Category Archives: Military

Headlines of the day: Spools, zones, drones, pols


We begin today’s compilation of headlines from the realms of espionage, militarism, and territorial ambitions with the latest Edward Snowden leal form the New York Times:

Snowden Used Low-Cost Tool to Best N.S.A.

Intelligence officials investigating how Edward J. Snowden gained access to a huge trove of the country’s most highly classified documents say they have determined that he used inexpensive and widely available software to “scrape” the National Security Agency’s networks, and kept at it even after he was briefly challenged by agency officials.

Using “web crawler” software designed to search, index and back up a website, Mr. Snowden “scraped data out of our systems” while he went about his day job, according to a senior intelligence official. “We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence,” the official said. The process, he added, was “quite automated.”

The findings are striking because the N.S.A.’s mission includes protecting the nation’s most sensitive military and intelligence computer systems from cyberattacks, especially the sophisticated attacks that emanate from Russia and China. Mr. Snowden’s “insider attack,” by contrast, was hardly sophisticated and should have been easily detected, investigators found.

Moreover, Mr. Snowden succeeded nearly three years after the WikiLeaks disclosures, in which military and State Department files, of far less sensitivity, were taken using similar techniques.

On to the Emerald Isle and an Irish Times claim of sensitive bugging beyond the ken of  Minister for Justice Alan Shatter [or so he says]:

Bugging found at offices of Garda complaints watchdog

  • Government not informed, Shatter yet to comment on controversy

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), which investigates complaints made against Garda members, has found evidence that its discussions, telephone calls and emails had been hacked by an unidentified source.

The discovery was made last year when the organisation carried out a sweep of its offices using a UK-based private contractor that specialises in counter surveillance. Since then, security has been improved in Gsoc including the establishment of a dedicated meeting room that cannot be bugged.

The sweep of Gsoc’s offices in Middle Abbey St in Dublin’s north inner city found a speaker phone in a conference room where cases were discussed was bugged. There was no physical bugging device in the phone, though a check on the line revealed it had been electronically monitored in a way that enabled a third party to listen in to conversations being conducted in the room and on the phone in question.

The UK security consultants that carried out the inspection on behalf of Gsoc also concluded that the office’s wi-fi system had been compromised from outside the building.

From BBC News, a security struggle south of the border:

Mexico vigilantes enter Knights Templar cartel stronghold

  • Vigilantes checkpoint in Apatzingan The vigilantes say they will only rest when the Knights Templar leaders are in jail

Vigilante groups in the troubled Mexican state of Michoacan have entered a stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel, occupying the main square.

Hundreds of vigilantes, backed up by armoured vehicles and troops, arrived in Apatzingan on Saturday.

They have also set up roadblocks around the city, in western Mexico.

The cartel controls much of the drug trafficking in the area, carrying out killings and kidnappings and extorting money from local people.

Vigilante leaders, who have joined the official security forces, and the army have been searching house by house for leaders of the Knights Templar.

On to Asia for the latest round of zone, militarism, historical, and political crises, starting with a turndown from Kyodo News:

N. Korea cancels invitation for U.S. envoy over release of missionary

North Korea has backed off on its decision to allow a U.S. special envoy to visit in connection with a Korean-American missionary imprisoned in the North, sources familiar with relations between the two countries said Sunday.

The latest move came after North Korea on Wednesday made known its approval of the visit by Robert King, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, through its mission to the United Nations known as the “New York channel.” The North’s about-face means hopes are receding that it will respond to calls by Washington to release the missionary, Kenneth Bae.

The U.S. side, which has repeatedly reached out to the North on dispatching King, had been making the final arrangements to send King to the North in the coming days after Pyongyang notified Washington of its initial approval, the sources said.

South China Morning Post tries to settle up:

Manila to offer ‘generous’ payout over bus tragedy

  • But latest effort to settle bus tragedy row fails to impress victims

Manila hopes to settle the diplomatic rift between Manila and Hong Kong over the 2010 hostage bloodbath with a “generous” compensation payout, Philippine media reported yesterday.

But the initial reaction from survivors was one of fury that they were being offered money instead of an apology.

It comes just days after the city imposed its first sanction against a foreign state – cancelling visa-free arrangements for Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders.

The news also coincides with a report in the mainland Southern Metropolis Daily in which Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said it was “regrettable” he had not been able to come to Hong Kong to offer a formal apology as promised, blaming pressure from Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

People’s Daily prepares:

PLA Navy conducts confrontation training in Indian Ocean, the Pacific

  • The taskforce, composed of an amphibious dock landing ship and two guided missile destroyers, as well as three helicopters and an airboat, is scheduled to cross the Sunda Strait, the Lombok Strait, and the Makassar Strait during the training which started on Jan. 20, 2014.

South China Morning Post has a trial run:

Rescue of blazing boat by frigate seen as PLA statement in East China Sea

  • Swift action by PLA Navy – after Japanese had offered to assist burning Zhejiang fishing boat – seen as sign of its readiness in East China Sea

A naval frigate came to the rescue of a Zhejiang fishing boat on fire near disputed waters in the East China Sea, shedding light on the People’s Liberation Army’s readiness to deploy in the region amid the simmering territorial spat with Japan.

The missile frigate Zhoushan sailed at high speed for 3½ hours to reach the burning boat late on Friday, 280 kilometres west-northwest of Amami-Oshima in Kagoshima Prefecture.

It arrived ahead of three Japanese coastguard patrol ships that responded to an earlier request by China for help, according to mainland media and Japan’s Kyodo news agency. Xinhua reported six of the 24 people aboard died in the blaze.

The Guardian condemns:

China accuses US of adding to regional tensions

  • Washington only making things worse by ‘playing up’ South China Sea disputes, says Beijing

An activist burns a Chinese flag in the Philippines, which is one of the countries in dispute with China over the South China Sea An activist burns a Chinese flag in the Philippines, which is one of the countries in dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea. Photograph: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty

China has rejected US allegations it is using vague territorial claims to gradually assert control in the disputed South China Sea and in turn accused Washington of exaggerating tensions in the region.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said the US should take a “rational and fair attitude”. Hong reiterated China’s position that its claims are based on history and international law, and said some US officials’ remarks were “playing up tensions”.

The United States said on Wednesday that actions by China had raised concerns it was trying to assert control over an area covering roughly 80% of the South China Sea despite the objections of its neighbours.

The resource-rich waters are dotted with reefs and islands subject to multiple disputes involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

And the Asahi Shimbun has the latest developments in one of the most recent revisionism crises, a strong word from Uncle Sam:

U.S. State Department calls remarks by NHK governor ‘preposterous’

The U.S. State Department described as “preposterous” remarks by a governor for Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) who alleged the Tokyo war crimes trial was designed to cover up U.S. atrocities during World War II.

The writer Naoki Hyakuta made the comments Feb. 3 when he gave speeches on behalf of Toshio Tamogami, a former Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff running for Tokyo governor. The election will be held Feb. 9.

Hyakuta said the U.S. military committed “cruel massacres” by fire-bombing Tokyo and dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. He went on to say that the Nanking Massacre was brought up in the Tokyo tribunal because the U.S. military wanted to cancel out its own crimes.

He also claimed that the massacre never happened.

The Japan Times lends support:

NHK governors back Abe agenda, minutes reveal

Minutes of a recent NHK board of governors meeting seem to back up suspicions that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite his denials, is trying to use Japan’s news giant to promote his nationalist agenda.

The minutes, posted on NHK’s website, show conservatives appointed to the board by Abe voicing their opinion on coverage at the Jan. 14 meeting.

One of the four new members favored by Abe proposed that NHK should do more to educate the public about Japan’s territorial claims on islands at the center of a dispute with China, its wartime history, as well as the problems with the post-World War II U.S.-led Allied tribunal that prosecuted Japanese war criminals.

“I think there should be room for programs that provide the most basic knowledge about history and the challenges Japan is faced with,” said one governor, Naoki Hyakuta, author of a bestselling book on a wartime suicide fighter pilot.

Another governor, Abe confidante Michiko Hasegawa, stressedthe need to promote “correct education” for the public.

NHK WORLD promises:

NHK chief vows to uphold fairness, impartiality

NHK’s new President Katsuto Momii says he’s retracting all personal remarks made at his inaugural news conference, and will work to ensure that the public broadcaster fulfills its duty to be impartial, fair and just.

Momii spoke at a session of the Upper House committee on Friday. He was questioned by an opposition lawmaker about remarks he made in late January.

Momii replied that he is truly sorry for not making a distinction between his personal views and his position as NHK president.

He said he would like to retract all he has said on several issues. They include a recently enacted state secrecy law and the so-called comfort women who were recruited to serve in brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War Two.

And The Diplomat casts a skeptical eye:

NHK and Abe’s Agenda

  • Disturbing statements by the new head of Japan’s national broadcaster raise questions about its future role.

The Imperial Japanese army’s system of sexual slavery during World War Two was not wrong judged by the standards of the time. At least not according to the new chairman of NHK, Japan’s giant public broadcaster. Katsuto Momii, recently appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, set off a firestorm last week with remarks dismissing the forcible rape of twenty thousand Asian “comfort women” as morally no worse than the red light district in modern Amsterdam. He described demands to compensate surviving victims as “puzzling.” Momii then announced his belief that NHK’s foreign news coverage should support government policy on controversial issues such as the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute with China.

These comments prompted fierce criticism across East Asia (as did later remarks by NHK governor Naoki Hyakuta denying the Nanking Massacre). Momii’s statements also led to some harsh questioning in the Japanese Diet. Yet Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are standing by their appointee. The episode reveals a deep-seated misogyny within Japan’s ruling elites which casts serious doubt on Abe’s professed commitment to improve the status of women, a key part of the as-yet-undelivered structural reforms essential for the success of Abenomics. Equally troubling, Japan’s most prominent news organization is now headed by someone who, rather than fighting for editorial independence, is openly sympathetic to political influence. If Momii does let NHK’s foreign reporting be guided by the hawkish prime minister, the consequences could be terrible for peaceful relations across East Asia.

Moving on, another network, another history-based crisis from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Russians rally to support TV station

At least 20 people have been detained in Russia for protesting what they believe is overt political pressure on the country’s main independent TV station.

Around 40 people gathered in downtown Moscow on Saturday to protest the decision of leading Russian cable and satellite companies to drop the channel, Dozhd (TV Rain). Protesters gathered near Red Square and opened up umbrellas, playing on the name of the TV station. Except for women with children, most were immediately detained.

Dozhd, which broadcasts on the Internet, cable and satellite channels, stirred controversy in January with a poll about the blockade of Leningrad during World War II.

The Kremlin said the station crossed a moral “red line,” but many have ascribed the pressure to Dozhd’s independent and often critical coverage of the government.

The Mainichi has bugs and drones:

Gov’t to relax weight regulation on drones for pesticide spraying

The government has decided to relax restrictions on the maximum gross weight of unmanned helicopters used to spray pesticides on farms in the hope of increasing the amount of pesticides that can be loaded on one chopper and improving productivity.

The decision came after a panel on reviving primary industries such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe concluded at the end of last year to ease the weight regulations on unmanned helicopters. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the government’s council for regulatory reform then agreed to relax the regulation from less than 100 kilograms to less than 150 kilograms.

The Cabinet is set to approve a revision to the enforcement order of the Aircraft Manufacturing Industry Act in March and aims to put the revised law into effect the following month.

From The Register, a drone apart:

UK claims ‘significant lead’ in drones after Taranis test flight

  • Supersonic Brit stealth drone did the business in 2013 tests

BAE Systems kindly let the world know of the test flight late last week, a mere six months after the fact.

They’re telling us everything went swimmingly and that a Taranis prototype piloted from the ground did so well “ that the UK has developed a significant lead in understanding unmanned aircraft which could strike with precision over a long range whilst remaining undetected.”

To be a little less paranoid, it can take rather a while to crunch data that enables an assertion like that above.

The Register again, accessorizing:

Renault unveils mini-SUV equipped with a QUADCOPTER DRONE

  • Target: Hip young Asian ‘trend setters’ – the marketers’ target, not the Flying Companion’s

Visitors to the Delhi Auto Expo motor show are getting the first look at a new concept car from Renault, the Kwid, which features a controllable quadrocopter drone that flies out of the roof.

“This is the first time we have chosen to reveal a concept car outside Europe and this is an eloquent sign of our commitment to India,” said Gilles Normand, chairman of Renault Asia-Pacific in a statement.

“Young customers in India are often trend setters, looking forward to pushing the envelope when it comes to technology and enjoyable drives. Kwid, with its Flying Companion, meets this forward-looking spirit with both its dynamic styling and hyper connectivity.”

From RT, an attempt to kill the messenger?:

Finnish police probe Wikipedia’s donation campaign

Finnish police have asked Wikipedia to reveal details of its donation campaign in the country to determine whether the free online encyclopedia is in breach of Finland’s fundraising laws.

Law enforcement wants to take a look at the encyclopedia’s donation program – which runs globally – as well as the Finnish version of the website, fi.wikipedia.org, according to a police letter posted by Wikimedia.

According to the country’s laws, organizations seeking donations must obtain permission from Finnish police. The measure was introduced to crack down on fraudulent donations drives in the country.

One of the central requirements in the fundraising legislation is that organizations seeking donations must be working in the public interest.

Police are investigating whether Wikipedia’s donation program breaches any of the country’s laws, as the company did not apply for the proper license.

From Deutsche Welle, Turkish censorship:

Saka: ‘Government will decide what violates privacy’

Turkish laws censoring the Internet extend existing policies clamping down on free speech, Istanbul communications instructor Erkan Saka tells DW. Any opposition to Prime Minister Erdogan will be blocked.

Turkey has already blocked more than 40,000 sites. They include child pornography and any kind of porn sites and any sites that are deemed “obscene.” Radical political sites are also banned. With the new law, instead of blocking a whole site – especially social media based sites – the government intends to block particular pages and accounts. It is easy to see that any opposition will be blocked. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proven many, many times that he is not open to even minor criticism.

And for our final item, an Indian lament from Firstpost:

The Whistleblowers act is a joke, but better than no act at all

The primary purpose of any Whistleblowers Bill is to prevent the victimization of individuals who make a disclosure against their organization in public interest. So, naturally the first question that a potential informant will ask is what actions is he/she protected against? What constitutes ‘victimization’? Does it include only suspension and transfer or also indirect forms of retribution like denial of promotion, dilution of powers, withholding increments and adverse remark in the service record?

Against all logic, the Bill provides no definition of ‘victimisation’ even though a comprehensive definition of this term was provided in the Law Commission’s version of the Whistleblowers Bill.

And suppose, in the middle of the most vulnerable and turbulent time of his life, a whistleblower does manage to establish this undefined crime of ‘victimization’, what is the punishment prescribed for the public official in the Bill? Nothing- zero, zilch, nada- despite the recommendation of Administrative Reforms Commission in 2007 that ‘victimization’ should be made a criminal offence with substantial penalty and sentence.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, & judges


We begin today’s collection of posts from the world of espionage, national security, and militarism with a judicial decision from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Secret court approves phone surveillance changes

National intelligence chief James R. Clapper said Thursday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had approved two limits on how the government can use huge volumes of data it collects about Americans’ phone use. . .

Under the first change, Clapper said, the massive caches of phone records can be searched only after a court finds that there is “a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization.”

That limitation will be in place “absent a true emergency,” Clapper said without elaboration.

The second change requires that the data query results “be limited within two hops of the selection term instead of three.”

Another country, another decision sure to provoke from El País:

High Court to follow through on arrest warrants against top Chinese officials

  • Former president Jiang Zemin and ex-PM Li Peng wanted for human rights abuses in Tibet

Despite global pressure and objections by prosecutors, the High Court on Thursday said it would go ahead with its international arrest warrants for former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, ex-Prime Minister Li Peng and a host of other officials from China, who are wanted for human rights abuses in Tibet.

The warrants, which were ordered by Judge Ismael Moreno on November 18, are the subject of a diplomatic row between Spain and China in which Beijing has been pressuring the conservative Popular Party (PP) government to step in and block the High Court’s investigation into allegedly genocidal policies applied in Tibet.

Last month, the (PP) filed a bill in Congress to restrict the Spanish judiciary from carrying out international prosecutions based on the universal justice doctrine. The proposed reform to the judicial code has come under fire by the opposition, legal experts and human rights organizations which fear that it will affect future cases involving drug traffickers, child abuse, gender violence and female mutilation.

And yet another judicial finding via Techdirt:

Court Says FBI Agent’s Wrong Checkmark Put Woman On No Fly List, Barred Her From The US For 10 Years

  • from the ouch dept

We’ve been covering the case of Rahinah Ibrahim for a little while now. She’s the Stanford PhD student who was wrongfully placed on the no fly list — something that pretty much everyone admitted early on — but because of that her student visa to the US was pulled, and every attempt she made to come back was rejected, leaving her unable to come back to this country for nearly 10 years. As we noted last month, it seemed clear that Judge William Alsup had ruled that the feds needed to remove her from the no fly list and any other terrorist watch lists, but it was a little unclear, since the full ruling remained under seal. That ruling has now been released in redacted form, and is well worth reading. Not only does it highlight massive bureaucratic bungling over a ten-year period, it also shows how disingenuous and dishonest the DOJ has been in handling the entire case — even to the point of promising not to argue “state secrets” to kill the case, and then (of course) claiming “state secrets” and trying to kill the case just a few weeks later. Judge Alsup appears somewhat limited in what he can do in response to all of this for procedural reasons, but he makes it clear that he’s not pleased about all of this and orders the government to confirm that Ibrahim has been fully removed from the various terrorist databases and lists, as the government has flatly admitted that they don’t believe she poses any threat to national security.

More blowback from that leaked telephonic ambassadorial diatribe from BBC News:

Victoria Nuland gaffe: Angela Merkel condemns EU insult

Germany’s Angela Merkel has said a US official’s apparent insult of the EU’s efforts to mediate in the Ukraine crisis is “totally unacceptable”.

Victoria Nuland has apologised after she referred disparagingly to the EU’s role during a conversation said to be with the US ambassador to Ukraine. A recording of the exchange was posted online, with the US hinting at Russia’s involvement in bugging and leaking it.

The EU and US are involved in talks to end months of unrest in Ukraine. The conversation between Ms Nuland and Mr Pyatt reveals deeper tensions between America and Europe.

Washington seems to prefer a deal brokered by the UN rather than Brussels. If true, that would bruise the feelings of EU officials. They believe this is their crisis to solve.

Today’s comments and accusations are a reminder that this crisis is far from over and that it has the potential to cause division and tension even between allies. In Kiev, Ms Nuland – an assistant secretary of state – said she would not make a public statement on the matter.

Assurances from EUbusiness:

US diplomatic chats safe, State Department says

  • Secret US diplomatic conversations are safe, a top official said Friday, despite the apparent bugging of an American envoy’s phone.

Asked if she was confident about the security of diplomatic communications, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki replied: “Certainly we are.”

“We do indicate and make clear when there are concerns about when information can be tapped. So we’re cognizant of this. We’re aware of this. And we are constantly taking precautions and updating our approach.”

She revealed that data encryption is given to all State Department employees for their government-issued BlackBerry mobile phones.

And a very relevant question from the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Post-Snowden, why were U.S. diplomats talking on insecure line?

[H]ere you have two high-ranking American officials – Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt – discussing sensitive matters apparently on an unsecured line, just days after a similar call had been recorded and, embarrassingly, put online.

Nuland, who refused to comment on the specifics of a conversation meant to be private, did note during a news conference Friday in Kiev that the static-free recording “was pretty impressive tradecraft. The audio was pretty clear.”

But she didn’t address why she was exposing herself to the obvious threat of being recorded. In the wake of the NSA spying scandal, the U.S. administration has repeatedly defended its actions using the line of reasoning: “Everybody does it.”

But if everybody does it, why wasn’t Nuland more careful, especially since it’s pretty well-known that the Russians don’t like her very much?

China Daily has Swiss NSA blowback:

Swatch CEO ticked off about NSA spy scandal

The eccentric chief executive officer of Swatch Group, one of the world’s top watchmakers, was so incensed by recent allegations of mass U.S. spying that he chastised a top New York official over the matter in a letter late last year.

Nick Hayek’s comments seemed odd coming in response to a letter from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who administers the state’s $161 billion pension fund.

DiNapoli had asked Hayek and nine other Olympic sponsors to take a stance against Russia’s recent clampdown on gays ahead of the winter games in Sochi.

Most corporate executives balk at open political conflict. But not the cigar-chomping Hayek. He vigorously defended his Omega subsidiary’s role as a politically neutral timekeeper at the Olympics. And that’s not all. He also gave DiNapoli a dressing down over the spying scandal surrounding the U.S. National Security Agency.

From France, another online governmental mobilization from RFI:

France launches cyberdefence programme

France is to invest a million euros in cyberdefence to combat a mushrooming number of cyberattacks, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on Friday. The country was the target of nearly 800 significant cyberattacks in 2013, he said.

“I want speedy results,” Le Drian declared at the launch of his Cyberdefence Pact 2014-2016 in the Brittany town of Cesson-Sévigné.

There were more than 780 “significant attacks” in 2013, he revealed, up from 420 in 2012, and they are becoming “more and more varied, complex and diffuse”.

So cyberdefence has become one of the top priorities of the French military’s 2014-2019 programme and a budget of about a billion euros will be allocated to it.

And the latest Snowden revelations with an Old Blighty focus from NBC News:

Snowden Docs: British Spies Used Sex and ‘Dirty Tricks’

British spies have developed “dirty tricks” for use against nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers that include releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into “honey traps.”

Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and exclusively obtained by NBC News describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG) as part of a growing mission to go on offense and attack adversaries ranging from Iran to the hacktivists of Anonymous. According to the documents, which come from presentations prepped in 2010 and 2012 for NSA cyber spy conferences, the agency’s goal was to “destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt” enemies by “discrediting” them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications.

Both PowerPoint presentations describe “Effects” campaigns that are broadly divided into two categories: cyber attacks and propaganda operations. The propaganda campaigns use deception, mass messaging and “pushing stories” via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. JTRIG also uses “false flag” operations, in which British agents carry out online actions that are designed to look like they were performed by one of Britain’s adversaries.

The Wire recalculates:

The NSA’s Phone Metadata Connect-The-Dots Program Only Collects 30 Percent of Calls

Lost in the pre-Christmas blur was an NBC News interview with one of the members of the group President Obama tasked with reviewing the government’s surveillance toolkit. In that interview, Geoffrey Stone suggested that the agency’s metadata collection was deliberately incomplete. “Asked if the NSA was collecting the records of 75 percent of phone calls, an estimate that has been used in briefings to Congress,” NBC’s Michael Isikoff reported, “Stone said the real number was classified but ‘not anything close to that’ and far lower.”

Now The Washington Post puts a number on that: 30 percent.

In 2006, the officials said, the NSA was collecting nearly all records about Americans’ phone calls from a number of U.S. companies under a then-classified program, but as of last summer that share had plummeted to less than 30 percent.

There are a few reasons offered for the gap. One rationale offered from “industry officials” is that the increase in internet-based calling would mean that the NSA loses a significant portion of calls. Stone suggested another reason: culling records from smaller cell phone providers wasn’t “cost effective” for the agency, so it didn’t bother.

And The Guardian looks at another spook shop:

CIA confirms agency obliged to follow federal surveillance law

  • Law concerns financial information and government hacking
  • Motive for question at Senate committee not known

The CIA has confirmed that it is obliged to follow a federal law barring the collection of financial information and hacking into government data networks.

But neither the agency nor its Senate overseers will say what, if any, current, recent or desired activities the law prohibits the CIA from performing – particularly since a section of the law explicitly carves out an exception for “lawfully authorized” intelligence activities.

The murky episode, arising from a public Senate hearing on intelligence last week, illustrates what observers call the frustrations inherent in getting even basic information about secret agencies into public view, a difficulty recently to the fore over whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) and its surveillance partners.

Jeepers! Peepers. From the always hyperbolic London Daily Mail:

The spy who scrubbed me: Russian official lets slip that Sochi hotels have hidden surveillance cameras in the SHOWERS

  • Deputy prime minister: I have seen video from inside cubicles
  • Dmitry Kozak claimed the footage showed journalists sabotaging facilities
  • The chief of Olympic preparations had tried to down play criticism of venue
  • Officials quickly try to backtrack and issue hasty denial

Russia’s Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister responsible for Olympic preparation, revealed that authorities have video from hotels showing that people leave the water on.

The astonishing revelations came when Mr Kozak was confronted by journalists about the poor state of facilities around the Olympic Village.

Reuters escalates:

Exclusive: Pentagon to boost missile defense spending by over $4 billion: sources

The U.S. Defense Department plans to ask Congress for $4.5 billion in extra missile defense funding over the next five years as part of the fiscal 2015 budget request, say congressional sources and an expert.

Nearly $1 billion of that sum will pay for a new homeland defense radar to be placed in Alaska, with an additional $560 million to fund work on a new interceptor after several failed flight tests, said Riki Ellison, founder of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, and two of the congressional sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The Pentagon’s request for added funding comes despite continued pressure on military spending and cuts in other arms programs, a sign of Washington’s growing concern about missile development efforts by North Korea and Iran, the sources said.

And Press Trust of India tenses up:

Iran sending warships close to US maritime borders

A senior Iranian naval commander says his country has sent several warships to the Atlantic Ocean, close to US maritime borders for the first time.

The commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying today that the vessels have already begun the journey to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.

After the jump, the latest Asian crises [cybernetic, geographic, historic, and purely political], corporations snooping and snooped, sins confessed, warnings mandated, mysterious mail, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies lies. LOLZ, pols


Today’s tales form the world of the dark arts and militarism begins with a saga playing out in classic spy vs. spy fashion, with the tapper suddenly becoming the tapped. Our first headline comes from New Europe:

EU, US, Russia, Ukraine: spy games on your youtube

US officials say they suspect Russia is behind the leak of an apparently bugged phone conversation about Ukraine between two senior American diplomats in which they make disparaging comments about the European Union. Another conversation also leaked features two EU officials making comments about the US.

“I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia’s role,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

The US officials noted that an aide to Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, was among the first to tweet about a YouTube video that contains audio of the alleged call between the top US diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The video, which shows photos of Nuland and Pyatt, is subtitled in Russian.

In the audio, voices resembling those of Nuland and Pyatt discuss international efforts to resolve Ukraine’s ongoing political crisis. At one point, the Nuland voice colorfully suggests that the EU’s position should be ignored. “F— the EU,” the female voice said.

The video in question via Re Post:

Casting suspicions with EUobserver:

Ukraine leak designed to ‘split’ EU-US diplomacy

The publication on YouTube of what appear to be two sensitive US and EU diplomatic conversations on Ukraine is designed to spoil relations between the allies, EU diplomatic sources say.

The items were uploaded by an anonymous user called “Re Post” on Tuesday (4 February) and have several thousand clicks each already.

In the imputed US clip, which appears to date to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer of top jobs to opposition MPs on 25 January, Viktoria Nuland, a senior US state department official, is allegedly speaking to Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine.

They bat around ideas on which of the MPs should be Prime Minister in an interim government. Nuland adds she wants a senior UN diplomat to come to Kiev to seal an accord on the US-model cabinet.

“So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it and, you know, fuck the EU,” she says.

“Oh exactly, and I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it,” Pyatt replies.

And the mea culpa, via EUbusiness:

Top US diplomat for Europe says sorry for cursing the EU

US officials, while not denying such a conversation took place, refused to go into details, and pointed the finger at Russia for allegedly bugging the diplomats’ phones.

“Let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts, and of course has apologized,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

While Psaki said she had no independent details of how the conversation was captured and uploaded onto the social networking site, she added: “Certainly we think this is a new low in Russian tradecraft.”

More from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

White House implicates Russia in leaked call between US diplomats

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney referred most of the questions to the State Department, but noted that the conversation “was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government.

“I think it says something about Russia’s role,” Carney said of the appearance of the leaked remarks. “But the content of the conversation is not something I’m going to comment on.”

Carney said relations between the US and the EU are “stronger than ever” and said there was “no question” that Nuland and the ambassador are trying to “help de-escalate the crisis” in Ukraine.

“It’s certainly no secret that our ambassador and assistant secretary have been working with the government of Ukraine, with the opposition, with business and civil society leaders to support their efforts to find a peaceful solution through dialogue and political and economic reform,” Carney said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future.”

Here’s a piece about the crisis from a Russian state medium, RT:

‘This is what you cook for Ukraine?’ State Dept. Psaki grilled over leaked tape

Program notes:

Senior US State Department official Victoria Nuland has allegedly been caught giving a harsh message to the EU while discussing Ukrainian opposition leaders’ roles in the country’s future government. The phone call was taped and posted on YouTube. US officials refused to confirm or deny the tape’s authenticity, but State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki said that she “didn’t say it was inauthentic.” While being grilled about this and other tape-related statements, Psaki hinted that the tape could have been leaked by Moscow.

Another Russo-centric crisis in the headlines from Network World:

Experts warn of Russian spying, hackers at Sochi Olympics

Americans heading to Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics are being warned that privacy is not a right in the host country and all their electronic communications will likely be monitored.

The United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is recommending the use of electronic devices that are devoid of sensitive information and can be left behind, if Russian authorities decide to confiscate the equipment.

To avoid problems, personal smartphones, tablets and laptops should be left at home. Americans should only use devices bought or borrowed for the trip and can be wiped clean when leaving the country to avoid taking malware back home.

Sam venue, different focus from Homeland Security News Wire:

DHS alerts Russia-bound airlines of toothpaste tube bombs risk

The U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies have advising airlines flying to Russia to be aware of the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes. DHS issued a bulletin to airlines flying into Russia alerting them to the potential threat. The new concern about explosive toothpaste tubes notwithstanding, the biggest worry is still Islamist groups based in southern Russia’s Caucasus region.

The U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies have advising airlines flying to Russia to be aware of the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes.

Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Wednesday that DHS issued a bulletin to airlines flying into Russia alerting them to the potential threat. McCaul said the bulletin indicated that officials believed the explosives might be used during flights or smuggled into the city of Sochi, where competition at the Winter Olympics begins later today. The opening ceremony will be held Friday.

Bringing it all back home with PCWorld:

More than 4,000 groups sign up to protest NSA

More than 4,000 groups and websites have signed on to support a day of protest against U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs, scheduled for Tuesday.

In addition, tens of thousands of people have pledged to make calls and post messages on the Web in support of surveillance reform, said organizers of The Day We Fight Back.

Among the groups supporting the day of Web protest are the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, BoingBoing, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Mozilla, Reddit and Tumblr.

“Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action,” organizers wrote on TheDayWeFightBack.org. “Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.”

From Nextgov, Tweet this!:

Twitter Breaks Rank, Threatens to Fight NSA Gag Orders

Twitter threatened to launch a legal battle with the Obama administration on Thursday over gag orders that prevent it from disclosing information about surveillance of its users.

The statement puts Twitter at odds with other technology giants including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook, who all struck a deal with the government last month to drop their lawsuits in exchange for looser secrecy rules.

“We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs,” Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of global legal policy, wrote in a blog post.

He said the company has pressed the Justice Department for greater transparency and is also “considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.”

North of the border and suspicions from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

RCMP, intelligence agency accused of spying on pipeline opponents

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed complaints against the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, saying the law enforcement agencies may have illegally spied on opponents of pipelines and then shared the intelligence information with the petroleum industry.

The group has asked the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate the situation.

“What we’re hoping here is to find out more about what’s happened,” Josh Paterson, executive director of the BCCLA, said Thursday at a news conference in Vancouver.

RT covers yet another U.S. mea culpa:

US ambassador admits tapping Angela Merkel’s phone was ‘stupid’

The US ambassador to Germany has admitted it was a “stupid” idea to tap the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel while discussing business, friendship and mutual trust at a trade association meeting.

“We have done a number of stupid things, Chancellor Markel’s phone being one of them,” Ambassador John Emerson told the VBKI trade association at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Berlin.

He apologized for the stress and loss of trust the recent NSA wiretapping revelations might have caused the German government, according to reports by the Local.

Big Brother adds eyes via the Washington Post:

New surveillance technology can track everyone in an area for several hours at a time

As Americans have grown increasingly comfortable with traditional surveillance cameras, a new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements.

Already, the cameras have been flown above major public events such as the Ohio political rally where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) named Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, McNutt said. They’ve been flown above Baltimore; Philadelphia; Compton, Calif.; and Dayton in demonstrations for police. They’ve also been used for traffic impact studies, for security at NASCAR races and at the request of a Mexican politician, who commissioned the flights over Ciudad Juárez.

Defense contractors are developing similar technology for the military, but its potential for civilian use is raising novel civil liberties concerns. In Dayton, where Persistent Surveillance Systems is based, city officials balked last year when police considered paying for 200 hours of flights, in part because of privacy complaints.

From Al Jazeera America, a crackdown in Ankara:

Turkish parliament adopts Internet censorship bill

  • Measure also forces service providers to submit users’ activity records to officials on request, without notifying users

Turkey’s parliament has adopted a new Internet bill roundly criticized as an assault by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on freedom of expression, access to information and investigative journalism. The measure was approved as Erdogan’s government is in the midst of a sweeping corruption probe that has shaken his Cabinet.

After hours of debate, the measure was adopted late on Wednesday in parliament, where Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) dominates with 319 of the 550 seats.

The bill permits a government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB), to block access to websites without court authorization if they are deemed to violate privacy or to contain material seen as “insulting.”

Reaction from Deutsche Welle:

EU criticizes Turkey’s Internet law

The EU has criticized Turkey’s tightened Internet controls. Lawmakers adopted the new Internet legislation late on Wednesday following hours of debate involving fierce objections from the opposition.

The criticism came after Turkey’s parliament amended regulations allowing the government to block websites without a court order and mandate Internet service providers to store data up to two years. President Abdullah Gul still must sign the new law, which allows the blocking of websites believed to violate privacy or contain content considered insulting.

“The law needs to be revised in line with European standards,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele. “The Turkish public deserves more information and more transparency, not more restrictions.”

The legislation also forces providers to retain user data for two years and present it to authorities without notifying the user in question. The new measures build upon existing Internet restrictions introduced in 2007 that, according to a Google transparency report published in December, make Turkey equal to China as the world’s biggest web censor.

The 2007 law has allowed for temporary blocking of websites including WordPress, Dailymotion and Vimeo. YouTube was also blocked for two years until 2010.

After the jump, the latest developments in Asia’s sundry zonal, military posturing, and historical crises, Mission Impossible tech, a spooky blast from the past, hacks and embarrassments, cartels and vigilantes battle online, hackers seize control of cars, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, laws, drones, zones


Today’s tales of the worlds of espionage, laws, and the current crop of Asian zonal, militarization, and security crises [plus more] opens with a question from the ACLU Blog of Rights:

Who Did the NSA’s Illegal Spying Put in Jail?

Last week, the ACLU joined a constitutional challenge to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the statute that allows the NSA to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international phone calls and emails. With the Federal Defenders Office, we filed a motion on behalf of Jamshid Muhtorov, the first criminal defendant to receive notice that he had been monitored under this controversial spying law. But Mr. Muhtorov received this notice only after the Department of Justice (DOJ) abandoned its previous policy of concealing FAA surveillance in criminal cases — a policy that violated both the statute itself and defendants’ due process rights.

For criminal defendants and for the country, it’s good news that the government is reviewing criminal cases in which FAA evidence has played a role. But the FAA is just one surveillance program among many. And given what we now know about the DOJ’s unlawful notice policy, we should be asking whether the government has concealed in criminal prosecutions its use of other mass surveillance programs.

VOA News offers a claim:

NSA Says Snowden Leaks Put US Soldiers at Risk

Top U.S. intelligence officials say leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have put members of all branches of the U.S. military and other U.S. personnel abroad at risk, and that the Pentagon has had to make costly changes. The officials testified to a congressional panel about worldwide threats to U.S. national security.

Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Michael Flynn told the House Intelligence Committee that revelations by Edward Snowden, who is now living in Russia , have put the lives of U.S. service members in danger, and that the Pentagon is making adjustments.

‘Everything that he touched, we assume that he took, stole,’ he said. ‘So we assume the worst case in how we are reviewing all of the Defense Department’s actions, events, exercises around the world.’

Techdirt delivers a threat:

Congress Warns DOJ That If It Doesn’t Support NSA Reform Plan, It Won’t Renew Key Patriot Act Provision

  • from the get-your-act-together dept

While the USA Freedom Act isn’t perfect, it is one bill in Congress that has a lot of support and will fix many problems with the current NSA overreach. Much more needs to be done, but the USA Freedom Act is a good starting point. And yet, the Obama administration and his Justice Department have yet to take a public stand on the bill, and that seems to be annoying plenty of folks in Congress. At the recent Judiciary Committee hearings, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act and Section 215, made it abundantly clear that the DOJ/NSA’s interpretation of his bill was simply incorrect and that they were abusing the system. As the sponsor of the USA Freedom Act to fix this misinterpretation, he pointed out that if the DOJ doesn’t agree to support it, there’s a good chance that Congress simply won’t renew the provisions in Section 215 at all. Section 215, of course, is the part that has been misinterpreted by the DOJ, the FISA court, the NSA and the FBI to pretend it authorizes the collection of every phone record. In short, the message from Congress is: work with us to reform things, or we’ll pull the authority altogether. Of course, some of us think that pulling the authority altogether might be a better long term solution.

McClatchy Washington Bureau resists:

Some in Congress see just one option for NSA spying: Scrap it

“Congress never intended to allow bulk collections,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., author of the 2001 Patriot Act.

Debate is intensifying in Congress over whether to scrap the massive data collection effort or to modify it. There’s widespread skepticism among both parties over President Barack Obama’s plans for the program’s future and a desire for Congress to curb the National Security Agency.

“In my district, and many others, NSA has become not a three-letter word but a four-letter word,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said at a Tuesday hearing on the surveillance effort.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said Congress needs to end the bulk collection.

“Consensus is growing that it is largely ineffective, inconsistent with our national values, and inconsistent with the statute as this committee wrote it,” said Conyers, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

BBC News has a hack attack:

Snowden leaks: GCHQ ‘attacked Anonymous’ hackers

GCHQ disrupted “hacktivist” communications by using one of their own techniques against them, according to the latest Edward Snowden leaks.

Documents from the whistle-blower published by NBC indicate UK cyberspies used a denial of service attack (DoS) in 2011 to force a chatroom used by the Anonymous collective offline.

A spokeswoman for GCHQ said all the agency’s activities were authorised and subject to rigorous oversight. But others say it raises concerns.

Dr Steven Murdoch, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge, said using a DoS attack to overwhelm a computer server with traffic would have risked disrupting other services.

Computerworld advocates:

NSA spy program hurting U.S. vendors

  • NSA reforms needed to help restore worldwide trust in U.S. tech industry, trade group says

The U.S. Congress needs to help restore global trust in the nation’s technology vendors by reining in surveillance programs at the National Security Agency, an industry representative told lawmakers Tuesday.

Recent revelations about NSA surveillance programs have created a “misimpression” about the U.S. technology industry and are eroding trust in those companies, said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). The furor over the NSA surveillance programs could lead to lost income in the tens of billions of dollars for U.S. cloud providers, and many U.S. tech vendors are already hearing complaints, he said.

The U.S. needs a “public policy course correction” on NSA surveillance, Garfield told the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

“Made in the U.S.A. is no longer a badge of honor, but a basis for questioning the integrity and the independence of U.S.-made technology,” Garfield said. “Many countries are using the NSA’s disclosures as a basis for accelerating their policies around forced localization and protectionism.”

A case of outsourcing from DutchNews.nl:

The Netherlands, not USA, gathered info from 1.8 million phone calls

The Dutch security service was responsible for collecting information from about 1.8 million telephone calls and text messages at the end of 2012 and in early 2013, ministers have told parliament.

Home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk told MPs in October the Americans were behind the tapping, after the revelations were first published in German magazine Spiegel.

However, in a two paragraph briefing on Wednesday, Plasterk and defence minister Jeanine Hennis said the information had been gathered by the Netherlands itself.

‘The details were collected in the interest of counter-terrorism activities and military operations abroad,’ the briefing stated. The information was then ‘correctly shared with the US’.

RT seeks an end:

‘Assange won’t come’: Swedish MPs urge end to whistleblower case

Swedish MPs are calling on the prosecutors in the Julian Assange sexual assault case to travel to London and question the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has been taking refuge since June 2012.

The members of the Swedish parliament say investigators should accept that Assange will not be leaving the embassy voluntarily.

“It is in the interest of everyone involved in this process that the prosecutor reaches a conclusion to either file charges or dismiss the case, and it is obvious that Assange will not come to Sweden,” Staffan Danielsson, from the Center Party, said, as quoted by the Times.

Anne Ramberg, the secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, said “You have to be a bit pragmatic to put an end to such a circus. They should have headed to London to interrogate him.”

However, Anders Perklev, the Swedish prosecutor-general, was convinced the lawmakers are interfering with the judicial matters.

A case of dilatory dronal deliberations from Medill News Service:

U.S. lags in putting drones to commercial use, FAA should move faster, advocates say

The U.S. is lagging on commercial use of drones, manufacturers and scientists told the Senate science committee, but several senators said they want to be sure the unmanned aerial vehicles won’t be used to spy on Americans.

“These 20th century eyes in the skies shouldn’t become spies in the skies,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who held up an inexpensive drone equipped with two cameras at the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meeting.

But privacy concerns aren’t a reason to limit the commercial use of drones in the U.S., Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences, told the committee. She said unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs — are only one type of technology that can be used for surveillance. There are small bug robots that can be slipped into bags, and ground technologies like cars will soon have cameras inside and outside, she said.

The real problem is the government is lacking experts with understanding of the technology, Cummings said.

Droning on some more with Deutsche Welle:

Drone usage on the rise, China drives Asia military spending increase says IISS report

Drones are becoming increasingly common in warfare as their operating costs go down, according to a new report by the IISS think tank. It added that China is driving an increase in military spending in Asia.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, is expected to increase in the future, the military aerospace expert for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Doug Barrie, said on Wednesday.

According to the IISS’ annual Military Balance report, as drone usage increases, the legal and ethical questions they raise come to the fore. One key issue is whether attacks on people can be justified as self-defense.

The report said that lethal strikes will be carried out by humans piloting the drones because handing that power over to a machine “will remain a threshold legislatures and the public will likely be unwilling to cross.”

While drones have been almost exclusively a tool used by Western militaries, smaller and cheaper technology has opened up the market to private companies and emerging economies.

A a major dronal move from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

U.S. curbs drone strikes in Pakistan

The Obama administration has sharply curtailed drone strikes in Pakistan after a request from the government there for restraint as it pursues peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, according to U.S. officials.

“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” one U.S. official said. The administration indicated that it will still carry out strikes against senior Al-Qaida targets, if they become available, and move to thwart any direct, imminent threat to U.S. persons.

Concern about Pakistani political sensitivities provides one explanation for the absence of strikes since December, the longest pause in the CIA’s drone campaign since a six-week lull in 2011, after an errant U.S. air assault killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post, triggering a diplomatic crisis.

The current pause follows a November strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud just days before an initial attempt at peace talks was scheduled to begin. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government accused the United States of trying to sabotage the talks, and the Taliban canceled the meeting.

And a dronal secret revealad from BBC News:

Top secret UK drone Taranis makes first flight

A top secret unmanned drone, said to be the most advanced aircraft ever built in Britain, has carried out its first successful test flights.

It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. But it is also a window into the future of warfare.

Some will view it as an amazing piece of engineering. But not everyone will like what they see.

Taranis – named after the Celtic god of thunder – was first unveiled BAE Systems in 2010.

On to more local Bib Brotherly incarnations, first from MintPress News:

Privacy Advocates Gearing Up To Sue Oakland Over City “Spy” Center

The city says the goal is to monitor 24/7 for crime and to improve emergency response times, but privacy advocates and residents have serious doubts about that claim.

The Oakland Privacy Working Group, a coalition of civil liberties advocates, announced on Monday it would file a taxpayer lawsuit against the city of Oakland, Calif., if city officials continued to construct the Department of Homeland Security-funded Domain Awareness Center, which it says violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Oakland residents.

Specifically, the group says it is prepared to file a lawsuit to prevent the City of Oakland from awarding a contract to a company to dismantle all of the work that was completed under Phase 1, which involved adding and connecting computers, TVs, monitors, etc. But most importantly, the group says it wants to prevent Phase 2 from being implemented, which is when the surveillance system goes live.

Oakland Privacy says two other groups are also working on the lawsuit, but their identities have not been made public yet. Brian Hofer, media contact for Oakland Privacy, says the groups will remain anonymous until a lawsuit is actually filed.

And across the Oakland city limits with East Bay Citizen:

Alameda Chief on License Plate Readers: ‘I’m not Trying to Spy on Anyone’

The often insular community of Alameda may soon have Automated License Plate Readers rapidly scanning automobiles passing through the island city. However, critics of the police department’s plan say a recently released draft policy is far too vague and leaves wide gaps for potential abuse by police on civil liberties. Others questioned the proposed usefulness of retaining information obtained from the readers for up to one year.

During a public forum on the issue Monday night in Alameda, Police Chief Paul Rolleri provided an often candid glimpse into his department’s mindset when it comes to utilizing the controversial and relatively new technology, which employs scanning devices attached to patrol cars that rapidly scan thousands of license plates on public streets. Rolleri says Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) simply capture plate numbers without any corresponding information such as the name and address of the owner. Plate numbers are then matched against a “hot list” of vehicles that may have been recently stolen or involved in other crimes.

“I’m not trying to spy on anyone,” Rolleri said Monday night. “If we were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.” Rolleri responded to some speakers who criticized the one-and-a-half page policy for its brevity and lack of specificity, saying the proposal is merely in the draft stage. There is also a lack of case law currently available on ALPRs, he said. In addition, Rolleri expressed uncertainty over how long the department should retain data, an topic of great concern among many privacy advocates. “We’re trying to find that sweet spot,” said Rolleri. “I’ll be honest, we don’t know. We’re still trying to figure it out.” He later called the one-year proposal a good starting point that could be reevaluated in another six months.

Across another Oakland border with Pueblo Lands:

Fortress Piedmont

The city of Piedmont has installed automated license plate reader stations at busy intersections ringing its borders. The ALPR system was proposed last year. Installation began in November of 2013 after Piedmont’s city council set aside $678,000 for the technology that uses computer analytics to instantly identify the plate numbers of every vehicle passing under the watchful eyes of precision digital video cameras.

Home to bankers, lawyers, corporate executives, and real estate tycoons, Piedmont, population 10,000, is one of the wealthiest municipalities in America. When it was founded in the early 1900s it was immediately given the nickname “City of Millionaires” due to the concentration of wealthy families within its borders.

Piedmont has always been very much defined by its borders. The city is completely surrounded by Oakland, a much larger municipality whose population includes 88,000 persons whose incomes fall below the federally defined poverty line. The median household income in Oakland is $51,000. In Piedmont it’s $206,000, over four times Oakland’s average. The median home price in Piedmont is $1.5 million, and the small city has virtually no rental housing, making it an expensive community to buy a membership in.

And some plain old militarism from Deutsche Welle:

Germany paves way for new engagement

  • Germany’s cabinet is discussing ramping up its military involvement in conflicts ranging from Afghanistan to Mali. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has signaled a new engagement internationally.

While Reuters goes under in the Southern Hemisphere:

Insight: Brazil spies on protesters, hoping to protect World Cup

Brazilian security forces are using undercover agents, intercepting e-mails, and rigorously monitoring social media to try to ensure that violent anti-government protesters do not ruin soccer’s World Cup this year, officials told Reuters.

Demonstrations in recent months have been much smaller than those last June when Brazil hosted a dress rehearsal tournament for the World Cup, shaking President Dilma Rousseff’s government and contributing to an economic slowdown.

But they have still resulted in vandalism of banks and paralyzed parts of major cities as a hard core of perhaps a few thousand protesters nationwide, some of whom wear masks and call themselves “Black Blocs,” clash with police.

Rousseff’s government fears the protests, the most recent of which carried the slogan “There Will Be No World Cup,” could severely disrupt the tournament, which kicks off on June 12 in Sao Paulo and ends with the final on July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.

After the jump, the latest Asian crises of zones/history/rhetoric/alliances, classroom hackers, military/industrial fails, criminalized tweets, felonious Googling, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, zones, & pols


We begin today’s collection of events in the realms of espionage, militarism, and deep politics with an ominous warning via the Honolulu Star Advertiser:

Internments can happen again, Scalia warns

  • The longest-serving member of the U.S. Supreme Court talks at two isle schools

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students at the University of Hawaii law school Monday that the nation’s highest court was wrong to uphold the internment of Japa-nese-Americans during World War II but that he wouldn’t be surprised if the court issued a similar ruling during a future conflict.

Scalia was responding to a question about the court’s 1944 decision in Kore-ma-tsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hira-ba-ya-shi and Fred Kore-ma-tsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.

“Well, of course, Kore-ma-tsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” Scalia told students and faculty during a lunchtime question-and-answer session.

Scalia cited a Latin expression meaning “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

And that Latin phrase in question? Inter arma enim silent leges.

Techdirt calls out the posse:

Mike Rogers Tries To Make The Case That Glenn Greenwald Should Be Prosecuted For ‘Selling Stolen Material’

  • from the is-he-insane? dept

Rep. Mike Rogers apparently just can’t help but spin wild and ridiculous conspiracy theories. Fresh off his latest attempt to argue that Ed Snowden is a Russian spy — an argument debunked by just about everyone, including his Senatorial counterpart Dianne Feinstein — it appears he’s now decided to pick up the ridiculously insane thread kicked off (purposefully) last week by Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, hinting that journalists who reported on Ed Snowden are somehow “accomplices” who can be prosecuted.

During a House Intelligence Committee in which many members (from both parties) angrily criticized the intelligence community, Rogers continued to do everything possible to defend them, including pushing the bogus argument that Glenn Greenwald “sold stolen goods” in questions to FBI director James Comey.

From the Dept of D’oh! via Nextgov:

Feds: NSA ‘Probably’ Spies on Members of Congress

The National Security Agency “probably” collects phone records of members of Congress and their staffs, a senior Justice Department official conceded Tuesday.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole buckled under questioning from multiple lawmakers during a House Judiciary Committee hearing reviewing proposals to reform the NSA’s surveillance activity.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, began by asking Peter Swire, a member of the president’s handpicked surveillance review board, whether lawmakers’ numbers are included in the agency’s phone-records sweeps. Swire protested that he was not a government official and couldn’t best answer the question, but said he was unaware of any mechanism that “scrubbed out” member phone numbers from the agency’s data haul.

TheLocal.de listens in:

NSA ‘tapped phone of ex-Chancellor Schröder’

The US National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly tapped the phone of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder over his opposition to the Iraq War, according to reports on Tuesday.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel was not the first German leader to be targeted by the NSA.

Schröder’s phone was allegedly tapped from 2002, while he was Chancellor, to find out his position on the Iraq War.

Schröder, who led Germany from 1998 to 2005, greeted the news with resignation rather than shock or anger. “At the time I wouldn’t have thought American security services were listening in on me, but it doesn’t surprise me now,” he said.

The Copenhagen Post makes an ornamental denial:

Intelligence officials deny NSA spying against Denmark

Intelligence agency FE rejects allegations that NSA spied on Denmark during COP15, but won’t rule out the option that other nations were bugged

The US intelligence agency NSA did not spy on Danish diplomats and politicians during the 2009 COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen, according to the Danish external intelligence agency Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE).

A NSA document revealing the agency obtained information from key countries ahead of the conference was leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in Information newspaper last week.

The disclosure also revealed that the agency obtained a secret discussion paper from a Danish official, but the government has continually shot down NSA spying allegations against Denmark.

The Guardian encourages:

House committee urges US government to get behind NSA reform bill

  • Judiciary committee warns Obama administration to back USA Freedom Act or risk losing its counter-terrorism powers

Members of Congress who want to end the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone data sharply warned the Obama administration on Tuesday to get behind a bill to end the controversial practice, or risk losing the counter-terrorism powers provided by the post-9/11 Patriot Act.

Deriding the paucity of legislative alternatives after President Obama’s announcement last month that he wants to transfer the responsibility for bulk collection out of the NSA, congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the co-sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, told deputy attorney general James Cole at a House judiciary committee hearing that “you will get nothing” if the administration does not endorse the bill.

Asked why the Justice Department had not taken a position on the bill, Cole said: “The Department of Justice is a big place.”

A-maize-ing intel from the New York Times:

Chinese Implicated in Agricultural Espionage Efforts

The case of the missing corn seeds first broke in May 2011 when a manager at a DuPont research farm in east-central Iowa noticed a man on his knees, digging up the field. When confronted, the man, Mo Hailong, who was with his colleague Wang Lei, appeared flushed. Mr. Mo told the manager that he worked for the University of Iowa and was traveling to a conference nearby. When the manager paused to answered his cellphone, the two men sped off in a car, racing through a ditch to get away, federal authorities said.

What ensued was about a year of F.B.I. surveillance of Mr. Mo and his associates, all but one of whom worked for the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group or its subsidiary Kings Nower Seed. The result was the arrest of Mr. Mo last December and the indictment of five other Chinese citizens on charges of stealing trade secrets in what the authorities and agriculture experts have called an unusual and brazen scheme to undercut expensive, time-consuming research.

China has long been implicated in economic espionage efforts involving aviation technology, paint formulas and financial data. Chinese knockoffs of fashion accessories have long held a place in the mainstream. But the case of Mr. Mo, and a separate one in Kansas last year suggest that the agriculture sector is becoming a greater target, something that industry analysts fear could hurt the competitive advantage of farmers and big agriculture alike.

From USA TODAY, another cause for insecurity:

Navy nukes come under scrutiny in cheating probe

The Navy is investigating allegations of cheating among about 30 enlisted sailors who work on nuclear power systems on ships and submarines, top Navy officials said Tuesday.

The naval investigation follows weeks of bad news from the Air Force about rampant, “systemic” cheating on proficiency tests among airmen who handle nuclear weapons.

An enlisted sailor alerted superiors Monday about an offer to exchange answers to one of several tests needed to qualify to operate nuclear propulsion systems, said Adm. John Richardson, leader of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, and Richardson spelled out details of the investigation. “To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” Greenert said.

And another cause for insecurity, via Nextgov:

Despite Spending $65 Billion on Cybersecurity, Agencies Neglect Basic Protections

After spending at least $65 billion since 2006 to protect federal computers and networks from hackers, government agencies remain vulnerable, often because officials have neglected to perform basic security steps such as updating software, according to a report released Tuesday by a key Republican senator.

The study cites lapses at the very agencies responsible for protecting U.S. networks and sensitive data, including the Homeland Security Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Although it has steadily improved its overall cybersecurity performance, DHS is by no means a standard-setter,” states the assessment by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

SecurityWeek secures:

Snowden Leaks Spark Defense Firms to Change Security Practices: Survey

  • Survey: 75% of Defense Contractors Say Leaks by Edward Snowden Have Made Them Change Their Security Practices

According to the results of a survey conducted by ThreatTrack Security, the leaking of classified NSA documents by Edward Snowden has resulted in defense contractors changing their companies’ cybersecurity practices.

ThreatTrack Security published the study looking to shed light on the attitudes of IT and security managers working at U.S. defense contractors in the wake of the Edward Snowden’s leaking of classified documents related to some the NSA’s spying tactics.

From Colombia, yet another case of spookery run amok from the Miami Herald:

President Santos calls for investigation into alleged army spying on peace negotiators

President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday called for an investigation to see “what dark forces” might be behind an alleged army-run spy ring that targeted negotiators in Havana who are trying to broker a peace deal with the country’s largest guerrilla group.

Santos’ announcement comes after Semana.com, one of the country’s most respected media outlets, reported late Monday that the army recruited civilian hackers to break into the email and text-message accounts of government peace negotiators, including chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle.

If the allegations are true, Santos said they would be “totally unacceptable.”

And from International Business Times, another leak icon and another leak:

Text Messages from Victim of Alleged Rape, Molestation Prove Assange Innocent: Wikileak Affidavit

Even as members of Sweden’s parliament have been stepping up pressure on prosecutors to question Julian Assange on the sexual allegations he faces in the country, Assange in a Wikileaks affidavit has claimed that text messages between the two alleged victims prove his innocence.

In the affidavit, which has been published on the WikiLeaks website, Assange tries to prove his innocence, citing the text message sent by the alleged victims.

Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has been living at Ecuador’s embassy in London since the Latin American country granted him political asylum in the summer of 2012. He was arrested in the UK in December 2010 on a European Union-wide warrant requested by Sweden, over the rape and molestation allegations.

The allegation is that Assange raped one woman and molested another, during a visit to Stockholm in 2010. However, the affidavit has one alleged victim saying in a text message that “it was the police who made up the charges”. The text message further adds that she “did not want to put any charges on JA but that the police were keen on getting a grip on him”.

After the jump, the latest rounds of rhetorical and legislative escalations and zonal boundary provocations from Asia, major Israeli and German arms sales, British Big Brother busted by British Big Brother, the New York Times does undercover edits, DEA courtroom duplicity, and more. . . Continue reading

Breaking the Set: Big Brother’s Oakland plans


RT America’s Abby Martin takes a look at Oakland’s plans for a massive public surveillance system in this latest episode of Breaking the Set.

The segment, which begins at 5:48, includes a discussion of city emails revealing that the dominant focus of planners in not the city’s homicide rate but the containment and control of movements like Occupy, which dominated headlines three years ago when police launched a major and violent crackdown.

The monkey wrench currently disrupting the city’s plans is Oakland’s ban on doing deals with nuclear weaponry contractors.

From Breaking the Set:

Skinny Puppy Torture, NFL Robbery, Big Brother in Oakland & Keystone XL Problems

Program notes:

On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin talks about the industrial rock band, Skinny Puppy, releasing their new album ‘Weapons’ as an invoice to the US government after learning their music was used to torture inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Abby then remarks on the NFL’s tax exempt status, and the fact that the organization is stealing millions of dollars from taxpaying Americans through loopholes in the tax code. Abby then speaks with Brian Hoffer of the Oakland Privacy Working Group, about the city of Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center (DAC) as a hub for surveillance to spy on peaceful protesters in the wake of one of the most egregious crackdowns on the Occupy Movement. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with Josh Saks of the National Wildlife Federation and Zoe Carpenter of the Nation, discussing the State Department’s report on the Keystone XL pipeline, and outlining how the construction of the pipeline would impact the environment, the economy and the surrounding communities.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, pols, zones, threats


We begin today’s collection of headlines from the worlds of espionage and security with on ominous note with this entry from Threat Level:

Judges Poised to Hand U.S. Spies the Keys to the Internet

How does the NSA get the private crypto keys that allow it to bulk eavesdrop on some email providers and social networking sites? It’s one of the mysteries yet unanswered by the Edward Snowden leaks. But we know that so-called SSL keys are prized by the NSA – understandably, since one tiny 256 byte key can expose millions of people to intelligence collection. And we know that the agency has a specialized group that collects such keys by hook or by crook. That’s about it.

Which is why the appellate court challenge pitting encrypted email provider Lavabit against the Justice Department is so important: It’s the only publicly documented case where a district judge has ordered an internet company to hand over its SSL key to the U.S. government — in this case, the FBI.

If the practice — which may well have happened in secret before — is given the imprimatur of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, it opens a new avenue for U.S. spies to expand their surveillance against users of U.S. internet services like Gmail and Dropbox. Since the FBI is known to work hand in hand with intelligence agencies, it potentially turns the judiciary into an arm of the NSA’s Key Recovery Service. Call it COURTINT.

The Guardian partially discloses:

Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo release US surveillance requests

  • Tech giants turn over data from tens of thousands of accounts
  • Limited disclosure part of transparency deal made last month

Tens of thousands of accounts associated with customers of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo have their data turned over to US government authorities every six months as the result of secret court orders, the tech giants disclosed for the first time on Monday.

As part of a transparency deal reached last week with the Justice Department, four of the tech firms that participate in the National Security Agency’s Prism effort, which collects largely overseas internet communications, released more information about the volume of data the US demands they provide than they have ever previously been permitted to disclose.

But the terms of the deal prevent the companies from itemising the collection, beyond bands of thousands of data requests served on them by a secret surveillance court. The companies must also delay by six months disclosing information on the most recent requests – terms the Justice Department negotiated to end a transparency lawsuit before the so-called Fisa court that was brought by the companies.

MintPress News cozies up:

Google’s New Partnership With Law Enforcement Disquiets Privacy Advocates

What’s concerning most about the system for privacy advocates is that the information, which includes the photos and videos, is shared directly by Google with law enforcement.

Google may be in bed with U.S. government and law enforcement agencies more than the American public may have realized.

While the tech giant maintains it was unaware of the extent that the National Security Agency was using its cookie technology to gather information about the public, it was recently discovered that the company filed for two patents last year that actually benefit law enforcement.

Known as “Mob Source Phone Video Collaboration” and “Inferring Events Based On Mob Sourced Video,” the patents are for a system that would identify when and where a “mob” event takes place and would send multimedia alerts to those with a vested interest in the event, namely law enforcement and news agencies.

According to the patents, a “mob” event is anything that attracts an “abnormal” amount of attention in the form of photos and videos, which is determined by the system’s monitoring photos and videos for similar time and location stamps.

PCWorld ponders prosecution:

German federal prosecutor considers formal NSA investigation

Germany’s federal prosecutor is considering if there is enough evidence to warrant a formal, criminal investigation into the German government’s alleged involvement in the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) data collection program, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Privacy and human rights campaigners including the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the International League for Human Rights (ILMR) and Digitalcourage on Monday filed a criminal complaint against the German federal government and the presidents of the German secret services for their alleged involvement in illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, they said in a news release.

The complaint also targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German Minister of the Interior as well as U.S., British and German secret agents who are all accused of violating the right to privacy and obstruction of justice by cooperating with the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ to electronically spy on German citizens, they said.

The Guardian mulls disclosure:

Intelligence agencies should be subject to FoI, says information commissioner

  • John McMillan says FoI Act ‘can suitably apply to any agencies, parliamentary departments and the intelligence agencies’

Australia’s information commissioner has called for intelligence agencies to be subject to freedom of information laws and has expressed concern about “mixed messages” on open government and transparency.

In a wide-ranging interview with Guardian Australia on the state of privacy and freedom of information in Australia, the information commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said intelligence agencies should be subject to freedom of information (FoI) legislation.

“My preference would be at least for the FoI Act to apply to the intelligence agencies,” he said.

PCWorld hacks away:

Prominent cryptographers targeted by malware attacks

Belgian cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater had his personal computer infected with malware as the result of a targeted attack that’s believed to be related to a security breach discovered last year at Belgian telecommunications group Belgacom. According to him, other cryptographers have also been targeted by the same attackers.

Belgacom, whose customers include the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, announced in September that it had discovered sophisticated malware on some of its internal systems.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported at the time, based on documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was responsible for the attack on Belgacom as part of a project code-named Operation Socialist.

The magazine later reported that GCHQ used packet injection technology called Quantum Insert developed by the NSA to target network engineers from Belgacom and other companies when they visited the LinkedIn and Slashdot websites. This technology can impersonate websites and can force the target’s computer to visit an attack server that uses exploits to install malware.

