over to the Chinese government.

“If you have evidence, credible evidence, we will be happy to see that,” Ambassador Luo Zhaohui said in an interview. “Show me the evidence and then we can do something to investigate,” the Chinese envoy said.

This week, for the first time, the Canadian government publicly singled out China for hacking, announcing in a statement that computers at the National Research Council were breached, and pointing to “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”

On to Germany and a decline from Deutsche Welle:

Journalist Greenwald refuses to speak to Germany’s NSA scandal inquiry

Journalist Glenn Greenwald has refused to speak to a German parliamentary inquiry on the NSA scandal. He said the Bundestag’s decision not to interview Edward Snowden is indicative of the committee’s “empty symbolism.”

Greenwald on Friday said he had turned down an invitation to testify before the German parliament later this summer about the NSA spying scandal. The US journalist said that while he was “very supportive of any attempt by the German Parliament to conduct a serious investigation into NSA spying on Germans,” the existing Bundestag inquiry was not that.

“Unfortunately, German politicians have demonstrated, with their refusal to interview the key witness in person – Edward Snowden – that they care far more about not upsetting the US than they do about conducting a serious investigation,” he said in a statement.

Greenwald had been expected to speak to the Bundestag on September 11 via video link from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lives.

While Ars Technica covers the tech savvy:

Terrorists embracing new Android crypto in wake of Snowden revelations

  • Android is the “preferred platform” for terrorist groups, according to report.

Security researchers announced Friday that they have found new evidence to bolster claims from the National Security Agency that terrorists have altered their countermeasures in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

“Al-Fajr, one of Al-Qaeda’s media arms, released a new Android encryption application [in] early June 2014 on their website, referring to how it follows the “latest technological advancements” and provides ‘4096 bit public key’ encryption,” intelligence firm Recorded Future said in a Friday report.

The report added that Global Islamic Media Front, another arm of Al Qaeda, just released a “new version” of Android crypto software.

After the jump, drone dilemmas, Internet crackdowns and privacy lawsuits, the 411 on Facebook 911 calls, online amnesia laments, USB under seige, homeland insecurity, Scotland Yard corruption, the latest escalation in the Asian Game of Zones, a terrorist who wasn’t, an Israeli call for genocide, and more. . . Continue reading

The other Holocaust: Hitler’s war on the Roma


We’ve explored at some length previously Hitler’s other Holocaust, the one targeting those peoples often grouped under the name “Gypsy,” a term assigned them because of their once-supposed Egyptian origin.

We are therefore pleased with a new to the University of California Television channel on YouTube, featuring Ian Hancock, European-born Roma professor from the University of Texas:

From University of California Television:

Porrajmos: The Romani and the Holocaust with Ian Hancock – Holocaust Living History 

Program notes:

The Holocaust claimed anywhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million Romani lives, a tragedy the Romani people and Sinti refer to as the Porrajmos, or “the Devouring.” Notwithstanding the scope of the catastrophe, the Romani genocide was often ignored or minimized until Ian Hancock and others exposed this misfortune. A Romani-born British citizen, activist, and scholar, Hancock has done more than anyone to raise awareness about the Romani people during World War II. Now a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Hancock is presented here as part of the Holocaust Living History Workshop, a partnership between Judaic Studies at UCSD and the UC San Diego Library.

Recorded on 05/07/2014. Series: “The Library Channel”

In light of Hancock’s insights on the common links the Nazis drew between the Romani people and Jews, another UCTV video recorded at an address for CARTA [the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny] makes an interesting point.

University of Southern California social anthropologist Christopher Boehm looks at patterns of aggression among hunter/gatherer peoples and friends that ethnic identity was the cause of most in intergroup violence. He notes that virtually every foraging group self-identifies as “the people” and other groups as something less.

From UCTV:

Violence in Human Evolution – Christopher Boehm: Warfare and Feuding in Pleistocene Society

Program notes:

In this talk, Christopher Boehm (USC) discusses how today’s hunter-gatherers are used to portray likely patterns of male aggression among culturally-modern foragers in the Late Pleistocene epoch. Patterns of aggressive behavior are considered at three levels: within groups, between groups of the same ethnicity, and between groups that consider one another strangers.

Recorded on 05/16/2014. Series: “CARTA – Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny”