Category Archives: Military

Headlines II: Spooks, shockers, zones, drones


A lot to cover and little time to write, so onward.

From the Guardian, an Old Blighty hack alert:

Privacy is at risk owing to basic security failures, warns information regulator

  • Organisations are told that missed software updates and poor password management lead to same breaches being repeat

British people’s privacy is being put in danger because organisations are failing to get rudimentary security right, the information commissioner’s office warned on Monday.

In a review of the breaches reported to the privacy regulator, the ICO uncovered some common basic errors that led to data breaches, including failing to update software and poor password management.

“It’s the same sort of breaches occurring again and again,” the ICO’s group manager for technology Simon Rice told The Guardian.

Techdirt covers the latest form The Most Transparent Administration in History™:

The Government’s Antipathy Towards Transparency Has Made FOIA Lawsuits The Default Process

  • from the gov’t-resorting-more-and-more-to-‘make-me’-response dept

This is default mode for the Freedom of Information Act.

In a federal FOIA complaint, the ACLU and University of Arizona Professor Derek Bambauer and Associate Professor Jane Yakowitz Bambauer claim that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to respond to requests made in January and February for records that may “shed light on Border Patrol’s extensive but largely opaque interior enforcement operations.”

The professors seek “records related to U.S. Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations in Tucson and Yuma Sectors, including relevant agency policies, stop data, and complaint records.”

From Spain, the panopticon extends its reach, via El País:

Government to create database for monitoring all Spanish bank accounts

  • Measure aimed at combating money laundering and terrorism funding
  • But experts fear new system could be used as a political weapon

The government is creating a massive database to monitor the banking activities of everyone living in Spain, with the goal of fighting money laundering and funding for terrorist activities.

Judges, prosecutors, police officers, intelligence agents and the Tax Agency will have access to the 34 million bank accounts, assets and deposit accounts included in this database.

This is the first time that the financial activities of all Spaniards and residents have become the targets of such a program. France and Germany are the only other European countries to have adopted the system.

Another disturbing alert, this time from Medill News Service:

Medical devices could fall prey to computer malfunctions, hackers

As more and more medical devices and hospital equipment become connected to the Internet or networks, they may become lucrative targets for cyber-criminals or hackers trying either to harm the users or make points about their own technological skills.

“The health care industry is not technically prepared to combat against cyber-criminals’ basic cyber intrusion tactics,” an April report from the cyber division of the FBI says. It also says the industry “is not as resilient to cyber intrusions compared to the financial and retail sectors, therefore the possibility of increased cyber intrusions is likely.”

Experts also are worried about the potentially deadly consequences of unsecured systems being violated accidentally. As people become more dependent on medical devices that share information, the chance increases that their codes could be scrambled, causing malfunctions.

Wired hedges a bet:

Obama: NSA Must Reveal Bugs Like Heartbleed, Unless They Help the NSA

After years of studied silence on the government’s secret and controversial use of security vulnerabilities, the White House has finally acknowledged that the NSA and other agencies exploit some of the software holes they uncover, rather than disclose them to vendors to be fixed.

The acknowledgement comes in a news report indicating that President Obama decided in January that from now on any time the NSA discovers a major flaw in software, it must disclose the vulnerability to vendors and others so that it can be patched, according to the New York Times.

But Obama included a major loophole in his decision, which falls far short of recommendations made by a presidential review board last December: According to Obama, any flaws that have “a clear national security or law enforcement” use can be kept secret and exploited.

And the first in a series of headlines with a common theme, first from the Guardian:

Glenn Greenwald: how the NSA tampers with US-made internet routers

The NSA has been covertly implanting interception tools in US servers heading overseas – even though the US government has warned against using Chinese technology for the same reasons, says Glenn Greenwald, in an extract from his new book about the Snowden affair, No Place to Hide

For years, the US government loudly warned the world that Chinese routers and other internet devices pose a “threat” because they are built with backdoor surveillance functionality that gives the Chinese government the ability to spy on anyone using them. Yet what the NSA’s documents show is that Americans have been engaged in precisely the activity that the US accused the Chinese of doing.

From the Japan Times, eyes and ears turn East:

Book on whistleblower Snowden details U.S. spying on Japan

A Japanese edition of the book titled “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State” and written by Glenn Greenwald, a former columnist with The Guardian newspaper, will hit bookstores in Japan on Wednesday after its worldwide release Tuesday.

The book says the NSA surveilled entities including the permanent mission of Japan to the United Nations in 2010 before the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. used various methods, including hacking, to obtain information from Japan’s U.N. mission, the book says. Japan was one of the nonpermanent members of the UNSC at the time.

It also says the NSA placed bugs and hacked more than 50,000 computers in Japan and other countries, allowing it to see the words typed and the messages on the screens.

The Guardian again, with a Greenwald alert:

Glenn Greenwald: ‘I don’t trust the UK not to arrest me. Their behaviour has been extreme’

He has been lauded and vilified in equal measure. But did the journalist’s ‘outsider’ status help him land Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations? Why did he nearly miss the story? And how powerless did he feel when his partner was detained at Heathrow? One year after the scoop, we meet him in his jungle paradise in Rio

“I don’t trust them not to detain me, interrogate me and even arrest me. Their behaviour has been so extreme and offensive, and the political and media class was so supportive of it, that I feel uncomfortable with the entire atmosphere,” says Greenwald.

He insists he has never had animosity towards Britain. “But the more I’ve learned, the more troubling it has become.”

His new book, No Place to Hide, begins with Greenwald’s account of how, together with Poitras and the Guardian, he broke what may well be the story of the decade. The funny thing, as he recalls, is how close it came to never happening. This seems a good place to start our conversation when we meet down at sea level in the bustling heart of Rio.

From CNBC, duh:

NSA chief: US spy agency saw changed behavior after Snowden

Foreign governments, individuals and groups targeted by the U.S. National Security Agency for intelligence collection have changed their “behavior” following disclosures by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA’s new chief said on Monday.

“They’re changing the way they communicate,” said Admiral Mike Rogers, who became NSA’s new director last month following the retirement of U.S. Army General Keith Alexander. Rogers was speaking to the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.

Rogers strongly condemned Snowden, who after fleeing to Hong Kong accepted an offer of asylum in Russia last year.

Salon hints at things to come:

Glenn Greenwald on Snowden docs: I’m saving the best for last

  • The Pulitzer Prize-winner talks Snowden, the “banal” Hillary Clinton, and why Tim Russert is so vastly overrated

TheLocakl.de takes us to Germany and a big bill:

Spy base will cost €1 billion (and it’s late)

The budget is not enough – Germany’s new spy headquarters is costing hundreds of millions of euros more than expected – and it’s late.

The cost of the huge new secret service complex in central Berlin has already risen to almost €1 billion, and is expected to tip over the billion mark.

The new home of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) – Germany’s equivalent of the CIA in the US, or Britain’s MI6 – was supposed to be finished by 2013, at a cost of €720 million.

One part opened earlier this year, but Der Spiegel magazine reported on Monday that the spy base had joined Germany’s long list of flagship building projects which are late and over-budget.

Der Spiegel said the latest budget estimate of €912 million would not be enough to finish building the complex which has 260,000 square metres of office space. An internal government report seen by Der Spiegel put the cost at €1.034 billion.

After the jump, beaucoup stories from the Game of Drones and the ongoing, always portentous Asian Game of Zones. . . Continue reading

Headlines II: Zones, drones, spies, and lies


We begin today’s tales from the dark side with an ominous entry from Europe Online:

US private soldiers fighting in Ukraine

Soldiers from a private US security company with a record of alleged atrocities in Iraq are supporting Ukraine’s security forces in the volatile east of the country, the German newspaper Bild reported Sunday.

The report, citing Germany’s federal intelligence agency BND, said 400 of the heavily-armed men employed by the group formerly known as Blackwater were deployed in the vicinity of Lugansk where pro-Russian separatists are seeking self-rule.

The BND declined to comment on the report, while the security company – now known as Academi – dismissed similar reports in March.

Meanwhile, your daily dose of paranoia from the Observer:

Attempts to stay anonymous on the web will only put the NSA on your trail

The sobering story of Janet Vertesi’s attempts to conceal her pregnancy from the forces of online marketers shows just how Kafkaesque the internet has become

When searching for an adjective to describe our comprehensively surveilled networked world – the one bookmarked by the NSA at one end and by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and co at the other – “Orwellian” is the word that people generally reach for.

But “Kafkaesque” seems more appropriate. The term is conventionally defined as “having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality”, but Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka’s most assiduous biographer, regarded that as missing the point. “What’s Kafkaesque,” he once told the New York Times, “is when you enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behaviour, begins to fall to pieces, when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world.”

A vivid description of this was provided recently by Janet Vertesi, a sociologist at Princeton University. She gave a talk at a conference describing her experience of trying to keep her pregnancy secret from marketers. Her report is particularly pertinent because pregnant women are regarded by online advertisers as one of the most valuable entities on the net. You and I are worth, on average, only 10 cents each. But a pregnant woman is valued at $1.50 because she is about to embark on a series of purchasing decisions stretching well into her child’s lifetime.

The Register adds fuel to the flames:

Hey, does your Smart TV have a mic? Enjoy your surveillance, bro

  • Little reminder: Your shiny new telly is a computer, it can run malware

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told lawyers he met during his sojourn in Hong Kong to put their cell phones in his fridge to thwart any eavesdroppers.

But new research suggests he should have been worried about nearby TVs, too.

Smart tellies with built-in microphones and storage can be turned into bugging devices by malware and used to record conversations, security experts at NCC Group said. And they demonstrated exactly that just down the road from the Infosec Europe conference, held in London.

From Wired threat level, woes for the espionarchs:

How a Chinese Tech Firm Became the NSA’s Surveillance Nightmare

The NSA’s global spy operation may seem unstoppable, but there’s at least one target that has proven to be a formidable obstacle: the Chinese communications technology firm Huawei, whose growth could threaten the agency’s much-publicized digital spying powers.

An unfamiliar name to American consumers, Huawei produces products that are swiftly being installed in the internet backbone in many regions of the world, displacing some of the western-built equipment that the NSA knows — and presumably knows how to exploit — so well.

That obstacle is growing bigger each year as routers and other networking equipment made by Huawei Technologies and its offshoot, Huawei Marine Networks, become more ubiquitous. The NSA and other U.S. agencies have long been concerned that the Chinese government or military — Huawei’s founder is a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army — may have installed backdoors in Huawei equipment, enabling it for surveillance. But an even bigger concern is that with the growing ubiquity of Huawei products, the NSA’s own surveillance network could grow dark in areas where the equipment is used.

Vice covers wretched excess:

How a Power-Mad Illinois Mayor Launched a Police Crusade Against a Parody

On the night of April 15, police in Peoria, Illinois, raided the house of my friend Jon Daniel in response to his operating a parody Twitter account mocking Peoria mayor Jim Ardis. The incident sparked a media firestorm, with Peoria all of a sudden being covered by national outlets like Al Jazeera and the Washington Post, and Ardis was condemned for what looked like a clear violation of the First Amendment. (Daniel is not being charged with any crime in connection with the Twitter account because, obviously, it’s not illegal to mock a public official.)

What wasn’t clear at the time was how intimately involved Ardis and Chief of Police Steve Settingsgaard were in ordering the raid, but according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, city officials were so eager to nail the author of the parody Twitter account that they had a detective comb through Illinois statutes to find something to charge him with, in the process bungling the legal aspects of the case and drawing the ire of local citizens.

Ardis and others learned of the account on March 11 and sent dozens of emails over the next few days, apparently panicked by the idea that someone with a few dozen Twitter followers was making fun of the mayor. On March 12, Ardis himself asked City Manager Patrick Urich, “Any chance we can put a sense of urgency on this?” Urich passed that request on to Settingsgaard, saying, “Quickly please.”

From the Observer, when domestic insecurity leads to insecurity:

In the Breaking Bad city, trust in the trigger-happy police has broken down

  • Albuquerque’s people are struggling with poverty, mental illness and drugs – and have had enough of a police force that has killed 25 in four years

Last month the US department of justice issued a 46-page report that detailed a pattern of excessive force, including a policy of shooting at moving vehicles to disable them, and officers being allowed to use personal weapons instead of standard-issue firearms. “Officers see the guns as status symbols,” it said. “APD personnel we interviewed indicated that this fondness for powerful weapons illustrates the aggressive culture.”

Concern about police heavy-handedness is spreading. Elsewhere in New Mexico this week state police killed Arcenio Lujan, 48, outside his home after he allegedly pointed a rifle. Dozens marched on police headquarters in the Texas town of Hearne after an officer shot dead a 93-year-old woman, Pearlie Golden, who allegedly brandished a gun. Las Vegas and Los Angeles have also been rocked by anger at police shootings.

Police and sheriff departments in towns and hamlets from Iowa to Connecticut have fuelled anxiety by snapping up the Pentagon’s offer of mine-resistant ambush-protected armoured personnel vehicles, behemoths known as MRAPs, back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

South China Morning Post lawyers up, famously:

Spy case legend hired by Edward Snowden speaks about five-decade career

  • Veteran of high-profile US espionage cases believes his vast experience will help NSA whistle-blower, who fled to Russia from HK

A veteran lawyer who could hold the key to Edward Snowden’s eventual return to the United States has spoken of his fivedecade career cutting deals for some of America’s most notorious spies.

Washington-based legal heavyweight Plato Cacheris has been retained by the whistle-blower, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

And he spoke to the Sunday Morning Post as the first anniversary approaches of former National Security Agency contractor going public in Hong Kong with revelations that mass digital surveillance by the US extended to targets in China.

From New Europe, turning a blind eye:

Merkel in Washington puts unity above NSA spying investigation

United States President Barack Obama welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington last week. He gave her a personal tour of the White House and showed her everything from the vegetable garden to the birds nesting in the Rose Garden. But what Obama did not do, at least in front of reporters, was to address the NSA spying scandal and the contentious no-spy deal that has since collapsed.

According to the German weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, Merkel is no longer committed to investigating the extent of NSA spying in Germany, despite the fact that her own mobile telephone had also been bugged.

In the world of diplomacy, moments of candour are rare, obscured as they are behind a veil of amicability and friendly gestures, reports Der Spiegel. It was no different last week at the meeting between Obama and Merkel in Washington.

From the Guardian, a day that will live in [fill in the blank]:

Glenn Greenwald: the explosive day we revealed Edward Snowden’s identity to the world

In the hours after his name became known, the entire world was searching for the NSA whistleblower, and it became vital that his whereabouts in Hong Kong remained secret. In an extract from a new book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald recalls the dramatic events surrounding the moment Snowden revealed himself in June 2013

On Thursday 6 June 2013, our fifth day in Hong Kong, I went to Edward Snowden’s hotel room and he immediately said he had news that was “a bit alarming”. An internet-connected security device at the home he shared with his longtime girlfriend in Hawaii had detected that two people from the NSA – a human-resources person and an NSA “police officer” – had come to their house searching for him.

Snowden was almost certain this meant that the NSA had identified him as the likely source of the leaks, but I was sceptical. “If they thought you did this, they’d send hordes of FBI agents with a search warrant and probably Swat teams, not a single NSA officer and a human-resources person.” I figured this was just an automatic and routine inquiry, triggered when an NSA employee goes absent for a few weeks without explanation. But Snowden suggested that perhaps they were being purposely low-key to avoid drawing media attention or setting off an effort to suppress evidence.

From the Guardian, ancient sins stay buried:

Foreign Office secrecy continues over archive of illegally held files

Historian Katie Engelhart reports on last week’s FCO ‘records day’ to discuss the fate of thousands of historic files, some containing evidence of murder and torture by colonial authorities

Last Friday afternoon, 50 historians and archivists piled into the Entente Cordiale room in London’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). They were there to discuss the fate of hundreds of thousands of historic files dating back to the 17th century, some of which contain damning evidence of murder and torture by British colonial authorities.

In October, the Guardian revealed that the FCO had unlawfully retained millions of historic documents in violation of the Public Records Act at a maximum security compound in Buckinghamshire known as Hanslope Park, which the FCO shares with intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6.

Friday’s “records day” was a kind of public airing – to which the public and media were barred from attending – at which FCO officials detailed “plans for the review and release of these legacy records” to the National Archives.

Computerworld covers unintended [?] consequences:

Hackers now crave patches, and Microsoft’s giving them just what they want

  • At least one of next Tuesday’s updates looks like an excellent candidate to hackers as they sniff for bugs in the now-retired Windows XP

Hackers will have at least one, perhaps as many as four, patches next week to investigate as they search for unfixed flaws in Windows XP, the 13-year-old operating system that Microsoft retired from support April 8.

“Come Tuesday, Microsoft will be patching some vulnerabilities in Windows, and it is realistic to assume that at least one of these will also affect Windows XP,” said Kasper Lindgaard, director of research and security at Secunia, in an email Friday. “Generally speaking, newly discovered vulnerabilities in XP will be unpatchable for private users, and therefore we will see a rise in attacks.”

On May 13, Microsoft’s regularly-scheduled monthly Patch Tuesday, the Redmond, Wash. company will issue eight security updates for its software. But because it has stopped providing updates to owners of Windows XP PCs, those customers will not see any of the eight.

From Ars Technica, more online insecurity:

Significant portion of HTTPS Web connections made by forged certificates

  • Scientists unearth first direct evidence of bogus certs in real-world connections.

Computer scientists have uncovered direct evidence that a small but significant percentage of encrypted Web connections are established using forged digital certificates that aren’t authorized by the legitimate site owner.

The analysis is important because it’s the first to estimate the amount of real-world tampering inflicted on the HTTPS system that millions of sites use to prove their identity and encrypt data traveling to and from end users. Of 3.45 million real-world connections made to Facebook servers using the transport layer security (TLS) or secure sockets layer protocols, 6,845, or about 0.2 percent of them, were established using forged certificates. The vast majority of unauthorized credentials were presented to computers running antivirus programs from companies including Bitdefender, Eset, and others. Commercial firewall and network security appliances were the second most common source of forged certificates.

At least one issuer of certificates—IopFailZeroAccessCreate—was generated by a known malware sample that was presented 112 times by users in 45 different countries. The discovery helps to explain bug reports such as this one made to developers of the Chromium browser describing the mysterious inclusion of a TLS certificate on a large number of end users’ computers.

Meanwhile, the spooks want more. From IDG News Service:

DOJ seeks new authority to hack and search remote computers

  • The agency asks that judges be allowed to issue warrants to search computers outside their judicial districts

The U.S. Department of Justice wants new authority to hack and search remote computers during investigations, saying the new rules are needed because of complex criminal schemes sometimes using millions of machines spread across the country.

Digital rights groups say the request from the DOJ for authority to search computers outside the district where an investigation is based raises concerns about Internet security and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“By expanding federal law enforcement’s power to secretly exploit ‘zero-day’ vulnerabilities in software and Internet platforms, the proposal threatens to weaken Internet security for all of us,” Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said by email.

Another case of insecurity in a familiar venue, via the Guardian:

Calls to class far-right Jewish settlers as terrorists after Israeli soldiers attacked

  • Senior ministers Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Aharonovitch condemn ‘price-tag’ attacks as author Amos Oz calls militants neo-Nazis

Calls are mounting for hardline Jewish settlers to be classified as terrorists after a spate of attacks on Palestinian property in the West Bank and Israel, and threats of violence towards Israeli soldiers.

Last week, the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, and the internal security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, both argued that rightwing extremists should be classified as terrorists following attacks on soldiers at the hardline West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

And on Friday, the Israeli prize laureate author Amos Oz described the hardline Jewish settlers that carry out so-called “price tag” attacks on Palestinians as neo-Nazis.

And we begin today’s Game of Drones coverage with a bad from USA TODAY:

National parks say no to personal drones

A growing number of national parks are taking steps to prohibit the use of drones on park property, a move that has some drone users concerned.

A recent incident here in which an unmanned aerial system was seen separating several young bighorn sheep from adults in the herd spurred park officials to make it clear their use is illegal.

“If the young can’t find their way back to their parents they could actually die,” said Aly Baltrus, chief of interpretation for Zion National Park in Utah.

Marines go dronal, via Aviation Week & Space Technology:

U.S. Marine Corps Explores Extended-Range Blackjack

  • As the first RQ-21As deploy to Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps is eyeing new payload and fuselage options

For a U.S. Marine Corps bent on remaining as light, mobile and lethal as possible on land and at sea, good things do come in small packages.

The service has deployed an early version of its newest unmanned aerial system (UAS), the small, rail-launched Block 1 RQ-21 Blackjack to begin early operations in Afghanistan in April in response to a Central Command urgent need for signals-intelligence collection there. The plan is to begin operations of the Marine Corps’ first full-up RQ-21As—different from their predecessors in that they are capable of shipboard operations—this fall.

Though the U.S. plans to sharply reduce the number of soldiers in Afghanistan by year-end, the Marine Corps expects to deploy on land in the future to support contingencies such as operations in the Horn of Africa. But as the Pentagon shifts its focus to the Pacific theater, the corps is also eager to reconnect with its roots as a premier amphibious force. The Blackjack will be used to support both goals.

And from the Guardian, sharing the wealth:

Iran claims copy of captured US drone will soon take test flight

  • Officer says on state TV: ‘We have broken its secrets’
  • White House blamed 2011 loss on technical problem
  • Iran captured the RQ-170 Sentinel Drone in 2011

Iran said on Sunday it had succeeded in copying a US drone it captured in December 2011. State television broadcast images apparently showing the replicated aircraft.

Iran captured the US RQ-170 Sentinel while it was in its airspace, apparently on a mission to spy on the country’s nuclear sites, US media reported.

At the time, the White House blamed the loss on a technical problem causing a loss of control. Iran claimed to have brought the drone down by electronically disrupting its GPS system.

And from the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Game of Drones meets the Game of Zones:

U.S. drone missions to monitor Chinese, N. Korean activities

Full-scale large military drone operations will start shortly in Japan and its nearby airspace to monitor Chinese military activities and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

The U.S. Air Force plans to deploy two Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles to its Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture late this month and the Air Self-Defense Force plans to procure three UAVs of the same type in fiscal 2015 and later.

However, experts warn that regulations on their flights must be put in place because Japan’s current aviation laws lack clear stipulations on large drones.

After the jump, the latest from the Asia Game of Zones, including new players of zome very old games, social engineering, recruiting games, and more. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Ike’s great accomplishment


From David A Stockman, budget director for the first term of the Reagan administration, writing at The Globalist:

It was Dwight D. Eisenhower who brought U.S. defense spending back under control. Ike, the former supreme commander of the costliest military campaign in history, was a military war hero, but also a man who hated war. And he revered balanced budgets.

Accordingly, Eisenhower – the 34th President of the United States and in power for much of the 1950s — did not hesitate to wield the budgetary knife. When he did so, the blade came down squarely on the Pentagon.

The essence of Eisenhower’s immense fiscal achievement, an actual shrinkage of the federal budget in real terms during his eight-year term, is that he tamed the warfare state.

Guantanamo prison: A lawyer speaks out


From London Real, an interview with a retired U.S. Army major  and lawyer who served as defense counsel for detainees at America’s shameful prison located in Cuba because to escape scrutiny and the U.S. Constitution’s civil rights protections for prisoners.

Here’s his bio from The Globalist:

Todd E. Pierce retired as a major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in November 2012.

His most recent assignment was defense counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions. In the course of that assignment, he researched and reviewed the complete records of military commissions held during the Civil War and stored at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Pierce served on active and reserve duty as both a JAG Officer and a Non-Commissioned Officer, beginning as a Marine Corps Rifleman. He was commissioned as a Judge Advocate in 1996.

His previous military service included service with the 349th Psychological Operations Company and the 205th Infantry Brigade as a senior NCO. He served in the Gulf War in 1990-1991 with three campaign ribbons.

Mr. Pierce’s undergraduate degree is in history and social sciences, with an emphasis on the study of revolutionary movements, and their use of revolutionary violence in the form of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

He contributed research to the Army-Air Force Center for Low Intensity Conflict during the 1980′s, culminating in organizing a major conference on low intensity conflict and terrorism in 1989.

With that, on with the video from London Real:

Todd Pierce – Guantanamo Bay | London Real

Program notes:

Todd Pierce knows a lot about the Guantanamo Detention Camp. As a Major with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corp his job was to defend three of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and considers indefinite detention a form of torture.

Todd is also a military historian and believes that George W. Bush’s famous quote “You are either with us or against us” made the USA a de factor Authoritarian government. He claims that Bush & Cheney turned to Civil War precedents to create military tribunals for trying alleged “terrorists.”

Furthermore he believes that Edward Snowden’s revelations of the restricted access to information by those who govern us severely restricts the way a fair society can function. He has unique insights on the problems of the NSA, unmanned drone strike policy, and the arcane law know as the Espionage Act of 1917.

Join me in welcoming Todd Pierce for a critically important episode of London Real.

H/T to Antiwar.com.

Must-see video: Edward Snowden explains it all


Though it’s a mere eight minutes long, this video from LeakSourceNews features Edward Snowden in a comprehensive statement explaining both the extent of National Security Agency surveillance and its implications for folks like thee and we.

Ad while Washington officials justify the program for its alleged success in defeating terrorist attacks, as Snowden notes, it hasn’t prevented a single incident.

He also hints at even more disturbing revelations to come.

Edward Snowden on state surveillance

Headlines II: Spies, pols, hacks, zones, threats


Today’s tales from the dark side covers the gamut from political maneuvering in Washington, propaganda pols, and the latest and occasionally bizarre developments in the ever-growing area in which the Asian Game of Zones continues, rhetoric spiraling ever upward.

Defense One Today gives us our first security item, weaving together two critical threads of political discourse and debate:

How Climate Change Affects Terrorism

According to the Obama Administration’s newly released National Climate Assessment, climate change is already impacting communities in every corner of the country, with an increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events – storms, floods, and droughts – and rising sea levels destabilizing the everyday lives of Americans.

Worse, the impacts of these changes are accelerating, and they are affecting communities around the world. The Pentagon’s most recent Quadrennial Defense Review warns that “climate change may increase the frequency, scale and complexity of future missions.” Some of the least stable states in the world will face changing weather patterns that reduce arable land and fresh-water supplies, in turn driving mass-migration, provoking resource conflicts, and fostering global health threats.

From PCWorld, an espiometastasis:

Department of Justice wants expanded permission to hack and search remote computers

The U.S. Department of Justice wants new authority to hack and search remote computers during investigations, saying the new rules are needed because of complex criminal schemes sometimes using millions of machines spread across the country.

Digital rights groups say the request from the DOJ for authority to search computers outside the district where an investigation is based raises concerns about Internet security and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“By expanding federal law enforcement’s power to secretly exploit ‘zero-day’ vulnerabilities in software and Internet platforms, the proposal threatens to weaken Internet security for all of us,” Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said by email.

From IDG News Service, an attack compounded by errors:

Rush to fight Heartbleed leads to errors with certificates and patches

  • Some reissued SSL certificates use the same vulnerable key as the ones they replace, and some sites moved to a vulnerable version of OpenSSL

Despite taking prompt action to defend against the Heartbleed attack, some sites are no better off than before — and in some cases, they are much worse off.

Many of the sites that patched vulnerable OpenSSL installations after the Heartbleed attack was revealed on April 7 then went on to revoke compromised SSL certificates and order new ones. But 30,000 sites are now using replacements based on the same compromised private key as the old certificate, according to a study by Internet services company Netcraft released Friday.

That means that anyone who managed to steal the private key of such a server before it was patched could still use the key to impersonate the server in a man-in-the-middle attack, even with the new certificate in place.

IntelNews tries to repair a rickety bridge:

Efforts to restore US-German intelligence cooperation collapse

Negotiations aimed at restoring the intelligence relationship between America and Germany, following revelations last year that Washington spied on the communications of German leaders, collapsed before German Chancellor Angela Merkel met US President Barack Obama last week.

The two leaders had planned to make a public statement during Mrs. Merkel’s official visit to Washington last Friday, announcing a new intelligence agreement between their respective countries. But the announcement was never made, as Ukraine dominated the political agenda.

IntelNews readers will recall the dramatic way in which Germany and the United States fell out in October of last year, after American intelligence defector Edward Snowden revealed an invasive intelligence-gathering operation by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The program targeted the private communications of senior German officials, including those of Mrs. Merkel, for nearly a decade.

From MintPress News, heading to court:

NSA Bulk Phone Records Collection Cases Edge Toward Supreme Court

  • The plaintiffs vary, but their complaint is largely the same: the NSA overstepped its bounds and illegally collected their phone records and metadata.

At first glance, a San Diego cab driver serving 18 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group has little in common with members of the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles.

But both Basaaly Moalin and church members claim the National Security Agency illegally intruded on their electronic communications as part of its bulk telephone metadata collection program that was exposed last year by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In February 2013, a San Diego federal jury convicted Moalin and three other immigrants from Somalia of sending money back to their homeland to fund the al-Shabab group. After the Guardian newspaper published Snowden’s revelations in June, Moalin asked for a new trial, saying the NSA’s surveillance violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

From the Guardian, rare candor and honesty?:

MPs: Snowden files are ‘embarrassing indictment’ of British spying oversight

  • All-party committee demands reforms to make security and intelligence services accountable in wake of disclosures

Edward Snowden’s disclosures of the scale of mass surveillance are “an embarrassing indictment” of the weak nature of the oversight and legal accountability of Britain’s security and intelligence agencies, MPs have concluded.

A highly critical report by the Commons home affairs select committee published on Friday calls for a radical reform of the current system of oversight of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, arguing that the current system is so ineffective it is undermining the credibility of the intelligence agencies and parliament itself.

The MPs say the current system was designed in a pre-internet age when a person’s word was accepted without question. “It is designed to scrutinise the work of George Smiley, not the 21st-century reality of the security and intelligence services,” said committee chairman, Keith Vaz. “The agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an equally refined system of democratic scrutiny. It is an embarrassing indictment of our system that some in the media felt compelled to publish leaked information to ensure that matters were heard in parliament.”

Al Jazeera America carries on a proud Bush tradition:

New documents point to CIA rendition network through Djibouti

New evidence culled from a court case involving CIA contractors has revealed flight paths through Djibouti that appear to indicate the country’s role as a hub of the CIA’s rendition network in Africa, according to documents released by the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve and New York University’s Global Justice Clinic.

The documents could support the case of Mohammad al-Asad, a former CIA detainee who is suing the government of Djibouti for its alleged role in hosting CIA “black sites” – specifically the one where he says he was detained and tortured for two weeks between Dec. 2003 and Jan. 2004. A Senate investigation into the agency’s “detention and interrogation program” had previously confirmed that several individuals had in fact been detained in Djibouti, according to two officials who read the still-classified report and who spoke to Al Jazeera.

Investigators behind the document release combed through contracts, invoices and letters put into evidence for a court case – which involved CIA contractors and was separate from the Djibouti allegations – and pieced together a series of rendition circuits, or flight paths, between 2003 and 2004. They include legs through Djibouti – even though the Horn of Africa did not appear to be a convenient stopover between the United States and Afghanistan, the circuits’ endpoints.

From the Irish Times, dramatic evidence of police corruption on the Emerald Isle:

Guerin report finds Shatter, gardaí failed to adequately investigate whistleblower claims

  • Barrister calls for comprehensive commission of investigation into claims of corruption and malpractice

An Garda Síochána and former minister for justice Alan Shatter failed in their duties to properly investigate allegations of corruption and malpractice in the force, barrister Sean Guerin has said in his report to the Government.

In his 300-page report on a dossier of claims handed in by garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, Mr Guerin finds there is cause for concern about the adequacy of investigations into matters raised by Sgt McCabe.

The report vindicates Sgt McCabe.

And Kathimerini English, Grecian corruption:

Policeman accused of running escort service

A policeman was among four people arrested on Friday in connection with an escort agency in Athens.

The officer, reportedly a member of the security police, ran a website offering to arrange dates with female escorts who also had sex with their clients.

Another man and two women were arrested. The policeman was suspended and an internal investigation was ordered.

More of the same on the Iberian Peninsula from thinkSPAIN:

A fine verdict for the Guardia Civil: Bonuses linked to number of traffic sanctions issued ruled ‘illegal’

GUARDIA Civil officers in Spain have won their battle against ‘company’ rules which meant their bonuses were affected by how many traffic fines they dished out.

The Summary of Individual Activities brought in four years ago by the force’s top management linked officers’ extra pay – a significant portion of their take-home earnings which is added to their basic salary – would be increased or decreased on a ‘points’ basis linked to their performance.

And one of the performance indicators was the ‘level of service’ provided when they are on traffic duty, within which was included a direct connection between bonus payments and numbers of parking or driving fines issued.

The Guardian covers domestic insecurity closer to home:

Violence erupts again in Mexican state where drug wars began

  • Top detective among latest of around 80 people killed since April in Tamaulipas state, after new crackdown on criminal groups

A spate of extreme violence in Mexico’s north-eastern Tamaulipas state has ended the relative calm in the region where the country’s drug wars began.

Officials say about 80 people have been killed in almost daily street battles. This week the state’s top detective, Salvador de Haro Muñoz, was among five people killed in a shootout. Ten police officers have been arrested for allegedly leading him into an ambush.

Fourteen people were killed in one day this month in a string of gun battles between federal forces and unidentified gunmen in the city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas.

From El País, crime and no punishment:

Why 95% of cybercrimes committed in Spain are going unpunished

  • Ministry report into digital offenses highlights dangers to society, the economy and infrastructure

Around 95 percent of cybercrimes, or offenses related to new technologies, are going unpunished in Spain, according to a new report from the Interior Ministry. “The phenomenon of cybercrime is of significant international and national importance, not only for the threat it represents to society, but also for the dangers it poses to the economy and key infrastructure,” reads the report.

Over the last year, Spain’s security forces received 42,437 complaints for sexual offenses, fraud, forgery, threats, scams, and illegal interception of emails. Of these cases, only 2,167 have been resolved. The Interior Ministry admits that this is a very low percentage, “compared to police successes in criminal cases (37 percent) or robberies and theft (23.9 percent).”

The speed, anonymity and ease of opportunity that new technologies offer are encouraging criminals to attack computer systems to illegally remove data, as well as stealing individuals’ identities, engaging in activities related to pederasty, phishing (posing as a bank or other reputable institution to acquire sensitive information), and sending out viruses and malware. The global reach of these criminals has alarmed governments around the world, which have responded by introducing new laws. One such example is the Budapest Cybercrime Convention of 2001, to which Spain signed up in 2010.

After the jump, the latest, sometimes astounding, developments in the ever-escalating Asian Game of Zones. . . Continue reading

Moscow flexes muscle in military drills, parades


Two notable videos from RT [AKA Russia Today] released today offer a powerful reminder of Moscow’s considerable military heft.

First up, a military drill held yesterday with missiles aplenty, including short range surface-to-surface types, antiaircraft batteries, and heavy duty land-based and naval missiles, all conducted to mark today’s anniversary of the Soviet Union’s dominant role in the defeat of the Nazi regime which had devastated the land, resulting in an estimated 20 million Soviet deaths.

From RT:

Video: Russia test-launches missiles during planned military drills

Program notes:

During the drills, it was demonstrated how the missile corps, artillery, aviation and anti-aircraft defenses can be used — for instance, to destroy troops on the ground or to counter massive missile, aviation or nuclear strikes by an enemy. The planned drills come ahead of the May 9 celebrations dedicated to victory in World War II.

The second video, with the voice-over in Russia, is of the military demonstrations and parade held in Sevastopol in the newly  Crimea:

Victory Parade in Crimea’s Sevastopol 2014

Program notes:

Sevastopol is celebrating the 69th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War with a parade by the Black Sea Fleet and Air Force. It’s the first military parade since Crimea became part of the Russian Federation.

Headlines II: Tales from the dark side


From the world of spies, lies, drones, hacks, and more.

For our first headline, this from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Despite Senate hopes of speedy release, CIA torture report won’t be made public for months

The release of the long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques — widely denounced as torture — is certain to take much longer than the 30 days sought by Senate Democrats.

The panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at the beginning of April that she hoped the CIA would complete by now the process of excising from the report information deemed harmful to national security.

The procedure, however, likely will take months, several experts said. That’s because it’s complex and time-consuming. Not only does the CIA have to review information that came from its archives, but other U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the Pentagon and the State Department have to evaluate material that they provided, they said.

Reuters delivers a glass of whine:

Snowden leaks prompt ‘insidious’ claims about spies: UK lawmaker

Supporters of former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden use “insidious” language that blurs lines between spying in democratic and authoritarian states, a senior British lawmaker said on Thursday.

Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee which oversees the work of Britain’s spy agencies, said their staff had “noble motivations” and no desire to be “all-seeing” or “all-hearing”. . .

“Unfortunately, the insidious use of language such as ‘mass surveillance’ and ‘Orwellian’ by many of Mr. Snowden’s supporters to describe the actions of Western agencies blurs, unforgivably, the distinction between a system that uses the state to protect the people, and one that uses the state to protect itself against the people,” Rifkind said.

Deutsche Welle covers a coming hearing — or not:

German NSA investigative panel to allow Snowden to testify

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is to testify before a German panel investigating the activities of the spy agency. However, the panel has not yet determined whether he may travel to Berlin for the hearing.

The parliamentary committee, comprised of representatives from Germany’s four parties in the Bundestag, announced the decision on Thursday after deliberating over the matter for roughly two hours.

The vote was unanimous, according to Martina Renner, the chairperson of Germany’s Left party for the special committee.

Lawmakers involved the formal inquiry of NSA activities did not decide on Thursday, however, where the long-awaited hearing would take place.

Meanwhile, the ex-top eavesdropper has taken a spin in the revolving door. From Politico:

Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander seeks post-Snowden second act

Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander is launching a consulting firm for financial institutions looking to address cybersecurity threats, POLITICO has learned.

Less than two months since his retirement from the embattled agency at the center of the Edward Snowden leak storm, the retired four-star general is setting up a Washington-based operation that will try to attract clients based on his four decades of experience in the military and intelligence — and the continued levels of access to senior decision-makers that affords.

“He’s already out pushing hard,” said an industry source recently briefed by Alexander on the new business venture. “He’s cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That’s part of his stock and trade.”

North of the border, and more snoopery from CBC News:

Chantal Bernier says Ottawa snooping on social media

  • Privacy commissioner urges government to clarify rules for when and where data can be collected

Federal government departments are collecting data on Canadian citizens via their social media accounts for no good reason, Canada’s privacy watchdog says.

In a letter to Treasury Board president Tony Clement in February, interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier says “we are seeing evidence that personal information is being collected by government institutions from social media sites without regard for accuracy, currency and accountability.”

The letter dated Feb. 13th also reads: “Should information culled from these sites be used to make administrative decisions about individuals, it is incumbent upon government institutions to ensure the accuracy of this information.”

The letter is just the latest example of how Canada’s chief privacy watchdog has raised a red flag about troubling gaps in the security of Canadians’ personal information.

South of the border, lawmakers also fret, as BuzzFeed reports:

Democratic Congressman Worries About NSA Having Access To Phone Calls With His Hypothetical Mistress

  • Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York was speaking at the House Judiciary Committee mark-up of the USA Freedom Act which would end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications records, when he commented on metadata being able to show calls to a “mistress if I had one.” “You can learn a lot from metadata about a person and invade his privacy tremendously.”

From the Independent, and, like, they’re surprised?:

US accuses Israel of ‘alarming, even terrifying’ levels of spying

Friends do not spy on friends. That illusion about America’s attitude to its allies was conclusively debunked by Edward Snowden’s revelations about America’s National Security Agency and its British partner in global electronic eavesdropping, GCHQ. But by every account, the US is being repaid in kind by one of its closest international friends – Israel.

Israel has been trying to steal secrets from the US, its principal protector and benefactor, but also occasional rival, ever since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948, and even before. But according to the latest issue of Newsweek, quoting Obama administration officials, these activities have “crossed red lines” rarely encountered in the past.

In the words of one Congressional aide, with access to classified briefings in January on the subject, Israel’s behaviour was “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying”. Israel, it would appear, is after everything it can lay its hands on: not just diplomatic and policy documents, but industrial and military technology. The means include Israeli trade missions to the US, joint ventures between Israeli and American companies and, presumably, spying by Israeli intelligence agencies.

Quartz recruits [and they’re, like, surprised?]:

China and the US are racing to turn poor, naive Millennials into spies

Chinese state media are accusing an “unnamed foreign country” of recruiting spies at Chinese universities and through popular blogs and social media. This week, a series of news reports claim that unsuspecting Chinese, some of them as young as 16 years old, are being lured into working for foreign intelligence agents.

The reports seem to be a response to a short documentary posted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations last month, telling the story of a 28-year-old Michigan native, Glenn Duffie Shriver who says he was was recruited to spy for the Chinese while living in Shanghai, and was eventually caught by US authorities. The FBI video describes Chinese intelligence officers plying the young American with cash and luxury liquor, and appealing to his fascination with China.

The fact that this kind of covert recruitment occurs isn’t as surprising as each government’s attempts to paint the other as emotionally manipulative and ruthless. It may be a sign that US and Chinese intelligence agencies are waging a war for public opinion, as well as critical information.

From the Guardian, a non-disappearing act:

Regulators reprimand Snapchat over false claims about messaging service

  • Company had promised messages ‘disappear forever’
  • FTC says Snapchat deceived over personal data collection

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Thursday that the fast-growing service had deceived people about the privacy of the messages sent through its service and secretly collected sensitive information about its users.

According to Snapchat, this month users are sending 700m photos and videos per day. Snapchat messages, known as snaps, are timed to delete after they have been viewed and it has become a popular service for people “sexting” – sending pornographic photos and texts – as well as for people wanting greater privacy from their messaging services.

The FTC said that in marketing the service Snapchat failed to disclose the ease with which users can save a message by taking an undetectable screenshot or by using a third-party app. Apps allowing snap recipients to copy and store messages indefinitely have been downloaded “millions of times”, said the FTC. Despite a security researcher warning the company about this possibility, the FTC said, “Snapchat continued to misrepresent that the sender controls how long a recipient can view a snap.”

The Guardian again, with questions about domestic security:

Albuquerque residents attempt citizen’s arrest of police chief

  • Protests against police brutality cause rowdy city council meeting to end with attempted citizen’s arrest of controversial chief

As the threat of another tense standoff at an Albuquerque city council meeting brews, protesters angry over a series of police shootings are harkening back to the city’s long history of civil disturbance and modeling their demonstrations after those including a notorious 1960s citizen raid of a northern New Mexico courthouse.

In 1967, protesters contending the US government stole millions of acres of land from Mexican American residents stormed a courthouse to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the district attorney. During the raid, the group shot and wounded a state police officer and jailer, beat a deputy and took the sheriff and a reporter hostage.

Now a leader of this week’s protest cited that episode as the motivation for the city council demonstration in which protesters attempted a citizen’s arrest of the police chief.

Here’s a video report from station KRQE in Albuquerque:

Protesters take over Albuquerque City Council meeting

Program notes:

Angry protesters took over Albuquerque City Council Monday night calling for immediate change at APD and the ousting of both Albuquerque’s Police Chief, Mayor and more.

BBC News covers criminalized blogging, the venue not so surprising:

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi gets 10 year jail sentence

A Saudi court has imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi for 10 years for “insulting Islam” and setting up a liberal web forum, local media report. He was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000; £133,000).

Amnesty International called the verdict “outrageous” and urged the authorities to quash the verdict.

Mr Badawi, the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, was arrested in 2012.

From TheLocal.se, flying high to spy high, oops:

SAS flight in Russian spy plane near miss

A Scandinavian Airlines flight had to take last minute evasive action to avoid colliding with a Russian spy plane just off the Swedish south coast in March, according to a report which emerged on Thursday.

According to a Sveriges Television report on Thursday, the incident occurred on March 3rd just 50 kilometres south of the Swedish city of Malmö – home to over 300,000 people.

The plane was reportedly a Russian Ilyushin 20m military aircraft used for signals surveillance. The two aircraft are reported to have passed by each other a mere 90 metres apart.

From Guardian, criminal stupidity?:

FBI agent faces charges in Pakistan for boarding a flight with weapons

  • US State Department confirms that Joel Cox is federal agent and says Pakistani authorities are co-ordinating to resolve arrest

A FBI agent arrested in Pakistan for trying to board a civilian flight with bullets and a knife in his luggage is being investigated on possible criminal charges, Pakistani authorities said on Thursday.

Joel Cox, confirmed by the US State Department as an FBI agent, was arrested on Sunday at the airport in the southern city of Karachi after trying to board a flight with the knife and 15 9mm bullets in his luggage, police said.

The case has revived memories of Raymond Davis, an American CIA contractor who was arrested in January 2011 after shooting dead two men he believed were about to rob him in the eastern city of Lahore.

After the jump, the latest from the ongoing Asian Game of Zones, including drones, a ship-ramming China/Vietnam engagement and sundry responses, history wars, Japanese remilitarization, and more. . .
Continue reading

Headlines: Spies, drones, crops, & zones


We open today’s tales from the darkside with a qualified win with PCWorld:

House votes to outlaw NSA’s bulk collection of phone records

A U.S. House of Representatives committee has taken a major step toward outlawing the NSA’s controversial bulk collection of telephone and other business records generated by U.S. residents.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 32-0 to approve an amended version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would require the National Security Agency to get case-by-case approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before collecting the telephone or business records of a U.S. resident. The committee’s vote sends the bill to the House floor; a similar bill is awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill would limit the controversial bulk collection program by allowing the FBI, asking on behalf of the NSA, to request U.S. phone records from carriers only if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that the information sought pertains to a foreign power, an agent of a foreign power, or a person in contact with a foreign power.

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, job security:

Border Patrol rarely punishes agents accused of abuse, study shows

A new report by an immigration watchdog finds that the United States’ largest federal law enforcement agency rarely punishes its agents for their mistreatment of immigrants and American citizens.

The report by the American Immigration Council found that 97 percent of abuse complaints lodged against Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers resulted in no disciplinary action once an investigation had been completed. Those included a complaint from a pregnant woman in El Paso, Texas, that she had miscarried after a Border Patrol agent kicked her in the stomach, and several complaints from women that they had been forced to bare their breasts while in custody.

The survey also found that many complaints against U.S. border agents take years to resolve. The council reviewed 809 complaints filed in the three years from January 2009 to January 2012. But of those, only 485 had been investigated and resolved. The remainder are still under investigation, including a nearly 5-year-old allegation of forced sexual intercourse lodged July 30, 2009, against a Border Patrol agent in El Centro, Calif.

From the Progressive, thug politics:

Obama Threatens Pulitzer Prize-Winner

James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winner at the New York Times, may face jail time on a federal contempt of court charge if he doesn’t release the identity of one of his confidential sources.

The Bush Administration’s Justice Department tried to pry the information out of him, but ultimately relented.

Now President Obama, who vowed to restore our civil liberties when he ran for the White House in 2000, is letting his Justice Department pursue Risen even more aggressively than Bush did.

The information concerns a source for a chapter in Risen’s terrific 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” That chapter dealt with a scheme to give the Iranians faulty blueprints for a nuclear weapon.

Major mud-slinging from Reuters:

Snowden being manipulated by Russian intelligence: ex-NSA chief

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the U.S. government’s data collection programs, is now likely under the control of Russian intelligence agencies, according to former NSA Director, General Keith Alexander.

Alexander, who retired on March 31, made the comments in an interview with The Australian Financial Review newspaper to be published on Thursday, a transcript of which was made available to Reuters ahead of publication.

Alexander, the longest-serving Director of the NSA, also spoke in favor of backing Japanese militarization to counter-balance China and warned that a lack of norms governing cyber-conflict could trigger a war between traditional foes like North and South Korea.

From Defense One, provoking the bear:

GOP: Speed Up Missile Interceptors to Poland

Senate Republicans are pushing for the U.S. military to speed up deployment of advanced interceptors in Poland to send a deterrent message to Russia.

A bill introduced last week by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and 22 other GOP members of his chamber would require the Obama administration to provide a plan for how to achieve deployment of Phase 3 of the “Phased Adaptive Approach” for European missile defense by the end of 2016.

Antimissile assets under the third phase currently are not planned for fielding in Poland until late 2018, at the earliest.

BuzzFeed plays space invaders:

CNN Actually Asked People In A Scientific Poll If They Thought Space Aliens Abducted MH370

  • Welcome to Earth.

A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday showed 80% of Americans think no one survived Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

In one portion of their write up of the poll CNN states Americans think aliens might have been involved in the disappearance: “…while 9% believe that space aliens or beings from another dimension were involved.”

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, with friends like these. . .:

Israeli spying on US at alarming level: report

Israel spies on the United States more than any other ally does and these activities have reached an alarming level, Newsweek magazine reported on Tuesday.

The main targets are US industrial and technical secrets, the weekly said, quoting classified briefings on legislation that would make it easier for Israeli citizens to get visas to enter America.

Newsweek said a congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying”, and quoted another as saying the behaviour was “damaging.”

“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013, according to Newsweek.

Wired threat level builds up the hackable files:

Former NSA Chief Defends Stockpiling Software Flaws for Spying

The NSA has never said much about the open secret that it collects and sometimes even pays for information about hackable flaws in commonly used software. But in a rare statement following his retirement last month, former NSA chief Keith Alexander acknowledged and defended that practice. In doing so, he admitted the deeply contradictory responsibilities of an agency tasked with defending Americans’ security and simultaneously hoarding bugs in software they use every day.

“When the government asks NSA to collect intelligence on terrorist X, and he uses publicly available tools to encode his messages, it is not acceptable for a foreign intelligence agency like NSA to respond, ‘Sorry we cannot understand what he is saying’,” Alexander told the Australian Financial Review, which he inexplicably granted a 16,000-word interview. “To ask NSA not to look for weaknesses in the technology that we use, and to not seek to break the codes our adversaries employ to encrypt their messages is, I think, misguided. I would love to have all the terrorists just use that one little sandbox over there so that we could focus on them. But they don’t.”

The NSA has been widely criticized for using its knowledge of security flaws for spying, rather than working to patch those flaws and make internet users more secure. Alexander’s defense of the practice boils down to the notion that separating friend and foe when seeking to break codes has become a nearly impossible task.

From the Guardian, his career lives up to his name:

Ireland’s justice minister resigns over allegations by police whistleblower

  • Alan Shatter steps down after claims of corruption within the police force and political interference in policing

Ireland’s justice minister has resigned over a critical report concerning allegations by a police whistleblower.