National Post denies:

Stephen Harper’s top security advisor denies reports of illegal spying on Canadians using airport Wi-Fi

The head of Communications Security Establishment Canada defended the collection of “metadata” on Monday, saying it helped identify foreign adversaries without snooping on the private communications of Canadians.

Testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, John Forster shot back against allegations of overzealous government electronic surveillance that have arisen as a result of leaks by Edward Snowden.

In a rare public appearance that follows unprecedented scrutiny of the ultra-secretive spy agency, Mr. Forster denied CSEC had been monitoring the private communications of Canadians as it vacuumed up metadata, or “data about data.

While CBC News equivocates:

Spy agencies, prime minister’s adviser defend Wi-Fi data collection

  • ‘It’s data about data,’ Stephen Harper’s national security adviser says of metadata collection

The head of Canada’s communications surveillance agency defended its use of metadata Monday and argued a test using Canadian passengers’ data — revealed by CBC News last week — didn’t run in real-time and wasn’t an actual operation.

John Forster, chief of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, defended the cybersecurity agency over revelations contained in a document released by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Forster appeared before the Senate national defence committee amid the report that CSEC used airport Wi-Fi to track the movements of Canadian passengers, including where they’d been before the airport.

Pushing for a conclusion with TheLocal.se:

Prosecutor pressed to speed up Assange case

The Swedish prosecutor handling the Julian Assange case lashed out on Monday to calls urging him to push on with efforts to interrogate the whistle blower over sex crimes allegations stemming from a 2010 visit to Sweden.

Assange, who is suspected of rape and sexual assault involving two Swedish women in connection with a visit to Stockholm in 2010, remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been for the last 18 months.

But Swedish MP Johan Pehrson, legal policy spokesperson for the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), said on Sunday there was no point letting such a case fester.

“This is an exceptional case,” he said on the Agenda programme on Sveriges Television (SVT). “Which gets you thinking whether the prosecutor shouldn’t take one more look at it and take care of it once and for all.”

Military/industrial profiteering from Spiegel:

Arms Exports: Berlin Backs Large Defense Deal with Saudi Arabia

Berlin has often been criticized in recent years for selling weapons to questionable regimes. Now, the German government is backing a billion-euro deal for 100 patrol boats.

The German government has often drawn serious criticism for supporting defense deals with countries known to have democratic deficiencies. In the latest controversial move, SPIEGEL has learned that the new government in Berlin wants to secure a major defense deal with Saudi Arabia by offering Hermes export credit guarantees.

The information comes from a classified letter from a senior official in the Finance Ministry to the German parliament’s budget committee. The letter states that the German government intends to provide guarantees for the planned export of more than 100 patrol and border control boats to the Gulf state with a total value of around €1.4 billion ($1.9 billion). In the letter, official Steffen Kampeter writes of the “high importance in terms of economic and employment” of the deal, which includes contracts for the Bremen-based Lürssen Shipyard. Kampeter, a politician with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, asked for the “confidential handling of the business data” because negotiations are still in progress and competition is expected from other countries.

Wasting it profligately, via Aero-News Network:

New C-27J Cargo Planes Stored In Arizona Boneyard

  • Military ‘Has No Use’ For For The Spartans

New C-27J Spartan cargo planes ordered by the U.S. Air Force are being delivered … directly to a storage “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. There are reportedly nearly a dozen new Spartans sitting on the ramp at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the Air Force has spent some $567 million to acquire 21 new Spartans since 2007, but has found that the Air Force does not have missions for many of the aircraft.

The planes had originally been acquired because of their ability to operate from unimproved runways. But sequestration forced the Air Force to re-think the airplane’s mission, and it determined that they were not a necessity, according to an analyst with the Project for Government Oversight.

World Socialist Web Site gets right to it:

Germany, US push aggressive policies at Munich Security Conference

This weekend, some 400 leading international political and military figures and representatives of defense contractors, banks and corporations gathered at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) to discuss the global military and security situation. Both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel participated, marking the first time the US secretaries of state and defense both attended the conference.

The MSC featured a series of speeches by top German officials announcing an aggressive military policy, effectively repudiating the traditional restraints on German militarism that have existed since the collapse of the Nazi regime at the end of World War II. The belligerent tone of the conference was laid down by the former East German pastor and current president of Germany, Joachim Gauck.

Declaring that Germany must stop using its past—i.e., its role in starting two world wars in the 20th century—as a “shield,” Gauck called for the country’s armed forces to be used more frequently and decisively. “Germany can’t carry on as before,” Gauck argued. It was necessary to overcome German indifference and European navel-gazing, he said, in the face of “rapid” and “dramatic” new threats to the “open world order.”

And that complex again, via the London Telegraph:

China and Russia help global defence spending rise for first time in five years

  • New forecasts show China’s defence spending will outstrip Britain, Germany and France combined by 2015

Soaring defence budgets in China and Russia mean global military spending is growing for the first time in five years, according to new forecasts.

Spending across Asia and the Middle East is surging even as the military powers of Europe and the US are forced to scale back dramatically in the face of austerity cuts – contributing to a steady change in the balance of military power.

The figures were disclosed as the secretary general of Nato issued a stark warning that the West will cede influence on the world stage because of its falling spending.

After the jump, Asian zone and militarism crises, censorship run amok, an assault on academic freedom, censorship in Egypt, a Spanish muckraker fired, military corruption, the German government hacked, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, zones, security


We begin today’s headlines from the worlds of cloaks, daggers, and militarism with a story close to home via the Oakland Tribune:

Nuclear law again threatens Oakland surveillance hub

Once again a Cold War era law prohibiting Oakland from contracting with firms that work on nuclear weapon projects is threatening to derail completion of an intelligence center whose surveillance capabilities have spurred opposition from privacy advocates.

The City Council will meet Tuesday to decide whether to contract with Schneider Electronic Inc. to complete the Domain Awareness Center. The joint city and Port of Oakland project would establish a data hub where feeds from street cameras, gunshot sensors and other surveillance tools would be broadcast on a bank of constantly monitored television screens.

Should the council determine that Schneider violates the Oakland’s Nuclear Free Ordinance, the city and port most likely would lose $1 million in federal grant funding that is tied to the project being completed by the end of May, officials said.

And on to the latest Edward Snowden revelation from The Guardian:

Snowden revelations of NSA spying on Copenhagen climate talks spark anger

  • Documents leaked by Edward Snowden show NSA kept US negotiators abreast of their rivals’ positions at 2009 summit

Developing countries have reacted angrily to revelations that the United States spied on other governments at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how the US National Security Agency (NSA) monitored communication between key countries before and during the conference to give their negotiators advance information about other positions at the high-profile meeting where world leaders including Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel failed to agree to a strong deal on climate change.

Jairam Ramesh, the then Indian environment minister and a key player in the talks that involved 192 countries and 110 heads of state, said: “Why the hell did they do this and at the end of this, what did they get out of Copenhagen? They got some outcome but certainly not the outcome they wanted. It was completely silly of them. First of all, they didn’t get what they wanted. With all their hi-tech gizmos and all their snooping, ultimately the Basic countries [Brazil, South Africa, India and China] bailed Obama out. With all their snooping what did they get?”

Confrontation from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Senators grill spy chiefs, accuse them of lies

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee lambasted the nation’s top intelligence chiefs on Wednesday, complaining of lies about gathering the phone records of Americans and failing to cooperate with Congress in an investigation of the CIA’s controversial interrogation programs.

Committee members grilled Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan at the first intelligence committee hearing since President Barack Obama proposed reforms to the spy program.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told them an ongoing “culture of misinformation” has undermined the public’s trust in America’s intelligence leadership.

Whistyleblower hate from the Los Angeles Times:

Intelligence leakers pose ‘critical threat’ to U.S., say spy chiefs

Insiders such as Edward Snowden who leak secrets about sensitive U.S. intelligence programs pose a “critical threat” to the United States, America’s spy chiefs warned Congress in their annual report on global national security risks.

For the first time, the threat of unauthorized disclosures from “trusted insiders” was ranked as the second greatest potential threat to the country, after cyberattacks but ahead of international terrorism, in the document prepared by the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

Those individuals aren’t necessarily working with foreign intelligence agencies, the document says. Some members of Congress have all but accused Snowden of working for Russia’s spy service, but no clear evidence has emerged to support the contention.

“The capabilities and activities through which foreign entities — both state and nonstate actors — seek to obtain U.S. national security information are new, more diverse and more technically sophisticated,” the document says.

The Washington Post offers a plea:

U.S. intelligence director calls on Snowden to return NSA documents

The head of the U.S. intelligence community on Wednesday called on Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency, to return the massive trove of documents in his possession.

Speaking before a Senate panel, James R. Clapper Jr., delivered blistering criticism of Snowden, describing him as a hypocrite who has severely harmed national security.

Clapper said the materials exposed by Snowden have bolstered adversaries, caused allies to cut off cooperation with the United States, triggered changes in communications by terrorist networks and put lives of intelligence operatives and assets at risk.

RT gets hyperbolic:

US officials say Snowden disclosures will lead to deaths, plead for an end to leaks

Revelations made possible through documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden could cause the deaths of United States diplomats, citizens and soldiers, government officials said Wednesday, and remaining files should be surrendered immediately.

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper implored Mr. Snowden during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, DC early Wednesday to hand over what remains of a trove of top-secret documents allegedly still in his possession after fleeing the country last year with a cache of classified material. Officials have claimed the total number of stolen documents could exceed 1.7 million.

Speaking before the committee, DNI Clapper and his colleagues testified that the documents that have already been released to the media by Snowden during the last seven months have caused a significant blow to national security because they exposed an array of sensitive intelligence gathering tactics that have been jeopardized as a result.

Nomination from the London Daily Mail:

Edward Snowden is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for ‘restoring balance between national security and individual freedom’

  • Norwegian members of parliament nominate Snowden for Peace Price
  • Socialist Left Party politicians say he has made world ‘a safer place’
  • Nobel Peace Prize committee accepts nominations until February 1st

Two Norwegian MPs have nominated NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize 2014.

Bård Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen, both parliamentary representatives of Sosialistisk Venstreparti, the Socialist Left Party, argue that Snowden’s release of classified documents has made the world a safer place.

The Project On Government Oversight plotting a coup:

Six House Members Seek to Oust Intelligence Director

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be removed because of untruthful statements he made before Congress concerning the intelligence community’s use of bulk data collection programs, six members of Congress said this week in a letter sent to President Obama (pdf).

The letter—signed by  Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.)—refers  to testimony Clapper gave the  Senate Intelligence Committee in March, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked him whether the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s responded without hesitation: “No, sir. Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect – but not wittingly.”

Justification from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Attorney General Holder defends legality of surveillance program

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday aligned himself with the conclusions of judges who found the mass collection of telephone data to be constitutional.

But that legal conclusion, Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, is not the end of the debate over the so-called Section 215 program.

“I believe (the judges) are correct that it is constitutional,” Holder said, under questioning by a skeptical committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “The question is, just because we can do something, should we do it?”

Tokenism from Network World:

NSA gets its first civil liberties and privacy officer

Former Homeland Security official Rebecca Richards is said to have new role

The National Security Agency has reportedly appointed Rebecca Richards, a former deputy privacy official at the Department of Homeland Security, as its first privacy officer.

Richards will start her new role next month, according to a blog post Tuesday by former deputy assistant secretary at the DHS Paul Rosenzweig.

An NSA spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny Rosenzweig’s report. Instead, she pointed to comments by President Obama last August about the NSA’s taking steps to install a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer following NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about the agency’s surveillance practices.

The NSA spokeswoman confirmed that the appointee would start in the new role next month. Additional details would become available today, she said.

Boing Boing gets ominous for the Fourth Estate:

US intel chief James Clapper: journalists reporting on leaked Snowden NSA docs “accomplices” to crime

In a Senate Judiciary Hearing on NSA surveillance today, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper insinuated dozens of journalists reporting on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were “accomplices” to a crime. His spokesman further suggested Clapper was referring to journalists after the hearing had concluded.

If this is the official stance of the US government, it is downright chilling.

Clapper is engaged in the same treatment of journalists that the Justice Department allegedly repudiated just months ago.

Wired gets legal:

Terror Defendant Challenges Evidence Gathered by NSA Spying

A U.S. terrorism defendant who was formally notified that he was spied on by the NSA filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the surveillance today, in a case likely to be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court.

Jamshid Muhtorov, a native of Uzbekistan who immigrated to Colorado, is one of only two criminal defendants the government has conceded was charged on the basis of evidence scooped up by the NSA’s surveillance programs. The spying was authorized by the controversial FISA Amendments Act.

The Supreme Court last year rejected a suit challenging the law because the civil rights groups and others who brought the case could not prove their communications were intercepted, and hence didn’t have “standing” to sue. That issue won’t come up for Muhtorov, says the Americans Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Muhtorov.

“For five years the government insulated this statute from judicial review by concealing from criminal defendants how the evidence against them was obtained,” says Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU’s Colorado chapter. “But the government will not be able to shield the statute from review in this case.”

From The Guardian, Trans-Atlantic ornamental blowback:

Angela Merkel warns US over surveillance in first speech of third term

  • ‘A programme in which the end justifies all means … violates trust,’ German chancellor says

Angela Merkel has used the first, agenda-setting speech of her third term in office to criticise America’s uncompromising defence of its surveillance activities.

In a speech otherwise typically short of strong emotion or rhetorical flourishes, the German chancellor found relatively strong words on NSA surveillance, two days before the US secretary of state, John Kerry, is due to visit Berlin.

“A programme in which the end justifies all means, in which everything that is technically possible is then acted out, violates trust and spreads mistrust,” she said. “In the end, it produces not more but less security.”

Network World offers the symbolic:

Hackers deface Angry Birds website following NSA spying claims

  • The hackers placed an image with the message ‘Spying Birds’ on the site’s home page

The official Angry Birds website was defaced by hackers following reports that U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have been collecting user information from the game and other popular mobile apps.

Some users trying to access the http://www.angrybirds.com website late Tuesday were greeted by an image depicting the Angry Birds game characters accompanied by the text “Spying Birds.” The U.S. National Security Agency’s logo was also visible in the image.

The NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been working together to collect geolocation data, address books, buddy lists, telephone logs and other pieces of information from “leaky” mobile apps, The New York Times reported Monday based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

From the Washington Post, cause for real insecurity:

Officials: 92 Air Force officers involved in test cheating scandal

At least 92 Air Force officers assigned to the nation’s nuclear arsenal have been implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal and temporarily relieved of their duties, officials said Thursday, announcing they had temporarily taken out of commission nearly one-fifth of the nuclear force.

The widening scandal, which came to light after a probe into alleged drug use by nuclear operators, has exposed systemic integrity lapses in one of the Pentagon’s most critical, albeit largely unseen, missions.

The 92 personnel who were decertified are based at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Officers at the base oversee 150 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles, one-third of the nation’s Minuteman 3 arsenal. The base is one of three where America’s 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles are kept. Officials on Thursday did not say whether they are reviewing the possibility that cheating has been commonplace at the other facilities.

RT strikes a trans-English Channel drone deal:

Entente Lethal: Britain, France to sign military drone development deal

Britain and France are set to develop a new generation of armed drones which will free them of their dependence on US-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

President François Hollande will arrive in Britain on Friday for a summit with David Cameron at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The two leaders, flanked by their foreign, defense, and energy ministers, are set to ink multiple deals for developing combat drones, missile systems and submarines. There are also plans to establish a joint expeditionary force which will be applicable for a wide range of scenarios, including high intensity operations.

Friday’s summit stems from the Lancaster House Treaties of 2010, in which Cameron and then-French President Nickolas Sarkozy agreed on a raft of measures in defense and security cooperation.

And from intelNews.org, the old school method:

Israel jails Orthodox Jew who offered to spy for Iran

An Israeli citizen, who belongs to an Orthodox anti-Zionist Jewish group that rejects the existence of the state of Israel, has been jailed for offering to spy for Iran. Yitzhak Bergel, 46, a father of eight, who resides in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood, is a member of the Neturei Karta —which translates in English as “Guardians of the City”.

The Jewish group opposes Zionism —the belief that a state-sanctioned Jewish homeland ought to be created in the territory described as “Land of Israel” in Jewish scriptural texts. The group, which was founded in the 1930s and has thousands of adherents in Israel, the United States and Europe, is one of several branches of conservative Judaism whose members believe that Jews are forbidden by the Torah to create their own state before the coming of the Jewish Messiah.

After the jump, the escalating Asian zonal and historic crises, a Chinese web crackdown, journalism under siege on four continents, some newpaper hackery in Old Blighty, and more. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: DiFi spouse, domestic enemy


And it’s not just anyone who’s effectively calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband an enemy of the people. It’s Jerome Kohlberg, billionaire and founder of Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts and chair of the Initiative to Protect Student Veterans.

While he doesn’t name plutocratic newly reappointed-by-Jerry-Brown University of California Regent Richard Blum himself as a domestic enemy, he does name a key holding of the regent’s Blum Capital Partners, ITT Educational Services, Inc [previously].

Kohlberg’s targets are those for profit-colleges which fasten, vampire-like, on veterans to extract the last drop of blood.

His statement is so important we’re violating our usually policy of not linking to its venue, Puffington Host [sic]:

These for-profits businesses — I will not call them colleges — target veterans, because they are eligible for GI Bill and other federal education benefits. Approximately 85-95 percent of their revenue comes from taxpayer-supported benefits. Former recruiters told U.S. Senate investigators they were trained to tap “the military gravy train” and “probe for weaknesses” to emotionally manipulate vulnerable prospects into enrolling. Even while still in uniform, these young men and women are hounded via phone calls and emails, approached on military bases by cynical recruiters posing as “military advisors,” and ultimately duped into signing over their GI Bill benefits and taking out student loans. This is unconscionable.

These for-profit predators must be seen for what they are — domestic enemies.

Increasingly, federal and state investigators are looking at whether these companies are violating consumer protection laws. State Attorneys General have filed lawsuits against some of the worst offenders, and the Obama Administration and Congress have moved to strengthen oversight and transparency.

The growing spotlight on these companies is affecting their bottom line. Several of the biggest players have reported steady losses in enrollment and revenue over the past few quarters, and their stocks have fallen. DeVry University and ITT Educational have seen their stock prices cut in half. The University of Phoenix reported an 18% drop in enrollment from a year ago; DeVry’s enrollment fell by more than 16%.

Read the rest.

That Gov. Jerry Brown can appoint such a creature as a regent of the increasingly hard-pressed University of California is a sign of just how depraved governance has become in the not-so-Golden State.

Oh, and it’s also Blum’s real estate company that’s making a fortune selling off America’s historic post offices.

To learn more about this odious creature, read the brilliant series of investigative pieces by Peter Byrne, posted online here.

Headlines of the day I: Espiolies, zones, hacks. . .


Today’s first entry in oiur tour of things from the world of the dark arts and “national security” comes from Nextgov:

The Day Before the State of the Union Has Been Full of NSA Leaks

Rapid-fire reports revealing secret government surveillance programs hit the Internet Monday, just a day before President Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union address before Congress.

NBC News reported Monday afternoon that the British government can “tap into the cables carrying the world’s Web traffic at will and spy on what people are doing on some of the world’s most popular social-media sites, including YouTube, all without the knowledge or consent of the companies.”

Documents provided by Edward Snowden purport to show British intelligence officials presenting a pilot program to NSA agents in 2012 in which they could monitor YouTube in real time and collect data from Facebook and Twitter. Called “Squeaky Dolphin,” the documents show “broad real-time monitoring of online activity” that includes videos watched, blog visits and favorited URLs.

Experts told NBC News the documents show the British had to have been either physically able to tap the cables carrying the world’s web traffic or able to use a third party to gain physical access to the massive stream of data, and would be able to extract some key data about specific users as well.

The Guardian has your number:

NSA and GCHQ target ‘leaky’ phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

  • US and UK spy agencies piggyback on commercial data
  • Details can include age, location and sexual orientation
  • Documents also reveal targeted tools against individual phones

The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.

The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

Many smartphone owners will be unaware of the full extent this information is being shared across the internet, and even the most sophisticated would be unlikely to realise that all of it is available for the spy agencies to collect.

More from Nextgov:

White House: Terrorists, Like All of Us, Might Enjoy Playing Angry Birds

The White House isn’t ruling out that terrorists, just like normal, everyday people, are avid fans of the hit international video game franchise Angry Birds.

White House press secretary Jay Carney responded to a reporter’s question Monday asking whether the National Security Agency was collecting the information of Americans who use smartphone apps, such as Angry Birds, that share personal data over the Internet.

“I mean, look. Terrorists, proliferators, other bad actors, use the same communcations tools that others use,” Carney said, eliciting some commotion among the press corps. “What I’m saying is that the NSA in its collection is focused on the communication of people who are valid foreign intelligence targets.”

NSA agents are “not focused on the information of ordinary Americans, and that’s the case in answer to questions about, you know, the variety of revelations that have been made in the press.”

Waffle words from EUobserver:

Obama advisor: Pipeline deals could see US spy on EU leaders

Major economic deals, which look as if they could cause “difficulties” for the US, are a legitimate reason to spy on EU leaders, a US intelligence oversight panelist has said.

“If Germany were making an economic deal for a gas pipeline in a way that would cause large international difficulties, that might be a reason to try to prevent a bad outcome,” Peter Swire, a professor of law and ethics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told journalists in Brussels on Friday (24 January).

He noted that he was speaking in a personal capacity.

The Mainichi casts doubt:

AP-GfK poll: Americans value privacy over security

Americans are increasingly placing personal privacy ahead of being kept safe from terrorists, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. More than 60 percent of respondents said they value privacy over anti-terror protections. That’s up slightly from 58 percent in a similar poll in August conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they disapprove of the way Obama is handling intelligence surveillance policies. And 61 percent said they prioritize protecting Americans’ rights and freedoms over making sure Americans are safe from terrorists.

Only 34 percent support Obama’s plan to create a panel of outside attorneys to offer an opposing argument to the government before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And just 17 percent of those polled support moving the data the government collects about telephone calls outside of government hands.

Reuters compromises:

U.S., tech companies reach deal on spying data

The Obama administration and major U.S. technology companies have struck a deal that would allow the companies to tell the public in greater detail about the spying-related court orders they receive, the Justice Department said on Monday.

The agreement, filed in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, would settle demands from companies such as Google Inc and Microsoft Corp for more leeway to disclose data about the court orders, according to documents released by the department.

Tech companies have sought to clarify their relationships with U.S. law enforcement and spying agencies since June, when leaks to the news media by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began to show the depth of U.S. spying capabilities.

Here’s the official statement from the Director of National Intelligence:

Joint Statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder on New Reporting Methods for National Security Orders

January 27, 2014

As indicated in the Justice Department’s filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests, and the underlying legal authorities. Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers.

This action was directed by the President earlier this month in his speech on intelligence reforms. While this aggregate data was properly classified until today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with other departments and agencies, has determined that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification.

Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public.  But more work remains on other issues.  In the weeks ahead, additional steps must be taken in order to fully implement the reforms directed by the President.

The declassification reflects the Executive Branch’s continuing commitment to making information about the government’s intelligence activities publicly available where appropriate and is consistent with ensuring the protection of the national security of the United States.

BBC News has doubts:

Google’s Drummond calls for new NSA reforms

  • David Drummond on revelations that the NSA hacked Google data: “I was shocked, surprised and outraged”

Moves by US President Barack Obama to rein in spies at the National Security Agency do not go far enough, a senior figure at Google has told the BBC.

David Drummond, the tech giant’s chief legal officer, said the US needed to change its approach to intelligence to restore trust in the internet.

His comments are some of the first by a senior tech figure since a speech by the US president earlier this month.

While Security Clearance names the next in line:

Navy’s Michael Rogers expected to be Obama’s next NSA choice

Navy Vice Adm. Michael Rogers is expected to be nominated the next director of the embattled National Security Agency, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN.

The current director, Gen. Keith Alexander, is expected to retire in March.

Alexander’s tenure has been most recently marked by controversy over intelligence leaks by former agency contractor Edward Snowden about electronic surveillance.

From Deutsche Welle, suspicions:

Snowden asks ‘how reasonable’ it is to assume only Merkel was tapped

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has told German public television what motivated him to go public, has asked whether NSA tapping stopped at Chancellor Merkel’s phone, and has said his return to the US is unlikely.

German public broadcaster ARD showed a half-hour interview with Edward Snowden on Sunday night, the ex-NSA contractor’s first television interview since gaining temporary asylum in Russia last year.

The 30-year-old fugitive whistleblower said there was “no question” that the NSA conducted industrial espionage and also alluded to a recent BuzzFeed article quoting unnamed US security officials as saying they wanted Snowden dead.

Hubert Seipel, a journalist for ARD’s regional member NDR who conducted the interview in a Moscow hotel room, also asked Snowden what convinced him to go public with his information on global intelligence practices.

“I would say sort of the breaking point was seeing how Director of National Intelligence James Clapper directly lied to Congress when under oath,” Snowden said. “There’s no saving an intelligence agency that believes it can lie to the public, and to legislators, who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions.”

From Ars Technica, another haul:

FBI is keeping a giant stash of e-mails from defunct Tor Mail service

  • Data harvested from servers in France is being used in multiple investigations.

Court documents that surfaced in a Florida case against an alleged seller of counterfeit credit cards have shown that the FBI has a copy of servers that belonged to Tor Mail, a secure e-mail service that operated on the anonymous Tor network.

“Tor Mail’s goal is to provide completely anonymous and private communications to anyone who needs it,” states an informational page about the service, which remains up. “We are anonymous and cannot be forced to reveal anything about a Tor Mail user.”

The information is found in a sworn statement by a US postal inspector and was reported by Wired’s Kevin Poulsen this morning. The document explains that as part of the investigation, law enforcement collected orders for the fake credit cards that went through the e-mail address “platplus@tormail.net.” That address contained every order for credit cards sent over the course of nearly a year.

The New York Times covers high anxiety:

Afghanistan Exit Is Seen as Peril to Drone Mission

The risk that President Obama may be forced to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year has set off concerns inside the American intelligence agencies that they could lose their air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region.

Until now, the debate here and in Kabul about the size and duration of an American-led allied force in Afghanistan after 2014 had focused on that country’s long-term security. But these new concerns also reflect how troop levels in Afghanistan directly affect long-term American security interests in neighboring Pakistan, according to administration, military and intelligence officials.

The concern has become serious enough that the Obama administration has organized a team of intelligence, military and policy specialists to devise alternatives to mitigate the damage if a final security deal cannot be struck with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has declined to enact an agreement that American officials thought was completed last year.

Reuters stirs the pot:

Congress secretly approves U.S. weapons flow to ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels

Light arms supplied by the United States are flowing to “moderate” Syrian rebel factions in the south of the country and U.S. funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by Congress, according U.S. and European security officials.

The weapons, most of which are moving to non-Islamist Syrian rebels via Jordan, include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets.

The deliveries do not include weapons such as shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADs, which could shoot down military or civilian aircraft, the officials said.

The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, two officials said.

The Bundeswehr prepares, from TheLocal.de:

Germany to play bigger military role

Germany’s military is to be deployed more frequently on foreign operations, defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.

Von der Leyen said the military should extend its engagement in crisis-hit areas of the globe.

“We can’t just watch from the sidelines when murder and rape are the order of the day,” she told Der Spiegel magazine.

After the jump, the latest Asian zonal and semantic crises, high crimes and low misdemeanors, hacks in high place, corporate security breeches, the latest caper from Blackwater’s founder, Pentagon scandals, and the latest update on Murdoch media phone hacks. . .and more:  Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: EspioZonalDronalHistory


Lots of breaking news from the realms of black ops, espionage, and security, even though it’s a Sunday. We open with this from CBC News:

Edward Snowden says NSA engages in industrial espionage

  • Ex-NSA contractor cites German engineering firm Siemens as one target

The U.S. National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its value to national security, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told a German TV network.

In text released ahead of a lengthy interview to be broadcast on Sunday, ARD TV quoted Snowden as saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target.

“If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to U.S. national interests — even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security  — then they’ll take that information nevertheless,” Snowden said, according to ARD, which recorded the interview in Russia where he has claimed asylum.

More from TheLocal.de:

Snowden to German TV: NSA wants to kill me

Fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden voiced fears that US “government officials want to kill me”, in a TV interview to be broadcast in Germany on Sunday night.

The comment comes just days after Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said the American feared for his life, following a report by US website BuzzFeed of explicit threats against him from unnamed Pentagon and National Security Agency (NSA) officials.

Snowden also told the German broadcaster: “These people, and they are government officials, have said they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket, and then watch as I die in the shower.”

One consequence, via Reuters:

Snowden won’t return to U.S. without amnesty, says legal adviser

Edward Snowden would be willing to enter talks with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to negotiate his return to the United States but not without a guarantee of amnesty, his legal adviser said on Sunday.

Jesselyn Radack said she was glad Holder indicated last week he would talk to lawyers for the former U.S. spy agency contractor to negotiate his return from Moscow, but that Snowden would need better protection.

“It’s a little disheartening that he (Holder) seemed to take clemency and amnesty off the table, which are two of the negotiating points,” said Radack, who was interviewed via satellite from Moscow by NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

From the London Daily Mail, the NSA wants your kids:

Fears over NSA recruiting website for CHILDREN that says coding is ‘kewl’

  • The site launched in 2005, but has been refreshed multiple times since
  • It has been thrust into the spotlight as Edward Snowden’s revelations have cast an unfavorable light on the spy agency
  • It is one of many government agencies with children’s sites

The majority of visitors browse while at school, are male and from the U.S.

The NSA has a children’s website filled with characters that give the agency a Saturday morning cartoon feel.

Cryptokids comes replete with a buck-toothed rabbit, an Army fatigued-wearing bald eagle and a turtle wearing a backwards ball cap and sunglasses who thinks coding is ‘kewl.’

The site launched in 2005, but the New York Times brought into the broader consciousness Saturday after revelations made by former contractor Edward Snowden have cast an unfavorable light on the spy agency.

Homeland Security News Wire calls for moderation:

Expert calls for “surveillance minimization” to restore public trust

Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to an expert on privacy and surveillance. “Surveillance minimization requires surveillance to be targeted rather than universal, controlled and warranted at the point of data gathering rather than of data access, and performed for the minimum necessary time on the minimum necessary people,” he says.

Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to a law academic from the University of East Anglia.

Dr. Paul Bernal, whose research covers privacy, surveillance, and human rights, says the role of government surveillance and of surveillance by commercial groups and others must be reconsidered.

A UEA release reports that he suggests surveillance minimization as a way forward and presented the idea today at the 7th International Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference which took place in Brussels, Belgium, 22-24 January.

The Verge critiques:

Cryptography experts pen open letter against NSA surveillance

The pressure on the US government to reform the NSA’s surveillance programs is growing. Apple, Google, and Microsoft all called for change last month alongside a petition from international authors calling for an end to mass surveillance. President Obama announced big changes to government surveillance programs, but most of them centered around the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, not its spying on internet communications. In an open letter published on Friday, more than 50 cryptography experts are asking the US government to make more changes to protect privacy.

“The value of society-wide surveillance in preventing terrorism is unclear, but the threat that such surveillance poses to privacy, democracy, and the US technology sector is readily apparent,” the authors of the open letter state. “Because transparency and public consent are at the core of our democracy, we call upon the US government to subject all mass-surveillance activities to public scrutiny and to resist the deployment of mass-surveillance programs in advance of sound technical and social controls.”

Although the letter doesn’t mention Obama, it’s clear the president’s recent speech has not eased concerns from cryptographers over the weakening of encryption standards.

From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a new body count:

Drone Warfare

More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years

Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since the first attack that injured [civilian Fahim] Qureshi – eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.

Although drone strikes under Obama’s presidency have killed nearly six times as many people as were killed under Bush, the casualty rate – the number of people killed on average in each strike – has dropped from eight to six under Obama. The civilian casualty rate has fallen too. Strikes during the Bush years killed nearly more than three civilians in each strike on average. This has halved under Obama (1.43 civilians per strike on average). In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.

The decline in civilian casualties could be because of reported improvements in drone and missile technology, rising tensions between Pakistan and the US over the drone campaign, and greater scrutiny of the covert drone campaign both at home and abroad.

And a key graphic from the report:

BLOG Drones

MintPress News drones on in the Show Me State:

Missouri Contemplating Drone Restrictions

  • The Feds “already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall.”

For the second time in less than a year, the Missouri House of Representatives will be considering legislation that will regulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles within the state. Missouri House Bill 1204, the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, states that “no person, entity, or state agency shall use a drone or other unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance or observation of any individual, property owned by an individual, farm, or agricultural industry without the consent of that individual, property owner, farm or agricultural industry.”

The bill would also ban the use of photographs or recordings from drones in criminal investigations without a court warrant being issued first. This bill was preceded by a bill last April that was spurred on by a now-debunked story that the celebrity gossip website TMZ was planning to use an unmanned vehicle in order to get candid footage that its paparazzi had no access to.

The 2013 bill, which passed the Missouri House but stalled in the state Senate, would had made journalistic use of drones illegal, as well as outlaw warrantless use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Off to England and a beast resurrected via The Guardian:

D-notice system to be reviewed in wake of Edward Snowden revelations

  • Inquiry into future of system that warns media not to publish stories leads to fears that compliance may become compulsory

Officials are planning to review the historic D-notice system, which warns the media not to publish intelligence that might damage security, in the wake of the Guardian’s stories about mass surveillance by the security services based on leaks from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Sources said Jon Thompson, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence, was setting up an inquiry into the future of the committee, raising fears that the voluntary censorship system also known as the DA-notice could be made compulsory.

The committee is supposed to be consulted when news organisations are considering publishing material relating to secret intelligence or the military. It is staffed by senior civil servants and media representatives, who give advice on the publication of sensitive stories.

Latin blowback from AFP:

Ecuador firm on reducing US presence, spies

Ecuador on Saturday stressed it wanted the number of US military staff on its territory reduced, and warned it also would not allow US “espionage equipment.”

“It just makes no sense that an outsized number of US military staff, who report to the US Southern Command, would be here, at the US Embassy,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters.

President Rafael Correa said Wednesday he would ask the United States to withdraw American military personnel assigned to its embassy in Quito.

New Europe scents hypocrisy:

Germany faces dilemma over NSA spy scandal

Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office has told parliament there is insufficient evidence to pursue a formal investigation into allegations that American intelligence targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile telephone in 2002.

Der Spiegel, Germany’s top-selling news magazine, was the first to report that Merkel’s phone was intercepted by America’s National Security Agency (NSA). The weekly also said that the NSA intercepted conversations and spied on a number of German politicians.  The public prosecutor’s decision not to investigate is turning out to be as controversial as the allegations against the United States.  Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of parliament with Germany’s Green Party, told Der Spiegel that it is absurd. “They’re just looking for reasons to shirk responsibility because the issue is too controversial for them,” he says.

Gregor Gysi, who heads the parliamentary group of the Left Party, said: “The fact that the German government and the Federal Prosecutor isn’t acting shows that their fear of the US government is greater than their respect for our legal system”.

As for members of the government, Der Spiegel reports that Justice Minister Heiko Maas is sympathetic to the idea of opening an investigation. But Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel have yet to take a clear position on the matter.

And The Guardian finds good old fashioned deception:

Campaigner’s lawyers challenge secrecy over police spy accused of lying in court

John Jordan seeks explanation of why his conviction will be quashed after claims undercover officer gave false evidence

Prosecutors are due on Monday to defend their decision to keep secret the cause of a miscarriage of justice involving an undercover police officer who allegedly used his fictitious identity in a criminal trial to conceal his covert work.

The conviction of an environmental campaigner, John Jordan, for assaulting a police officer is to be overturned after it was revealed that one of his co-defendants was an undercover policeman who allegedly gave false evidence on oath during his prosecution.

The undercover spy, whose real name is Jim Boyling, was pretending to be an ardent environmental campaigner when he was prosecuted, alongside Jordan, following disorder at a protest.

While the London Telegraph discovers brothers in arms:

Comrades in arms: Britain and Russia to sign defence deal

  • Once they were Cold War foes. Now Britain and Russia are preparing to work together on defence projects

Britain could buy weapons from its former Cold War foe for the first time under a landmark defence treaty, the Telegraph can reveal.

Defence chiefs are preparing to sign a deal that would see British defence companies working jointly on projects with the Russian arms industry.

The treaty allows arms companies to buy kit from Russia – and Russian diplomatic sources said they hope one day to see British soldiers carrying the Red Army’s famous Kalashnikov rifle as a result.

From Kyodo News, a rational move as Japan sheds its traditional anti-militarism and forges a new, increasingly armed and confrontational national security machine. [Who do they think they are? The U.S.?]:

U.S. asks Japan to return plutonium exported during Cold War

Washington has been pressing Tokyo to return over 300 kilograms of mostly weapons-grade plutonium given to Japan for research purposes during the Cold War era, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which is keen on ensuring nuclear security, wants Japan to return the plutonium supplied for use as nuclear fuel at a fast critical assembly in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, the sources told Kyodo News.

The highly concentrated plutonium could be used to produce 40 to 50 nuclear weapons.

After the jump, the ongoing regional game of military escalatio [H/T to Tom Lehrer], the ever escalating Asian zone crises, new military alliances emerge, a familial mass slaughter in North Korea. . .and more: Continue reading

They’rrrre Back!: Juice Rap News, Season 2


The Aussie dynamic duo at Juice Rap News [previously] is back for their second season, and they open with a lively omnium gatherum, covering everything from Max Kaiser to the NSA. . .plus our least-favorite villain de jour, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Without further ado, from The Juice Media:

“THE NEWS” ✇ JUICE RAP NEWS ✇ SEASON 2 EP 1

Program notes:

“The News”. It’s the most viral meme of reality on the planet: if it’s not on “the News” it didn’t happen – right? Welcome back to Season 2 of Juice Rap News, in which intrepid anchorman Robert Foster embarks on a new era of adversarial rap journalism by casting a critical eye on the paradigm that shapes our collective reality each night; featuring a smorgasbord of guests, from the stalwart General Baxter and Terence Moonseed having a friendly chat on about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to our special correspondents in Russia and the Colonies. Meanwhile, what is going on in Finance, Show-biz and the Weather? Special surprise guests are in tow to cover all this and more, helping Robert delve deeper into this very odd phenomenon of ‘The News’ itself.

-Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, -on Wurundjeri Land.

Plutopia: Bombmaking cities of the U.S., U.S.S.R.


A stunning talk by University of Maryland historian Kate Brown, author of Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, about the deadly consequences for the plutonium-making high security cities in the two principal Cold War adversaries.

From the wonderful collection of videos at TalkingStickTV:

Kate Brown — The Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters

From an account by the Kennan Institute’s Mattison Brady about a talk Brown presented there:

Brown observed that Chernobyl and Fukushima were disasters that “involved big meltdowns and occurred while the cameras were running.” That is, they were accidents that involved total failure of the plants and could not be hidden or covered up. The disasters at Hanford [Washington] and Maiak, however, were catastrophes “in slow motion” and, more importantly, were not truly accidents. They were, Brown contended, “intentional – part of the normal working order.” Brown did not, however, paint a picture of simple recrimination for the plant managers. Rather, she illustrated the dangerous combination of misinformation, miscommunication, hopefulness, and, above all, pressure that contributed to many of the recurring mistakes made at each plant.

The two plutonium plants and, by extension, their constituent populations “orbited each other and were produced in each other’s image.” Each time the project in one country was in danger of having its budget cut, the other would make some significant breakthrough, which would in turn spur production at the other. The rivalry fueled the growing arms race and ensured their continued existence and funding. The constant atmosphere of fear and pressure led each of the plants to taking dangerous short cuts to meet the mushrooming production goals.

One such shortcut was the length of time used uranium fuel was allowed to cool before being processed. This fuel, pulled from the cooling ponds long before the recommended 90-day period, was called “green” and, when processed, would release vastly more radioactive iodine than fuel left to cool longer. War-time pressure in 1944 called for this cooling period to be minimized, but the post-war arms race meant that the Soviet Maiak plant ran green fuel for many years and that in 1949 the Hanford plant ran a dangerous experiment with green fuel (called the “Green Run”) to see how they could trace the hot radioactive isotopes as they scattered across eastern Washington State.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, zones, laws, crises


Today’s collection of headlines from the realms of espionage, militarism, and corporate snooping begins with answers to a critical question. From Techdirt, where you may read the rest.

Open Letter From Security Researchers Explains How NSA Has Weakened Our Communications Infrastructure

  • from the read-it dept

Among the many problems with President Obama’s weak statement concerning NSA surveillance was the fact that he didn’t even address the serious issue of the NSA undermining cryptography with backdoors. The White House’s task force had included a recommendation to end this practice, and the President appeared to ignore it entirely. Now, a large group of US computer security and cryptography researchers have sent a strongly worded open letter to the President condemning these efforts (and his failure to stop the program).

And across the pond, blowback continues as the extent of “Washington consensus” control of the British agenda becomes clearer by the day. From The Independent:

Exclusive: Peers call for proper scrutiny of American military bases in UK used for drone strikes and mass spying

  • Britain’s oversight of US bases ‘in urgent need of revision’

Scrutiny of American military bases in Britain could be increased dramatically for the first time in more than 60 years under cross-party proposals provoked by evidence that the installations are being used for drone strikes and mass spying activities.

Draft proposals tabled by peers from all three major parties demand that the Government overhaul the “outdated” rules under which the Pentagon’s network of UK outposts operate following claims of British complicity in US drone missions in the Middle East and eavesdropping on European allies.

The Independent revealed last year that RAF Croughton, the US Air Force base and CIA relay station in Northamptonshire, was used to funnel back to Washington data from the network of diplomatic spy posts implicated in the monitoring of the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The same base has a secure data link to a US counter-terrorism facility in Djibouti used for drone strikes in Yemen while questions remain about the use of other US bases in Britain, in particular the National Security Agency eavesdropping facility at RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire.

MintPress News highlights an issue of excruciatingly critical import:

Rise Of The Police State: “Commando Cops” Proliferating in the US

  • More SWAT teams exist than ever and the line between police officer and soldier is becoming more obscured.

The combination of a post-9/11 America and a government bent on prosecuting a war on drugs has not only expanded law enforcement powers in recent years, it’s created a new breed of police officer — commando-cops.

Now the police officers and sheriff deputies are armed with a grade of equipment previously reserved for the military, such as automatic rifles, grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers and soon — drones, previously used in hardened war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. And police officers — often only required to have a high school diploma as a prerequisite for consideration into such a career field — feel emboldened as never before, adopting the mindsets of battlefront soldiers.