Alan Shatter offered his resignation to the Irish premier, Enda Kenny.

In response to the report into the Garda whistleblower’s claims of corruption within the force and political interference in policing, Shatter sent a letter to the taoiseach stating: “I am anxious that any controversy that may arise on publication of the report does not distract from the important work of government or create any difficulties for the Fine Gael or Labour parties in the period leading into the … elections.”

The London Telegraph makes a claim:

Abu Hamza ‘secretly worked for MI5′ to ‘keep streets of London safe’

  • Radical Islamic preacher helped police and British intelligence ‘defuse tensions with the Muslim community’, his lawyer claims

Abu Hamza, the radical Islamic preacher notorious for his hate-filled sermons, was in reality working secretly with British intelligence “to keep the streets of London safe” by “cooling hotheads”, his lawyer claimed in a US court.

Holding up what he said were reports from Scotland Yard, Joshua Dratel described the cleric as an “intermediary” who cooperated with MI5 and the police to try to end foreign hostage-takings and defuse tensions with the Muslim community in Britain.

The extraordinary admission will fuel conspiracy theories that he was allowed to preach hatred without arrest for so long in the UK because he was working with the security authorities.

And from RT, a hack attack:

Over 1 million people hit as hackers attack France’s telecom Orange

Personal data of 1.3 million clients of the French telecommunications corporation Orange have been stolen. The hack includes mobile and land phone numbers, dates of birth and email addresses of the company’s clients.

Orange says the incident was detected over two weeks ago, on April 18. The company did not rush to announce the breach, in order to analyze the scale of the snatched data and work on the security gaps that allowed the information to be stolen.

“The data recovered could be used to contact those concerned by email, SMS or by phone, particularly for phishing purposes,” the group warns in a statement.

The Verge next, chhillin’ in Moscow:

Putin signs law forcing bloggers to register with Russian media office

President Vladimir Putin has signed a law tightening the Russian government’s already strong hold on the internet. Earlier this week, Putin officially passed what’s become known as the “bloggers law,” which requires popular internet writers to follow rules normally reserved for larger media outlets. Under it, any blogger with more than 3,000 readers is required to register with the Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media oversight agency. According to Reporters Without Borders, the law covers not only traditional blogs but microblogs and social networks. In addition to following existing laws, writers will be responsible for fact-checking any information they post and removing any inaccurate comments, and they’re forbidden from harming the reputation of a person or group or using their platform to “hide or falsify information of general interest.”

Aleksey Mitrofanov, head of the State Duma legislative body’s information policies committee, has denied that this law regulates bloggers as a kind of mass media. “Special legal regulation for bloggers is to be introduced,” he told the ITAR-TASS News Agency when the bill passed in April. “It is the other way around, bloggers who have been registered as an online publication are not subject to the operation of that law.” But it apparently strips away one of the most basic elements of blogging: anonymous or pseudonymous publishing. Popular writers will be required to publish their surname, initials, and email address, apparently in addition to registering with the Roskomnadzor. Reporters Without Borders has criticized the law’s wording as vague, and Global Voices notes that if a writer falls below 3,000 readers, they apparently bear the burden of proactively trying to get their name removed from the register. According to ITAR-TASS, individual violators will be fined between 10,000 and 30,000 rubles (roughly $280 to $850 at the current exchange rate), while “legal entities” will face fines of 300,000 rubles or $8,500.

New Europe adds another level of chill, and a HBO ban as well, we presume:

Putin bans F-Word, obscenity in mass culture

A new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin will put roubles in the country’s swear jar. The Kremlin chief signed a law on 5 May prohibiting swearing in public performances, including cinema, theater and other forms of art. The law will come into effect on 1 July, and afterwards swearing in films, plays and concerts will incur penalties.

Individuals caught using foul language face a fine of up to $70, while officials can be fined up to $40 and businesses nearly $1,400. They face a higher fine and a three-month suspension of business for repeated offenses. An independent examination will determine what counts as profane language, Itar-tass reported.

Any new film containing obscene language won’t be granted a distribution certificate, so there’s no chance of seeing it at the movie theater.

And copies of books, CDs or films containing swearing can only be distributed in a sealed package labeled “Contains obscene language,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

And from RT, the first of today’s drone stories:

All countries will have drone kill technology in 10 years – report

In just one decade, just about every country in the world will have the means to either build or buy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) capable of launching missiles at enemy targets, thus dramatically changing the face of warfare.

Despite a track record that is stained with the blood of innocent victims, drone technology is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for militaries around the globe, and it’s too late for the United States – presently the leader in UAV technologies – to stop the rush, according to Defense One, a site devoted to security issues.

Just a few countries now hold membership in the elite drone club, including the US, United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Iran, Pakistan and China. Other countries, such as South Africa and India, are actively seeking to join. According to the RAND organization, however, another 23 countries “are developing or have developed” armed drones.

And from Defense One, a map featuring those countries in or getting into the armed drone business:

BLOG Drones

Want China Times sees a major new player:

China to lead global drone production in next decade: The Diplomat

China is likely to become the world’s main producer of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to Zachary Keck, the associate editor of the Tokyo-based Diplomat magazine, in an article entitled China to Lead World in Drone Production on May. 2.

A report published by Forecast International, a private market research firm, suggested that the global drone market will more than double in the next ten years. It will grow from US$942 million in 2014 to an annual US$2.3 billion in 2023. Expansion driven by increased costs rather than larger production. The report predicted that annual drone production will begin to decrease in 2017. This number is likely to drop from 1,000 systems this year to roughly 960 systems each year.

The report also stated that the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, a state-owned Chinese defense company will lead the world in UAV production. It said that China can produce about US$5.8 billion worth of UAVs through 2023. This is more than half of the UAVs by value that will be produced during this time period. All of which are likely to be sold to Chinese customers.

The Register covers a clampdown:

Spain clamps down on drones

  • There’s no law to cover them, therefore they’re banned

Spain’s Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea (State Air Security Agency – AESA) has issued a declaration in which it reminds citizens that the commercial or professional use of “drones” is illegal, and that amateur UAV operation is restricted to “authorised areas”.

The document stresses that “the use of remote control aircraft for commercial or professional ends is not allowed, and never has been”.

This includes sending up vehicles for aerial photography, “intelligent agriculture” (examination of crops, etc), any kind of aerial report, checking high-tension power lines or railways, border control, detection of forest fires or reconnaissance over areas affected by natural disasters in order to direct rescue services”.

After the jump, the latest rounds in the game of military, trade and resource zones in Asia, plus a kicker at the end. . . Continue reading

Headlines II: Spies, corps, drones, & zones


Secrets, they’ve got secrets. And spies, and drones, computer hackery — plus the latest chapters of the Game of Zones underway in Asia with transoceanic tentacles. . .

We open with the sad reality from GlobalPost:

Curious about the biggest trade deal in history? Sorry, it’s classified

Governments and big corporations can read the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but not you. Here are 6 ways it could change the world.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership sounds deadly boring.

It’s not.

The potential impact on humanity from this proposed mega-deal is impossible to measure. TPP could bankrupt families in Kansas and enrich them in Kuala Lumpur. Or make patented medicine wildly unaffordable for sick people in poor places. Or even imprison citizens of 12 countries for pirating Game of Thrones episodes.

Or maybe, as its proponents claim, TPP could plug the US into Asia’s rising markets and give the global economy a needed jolt. Either way, if secured, it will be a corporation-friendly game changer for 800 million people.

The thing is, average people are banned from seeing its inner workings.

A different attitude is shaping up in Germany over a parallel trade pact across another ocean, as EurActiv reports:

Schulz on TTIP: There will be no secret negotiations

Instead of trying to cripple negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, opponents should participate in talks, said German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel, while top European candidate Martin Schulz declared TTIP a top priority to “regain lost trust”. EurActiv Germany reports.

Ahead of the fifth round of EU-US trade talks on 19 May, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Federal Minister of Economic Affairs, warned globalisation critics and the German Left Party (Die Linke) against fighting the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Instead, he called on them to play a greater role in the talks: Those who refuse to negotiate with the United States, the social democrat said, will not be able to have any influence over the progression of globalisation.  Instead, civil society and NGOs, as well as national parliaments, should actively participate in the dialogue with their positions and help shape the agreement, Gabriel emphasised.

The Guardian pronounces, profitably:

Antivirus software is dead, says security expert at Symantec

  • Information chief at Norton developer says software in general misses 55% of attacks and its future lies in responding to hacks

Antivirus software only catches 45% of malware attacks and is “dead”, according to a senior manager at Symantec.

Remarks by Brian Dye, senior vice-president for information security at the company, which invented commercial antivirus software in the 1980s and now develops and sells Norton Antivirus, suggest that such software leaves users vulnerable.

Dye told the Wall Street Journal that hackers increasingly use novel methods and bugs in the software of computers to perform attacks, resulting in about 55% cyberattacks going unnoticed by commercial antivirus software.

From Al Jazeera America, well who’d’a thunk it?:

Exclusive: Emails reveal close Google relationship with NSA

  • National Security Agency head and Internet giant’s executives have coordinated through high-level policy discussions

Email exchanges between National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt suggest a far cozier working relationship between some tech firms and the U.S. government than was implied by Silicon Valley brass after last year’s revelations about NSA spying.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s vast capability for spying on Americans’ electronic communications prompted a number of tech executives whose firms cooperated with the government to insist they had done so only when compelled by a court of law.

But Al Jazeera has obtained two sets of email communications dating from a year before Snowden became a household name that suggest not all cooperation was under pressure.

Crashed and burned with Nextgov:

Pentagon Police Agency Hit by ‘Catastrophic’ Network Outage

The agency that manages the Pentagon Police Department  and also runs networks and computers for the Office of the Secretary of Defense experienced a “catastrophic network technological outage” on Jan. 3, and repairs may not be complete until January 2015, an obscure document on the Federal Business Opportunities website revealed.

A Defense Department spokesman attributed the outage to the failure of a legacy component.

The contracting document, posted on May 2, said the outage experienced by the Pentagon Life Safety System Network and Life Safety Backbone left the Pentagon Force Protection Agency “without access to the mission-critical systems needed to properly safeguard personnel and facilities, rendering the agency blind across the national capital region.”

The Hill opens today’s drone-a-palooza:

White House to give senators access to drone assassination memo

Facing a bipartisan revolt over a judicial nominee, the White House on Tuesday promised senators a chance to review a secret memo that provided the legal rationale for killing an American-born al Qaeda leader abroad.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had called for the release of the secret memo written by David Barron outlining the legal justification for striking Anwar al-Awlaki, who was accused of planning and encouraging terrorist attacks against the United States.

President Obama nominated Barron, a former acting assistant attorney general and Harvard Law professor, to serve on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Stressing out with the Tribune Washington Bureau:

FAA under pressure to allow commercial drones

In a 2007 policy statement, the Federal Aviation Administration essentially declared a ban on operating drones for commercial purposes. The agency doubled down on that position in early April, appealing an administrative order that tossed out the legal foundation for its policy. The ruling came after a commercial drone user challenged an FAA fine levied against him.

The ongoing case and mounting pressure to tap into the potentially lucrative industry puts the FAA in a tough spot. The regulatory body, responsible for keeping U.S. airspace safe, plans to propose a rule for commercial drones by the end of the year. But regulations aren’t likely to be final until 2015 at the earliest, leaving some wondering whether the FAA can catch up to an industry already half past go.

“I don’t think there’s any question that market pressure is intense and the FAA is struggling on the regulatory side to keep up,” said James H. Burnley, a former U.S. transportation secretary and a Washington attorney.

The Verge weighs in:

News organizations say FAA ban on drones flies against free press

Over a dozen top news and media organizations have come out in opposition to the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial drone ban, contesting that its broad restrictions violate First Amendment protections afforded to journalists. Though the ban was overturned by a National Transportation Safety Board judge in March, the FAA is currently appealing it. These news organizations — including the Associated Press, The New York Times Company, and the National Press Photographers Association — have filed a brief with the NTSB asking that it affirm the judge’s ruling and continue to block similar bans until the FAA makes an exception for the use of small drones.

“An impermissible chilling effect on the First Amendment newsgathering rights.” “This [current] overly broad policy … has an impermissible chilling effect on the First Amendment newsgathering rights of journalists,” the brief reads. The policies were put into effect — and also overturned — because they were not instated using the proper rule-making process, and the news organizations’ brief reiterates that this means that they and other citizens did not have the opportunity to provide input. “The federal government, through the FAA and with the NTSB’s encouragement, should move forward with the development of polices that protect, rather than hinder, freedom of speech and of the press,” they write.