It is a dangerous precedent, as law enforcers target a civilian populace in a manner usually reserved for harsh environments. The new mindset is creating a new legal battlefront for American liberties that are being tested everyday across the U.S.

Another “security” abuse from ProPublica:

Guards May Be Responsible for Half of Prison Sexual Assaults

A new Justice Department study shows that allegations of sex abuse in the nation’s prisons and jails are increasing — with correctional officers responsible for half of it  — but prosecution is still extremely rare.

The report, released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, takes data collected by correctional administrators representing all of the nation’s federal and state prisons as well as many county jails. It shows that administrators logged more than 8,000 reports of abuse to their overseers each year between 2009 and 2011, up 11 percent from the department’s previous report, which covered 2007 and 2008.

It’s not clear whether the increase is the result of better reporting or represents an actual rise in the number of incidents.

On a more upbeat note, a question from the Daily Dot:

Is WikiLeaks turning the tide against the TPP?

A little over a year ago, it was easy, if you were one of the few people following the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to be pessimistic about the thing. A fortress of an international trade agreement, the TPP threatens to stifle freedom of expression online with its harsh copyright policies. It’s stands to be the U.S.’s biggest international financial agreement in two decades, and it’s been under fire since its inception as being too secretive, too big a decision to be made without public involvement.

At the same time, WikiLeaks was still at the peak of its notoriety. As the year started, the controversial whistleblower organization was still releasing emails from Stratfor, a private intelligence firm with military ties. It published millions of private emails from Syrian politicians and leaked U.S. State Department policies on handling detainees.

As 2013 came around, however, a curious thing happened: Both parties started clamming up. WikiLeaks’s blockbuster leaks slowed to a trickle, becoming a mere footnote in founder Julian Assange’s soap opera saga. Meanwhile, the TPP doubled down on its secrecy, banning public advocates and journalists alike from coming anywhere near its negotiators.

Yet the two entities were locked on a collision course, one that revitalized the former and might prove the beginning of the end for the latter.

On to Asia for our first headline from the ongoing zonal and militarization crises concerns an internal crisis. From Global Times:

12 terrorists killed in Xinjiang attack

Police in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Friday shot dead six attackers, while another six died in an explosion, local authorities revealed Saturday.

Two explosions took place in a beauty salon and a grocery market in Xinhe county, Aksu prefecture at around 6:40 pm Friday. A group of terrorist suspects threw explosives at police, who were making arrests, and police opened fire and gunned down six, the Xinjiang government announced on its official website ts.cn.

Six other suspects were killed later in an explosion they set off themselves in their vehicle when they were surrounded by police, according to local authorities.

On to our first zonal entry, via the Yomiuri Shimbun:

New land may expand EEZ

  • A new island created by a volcanic eruption in Tokyo’s Ogasawara Islands may expand Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The Japan Coast Guard has announced Thursday that the new land connected to Nishinoshima island has expanded to more than 300,000 square meters—about 30 times larger from when it was first discovered.

The JCG said that the new land, which grew to be seven times bigger than Tokyo Dome, may expand the nation’s EEZ, which gives countries that have signed a relevant treaty exclusive rights to fish and to develop natural resources within 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) of their coastlines.

South China Morning Post covers the political:

Japan row to loom over Sino-US talks, Beijing advisers say

  • Beijing will seek Washington’s help controlling Abe by making strained tensions with Tokyo top agenda item at upcoming summit, advisers say

Beijing will place its frayed ties with Tokyo front and centre at its next summit with US officials in an attempt to get Washington to rein in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leading Chinese policy advisers said.

Chinese strategists hope to exploit the United States’ frustration over Abe’s decision to visit the controversial Yasukuni war shrine last month, a move which drew a rare public rebuke of Tokyo from Washington.

“Japan is becoming a key factor influencing the Sino-US relationship,” said Jin Canrong , an international relations professor at Renmin University, who advises the government. “Even if Japan has stopped taking further actions that are provocative to its neighbours, it can still have an impact on Sino-US relationship because the US may exert pressure on China not to take steps that can raise tensions.”

More politics, this time cartographic, from NewsOnJapan:

U.S. supports using Sea of Japan name

The United States continues to refer the body of water between Japan and South Korea as the Sea of Japan, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday.

“The U.S. Government uses names decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a well-named board. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ standard name for that body of water is the Sea of Japan,” she told a news conference.

South Korea demands that the name be changed to the East Sea.

Kyodo News postures afloat:

Japan, India agree to conduct naval drill with U.S.

Japan and India agreed Saturday to carry out a trilateral naval drill with the United States, a move apparently aimed at curbing China’s growing territorial claims in the South and East China seas with coercive measures.

In a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a total of around 200 billion yen, or $2 billion, in loans to India to help finance a project to expand the subway system in the capital, according to Japanese officials.

More cartography from South China Morning Post:

Beijing to step up aerial surveys of disputed islands

  • Monitoring aims to stamp sovereignty over disputed territory in East and South China Seas

The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) will conduct regular aerial patrols over all islands claimed by China, intensifying air and sea surveillance in the East and South China seas.

The SOA recently issued instructions for patrols that will be supported by high-resolution aerial photography and video, and new aerial remote sensing technology. The most important islands will be surveyed at least twice a year, Xinhua reported.

According to the 11-point set of instructions, aircraft will also photograph uncontested islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, at least once a year. A minimum of three photos must be taken of each island on each trip, it added.

After the jump, historical crises re-energized, Korean “comfort women” antagonisms flare, more boundary issues, a major Japanese move into industrial militarism, hints of domestic peace in the Philippines, corporations hacked [including Microsoft and Coke], plus a curious crime in Sweden, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, laws, & pols


Today’s excursion into the world of the dark arts and saber-rattling begins with a offer he could refuse via The Verge:

US willing to hold talks with Edward Snowden, but only if he pleads guilty first

The US Justice Department says it will hold talks with Edward Snowden’s lawyers, but only under one condition: the NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower must return home and plead guilty to the charges against him.

Snowden is currently living under asylum in Russia to avoid charges of espionage after he famously leaked thousands of documents outlining the alarming surveillance practices of the US government. Some lawmakers and civil liberties groups have called for the Obama administration to grant Snowden clemency for his actions, which put a spotlight on controversial data collection and mass snooping tactics of the NSA.

President Obama himself recently said he doesn’t have a straight yes or no answer as it relates to clemency for Snowden. “This is an active case, where charges have been brought,” he said during a wide-ranging interview with The New Yorker.

Ars Technica has teh stubborns:

White House refuses to accept that NSA phone dragnet is illegal

  1. Attorney General: “15 judges… have said that the program itself is legal.”

In a new interview with MSNBC, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that he had not read the new surveillance report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB)—but nonetheless disagreed with its findings. That report, which was released on Thursday by the Congressionally approved board, argued that the NSA’s telephone metadata program was illegal.

“At least 15 judges on about 35 occasions have said that the program itself is legal,” Holder said. “I think that those other judges, those 15 judges, got it right.”

Holder and the White House have both expressed great skepticism at the PCLOB’s recommendations.

Group fights gov’t claim that “essentially all telephone records are relevant.”
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that while the Obama Administration took the PCLOB discussions and recommendations under advisement, it didn’t agree with the report’s conclusions.

The Hill slams from the right:

RNC condemns NSA surveillance

The Republican National Committee has formally renounced the “dragnet” surveillance program at the National Security Agency (NSA).

During its winter meeting in Washington, the committee on Friday overwhelmingly approved a measure calling for lawmakers to end the program and create a special committee to investigate domestic surveillance efforts.

The resolution, which declared that “unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights,” among other condemnations, passed the committee on a voice vote with near-unanimous support. Only a small minority of the 168 RNC members dissented.

And the Washington Post goes black op:

Covert action in Colombia

  • U.S. intelligence, GPS bomb kits help Latin American nation cripple rebel forces

The 50-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), once considered the best-funded insurgency in the world, is at its smallest and most vulnerable state in decades, due in part to a CIA covert action program that has helped Colombian forces kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, according to interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.

The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. It is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid called Plan Colombia, which began in 2000.

The previously undisclosed CIA program was authorized by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and has continued under President Obama, according to U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified and ongoing.

Trans-Atlantic blowback from Deutsche Welle:

EU justice ministers seek data security reform

The EU wants to improve its dated data protection policy. But in two years of debate, there’s been little progress and lots of blame. Proponents say EU citizens deserve the same privacy rights as Americans.

In the age of the Internet, 20 years is an eternity. But the existing EU Data Protection Directive, from 1995, is nearly that old. With the rise of online trading, Facebook and Google, the directive urgently needs an update – it is clear to the European Union that something needs to change. And the recent spying revelations of the US National Security Agency have underscored the urgency.

Nevertheless, EU member states and the European Parliament have been debating the finer points of reforming the outdated directive for two years now – without result. But at the recent informal meeting of EU justice ministers in Athens, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, representatives of the European Parliament, the current Greek and the upcoming Italian European presidencies have finally been able to make some headway. The new directive is expected to be unveiled by the end of the year.

Or maybe not, via EUobserver:

EU data bill delayed until after May elections

The EU’s revamped data protection law will not be adopted before the European Parliament elections with several member states seeking to weaken it.

The delays are caused, in part, by a handful of member states that want to weaken the regulation, which aims at harmonising data protection rules across the bloc.

Among the core group is the UK, along with Denmark, Hungary, and Slovenia. All four are pushing to turn the regulation into a directive. Unlike a regulation, a directive gives member states room to manoeuvre and interpret the EU law to their advantage.

Germany is also among the delaying camp of member states but for different reasons. The Germans support the regulation but do not want it applied to the public sector.

Worth a try, via MintPress News:

Civil Rights Groups Turn To Unorthodox Attempts To Stop The NSA At It’s Headquarters

The “anti-commandeering doctrine,” a 170-year-old legal principle, says the federal government cannot commandeer state agencies or resources to “administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

Legislation that has recently been introduced in California, Washington, Indiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee would, among other things, prohibit the states from “materially supporting” a federal agency “in collecting electronic data or metadata” of any person without a warrant. That material support includes providing water or power.

“We’re telling local officials not to cooperate with federal agencies who are searching and seizing electronic and other metadata without a warrant,” said Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu, who co-authored California’s Fourth Amendment Protection Act.

The Tenth Amendment Center joined other civil rights organizations in November to launch a campaign for state action. Communications director Michael Maharrey expects a bill will be introduced in Utah in the “next several weeks.”

The Washington Post hovers overhead:

Blimplike surveillance craft set to deploy over Maryland heighten privacy concerns

They will look like two giant white blimps floating high above I-95 in Maryland, perhaps en route to a football game somewhere along the bustling Eastern Seaboard. But their mission will have nothing to do with sports and everything to do with war.

The aerostats — that is the term for lighter-than-air craft that are tethered to the ground — are to be set aloft on Army-owned land about 45 miles northeast of Washington, near Aberdeen Proving Ground, for a three-year test slated to start in October. From a vantage of 10,000 feet, they will cast a vast radar net from Raleigh, N.C., to Boston and out to Lake Erie, with the goal of detecting cruise missiles or enemy aircraft so they could be intercepted before reaching the capital.

The third degree [or less] from TheLocal.no:

Tromsø mayor grilled by spy agency on China link

The mayor of Norwegian town Tromsø, in the strategic Arctic region, said on Friday he had been “invited” to meet Norway’s secret services following repeated encounters with the Chinese ambassador.

“The reason (for the meeting) may have been that they knew that I had close relations with the embassy of China,” mayor Jens Johan Hjort told AFP.

The mayor said he met the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) a day after being invited to a dinner and karaoke at the official residence in Oslo of Chinese ambassador Zhao Jun last December.

Hjort explained that he has received more than 80 ambassadors in Tromsø over the last two years, but that Zhao has been there more times than any other.

And that gives us the perfect bridge to the latest on the Asian zone and saber-rattling crises, plus blasts from the black ops past, executive action, corporate hacks, political ploys, and much more, , ,all after the jump: Continue reading

Quote of the day: Japan, history, & Obama


From Ralph Nader, writing at his blog about Japan’s new state secrets law and its implications:

Fortunately many of Japan’s most famous scientists, including Nobel laureates, Toshihide Maskawa and Hideki Shirakawa, have led the opposition against this new state secrecy legislation with 3,000 academics signing a public letter of protest. These scientists and academics declared the government’s secrecy law a threat to “the pacifist principles and fundamental human rights established by the constitution and should be rejected immediately.”

Following this statement, the Japan Scientists’ Association, Japan’s mass media companies, citizens associations, lawyers’ organizations and some regional legislatures opposed the legislation. Polls show the public also opposes this attack on democracy. The present ruling parties remain adamant. They cite as reasons for state secrecy “national security and fighting terrorism.” Sound familiar?

History is always present in the minds of many Japanese people. They know what happened in Japan when the unchallenged slide toward militarization of Japanese society led to the intimidating tyranny that drove the invasion of China, Korea and Southeast Asia before and after Pearl Harbor. By 1945, Japan was in ruins, ending with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The American people have to be alert to our government’s needless military and political provocations of China, which is worried about encirclement by surrounding U.S.-allied nations and U.S. air and sea power. Washington might better turn immediate attention to U.S. trade policies that have facilitated U.S. companies shipping American jobs and whole industries to China.

The Obama administration must become more alert to authoritarian trends in Japan that its policies have been either encouraging or knowingly ignoring – often behind the curtains of our own chronic secrecy.

The lessons of history beckon.

Read the rest.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, Lies, Pols, Threats


Huge collection today, with lots of major developments. [We’ve been slow in posting because we’re a bit under the weather.]

From BBC News:

US privacy watchdog advises NSA spying is illegal

The bulk collection of phone call data by US intelligence agencies is illegal and has had only “minimal” benefits in preventing terrorism, an independent US privacy watchdog has ruled.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board advised by a 3-2 majority that the programme should end.

In a major speech last week, President Barack Obama said he was ordering curbs on the use of such mass data. But he said the US must continue collecting data to prevent attacks.

The report from the PCLOB is the latest of several reviews of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance programme, the details of which caused widespread anger after they were leaked by Edward Snowden.

From the Los Angeles Times, the status quo:

NSA data gathering appears likely to continue for time being

But critics get a boost when a federal watchdog panel pronounces the National Security Agency’s practice an invasion of privacy that is of limited value.

The daily transfer of Americans’ telephone toll records to a government database is likely to continue at least for the next 18 months despite the president’s speech last Friday and a growing debate over the legality and effectiveness of the once-secret operation.

Critics got a boost Thursday when a federal privacy watchdog panel pronounced the NSA archiving of telephone metadata — numbers, times and lengths of calls, but not their content — an invasion of privacy that’s of “limited value” in counter-terrorism cases.

But the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board split, 3 to 2, on whether the program is illegal and should be shut down, a divide that reflects larger disagreements in Congress and the public. It helps explain why Obama gave mixed messages about what he called “the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months.”

An example from Wired:

Judge Enforces Spy Orders Despite Ruling Them Unconstitutional

A federal judge in California who ruled last year that the government’s use of ultra-secret National Security Letters is unconstitutional has defied her own ruling by enforcing other NSLs in the wake of that judgment, according to newly unsealed documents.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled last March that the letters — a kind of self-issued FBI subpoena that comes with a gag order on the recipient — are an unconstitutional impingement of free speech, and ordered the government to stop using them.

She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in other cases in which an NSL had already been issued. She stayed her order, however, for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which it did.

From The Hill, nostalgia:

Snowden expresses desire to ‘come home’ as US hints at talks

National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday said he would be willing to return to the United States if he were able to mount a legal defense as a whistleblower.

“Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself,” Snowden wrote during an online chat.

The remark came the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would be willing to “engage in conversations” with Snowden if he accepted responsibility for his actions.

More from The Guardian:

US hints at Edward Snowden plea bargain to allow return from Russia

  • Attorney general prepared to ‘engage in conversation’ with NSA whistleblower but says full clemency is ‘going too far’

The attorney general, Eric Holder, has indicated that the US could allow the national security whistleblower Edward Snowden to return from Russia under negotiated terms, saying he was prepared to “engage in conversation” with him.

Holder said in an MSNBC interview that full clemency would be “going too far”, but his comments suggest that US authorities are prepared to discuss a possible plea bargain with Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia.

Xinhua qualifies:

Snowden sees “no chance” to get fair trial in U.S.

Edward Snowden, a former U.S. defense contractor who revealed the U.S. secret surveillance programs, wrote on Thursday in an online chat that it is “not possible” for him to return to the United States under current whistleblower protection laws and he sees “no chance” to have a fair trial in his home country.

“Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which, through a failure in law, did not cover national security contractors like myself,” Snowden said, according to answers posted on the website of advocacy group “Free Snowden”.

“This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury,” Snowden answered.

Perspective from the Register:

Snowden speaks: NSA spies create ‘databases of ruin’ on innocent folks

  • ‘Not all spying is bad’ but bulk collection has to go, says whistleblower in web chat

Ex-NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden used his first public Q&A to call for the US to lead a global initiative to ban mass surveillance of populations. He also wants governments to ensure that intelligence agencies can protect national security while not invading everyday privacy.

“Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day,” he said.

“This is done not because it’s necessary – after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers – but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.”

More from USA TODAY:

Snowden calls for global limits on spying

  • Ex-NSA contractor in Russia holds his first online chat since the surveillance story broke in June.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, entertaining questions in an online chat Thursday from Moscow, called for global limits on surveillance but said, “Not all spying is bad.”

He also said he never stole colleagues’ logons or duped them to gain access to secret files detailing mass-surveillance programs.

“I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers,” he wrote during the live chat at the Free Snowden website, disputing a Reuters report in November as “simply wrong.”

Musings from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Days later, Obama’s spy speech has people scratching their heads

President Barack Obama’s response to the international uproar over the nation’s surveillance programs is leaving Americans with more questions than answers.

Where will millions of phone records be stored? What protections will foreigners have? Which secret documents will be declassified?

In what was designed to be his defining speech on the issue last Friday, Obama announced few specifics.

“For every answer he gave, there are several new questions about how he plans to implement these changes,” said Elizabeth Goitein, a co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. “Ultimately, the full effect of these reforms remains to be seen.”

A corporate plea from CNNMoney:

Marissa Mayer calls for more NSA transparency

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer is calling on the United States to be more transparent about its data collection practices, as other top tech CEOs urge the international community to establish privacy guidelines.

Mayer said that revelations about government snooping have hurt her company, and that Yahoo now wants “to be able to rebuild trust with our users.”

The Yahoo CEO was speaking as part of a technology panel with other tech executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

NSA fan support from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Australian FM lashes Snowden ‘treachery’ on US visit

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop lashed out on Wednesday at Edward Snowden, accusing the US intelligence leaker of “unprecedented treachery” after he unveiled Canberra’s efforts to spy on Indonesia.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop lashed out on Wednesday at Edward Snowden, accusing the US intelligence leaker of “unprecedented treachery” after he unveiled Canberra’s efforts to spy on Indonesia.

Bishop praised cooperation with Washington and reserved harsh words for Snowden, whose revelations led Indonesia to halt work with Australia to stem people smuggling, a key priority for new conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Shortly before a meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, Bishop said Snowden “continues to shamefully betray his nation while skulking in Russia. “This represents unprecedented treachery; he is no hero,” she added, in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Delivery fail from the Daily Dot:

Washington state considers bill to cut off its NSA facility

In what would likely be the boldest step a state has yet taken against the National Security Agency for its recently-revealed spying, the state of Washington is considering cutting off supplies.

That means no water and no electricity to any NSA facility in the state that tracks Americans’ phone records, in bulk, without a warrant.

Several other states, including California, Indiana, and Oklahoma, have proposed similar legislation. But Washington’s unique among them in that it actually contains an NSA facility to ban: the Yakima Training Center, an Army training facility known to house NSA operations. The NSA declined to comment on current operations in Yakima, though it did announce in 2013 that it would be closing its facility there at an unspecified date.

The Verge offshores:

Microsoft offers overseas data storage in response to NSA concerns

Today, Microsoft announced an unpredecented response to concerns of NSA data access, offering customers in foreign countries the option of having their data stored outside US borders. According to a Financial Times report, the company decided to launch the program after discovering the NSA was using their networks to surveil citizens of Brazil and the European Union. So far, Microsoft is the only major company offering explicitly non-US data storage, despite evidence that the agency has broken into the private networks of both Google and Yahoo.

While there’s no guarantee the NSA won’t be able to reach servers outside US borders, the move would offer an additional layer of protection, as local law enforcement is likely to respond more aggressively to agents of a foreign country. It also continues recent moves to shift web traffic away from the US in response to the NSA scandal, in Brazil and elsewhere. If privacy-conscious users want to shift away from the American parts of web, this latest offer ensures they’ll be able to do so without shifting away from American companies like Microsoft.

The Guardian probes:

Independent commission to investigate future of internet after NSA revelations

  • Two-year inquiry headed by Swedish foreign minister, set up by Chatham House and CIGI thinktanks, is announced at Davos

A major independent commission headed by the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, was launched on Wednesday to investigate the future of the internet in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

The two-year inquiry, announced at the World Economic Forum at Davos, will be wide-ranging but focus primarily on state censorship of the internet as well as the issues of privacy and surveillance raised by the Snowden leaks about America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ spy agencies.

The investigation, which will be conducted by a 25-member panel of politicians, academics, former intelligence officials and others from around the world, is an acknowledgement of the concerns about freedom raised by the debate.

North of the border snoopery from the Globe and Mail:

Telecom firms being asked what data they are giving to police, intelligence agencies

Prominent privacy and digital-security researchers are mounting a campaign to learn more about the customer information that Canadian telecommunications companies are handing over to police and intelligence agencies.

The researchers – led by Chris Parsons, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab – have written an open letter to Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw and a dozen other companies, pushing for details about the kinds of requests that government officials are making – and how much the telcos are obliging them.

“Canadians have had only vague understandings of how, why, and how often Canadian telecommunications providers have disclosed information to government agencies,” Mr. Parsons wrote in an explanatory article on the Citizen Lab website.

“Given the importance of such systems to Canadians’ lives, and the government’s repeated allegations that more access is needed to ensure the safety of Canadians, more data is needed for scholars, civil rights organizations, and the public.”

And more blowback across the pond, from The Guardian:

Justify GCHQ mass surveillance, European court tells ministers

  • Judges order government to provide submission about whether spying activities violated European convention on human rights

The case was brought in the wake of the Guardian’s revelations about the data-trawling techniques at GCHQ. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Ministers have been ordered to justify GCHQ’s mass surveillance programmes by judges at the European court of human rights who have fast-tracked a case brought by privacy and human rights campaigners.

The court in Strasbourg has told the government to provide submissions by the beginning of May about whether GCHQ’s spying activities could be a violation of the right to privacy under article 8 of the European convention. Marking the case a priority, campaigners are hopeful the court will bring a ruling before the end of the year.

An incomplete from the Washington Post:

Justice Department says USIS submitted 665,000 incomplete background checks

Lawmakers said Thursday that new details emerging from the Justice Department’s civil case against a leading company that conducts security background checks for the federal government may speed legislation designed to clean up the once-burgeoning contracting business.

This week, the Justice Department filed a new complaint in a whistleblowers’ lawsuit it joined in October against USIS, a company that conducts background checks for nearly half of potential U.S. government hires.

The filing accuses the Falls Church, Va., firm of taking shortcuts in about 40 percent of the cases it handled — at least 665,000 in total — and, in the process, qualifying for nearly $12 million in performance bonuses from the federal government. Yet USIS officials told the government that all the necessary reviews had been done.

Consequences from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Feds seeks billions from Snowden security background check firm

The federal government is seeking billions of dollars in penalties and damages from the company that did the background security check on NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The Justice Department says in a new court filing that U.S. Investigations Services Inc., the largest of the several firms that the government contracts with to investigate current and prospective federal employees, lied about 665,000 checks it conducted between 2008 and 2012.

USIS devised an elaborate scheme in which it told the government it had completed probes of people whose backgrounds it had not, in fact, thoroughly vetted, according to a 25-page document filed Wednesday in an Alabama court as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit against the Falls Church, Va.-based firm.

And the business beat goes on, via the Christian Science Monitor:

Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’

  • Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?

More corporate blowback from The Guardian:

Mobile phone networks challenge government over text message trawling

  • EE, O2, Vodafone and Three demand answers on how spies can allegedly get around UK laws using NSA’s Dishfire program

All four British mobile phone networks are to ask the government to explain how spy agencies have been able to tap into a secret US database to trawl through the text messages of UK citizens without their knowledge.

In the first sign of a push back by the British telecoms industry against the mass surveillance of their customers, as exposed by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, BT’s chief executive also waded into the debate, describing the laws on data collection as not fit for purpose.

Three, which has nearly 8 million customers, on Wednesday joined Vodafone, O2 and EE in demanding answers from the government on how spies are apparently able to get around UK laws by using the Dishfire database operated by the NSA, which has collected almost 200m text messages a day from across the globe.

From Britain’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills via the London Telegraph, the ominous nanny state:

Army of door-knocking neighbours should be paid to keep ‘bad parents’ in line, says Ofsted chief

  • ‘Good citizens’ should be given financial incentives to knock on their neighbours’ doors in the morning to make sure they are getting their children to school, says Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw

Teachers and social workers have a responsibility to tell some people they are “bad parents”, the chief inspector of schools and social care has insisted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw called for an army of “good citizens” to be given financial incentives to wake problem families up in the morning and make sure the children are fed and sent to school.

RT clears the streets:

UK police apply pressure on government for water cannons

Police chief constables in the UK are pressing the home secretary, Theresa May, to sanction the controversial deployment of water cannons across England and Wales in anticipation of ongoing protests against austerity in the country.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has stated that it will be necessary to use the harsh measures in order to control demonstrations which could be sparked by “ongoing and potential future austerity measures.”

In a document prepared on January 8 and newly released, when the plans first came to light, the ACPO recognized that “high-profile public disorder in recent years has led to a revision of the national public order framework.”

They added that “as part of this review, the need for water cannon to be available to support public order and public safety operations in England and Wales has been revisited.”

Francocybernoia from TheLocal.fr:

France to shell out €1.5b on cyber defences

France is to take action after being targeted by hundreds of cyber attacks against its Defense Ministry last year. This week a government minister revealed Paris will soon launch a €1.5 billion project to bolster its defences against a “cyber war”.

France will soon launch a €1.5-billion ($2 billion) plan to defend itself against “cyber war” as a strategic priority, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

The project, to be launched “in a few weeks”, will be written into the French military budget over the next five years, Le Drian told a cyber-security forum in the northern city of Lille.

That old-fashioned espionage from BBC News:

Iran-American Mozaffar Khazaee indicted for F-35 document theft

An Iranian-American engineer accused of attempting to ship stolen documentation on a high-tech military plane to Iran has been indicted, US authorities say.

A grand jury in the US state of Connecticut charged Mozaffar Khazaee, 59, with two counts of transporting stolen goods. He was arrested on 9 January for trying to smuggle thousands of pages of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter documents.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

After the jump, the lastest Asian crises, zonal and military, plus escalating corporate hacks, eavesdropping browsers, money launderers, and singular failures. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, Zones, Pols, Hacks


We begin today’s tales of [in]security with a particularly ominous headline from io9:

So now Homeland Security can detain suspected movie pirates?

This story is all kinds of weird. A guy wearing Google Glass in an Ohio movie theater was detained for hours by agents from . . . the Department of Homeland Security. What? Was this guy a terrorist with awful taste in consumer electronics? Nope. He was suspected of piracy.

OK, OK I get that wearing Google Glass is horribly obnoxious and probably not a good idea in a movie theater, where patrons are often told to put away their smart phones. But seriously? Unleashing DHS on somebody who wore Glass to a Jack Ryan movie? This is like some kind of parody of the surveillance state, where the government is the pawn of Hollywood, and citizens who post spoilers online are put on watch lists.

The Guardian keeps the lid on:

US withholding Fisa court orders on NSA bulk collection of Americans’ data

  • Justice Department refuses to turn over ‘certain other’ documents in ACLU lawsuit meant to shed light on surveillance practices

The Justice Department is withholding documents related to the bulk collection of Americans’ data from a transparency lawsuit launched by the American Civil Liberties Union.

US attorney Preet Bharara of the southern district of New York informed the ACLU in a Friday letter that the government would not turn over “certain other” records from a secret surveillance court, which are being “withheld in full” from a Freedom of Information Act suit the civil liberties group filed to shed light on bulk surveillance activities performed under the Patriot Act.

New Europe covers continental anxiety:

Parliament’s NSA scandal rapporteur says more effort needed to restore

MEPs called on US authorities to put an end to current discrimination whereby European citizens have lower levels of privacy rights than US citizens, including less privacy protection in US courts, and urged for the disclosure of more information on the proposed changes to the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance practices.

US President Barack Obama has announced potential reforms to the US legal framework, following the continuing disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In particular, the reforms foresee limiting the NSA programme that collects domestic phone records and halting eavesdropping on foreign leaders and governments that are friends or allies of the US. However, the European Parliament said more concrete actions are needed in order to restore the confidence of EU citizens.

Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), rapporteur for the European Parliament inquiry into the mass surveillance of EU citizens, said that Obama’s speech was ‘a substantial step forward in addressing the serious concerns from EU Member States in relation to NSA activities on mass surveillance and spying.’ However, he pointed out that there is a need for additional privacy protection and the US needs more effort to restore confidence.

Spiegel goes all law and order:

Probing America: Top German Prosecutor Considers NSA Investigation

The official line at the Public Prosecutor’s Office is that it remains unclear what will become of the allegations against the NSA. The office is treating the surveillance as two separate instances. One is the allegation that the NSA spied on the data of Germans millions of times. The other is the allegation that it eavesdropped on the chancellor’s mobile phone. Thus far, the Prosecutor’s Office has told parliament that there isn’t yet enough evidence to pursue a formal investigation.

It’s a position that Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of parliament with the Green Party who gained global headlines by visiting Edward Snowden in Moscow in late 2012, considers absurd. “They’re just looking for reasons to shirk responsibility because the issue is too controversial for them,” he says. Gregor Gysi, the head of the parliamentary group of the far-left Left Party, rails against what he describes as government “yes-men” when it comes to America. “The fact that the German government and the Federal Prosecutor isn’t acting shows that their fear of the US government is greater than their respect for our legal system.”

Techdirt goes ironic:

Dianne Feinstein: NSA Would Never Abuse Its Powers Because It’s ‘Professional’

  • from the your-logical-fallacy-is…66t4r dept

Senator Dianne Feinstein, as we’ve noted, seems to have this weird blindness to even the very idea that the NSA might abuse its powers, despite a long history of it doing exactly that. The history of the US intelligence community is littered like a junk yard with examples of massive abuses of power by intelligence folks. And yet, Feinstein seems shocked at the idea that anyone questions the NSA’s ability to abuse the system. Why? Because the NSA is “professional.” Appearing on Meet the Press this weekend, Feinstein just kept repeating how “professional” the NSA is as if that was some sort of talisman that wards off any potential of abuse.

And the McClatchy Washington Bureau divides:

Lawmakers divided over what Obama’s NSA speech means for agency

Lawmakers on Sunday’s political talk shows continued to be divided over President Barack Obama’s proposed changes to the National Security Agency’s massive data dragnets, suggesting the debate over the programs is far from over.

Heavy-hitters from both political parties and both sides of the debate clashed over what the proposed changes could mean for the nation’s intelligence gathering, and discordant statements showed that even the agency’s chief congressional overseers don’t agree on what Friday’s speech actually meant.

Despite hope from NSA defenders that the President’s address would head off some of the more stringent legislative proposals on the Hill, lawmakers were clear that the speech didn’t placate congressional critics.

From Homeland Security News Wire, Orwellian as well:

Judge denies defense request to see whether NSA surveillance led to terrorism charges

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman on Friday ruled that lawyers for Adel Daoud, a 20-year old resident of Hillside, a suburb west of Chicago, who was charged with plotting to set off a powerful bomb outside a crowded Chicago bar, will not be allowed to examine whether the investigators who initiated the sting operation which led to Doud’s arrest relied on information gleaned from NSA surveillance programs.

Attorneys for Daoud had asked Judge Coleman to instruct prosecutors to disclose “any and all” surveillance information used in Daoud’s case, including information disclosed to a U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.

In a brief ruling posted late Friday, Coleman denied the motion, writing that the defense had “failed to provide any basis for issuing such an order.” Prosecutors would not confirm whether the FBI had initiated its operation against Doud as a result of a tip from the NSA, but they did say that even if such surveillance did exist, they have no plans of using it at trial and the defense was not entitled to it.

EUobserver measures red ink:

Snowden scandal to cost US cloud companies billions

The US cloud industry faces up to €25.8 billion in lost revenues following revelations about US-led snooping on EU citizens.

“The surveillance revelations will cost the US cloud computing industry USD 22 to 35 billion in lost revenues over the next three year,” said EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Sunday (19 January) at the Digital Life Design Conference in Munich.

Reding drew her estimates from a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank based in Washington.

The Guardian pleads ignorance:

Google’s Eric Schmidt denies knowledge of NSA data tapping of firm

  • Executive chairman says search company has ‘complained at great length’ to the US government over intrusion

Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has insisted he had no knowledge of the US National Security Agency’s tapping of the company’s data, despite having a sufficiently high security clearance to have been told.

He said that he and other members of the search company were outraged by the tapping carried out by the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ – first revealed in the Guardian in June – and that they had “complained at great length” to the US government over the intrusion. Google had since begun encrypting internal traffic to prevent further spying, he said.

Speaking in a private session at the Guardian, Schmidt, 58, said: “I have the necessary clearances to have been told, as do other executives in the company, but none of us were briefed.

Setting the pace with RT:

NSA sets global trend for invasive state snooping – HRW

The United States’ dragnet surveillance programs have set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other states to bolster their own snooping capabilities and engage in censorship under the guise of security, Human Rights Watch warned in its annual report.

“The importance of privacy, a right we often take for granted, was thrown into sharp relief in 2013 by the steady stream of revelations from United States government files released by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden,” the New York-based group wrote in its 24th annual review of human rights practices around the globe.

“These revelations, supported by highly classified documents, showed the US, the UK, and other governments engaged in global indiscriminate data interception, largely unchecked by any meaningful legal constraint or oversight, without regard for the rights of millions of people who were not suspected of wrongdoing,” the report said.

Out for blood, via Techdirt:

Rep. Mike Rogers Keeps Insisting Snowden Is A Russian Spy, Even As NSA/FBI Officials Say No Such Evidence

  • from the do-you-trust-mike-rogers? dept

Rep. Mike Rogers sure loves the NSA and really, really hates Ed Snowden. It’s at the point where Rogers appears to not care at all about the truth, repeating multiple blatant falsehoods in TV interviews when it comes to Snowden. This past weekend, he went on TV to repeat an old favorite, claiming (without any proof, but just blind speculation) that he thinks that Snowden was a Russian spy all along. On Meet the Press, David Gregory asked Rogers about Snowden’s comments in his interview with Bart Gellman, in which Snowden pointed to Rogers’ (and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s) failure to uphold their role as overseers of the NSA as for why he had to leak the documents he gave to reporters. Rogers disagrees and hints that Snowden “had some help.”

The New Yorker rebuts:

Snowden Calls Russian-Spy Story “Absurd”

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower, strongly denies allegations made by members of Congress that he was acting as a spy, perhaps for a foreign power, when he took hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents. Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”

On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Snowden as a “thief, who we believe had some help.” The show’s host, David Gregory, interjected, “You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?” Rogers replied that he believed it was neither “coincidence” nor “a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.”

Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright, stressing that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” He added, “It won’t stick…. Because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”

RT seeks protection:

Snowden to ask Russian police for protection after US threats – lawyer

NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, will ask Russian law enforcers to protect him, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has said. The former NSA contractor is concerned about his safety after seeing death threats coming from the US.

Snowden, who is currently living in Moscow under Russia’s temporary asylum, has been following the threats against him in various American media.

“We are concerned with the situation around Edward. We see the statements made by some US officials containing potential and implicit threats and openly calling for causing him bodily harm,” Kucherena said.

From the Associated Press, another reason why Snowden has grounds for his fears:

Snowden trial could be awkward for US

Putting former NSA contractor Edward Snowden on trial for leaking U.S. surveillance information could be an awkward public spectacle for the Obama administration.

More classified material could be at risk and jurors might see him as a whistle-blower exposing government overreach.

Snowden surely would try to turn the tables on the government, arguing that its right to keep information secret does not outweigh his constitutional right to speak out.

“He would no doubt bring First Amendment defenses to what he did, emphasizing the public interest in his disclosures and the democratic values that he served,” said David Pozen, a Columbia Law School professor and a former legal adviser at the State Department. “There’s been no case quite like it.”

The Associated Press cocks a snook:

NSA leaker Snowden nominated for university post

The University of Glasgow says Edward Snowden is among those running for the position of rector, the students’ representative to university management.

The former National Security Agency contractor leaked documents disclosing details of U.S. spies’ surveillance of the Internet and telephone communications. Variously hailed as a hero and condemned as a traitor, he has been granted asylum in Russia.

Glasgow students say they contacted Snowden through his lawyers and he agreed to run. Ph.D. student Chris Cassells said they wanted to support Snowden and send a message opposing “the intrusive practices of state security.”

Orwellian texting from GlobalPost:

Big Brother strikes again: Ukraine protesters get creepy text message

  • In another sign that the machines are taking over, Ukrainians near the site of protester clashes with police received a creepy text message from the government.

Paging George Orwell.

In a scene reminiscent of the dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Ukrainians standing near the site of protester clashes with police in Kyiv received a creepy text message from the government early Tuesday.

“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance,” it read.

The Guardian redefines:

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist

  • From North America to Europe, the ‘national security’ apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism

Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energy companies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists.
Activists tarred with the same brush

In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada’s domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on ‘national security’ grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project’s corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.

And a companion headline from The Guardian:

Police accused of brutality as fracking protester is left ‘battered and bruised’

  • Sean O’Donnell claims he sustained multiple injuries after being shoved to the ground by police at Barton Moss protest camp

A protester at an anti-fracking demonstration in Greater Manchester claims he was left “battered and bruised” after being assaulted by police officers.

Sean O’Donnell, who is known as Kris, shot a video of himself being apparently shoved to the ground by police at the Barton Moss protest camp in Irlam, Salford.

Moscow anxieties from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Security experts: Olympics-related terrorist threat ‘is very real’

Analysts who are following security relations with Russia ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi said Tuesday that terrorism has potential to interrupt the games, even if an attack never happens at the games themselves.

“The terrorist threat is very real,” said Andrew C. Kuchins, director and senior fellow for the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Sochi is the holy grail, I would think, for terrorists.”

The Guardian takes precautions:

Privacy tools used by 28% of the online world, research finds

  • Concern about privacy, and frustration over censorship and content blocking is driving millions to use anonymity tools

The gathering crisis of trust around consumer web services and the fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations is fuelling a significant uptake in anonymity tools, new research shows, as internet users battle censorship and assert their right to privacy online.

Globally, 56% of those surveyed by GlobalWebIndex reported that they felt the internet is eroding their personal privacy, with an estimated 415 million people or 28% of the online population using tools to disguise their identity or location.

After the jump, the latest in Asian zonal crises, militarization, and political bluster, plus black ops, massive hacks, black op blowback, NATO boondoglery, and censorship. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: National [in]security, etc.


We’ll begin today’s tour of things spoooky and militaristic with “Spy Games,” a cartoon from Liu Rui from China’s Global Times:

BLOG Spy games

Our headlines begin with an Obaman endorsement from a man who favors executive action for Edward Snowden. From The Hill:

Obama embracing surveillance structure of George W. Bush, Hayden says

Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden said Sunday that President Obama’s speech on the agency’s controversial intelligence-gathering programs revealed that he had “embraced” the basic surveillance structure favored by former President George W. Bush.

“The president has embraced it. He has got a political problem — and I don’t mean to trivialize it, because in a democracy, political problems are very serious. He needs consent of the governed,” Hayden said during an interview with Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.”

“He is willing to shave points off of flexibility, add administrative burdens, add oversight, but the objective, Chris, is to keep on doing what he’s doing.”

From BBC News, one from across the pond:

Barack Obama: Spying must not hurt US-German ties

President Barack Obama has said he will not let controversial surveillance by US intelligence services undermine Washington’s ties with Germany.

Speaking to Germany’s ZDF TV, he indicated that US bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been a mistake and would not happen again.

After the row broke out last year, Mrs Merkel accused the US of an unacceptable breach of trust.

But he draws a thumbs down from The Hill:

Rogers: Obama adding ‘a new level of uncertainty’ to intelligence gathering

A top House Republican said Sunday that President Obama’s proposal to examine the nation’s intelligence gathering techniques is already creating uncertainty that could hamper efforts to root our terror threats.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (Mich.) expressed concern that the president’s plan to weigh privacy issues and the government’s role in collecting telephone metadata has “interjected a level of uncertainty and is having a whole bunch of us scratch our heads.”

And California’s plutocratic senator, the one whose hubby is selling of the U.S. Post Office for his private gain, adds a sour note via the Associated Press:

Lawmakers say Obama surveillance idea won’t work

A chief element of President Barack Obama’s attempt to overhaul U.S. surveillance will not work, leaders of Congress’ intelligence committees said Sunday, pushing back against the idea that the government should cede control of how Americans’ phone records are stored.

Obama, under pressure to calm the controversy over government spying, said Friday he wants bulk phone data stored outside the government to reduce the risk that the records will be abused. The president said he will require a special judge’s advance approval before intelligence agencies can examine someone’s data and will force analysts to keep their searches closer to suspected terrorists or organizations.

“And I think that’s a very difficult thing,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday. “Because the whole purpose of this program is to provide instantaneous information to be able to disrupt any plot that may be taking place.”

The Guardian sharpens the executioner’s ax needle:

Intelligence chair: NSA leaker Edward Snowden may have had Russian help

  • Rogers: Snowden ‘a thief whom we believe had some help’
  • Feinstein adds voice to criticism of Obama NSA speech

Russia may have helped the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to reveal details of surveillance programmes and escape US authorities last year, the chairman of the House intelligence committee claimed on Sunday.