And Homeland Security News Wire revs up:

Fairbanks, Alaska UAV test site conducts first flight test

The Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Range Complex at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was established last year to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) develop regulations and certifications for unmanned aircraft operators and equipment. The goal is to integrate them into the National Airspace System. On Monday, an Aeryon Scout mini quadcopter was the first UAV to be tested at the range. The range is the second of six UAV test sites to receive an FAA’s Certificate of Authorization.

The birds were noisier than the Aeryon Scout as the mini quadcopter whirred over the caribou lounging in the field at the Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station yesterday. The Scout climbed to 200 feet as a crowd of about fifty people silently watched its inaugural flight under the gray overcast sky at Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Atlantic Monthly takes wing, in California:

Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied on a Whole City

  • A sergeant in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department compared the experiment to Big Brother, even though he went ahead with it willingly. Is your city next?

In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.

Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012. “We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he’s trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren’t watching in real time.

If it’s adopted, Americans can be policed like Iraqis and Afghanis under occupation–and at bargain prices.

And a story to give one confidence, via  Independent.ie:

Government drone mistakenly delivered to US college student

A US government drone worth $350,000 was accidentally delivered to a college student by delivery service UPS.

Parts of the drone, which was designed to monitor wildlife and environmental changes and can fly for around two hours at a time, were delivered on Monday.

The student uploaded pictures of the package to Reddit under username Seventy_Seven before ringing UPS for an explanation.

From RT, business as usual:

MI5 warns businesses foreign spies targeting their IT staff – report

MI5, the British intelligence agency, has reportedly warned that foreign agents are attempting to recruit IT corporate employees – even low-level contractors – to gain access to classified data.

In these post-Snowden times, when all electronic information and communication has been proven vulnerable to some form of spying, UK intelligence is warning corporate executives in “high-level conversations” on the importance of boosting their “digital defenses,” the Financial Times reported, quoting anonymous Whitehall officials.

The warning comes as the government works to beef up digital security at important institutions such as “banks, utility companies or energy providers,” some of which remain vulnerable to espionage.

Sky News hands over oral history:

Irish Republicans Offered Boston Tapes Return

  • Republicans interviewed for a project on the Northern Ireland Troubles are concerned about their safety or legal exposure.

A college which interviewed republicans actively involved in the Troubles in Northern Ireland has offered to return the interviews to those who provided them.

It comes after some expressed concerns about their safety or legal exposure following the arrest of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams over the murder of widowed mother-of-10, Jean McConville.

His detention by police in Northern Ireland stemmed from allegations made by republicans in the interviews, which were part of a five-year Boston College oral history project, launched back in 2001.

Stupidity meets the draconian via TheLocal.de:

Bin Laden joker ends up on terror watchlist

A man from Munich who wrote “bin Laden” on a bank transfer form as a joke has been added to the German Central Bank’s terror blacklist for ten years.

The man was transferring €480 to his friend for a ski trip when he wrote bin Laden on the form under a section asking what the money was for. But his unfortunate joke was picked up by computer software put in place to detect transactions which could be funding terrorism, Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper reported.

The monitoring software is compulsory for all banks by EU law and screens all transactions for keywords and key phrases connected with terrorist groups and individuals.

Self-serving Irish leakage meets umbrage via Independent.ie:

Shatter faces fresh calls to resign after breaking the law

Justice Minister Alan Shatter will face fresh calls for his resignation after it was found that he broke the law by leaking sensitive data about Independent TD Mick Wallace.

The Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes today concluded his report into Mr Shatter’s actions on RTE’s ‘Primetime’ during which he revealed that Mr Wallace had been cautioned by gardai for driving while using a mobile phone.

Mr Hawkes stated that the minister breached data protection laws by leaking the information during the live programme.

IntelNews links up:

Germans kidnapped in Ukraine had ‘intelligence connections’

Four German military observers, who were kidnapped in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists, are members of a military agency that has intelligence contacts, but are not themselves spies, according to a leading German newspaper.

The German observers were abducted along with several other Western military officials on April 25, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. They were participating in a military verification mission organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

At the time of the abduction, one pro-Russian separatist leader, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said his group had decided to detain the OSCE monitors due to “credible information” that they were spies for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

From BBC News, and who were they?:

Colombia raids office that ‘spied to undermine peace’

Colombian authorities say they have raided an office that illegally spied on rebel and government communication to try to undermine peace talks.

Colombia’s Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre said the office was run by a criminal organisation that had intercepted emails from a Farc rebel negotiator and the government.

He said President Juan Manuel Santos was also “probably” targeted.

From TheLocal.se, how Swede it wasn’t:

‘Honeytrap failed to snare Brezhnev’s son’

Despite Sweden’s pyjama-party heyday and an MI6 lure called “Ann” with a fail-free seduction record, the Swedish security service Säpo failed to honeytrap Leonid Brezhnev’s son during the Cold War thanks to a tattle-tale defector.

The revelations were published in a new book – Spionjägaren, del 2 (“The Spy Hunter, part two”) – penned by former Säpo head Olof Frånstedt. The book has revealed that Säpo tried to honeytrap the son of Leonid Brezhnev, who was the head of the Soviet Union at the time.

Jurij Brezhnev was stationed in Stockholm at the time and lived in the Lidingö building which until very recently housed the Russian trade mission.

The Swedes had planned to use the promise of sex to lure Brezhnev Jr to a small flat in Östermalm, rigged with cameras and microphones. The encounter, they hoped, would give the Swedes enough material to use as blackmail. And the culture was ripe for such liaisons. Frånstedt wrote that at the time, sexually loaded “pyjama parties” were in full swing among diplomats in Sweden and Säpo staff.

The Verge extends the panopticon read:

Police could use photographic fingerprints to track suspects across social networks

Photographs are turning into the digital equivalent of fingerprints, allowing law enforcement to search through a collection of images to help track down the identity of photo-taking criminals, such as smartphone thieves and child pornographers. Prior investigation has shown that a digital photo can be paired with the very camera that took it by examining the unique noise pattern that its sensor imprints onto photos, and now researchers have begun applying that to social networks, grabbing photos from Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Google+, and personal blogs to see whether one individual image could be matched to a specific user’s account.

In a paper published earlier this year, researchers say that they were able to match a photo with a specific person 56 percent of the time in their studied circumstance — examining 10 different people’s photos found on two separate websites each. The researchers, Riccardo Satta and Pasquale Stirparo from the European Commission’s Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, acknowledge that this performance is far from perfect, but they argue that it’s still much better than random guess and could at the least help to pinpoint persons of interest in a criminal investigation. Analayzing photos by what’s known as their “sensor pattern noise” is still a relatively new field, however, so those figuers are likely to rise with more research.

From TheLocal.ch, action at a distance:

Hacker held in Bangkok over Swiss bank fraud???

Law enforcement officials in Thailand have detained a computer hacker suspected of stealing four to five million francs from Swiss online bank accounts.

The man, believed to be a 26-year-old Moroccan, was arrested in Bangkok after justice authorities in Bern issued an international warrant for his arrest, the federal prosecutor’s office confirmed on Monday.

The man is suspected of fraudulently obtaining bank card details and other prohibited economic information through the internet, the office informed the ATS news agency.

The daily newspaper 20 Minuten identified the man as a Moroccan citizen.

After the jump, the latest developments and absurd utterances in the ever-spiraling Game of Zones, with Japan, China, Paris, Washington, and more all piling on. . . Continue reading

Headlines II: Spooks, security, zones, etc.


We begin today’s collection of headlines from the worlds of government and corporate espionage, security anxieties, and militarism — including the increasingly tense Asian Game of Zones — with a case of overwrought anxieties from AlterNet:

Las Vegas Cops Host Event Linking Premarital Sex to Having Your Face Chewed Off by Meth Fiends

  • Scaring girls abstinent.

For some reason, the Las Vegas Police decided that it was their business to instruct young girls not to ever ever have sex until they are married. Otherwise, they will end up as prostitutes, drug addicts and dead people. So, the police (yes, the police!) hosted a ‘Choose Purity’ event over the weekend, in which Officer Regina Coward, president of the Nevada Black Police Association, told girls that promiscuity leads to sexual assault, gang activity, and drugs. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Officer Coward was asked by her church, Victory Outreach Church, to set up an event emphasizing abstinence. She really went all out, even including a demonstration with a body bag (to drive home that point about premarital sex leading to death.)

According to the Sun, about 125 people attended the event and “watched recorded interviews with a pimp and prostitutes, learned modern-day slavery exists in the form of the sex trade, and saw grisly images of people who’d suffered at the hands of hard drugs — such as a woman who’d lost limbs in a methamphetamine lab explosion and a man who’d had his face partially gnawed off by a meth user.”

From the Guardian, hopes of panopticon game limits [but don’t hole your breath]:

Chairman of key House committee agrees to proceed with NSA reform bill

  • Judiciary committee chair gives new life to USA Freedom Act
  • Bill to overhaul spy agency had been stalled by months of delay

The chairman of a key committee in the House of Representatives agreed to move on a major surveillance overhaul on Monday, after months of delay.

The decision, by the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, breathes new life back into the USA Freedom Act, a legislative fix favoured by privacy advocates to prevent the US government from collecting domestic data in bulk.

The judiciary committee is expected to take action on an amendment encapsulating the provisions of the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday at 1pm. Congressional aides expected it to pass the committee with bipartisan support, setting up a fight on the House floor.

And a new twist, via TechDirt:

Competing NSA Reform Bills Suddenly Lurch Forward In Congress

  • from the well-this-might-get-interesting dept

In a bit of a surprise move, the House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, caught people off guard this morning by announcing that there would be a markup of the USA FREEDOM Act on Wednesday, complete with a Manager’s Amendment from bill author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. If you don’t recall, the USA FREEDOM Act was the best bet for real NSA reforms. It was far from perfect, but did actually do a lot of good things without adding a bunch of bad things. The amended version scales that back a bit. It’s not as good, but it’s still pretty good. Harley Geiger, over at CDT has a good overview of the Manager’s Amendment, and how it actually improves the bill in certain areas, while Marcy Wheeler highlights both the good and bad of the amendment.

Of course, within just a few minutes of the Judiciary Committee announcing its plans to move forward with the USA FREEDOM Act, the House Intelligence Committee announced that it would hold its own damn markup on the competing “NSA reform” bill from Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, which is designed to look like a shot at NSA reform, but which really would make it easier for the NSA to collect info on people. That bill, called the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act (almost none of that is true), is basically the NSA’s prime choice for pretending to be reform.

Next, from the New York Times, another secret base, but much closer to home:

Arms Cache Most Likely Kept in Texas by the C.I.A.

In passing references scattered through once-classified documents and cryptic public comments by former intelligence officials, it is referred to as “Midwest Depot,” but the bland code name belies the role it has played in some of the C.I.A.’s most storied operations.

From the facility, located somewhere in the United States, the C.I.A. has stockpiled and distributed untraceable weapons linked to preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of rebels and resistance fighters from Angola to Nicaragua to Afghanistan.

Yet despite hints that “Midwest” was not actually where it was located, the secrecy surrounding the C.I.A. armory has survived generations of investigations. In a 2007 essay on the 20th anniversary of the Iran-contra affair, for example, a congressional investigator noted that the facility where the C.I.A. had handled missiles bound for Iran remained classified even as other “incredible things were unveiled during the hearings.”

But three years ago, it became public that the C.I.A. had some kind of secret location at Camp Stanley, an Army weapons depot just north of San Antonio and the former Kelly Air Force Base, though its purpose was unclear. And now, a retired C.I.A. analyst, Allen Thomson, has assembled a mosaic of documentation suggesting that it is most likely the home of Midwest Depot.

You’ll find the report, posted by the Federation of American Scientists, here [PDF].

From Spiegel, Merkel toes Obama’s line:

  • Trans-Atlantic Supplicant: Merkel Chooses Unity over NSA Truth

There was a time when Angela Merkel was committed to investigating the extent of NSA spying in Germany. Now, though, the chancellor has made an about face. Trans-Atlantic unity is her new priority, and the investigation has been left to languish.

In the world of diplomacy, moments of candor are rare, obscured as they are behind a veil of amicability and friendly gestures. It was no different last Friday at the meeting between US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington.

Obama welcomed Merkel by calling her “one of my closest partners” and a “friend” and took her on a tour of the White House vegetable garden as part of the four hours he made available. He praised her as a “strong partner” in the Ukraine crisis and thanked her many times for the close cooperation exhibited in recent years. The birds in the Rose Garden sang happily as the president spoke.

But then Obama made clear who had the upper hand in this wonderfully harmonious relationship. When a reporter asked why, in the wake of the NSA spying scandal, the no-spy deal between Germany and the US had collapsed, Obama avoided giving a clear answer. He also dodged a question as to whether Merkel’s staff is still monitored. Instead, he stayed vague: “As the world’s oldest continuous constitutional democracy, I think we know a little bit about trying to protect people’s privacy.” That was it.