Mike Rogers, a Republican representative from Michigan, interviewed by NBC’s Meet the Press, said Snowden was “a thief whom we believe had some help”, and added that there was an “ongoing” investigation into whether Russia had aided Snowden.

“I believe there’s questions to be answered there,” Rogers said. “I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the [Russian intelligence service] FSB.”

While others see it differently, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Fans say Snowden is vindicated, deserves amnesty for leaks

Supporters of Edward Snowden complained of a glaring omission in the White House’s pledge Friday to rein in government surveillance activities: amnesty for the fugitive leaker who’s now holed up in Russia after revealing the secrets that led to this shakeup.

Snowden supporters were thrilled that the man they view as a whistleblower essentially forced President Barack Obama to acknowledge – and pledge to correct – the excesses of a vast U.S. spying program. However, they added, Obama should have taken the additional step of pardoning Snowden, who faces three felony charges related to his disclosure of classified information he’d accessed as a contractor working with the National Security Agency.

With far too many political and legal barriers to any clemency deal, analysts say, the best the pro-Snowden camp can hope for is that the president’s assertion that “this debate will make us stronger” could translate into a shift in Americans’ perception.

While The Guardian calls for action elsewhere:

Spying revelations: Tory MP Dominic Raab attacks UK’s ‘comatose’ reaction

  • British government ‘must follow Barack Obama’s lead and introduce sweeping reforms to government spy agencies’

The British government must follow Barack Obama’s lead and introduce sweeping reforms to government spy agencies after revelations of mass surveillance by whistleblower Edward Snowden, an influential Conservative backbench MP said on Sunday.

Dominic Raab, who with Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert and Labour’s Tom Watson secured a discussion on oversight of intelligence and security services in October, said Britain’s response so far to the revelations that the US and UK spy agencies were monitoring vast amounts of personal data was “comatose”.

And on to the latest round of Asian crises, first with Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Afghanistan hints at Pakistani spy link to Kabul attack

Afghanistan’s National Security Council, which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, on Sunday accused “foreign intelligence services” of being behind the deadly attack on a Kabul restaurant, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s National Security Council, which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, on Sunday accused “foreign intelligence services” of being behind the deadly attack on a Kabul restaurant, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

Pakistan was the main supporter of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and Afghan officials have long voiced suspicions about connections between the hardline movement and Islamabad’s powerful intelligence services.

The Japan Times strategizes:

Shift to isle defense requires upgrade of all three branches

The Cold War ended about 20 years ago and Japan is finally trying to execute a drastic transformation of the Ground Self-Defense Force by shifting its focus from the north to the southwest — effectively relaxing its guard against Russia and bolstering it against China.

Facing China’s growing military power, the new 10-year national defense guidelines the Cabinet endorsed in December spell out plans to bolster the defense of islands to the southwest, most notably Okinawa and the disputed Senkaku chain in the East China Sea.

An olive branch offering from Kyodo News:

China’s top leaders agreed to avoid military clash with Japan

China’s top leaders have agreed to prevent a military clash with Japan and any interference of the United States in respect to a bitter dispute between the two Asian countries over a group of small islands in the East China Sea, sources close to them said Saturday.

This basic principle, endorsed late last year by the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of China’s power structure, is maintained even after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine on Dec. 26 that has further heightened tensions between Beijing and Tokyo, according to the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The seven-member standing committee, led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, have arrived at a consensus that the country has “no intention of fighting with Japan and Japan does not have the courage to fight with China,” after convening a rare two-day meeting in late October in Beijing with Chinese ambassadors from about 30 neighboring countries, one of the sources said.

Jiji Press upsets a Japanese-American apple cart:

LDP Shocked by Defeat in Nago Mayoral Election

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is shocked by the defeat of an LDP-backed candidate in Sunday’s mayoral election in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

Takeo Kawamura, director-general of its Election Strategy Committee, told reporters that the LDP has to respect voters’ judgment and make further efforts to promote economic development in Okinawa and reduce its burden to host U.S. bases.

A senior LDP official has regarded the election as one it cannot lose for the government to smoothly implement its plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station within the southernmost Japan prefecture from Ginowan to Nago.

More from the Japan Times:

Nago mayor wins re-election in blow to Abe, U.S.

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine won re-election late Sunday, dealing a setback to the central government’s plans to build a replacement air base for the U.S. Marines in the Henoko district just weeks after Okinawa’s governor approved the deal.

“This election was easy to understand. It was about one issue, the Henoko issue, and whether you were for or against the new base,” Inamine told supporters. “The people have spoken and they have said no.”

Inamine, 68, defeated former Okinawa Assemblyman Bunshin Suematsu, 65, by a vote of 19,839 to 15,684. Turnout was high at 76.71 percent.

Jiji Press establishes communications protocols:

Japan, U.S. NSCs to Keep in Close Touch

Shotaro Yachi, chief of the secretariat of Japan’s National Security Council, and U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice agreed Friday that the Japanese and U.S. NSCs will keep close contact with each other.

At their meeting in Washington, Yachi told Rice that the Japanese NSC, launched last month, assumes the role of a “control tower” for Japan’s foreign affairs and national defense.

Then he expressed hope for having direct communication with Rice from now on, and in reply she called for promoting staff-level collaboration as well.

The Yomiuri Shimbun has balls in the air:

Secrets body seen balancing security, rights

The advisory council on safeguarding information, which held its first meeting Friday, is expected to play roles for maintaining a balance between securing secrets to gain trust from other countries and information disclosure to meet the Japanese people’s rights to know.

The council, which was established to monitor operations of the government’s system to keep specially designated state secrets from outsiders’ point of view, has begun works to make integrated operational rules that will be applied to the whole of the government.

The council will continue debating the issue until the law on protecting specially designated state secrets is enacted at the end of this year.

China Daily moves to mollify:

White House fine-tunes Asia pivot to ‘quench fire’

Washington is dispatching two diplomats to East Asia to fine-tune the US pivot to Asia-Pacific by “quenching the fire” between China and Japan, after recent provocative moves by Tokyo that have further threatened regional stability, observers said.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns left Washington on Sunday for South Korea, China and Japan, while Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, begins his East Asian trip on Monday.

Burns and Russel will meet in Beijing on Wednesday for bilateral talks with government officials. Russel will separately lead the Asia-Pacific Consultations and hold other bilateral meetings with his Chinese counterparts during his stay, according to the US State Department.

While JapanToday dukes it out:

China, Japan slug it out in the world’s press

China and Japan are engaged in a war of words that is lighting up editorial pages around the world as Beijing takes aim at a recent visit by Japan’s leader to a controversial war shrine and Tokyo answers back.

Japan’s ambassador to the U.S. fired the latest salvo on Jan 17, accusing China of a global propaganda campaign that portrays Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as glorifying Japan’s militaristic past.

“It is not Japan that most of Asia and the international community worry about; it is China,” Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae wrote in The Washington Post.

The dueling opinion pieces, appearing in a growing number of newspapers around the world, come as both nations have been criticized for recent actions: China’s declaration of an air defense zone over a disputed area of the East China Sea and the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni, where convicted World War II war criminals are among the many enshrined.

South China Morning Post politicks:

Shinzo Abe seeks ‘frank discussion’ with China and South Korea

  • Japanese prime minister’s call follows his controversial visit to shrine to war dead, but analysts say Beijing is unlikely to take up offer

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for “frank” summit talks with China and South Korea after his visit last month to a shrine that honours war criminals was heavily criticised by both neighbours.

China and South Korea have accused Abe of showing a lack of remorse for Japan’s second world war atrocities and the three nations are also embroiled in maritime territorial disputes.

“We should hold a summit meeting and have a frank discussion,” Abe told Japanese broadcaster NHK yesterday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun agitates:

China organizes anti-Japan tour for foreign journalists

The Chinese government has conducted a two-day “anti-Japanese militarism” tour for foreign journalists.

The tour, arranged by the Foreign Ministry, brought nearly 40 foreign journalists based in Beijing and other Chinese cities to five sites in the northeastern province of Liaoning. The area is where the Manchukuo puppet state was established by Japan in 1932 and existed until the end of World War II.

The five destinations included the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the “9.18″ Historical Museum, which presents information on the history of Japanese occupation of the northeastern region that began with explosion at a railway section in Liutiaohu near Shenyang by troops of the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army on Sept. 18, 1931.

Want China Times adds muscle:

Long-range stealth bomber under development in China

The First Aircraft Institute of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China has been designing the first generation long-range stealth bomber for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force since 2008, a report from the state-run China Aviation News stated.

Senior Colonel Wu Guohui from the National Defense University in Beijing told the China Aviation News that the stealth bomber has two advantages on ballistic missiles. The first one is that ballistic missiles can only be fired once, while a stealth bomber can be launched multiple times. The second is that ballistic missiles cannot return to base, as the stealth bomber can, if a mission is aborted.

SINA English adds more muscle:

China’s new aircraft carrier ‘under construction’

The second of China’s four reportedly planned aircraft carriers is said to be under construction in a port city in Northeast China, raising the public’s enthusiasm.

Wang Min, the Party chief of Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, Saturday told a panel at the annual session of provincial legislature that the second carrier is being built at a shipyard in the port city of Dalian. According to the official, construction is expected to be completed in six years, and China will eventually have at least four aircraft carriers, reported the website of Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper.

The report also quoted Wang as saying that two advanced 052D missile destroyers are also under construction in Dalian.

And Want China Times ratchets it up still more:

China to become world’s largest missile producer: report

Two of China’s major missile producers — China North Industries Corporation and China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation — are expected to turn out 50,000 ballistic missiles for the nation, according to a report in the latest issue of the Aviation Week & Space Technology, a magazine with ties to the US military.

To win a potential territorial conflict against Japan over islands in the East China Sea, the Aviation Week & Space Technology stated that China is currently targeting Tokyo with around 1,000 missiles. However, this number of missiles is only a fraction of China’s total production capacity, the report said, adding that the missiles are designed and produced to enable China to subdue its enemy without real fighting.

In next five years, China is likely to become the world’s largest missile producer, US military analysts claim. China North Industries Corporation will lead to become the largest missile manufacturer and is expected to produce around 29,992 missiles, taking a 15% world market share. US defense contractor Raytheon is expected to rank second, producing 23,744 missiles and taking a world market share of 12%, the analysts said.

And in another venue, via RT:

China and Russia may hold joint naval drill in the Mediterranean

Russia and China have agreed to conduct a joint naval drill in the Mediterranean Sea, a Russian media report cites the Defense Ministry. The countries’ fleets are currently involved in an intl operation to escort the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile.

The Defense Ministry said on Sunday that group of Russian naval officers deployed onboard a heavy nuclear missile cruiser “Peter the Great” visited Chinese frigate Yancheng.

The Daily Dot subverts appliances:

The next big cyberattack could be launched from your fridge

Could your next-gen refrigerator—dispenser of ice, guardian of leftover pizza—betray you? Horrifying as it sounds, it’s already happened to someone. I know, I just lost my appetite. The idea of a Jetsons-like domicile, bristling with “smart” appliances that will make your life an exercise in luxury, is a pretty standard daydream. But a fully computerized home, we’re beginning to discover, is as vulnerable to hackers as your average PC.

Proofpoint, a security-as-a-service provider, released details on what they’re characterizing as an unprecedented “Internet of Things”-based cyberattack, meaning an operation that relied on Web-like connections between household devices. The campaign “involved more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions,” and, yes, “at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks.”

For our final item, a rare victory from Boing Boing:

Appeals court rules bloggers have same speech protections as journalists

A Ninth Circuit Appeals court has overturned a lower-court decision that said that bloggers weren’t entitled to the same free speech protection as journalists. The case involved a 2011 blog post by Crystal Cox in which she alleged that a firm had engaged in tax fraud; the company she wrote about said that the allegation was false, and that Cox should be found guilty of libel because she wasn’t a “journalist.” The higher court found that, journalist or not, Cox’s guilt turned not on the truth of her statement, but whether she was negligent, and could have discovered the truth.

Headlines of the day I: Big Brother, zone zealots


Today’s walk on the dark side begins with the latest in provoked [by Edward Snowden] political posturing from the New York Times:

Obama Calls for Overhaul of N.S.A.’s Phone Data Collection Program

President Obama, declaring that advances in technology had made it harder “to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties,” announced carefully calculated changes to surveillance policies on Friday, saying he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to telephone data, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.

But Mr. Obama left in place significant elements of the broad surveillance net assembled by the National Security Agency, and left the implementation of many of his changes up to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves.

Another take, from The Guardian:

Obama presents NSA reforms with plan to end government storage of call data

  • President stops short of ending controversial bulk collection
  • Obama assures allied foreign leaders on NSA surveillance
  • Reforms also include added Fisa court safeguards

US president Barack Obama forcefully defended the embattled National Security Agency on Friday in a speech that outlined a series of surveillance reforms but stopped well short of demanding an end to the bulk collection of American phone data.

In his widely anticipated address at the Justice Department on the future course of US surveillance policy, Obama said the government should no longer hold databases of every call record made in the United States, citing the “potential for abuse”.

But Obama did not say what should replace the databases and made it clear the intelligence agencies should still be able to access call records information in some unspecified way, signalling a new round in the battle between privacy advocates and the NSA’s allies.

Still another take, also from The Guardian:

Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

  • Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place

In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.

The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

And seen from Germany by TheLocal.de:

Obama: We won’t tap allies’ phones

US president Barack Obama announced on Friday in a speech that he would restrict the NSA’s powers. It will no longer be allowed to monitor phones of allied country leaders, including Germany.

The National Security Agency (NSA) will have to get the permission of a special court to view mass telephone data, Obama said from Washington, in a hotly anticipated speech following Edward Snowden’s revealing of the country’s mass spying programmes.

Mass data will also no longer be stored by the NSA, making it harder to access, he said. This curbing should “protect the privacy and civil liberties, no matter their nationality or where they are.”

A laconic techie take from The Register:

Obama reveals tiny NSA reforms … aka reforming your view of the NSA

  • Prez announces tweaks here and there for ordinary American citizens

From TheHill, a critical take:

Critics: Obama spy plan keeps status quo for NSA

Privacy rights advocates and tech companies on Friday dismissed President Obama’s proposed overhaul of government surveillance as preserving the status quo.

CNN parses semantics:

Despite Obama’s NSA changes, phone records still collected

After the firestorm over Edward Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. surveillance programs, the most contentious aspect revealed by last year’s classified leaks will continue under reforms announced Friday by President Barack Obama.

Someone will still collect records of the numbers and times of phone calls by every American.

While access to the those records will be tightened and they may be shifted from the National Security Agency to elsewhere, the storage of the phone metadata goes on.

The Guardian gets itchy:

US telecoms giants express unease about proposed NSA metadata reforms

  • AT&T concerned US may force company to retain data
  • Tech firms hail ‘positive progress’ on privacy protections

Privately, telecoms executives have expressed concern that they will be forced to retain customers’ metadata – information about call duration, recipients and location. Speaking anonymously, one executive said the firms were concerned about how long they would have to keep data, which government agencies would have access to it and what protections they would have should there be legal challenges to their retention or distribution of the information.

The Verge has the predictable praise:

Intelligence and defense leaders offer support for Obama’s NSA reforms

President Obama today announced his approach to reforming some government surveillance practices, and at least for right now, the US intelligence and defense communities are supportive of those ideas. Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have issued statements vouching for the changes outlined in Obama’s speech. “These programs must always balance the need to defend our national security with the responsibility to preserve America’s individual liberties, and the President’s decisions and recommendations will do that,” said Hagel in a statement.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Mike Rogers, who lead the Senate Intelligence Committee and House Intelligence Committee respectively, also seemed happy with Obama’s speech. According to a joint statement, they “look forward to working with the president to increase confidence in these programs.” Not everyone was impressed with Obama’s remarks. Senator Rand Paul said the new strategy basically amounts to “the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.”

Roseate musing from The Guardian:

NSA critics in Congress sense reform momentum after Obama speech

  • Three new co-sponsors for USA Freedom Act
  • Sensenbrenner: ‘Reform cannot be done by presidential fiat’

Critics of National Security Agency surveillance are hoping President Barack Obama’s call to stop government collection of telephone data will give fresh momentum to legislation aimed at banning the practice entirely.

On Friday, three new co-sponsors joined the 120 congressmen who have already backed the so-called USA Freedom Act, but their reform bill faces tough competition from rival lawmakers who claim the president’s broad support for the NSA favours separate efforts to protect its powers.

Reviews from abroad via The Guardian:

Obama NSA reforms receive mixed response in Europe and Brazil

  • EU commissioner says speech is a step in right direction, but German ex-minister says changes fail to tackle root problem

Europeans were largely underwhelmed by Barack Obama’s speech on limited reform of US espionage practices, saying the measures did not go far enough to address concerns over American snooping on its European allies.

A compendium of the  eurocommentariat from the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

European commentators see little to praise in Obama’s NSA changes

President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated revisions to the National Security Agency international spying program didn’t come close to satisfying European commentators.

The French newspaper Le Monde called them “timid and partial.” The British newspaper The Guardian referred to them as “sleight of hand.” The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel called them “Refoermchen,” meaning less than a real reform, or a “tiny reform.” The Russian news agency Novosti reminded its audience that “neither the reform nor the statement would have happened without the leaks from Edward Snowden,” a former NSA contract worker who began leaking secret files back in June. The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau simply noted in a headline: “Obama disappoints the world.”

The reason? The speech made it clear to Europeans that the Obama administration intends to continue to collect almost as much data as it always has, but has promised not to use it unless necessary. To Europeans, who since last summer have grown increasingly distrustful of the intentions of the American spy program, such words are of little comfort.

Wired wonders:

So what did the tech companies get?

As expected, they will have more freedom to disclose the number and the nature of requests from the government for data related to national-security concerns. So we can expect more detailed transparency reports from the companies showing that they only provide a fraction of their information to the government.

Additionally, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will add members with expertise in civil liberties and technology and will declassify more of its decisions.

BuzzFeed gets to the bottom of it:

America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead

  • “I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official told BuzzFeed.

The NSA leaker is enemy No. 1 among those inside the intelligence world.

Edward Snowden has made some dangerous enemies. As the American intelligence community struggles to contain the public damage done by the former National Security Agency contractor’s revelations of mass domestic spying, intelligence operators have continued to seethe in very personal terms against the 30-year-old whistle-blower.

“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”

Also drawing considerable attention was the latest Snowden leak from The Guardian:

NSA collects millions of text messages daily in ‘untargeted’ global sweep

  • NSA extracts location, contacts and financial transactions
  • ‘Dishfire’ program sweeps up ‘pretty much everything it can’
  • GCHQ using database to search metadata from UK numbers

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to people in the UK.

The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.

The Wire sums up:

NSA on Text Messages: ‘A Goldmine to Exploit’

If you were curious: Yes, the National Security Agency is collecting and filtering text messages to the tune of 194 million a day. It’s a collection of data that one agency slide, obtained by The Guardian from leaker Edward Snowden, called “a goldmine to exploit.”

The Guardian details the NSA’s text message collection infrastructure in a new report, including its massive scale.

  • The agencies collect 194 million messages a day.
  • They include 76,000 geocoordinates for users, thanks to people seeking directions or setting up meetings.
  • The agencies track 1.6 million border crossings and 5,000-plus occurrences in which someone is traveling.
  • They’re able to link hundreds of thousands of financial transactions.
  • They collect over 5 million missed call alerts, which then get pushed into the “contact-chaining” system, building out the NSA’s ad hoc social network.

More from The Guardian:

NSA leaks: Dishfire revelations expose the flaws in British laws on surveillance

How can we have a meaningful debate about excessive snooping when so much information is a state secret?

What we have no words for we cannot discuss except crudely. The latest revelation about the security services brings a new word to our growing vocabulary: Dishfire. This week’s exposé reveals the NSA collecting and extracting personal information from hundreds of millions of text messages a day. While messages from US phone numbers are removed from the database, documents show GCHQ used it to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to British citizens.

We are not so much free citizens, innocent until proven guilty, but rather, as one of the Dishfire slides says, a “rich data set awaiting exploitation”. Prism, Tempora, Upstream, Bullrun – as our language grows we begin to speak with greater clarity. We move from James Bond fantasies to a greater understanding of what the intelligence services actually do in our name and with our money. Is indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance the best way to protect democracy?

NSA Dishfire presentation on text message collection – key extracts

A pre-Obamacast declaration from The Hill:

Sen. Leahy on NSA claim: ‘Baloney’

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Thursday the National Security Agency’s claim that they’re “very protective” of Americans’ information is “baloney.”

Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program has not thwarted a single terrorist attack.

President Obama, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, and lawmakers, such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), have said the program has helped stop at least 50 terrorist plots.

“The other thing that keeps striking me is that [the NSA says] ‘we’re very protective of this information.’ Baloney,” Leahy said. “They weren’t protective enough that they could stop a sub-contractor, Mr. Snowden, from stealing millions of their biggest secrets. To this day, they still don’t know all of what he’s stolen.”

Leahy has introduced several bills that would change the NSA’s operations. One bill, the USA Freedom Act, would end the NSA’s metadata program.

After the jump, European blowback, German inquiries, NSA-tech-enabled hackers,  compliant corporations, direct action claims, lethal attack on the press, another Mideast causus belli debunked, Asian crises hit the textbooks, claims, zones, corporate espionage, a Google setback, and more. . . Continue reading