Merkel, when asked if trust had been rebuilt following the NSA revelations, was much less sanguine. “There needs to be and will have to be more than just business as usual,” she said.

And one consequence, via RT:

Germany to thwart internal NSA probe – reports

The German government plans to limit their level of cooperation with a recently formed parliamentary panel investigating mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency, Der Spiegel reports.

The 8-member panel of inquiry, comprising six lawmakers from the ruling coalition and two from the opposition, will only be given limited access to a so-called bilateral no-spy agreement currently being negotiated with Washington. Access to relevant documents will be limited as it is considered to be “an ongoing process” regarding “a core area of government responsibility” which is constitutionally protected, a senior government official told the German daily.

It also remains unknown whether the committee will be given access to documents regarding cooperation between Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service and its US and British counterparts. According to the paper, such a step would require the consent of Germany’s foreign partners.

Quartz covers Snowden’s latest, using Danish corporate trickery to hoist the elites’ petard:

Edward Snowden’s latest target is a Danish gossip magazine

“Big things are happening in Denmark.” With this Hamletic line, Edward Snowden opens a letter in the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

The former NSA contractor and whistleblower weighed in on what the Scandinavian press has dubbed “Se og Hør-gate” (Danish.) It’s a News-of-the-World-like scandal involving the Danish gossip paper Se og Hør (See and Hear), which is accused of buying the confidential credit card records of the royal family, prime minister, and celebrities.

According to a book by a former Se og Hør reporter, Ken Rasmussen, an employee of the payment company Nets leaked information about the credit card purchases of prominent personalities to help the gossip magazine target their location. Nets was recently bought by Bain Capital and Advent International for $3.1 billion.

ProPublica covers a new trick to avoid the public’s right to know:

The Dangers of Public Officials Using Private Email for Government Business

Adopting a tactic that has been used by officials ranging from Sarah Palin to staffers of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are sending emails from private accounts to conduct official business.

I know because I got one myself. And three other people who interact with the governor’s office on policy or media matters told me they have too. None of the others wanted to be named.

The tactic appears to be another item in the toolbox of an administration that, despite Cuomo’s early vows of unprecedented transparency, has become known for an obsession with secrecy. Emailing from private accounts can help officials hide communications and discussions that are supposed to be available to the public.

From Al Jazeera America, more corporate consequences for a data breach:

Target chief resigns five months after data breach

  • CEO of nation’s third-largest retailer steps down after hackers stole card info from tens of millions of customers

Target announced Monday that its chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel is out nearly five months after the nation’s third-largest retailer disclosed a massive hacker attack and data breach, which has hurt its reputation among customers and has derailed its business.

The company said Steinhafel, a 35-year Target veteran and its CEO since 2008, has agreed to step down, effective immediately. He also resigned from the board of directors.

A company spokeswoman declined to say when the decision was reached.

MarketWatch covers the start of a drone bubble:

Profit from the coming drone revolution

The Drone Revolution is coming, and we’re gunning for it.

It’s gonna be huge. Are you even digging into the drone world yet? I’ve already found a couple relatively “undiscovered” stocks that are poised to benefit from the burgeoning huge drone market over the next five to 10 years, which will likely be one of the biggest new industries to hit the developed world since the App Revolution.

From Romenesko, the Fourth Estate moves to create a corporate version of a state secret:

Lara Logan’s ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi piece was deleted from LexisNexis

  • “Deleted at the request of CBS News”

And from GlobalPost, more corporate media trickery:

Fox News used footage of random sad Asians instead of actual Koreans mourning the ferry

  • Nope, not The Onion.

One sad Asian is as good as the next it seems. At least according to Fox News.

In the clip below about the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in South Korea, from a few weeks ago, Fox appears to have swapped in footage of random sad Asian people in place of mourning Koreans.

At about minute 1:40, the narrator talks about how relatives of the missing passengers believe there would have been more survivors had people been ordered to evacuate the sinking ship.

The problem? The corresponding footage is not of the mourning relatives, or even Koreans, but rather “people presumably from another region of Asia,” according to KoreAm, a blog covering the Korean American experience. Another blogger suggests the footage is actually of Tibetans crying after the recent avalanche at Mt. Everest.

After the jump, the latest escalations, posturings, and allliances in the Asian Game of Zones. . . Continue reading

Headlines II: Spooks, zones, secrecy, & lies


Today’s tales from the darkside — the world of spies, militarism, security, and privacy — begins with a story containing a phrase that sends chills down the spine. From the Guardian, invoking chilling wartime words in the climate change debate:

Climate change is clear and present danger, says landmark US report

  • National Climate Assessment, to be launched at White House on Tuesday, says effects of climate change are now being felt

Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

The findings are expected to guide Obama as he rolls out the next and most ambitious phase of his climate change plan in June – a proposal to cut emissions from the current generation of power plants, America’s largest single source of carbon pollution.

Invoking another threat with EUbusiness:

Europe’s cybersecurity policy settings under attack

Even as Europe powered up its most ambitious ever cybersecurity exercise this month, doubts were being raised over whether the continent’s patchwork of online police was right for the job.

The exercise, called Cyber Europe 2014, is the largest and most complex ever enacted, involving 200 organisations and 400 cybersecurity professionals from both the European Union and beyond.

Yet some critics argued that herding together normally secretive national security agencies and demanding that they spend the rest of 2014 sharing information amounted to wishful thinking.

Others questioned whether the law enforcement agencies taking part in the drill should be involved in safeguarding online security, in the wake of American whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations of online spying by western governments.

And via a Google translation of a Bild am Sonntag story, what we have suspected proves out:

On behalf of the U.S. Government

CIA agents & FBI advise Kiev

The Ukrainian provisional Government in Kiev is advised by dozens of specialists of the US intelligence agency CIA and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. That learned on Sunday from German security circles.

The officials will help on behalf of the Federal Government Kiev, to end the rebellion in the East of the country and to build a functioning security structure.

The agents were involved in the Eastern Ukraine but not directly in the fighting with the pro-Russian militias. Their activity is limited to the capital Kiev.

The FBI agents help the Kievan transitional Government also to fight organized crime in the country: A group of investigators and analysts of the US federal police specializing in financial investigations to track down the assets of the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

And the costs of domestic “security” are proving extensive and dangerous, reports MintPress News:

Skyrocketing Prison Population Devastating US Society

  • National Research Council report documents devastating costs to communities, families and society.

After two years of data review, the NRC this week released a 464-page report that delivers a round indictment of four decades of skyrocketing incarceration that has quadrupled the prison population and torn apart families, communities, society, and the lives of the incarcerated people themselves.

“It is easy for those in power to dismiss communities and organizations how have been fighting this stuff for generations as out in left field or put them in racist stereotypes,” Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance told Common Dreams. “But now you have the center saying the same thing.”

Commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation, the report finds that 2.23 million people are currently locked in U.S. prisons and jails, but that number multiplies when people who are on parole or probation are considered. This is the result of an “unprecedented and internationally unique rise in U.S. state and federal prison populations” since 1973, according to an NRC statement.

This climbing prison population does not correspond to increases in violence, but rather, is driven by policy changes, including: the imposition of “mandatory minimums” in the 1980s, longer sentences for repeat convictions, and increased criminalization of drug offenses due to the War on Drugs. As a result, incarceration rates for drug offenses to multiply ten times between 1980 and 2010.

From the Observer, the ubiquitous panopticon gets creepier:

Facial recognition: is the technology taking away your identity?

Facial recognition technology is being used by companies such as Tesco, Google and Facebook, and it has huge potential for security. Concerned? It may be too late to opt out…

This summer, Facebook will present a paper at a computer vision conference revealing how it has created a tool almost as accurate as the human brain when it comes to saying whether two photographs show the same person – regardless of changes in lighting and camera angles. A human being will get the answer correct 97.53% of the time; Facebook’s new technology scores an impressive 97.25%. “We closely approach human performance,” says Yaniv Taigman, a member of its AI team.

Since the ability to recognise faces has long been a benchmark for artificial intelligence, developments such as Facebook’s “DeepFace” technology (yes, that’s what it called it) raise big questions about the power of today’s facial recognition tools and what these mean for the future.

Facebook is not the only tech company interested in facial recognition. A patent published by Apple in March shows how the Cupertino company has investigated the possibility of using facial recognition as a security measure for unlocking its devices – identifying yourself to your iPhone could one day be as easy as snapping a quick selfie.

Ars Technica drones on, then off:

Drones banned at Yosemite National Park

  • Park Service says drones are noisy and “can impact the natural landscape.”

The National Park Service is warning visitors to Yosemite National Park that drones “are prohibited within park boundaries.”

The service announced the decision Friday and cited a federal law that says “delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit” is illegal.

The latest move against drones comes months after the Federal Aviation Administration grounded a nonprofit Texas volunteer search-and-rescue outfit that employs five-pound styrofoam drones.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Panopticon north of the border:

Now we know Ottawa can snoop on any Canadian. What are we going to do?

Since June, 2013, a steady stream of revelations from Edward Snowden has shed light on a vast U.S.-led surveillance system. While there have been several important Canadian-related revelations, none has raised clear issues of potential unlawfulness. That is, until now.

A “Top Secret” presentation obtained by the CBC from the Snowden cache, which I reviewed in detail, outlines the indiscriminate and bulk collection and analysis of Canadian communications data by the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC). Assuming the documents are legitimate, it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that these activities constitute a clear violation of CSEC’s mandates and almost certainly of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The CSEC presentation describes ubiquitous surveillance programs clearly directed at Canadians, involving data associated with Canadian airports, hotels, wi-fi cafes, enterprises and other domestic locations. The presentation outlines the challenges of discerning specific internet addresses and IDs associated with users within the universe of bulk data, paying special attention to challenges involving the movement of people through airports. It outlines results of experiments undertaken at a medium-sized city airport, which could possibly mean Calgary or Halifax, and which includes observations at “other domestic airports,” “hotels in many cities” and “mobile gateways in many cities.” Observations are made with detailed graphs of specific patterns of communications, noting differences as to how individuals communicate upon arrival and during departure, how long they spend in transit lounges, wi-fi cafes, hotel visits and even places of work. The objectives, the presentation says, are to separate the “needle from the haystack” – the haystack being, of course, all of us.

From Britain, the London Telegraph reports on a man once considered a major security threat to Old Blighty:

Gerry Adams released over Jean McConville murder

  • But Sinn Fein leader may still face charges as police file is to be sent to prosecutors

From FRANCE 24, refuge for the persecuted:

French non-profit offers a home to exiled journalists

In honour of World Press Freedom Day, the Maison des Journalistes (MDJ), a French non-profit organization that offers shelter and support to journalists forced to flee their home countries, opened its doors to FRANCE 24.

Based in Paris’s 15th arrondissement, the MDJ was founded in 2002, and has since housed more than 250 journalists from 54 different countries. . .

“When they first get here, we give them housing and we help them get political asylum,” Darline Cothière, MDJ’s director, explained. “Then we help them get the right paperwork, so they can get medical coverage and unemployment. It’s administrative help, but it’s stuff that needs to be done.”

Because so many of those who cross MDJ’s threshold have lived through trauma, the non-profit also provides psychological counseling.

And from the Associated Press, police malfeasance on troubled turf:

Ex-security head: Israel soft on anti-Arab crimes

The former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency says its current leader does not take seriously recent vandalism by ultranationalist Jews of Palestinian and Arab Israeli property.

Carmi Gillon says he believes Yoram Cohen does not invest enough resources to stop the vandalism.

“He belittles the danger of these activities. He apparently does not prioritize this matter,” Gillon told Army Radio Sunday.

A fringe of mostly radical settlers has carried out vandalism in recent years to protest Israeli policy and respond to actions by Palestinians, drawing condemnation by Israeli leaders but few arrests.

After the jump, the latest in the ongoing Asian Game of Zones, with new escalations, word games, and new North Korean craziness. . .
Continue reading

Headlines: Snoops, dupes, pols, and trolls


Today’s tales from the dark side, our daily collection of headlines from the worlds of black ops and arts, opens the a 21st Century reality via the Guardian:

Everyone is under surveillance now, says whistleblower Edward Snowden

  • People’s privacy is violated without any suspicion of wrongdoing, former National Security Agency contractor claims

The US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that entire populations, rather than just individuals, now live under constant surveillance.

“It’s no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing,” he said. “It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.”

Snowden made his comments in a short video that was played before a debate on the proposition that surveillance today is a euphemism for mass surveillance, in Toronto, Canada. The former US National Security Agency contractor is living in Russia, having been granted temporary asylum there in June 2013.

From the Guardian again, this time with a look at peculiar habits of key players:

Technology law will soon be reshaped by people who don’t use email

  • The US supreme court doesn’t understand the internet. Laugh all you want, but when NSA, Pandora and privacy cases hit the docket, the lack of tech savvy on the bench gets scary

There’s been much discussion – and derision – of the US supreme court’s recent forays into cellphones and the internet, but as more and more of these cases bubble up to the high chamber, including surveillance reform, we won’t be laughing for long: the future of technology and privacy law will undoubtedly be written over the next few years by nine individuals who haven’t “really ‘gotten to’ email” and find Facebook and Twitter “a challenge” .

A pair of cases that went before the court this week raise the issue of whether police can search someone’s cellphone after an arrest but without a warrant. The court’s decisions will inevitably affect millions. As the New York Times editorial board explained on the eve of the arguments, “There are 12 million arrests in America each year, most for misdemeanors that can be as minor as jaywalking.” Over 90% of Americans have cellphones, and as the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a briefing to the court, our mobile devices “are in effect, our new homes”.

Most people under 40 probably would agree police should never have the right to rummage through our entire lives without a particular purpose based on probable cause.Yet during arguments, Justice Roberts insinuated that police might reasonably suspect a person who carries two cellphones of being a drug dealer. Is he unaware that a large portion of the DC political class with which he associates – including many of his law clerks – carries both a personal and business phone, daily? The chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States may have proved this week that he can throw out tech lingo like “Facebook” and even “Fitbit”, but he is trapped in the closet from reality.

From the New York Times, Snowden blowback continues:

Merkel Signals That Tension Persists Over U.S. Spying

President Obama tried to mend fences with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Friday, calling her “one of my closest friends on the world stage.” But Ms. Merkel replied tartly that Germany still had significant differences with the United States over surveillance practices and that it was too soon to return to “business as usual.”

The cordial but slightly strained encounter, which played out as the two leaders stood next to each other at a Rose Garden news conference, attested to the lingering scars left by the sensational disclosure last October that the National Security Agency had eavesdropped on Ms. Merkel’s phone calls.

It came as the two leaders sought to project a unified front against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, threatening President Vladimir V. Putin with sweeping new sanctions if Russia disrupted elections in Ukraine later this month, even as they acknowledged that not all European countries were ready to sign on to the most punishing measures.

While the London Daily Mail spots an oopsie:

U2 spy plane delays HUNDREDS of flights from LAX after it overloaded air traffic control system

  • Glitch occurred on Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m.
  • Despite U-2 spy plane flying at 60,000 feet, air traffic control software was unable to distinguish it from commercial aircraft
  • The problem at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center, which handles higher-altitude aircraft, meant planes bound for the region were also grounded
  • 200 flights at LAX alone were either cancelled or diverted
  • Other airports across the southwest were also affected

International Business Times covers virtual financial alarms:

Bitcoin A Terrorist Threat? Counterterrorism Program Names Virtual Currencies As Area Of Interest

After attracting attention from law enforcement, financial regulators and old-school Wall Street investors, bitcoin is now on the U.S. military’s radar as a possible terrorist threat.

Friday was the deadline for submissions to a counterterrorism program seeking vendors to help the military understand state-of-the-art technologies that may pose threats to national security, and “bitcoin” and “virtual currencies” are listed among them.

The program is being conducted by the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, a division of the Department of Defense that identifies and develops counterterrorism abilities and investigates irregular warfare and evolving threats.

From the Associated Press, an insecure imperialist:

Condoleezza Rice backs out of Rutgers commencement

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed out of delivering the commencement address at Rutgers University following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War.

Rice said in a statement Saturday that she informed Rutgers President Robert Barchi that she was declining the invitation to speak at the graduation.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

The school’s board of governors had voted to pay $35,000 to the former secretary of state under President George W. Bush and national security adviser for her appearance at the May 18 ceremony. Rutgers was also planning to bestow Rice with an honorary doctorate.

From Military Aerospace Electronics, kicking the drone thing up a notch:

Army orders UAV control for attack helicopters

Military RF communications experts at Longbow LLC in Orlando, Fla., will build 17 sensor and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control subsystems for the Army’s AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter under terms of a $22.2 million contract modification announced Wednesday.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., are asking Longbow LLC to provide Radar Electronics Units (REUs), Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTAs), a P4.00 software upgrade, and related hardware for production testing for the AH-64D helicopter.

Longbow LLC is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. The REU is part of the Apache Block III upgrade, and will replace two line-replaceable units. The REU provides growth capabilities to the Longbow fire-control radar and reduces maintenance costs.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on a security insecurity:

Death threats stop gun store from selling ‘smart’ gun. Why?

The White House has urged gun companies to invent safety technology that could limit a gun’s use to its owner. But two gun shops decided not to sell such guns after receiving death threats.

Andy Raymond, a Rockland, Md., firearms dealer, found out how much some people who love guns and the Second Amendment really hate some guns, causing the owner of Engage Armament this week to reverse his plan to sell the Armatix iP1, the nation’s first “smart” gun.

The German-made Armatix iP1 won’t fire unless it’s in proximity of a special watch, thus making it useless if stolen. Gun control advocates, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have cited such technology as potential life savers.

But the NRA and many gun owners say it’s a government Trojan horse intended to open the door for laws that will mandate “smart” technology in new guns in order to identify gun owners – a notion that’s widely seen by gun owners as a threat to Second Amendment rights.

And Bloomberg Businessweek covers parents in revolt over too much snooping on their children:

Privacy Fears Over Student Data Tracking Lead to InBloom’s Shutdown

A year ago, every public school student in New York State fell under the watchful eye of InBloom, a data analytics company. Schools sent the company an enormous batch of data spanning 400-odd fields that included a wide range of personal details, from test scores and special-education enrollment to whether kids got free lunches. The idea was to compile enough information so teachers or software could tailor assignments to each student’s needs. InBloom had contracts to do the same for millions of public school kids across nine states, tracking their work to draw conclusions about their academic performance. InBloom promised to analyze its data and make the results accessible to teachers and parents. That made InBloom the hottest company in the emerging field of personalized learning, pitched as a way to help overcrowded, underfunded schools to better teach each student. That was until April 21, when InBloom abruptly announced it soon planned to shut down.

For many parents, the software got a little too personal. Although there weren’t any documented cases of InBloom misusing the information, parents and privacy advocates around the country argued that digital records on kids as young as 5 could easily be sold to marketers or stolen by hackers. Six of InBloom’s nine client states had pulled out over privacy concerns by the time the company said it was closing shop. “The risk far outweighs any benefits,” Karen Sprowal, a mother of a fifth grader, testified before a New York State Senate committee in November. “Just know that there’s a lot of parents like me that’s out there that say, ‘Hell, no.’ “

From CNNMoney, insecurity in significant places:

Defense, energy, banks hit by Internet Explorer bug

The cyber offensive nicknamed “Operation Clandestine Fox” is being used to attack PCs.

Hackers have attacked the government agencies, defense contractors, energy companies and banks by exploiting the software flaw in Internet Explorer.

That’s according to FireEye (FEYE), the cybersecurity firm that revealed the software flaw last week. The company discovered that hackers took advantage of a bug in the Internet Explorer Web browser to secretly take control of computers.

The cyber offensive has been dubbed “Operation Clandestine Fox,” and affects all versions of Microsoft’s Web browser.

Microsoft has issued a fix, but FireEye’s announcement on Thursday showed there are already victims. FireEye also spotted that hackers are now specifically targeting older computers running on the outdated Windows XP operating system and those using the Internet Explorer 8 version of the browser.

After the jump, is off to Asia and the Game of Drones, a possible Chinese death sentence, plus growing Japanese divisions over remilitarization. . . Continue reading

Headlines: Spies, laws, lies, and zones


Our second set of headlines, as always, brings notable developments in the realms of espionage [both governmental and corporate], security at home and above [both personal and national], miltarism, and the ongoing never-ending Asian Game of Zones.

We begin with Snowden blowback from the New York Times:

Merkel Says Gaps With U.S. Over Surveillance Remain

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said Friday that there were still significant differences between Germany and the United States over the issue of surveillance, and warned that it was too soon to return to “business as usual” between the two allies.

At a joint news conference at the White House, both Ms. Merkel and President Obama addressed the tensions between the two countries caused by the disclosure last October that the National Security Agency had eavesdropped on Ms. Merkel’s phone calls. At the time, Ms. Merkel said that “spying between friends is simply unacceptable,” and that there had been a breach of trust that would have to be repaired.

Speaking in the Rose Garden after a meeting with Mr. Obama, Ms. Merkel said that “we have a few difficulties still to overcome,” noting in particular a difference “on the issue of proportionality.”

And a related development from TheLocal.de:

German IT expert hacks NSA homepage

A computer expert from eastern Germany claims to have hacked the homepage of the US National Security Agency (NSA), leaving a message on the site for American security experts.

Matthias Ungethüm from Saxony said on Friday he had replaced the NSA slogan “Codebreakers and Codemakers” with the German phrase “Durchleuchten Sie Ihre Homepage” – “Examine your homepage” on the website of America’s security agency.

The NSA is deeply unpopular in Germany after revelations last year it carried out a mass surveillance programme and tapped the phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel. So Ungethüm decided to turn the tables.

From the Christian Science Monitor, mixed signals from the White House:

Online privacy: Obama report outlines the perils, and promise, of ‘big data’

The Obama administration report calls for an online bill of rights, but it also recognizes that insights from big data are being tapped to solve problems, not just push personalized online ads.

A new Obama administration report calls the collection of personal data by corporations increasingly “invasive,” but also sings the praises of so-called “big data.”

The report calls for new steps, such as an online bill of rights. Yet it also seeks to tread cautiously in a fast-evolving realm that spans from Facebook to online shopping and medical information.

That’s because the insights gleaned from big data – the act of compiling and analyzing digital information about consumers – are being tapped to solve problems, not just push personalized online ads.

The report envisions stakeholders such as corporations coming together “to develop voluntary, enforceable codes of conduct that specify how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights applies in specific business contexts.”

And for your amusement, this creation of Walt Handelsman for the New Orleans Advocate:

Fade to white

Fade to white

From CBC News, smilar concerns, north of the border:

State surveillance under microscope

Canada’s interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier has called for a revamp of federal privacy laws that would require telecom firms to tell Canadians how many requests for data on private citizens they handle from federal enforcement bodies.

Her request to a Senate committee followed revelations that  nine telecommunication companies field 1.2 million requests for private customer information every year and raises the issue of how extensively federal agencies are monitoring Canadian citizens.

The revelations come on the heels of Edward Snowden’s documents showing that the phone calls of American citizens were under widespread surveillance by the CIA and National Security Agency. The U.S. whistleblower also revealed a vast network of Canadian spying on behalf of the NSA.

From Ars Technica, Ars Propaganda:

US State Department adopting social media to counter Al-Qaeda propaganda

  • US says violent extremists increasingly taking to social media.

Buried in an intelligence report published Wednesday, the government said that the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), established in 2011, last year produced more than 10,000 online postings globally, some of which included one of 138 government-produced videos.

“CSCC’s programs draw on a full range of intelligence information and analysis for context and feedback. CSCC counters terrorist propaganda in the social media environment on a daily basis, contesting space where AQ and its supporters formerly had free rein. CSCC communications have provoked defensive responses from violent extremists on many of the 249 most popular extremist websites and forums as well as on social media,” said the document, Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 (PDF).

The State Department has a global social media presence from Afghanistan to Vietnam. The platform ranges from blogs to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and others. But the government also trains others, including victims of terrorism, to adopt social media, according to the report.

From Homeland Security News Wire, mounting fears?:

Russia may launch crippling cyberattacks on U.S. in retaliation for Ukraine sanctions

U.S. officials and security experts are warning that Russian hackers may attack the computer networks of U.S. banks and critical infrastructure firms in retaliation for new sanctions by the Obama administration, imposed in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Cybersecurity specialists consider Russian hackers among the best at infiltrating networks and some say that they have already inserted malicious software on computer systems in the United States.

U.S. officials and security experts are warning that Russian hackers may attack the computer networks of U.S. banks and critical infrastructure firms in retaliation for new sanctions by the Obama administration, imposed in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Cybersecurity specialists consider Russian hackers among the best at infiltrating networks and some say that they have already inserted malicious software on computer systems in the United States.

Black sites and black actions from Al Jazeera America:

Senate report set to reveal Djibouti as CIA ‘black site’

  • Horn of Africa nation has denied hosting secret prison facilities for US, but classified document may undermine claim

The legal case of a former CIA detainee suing the government of Djibouti for hosting the facility where he says he was detained could be helped by the contents of a still-classified Senate report. Djibouti, a key U.S. ally, has denied for years that its territory has been used to keep suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in secret captivity. But the Senate investigation into the agency’s “detention and interrogation program” concluded that several people had been secretly detained in the tiny Horn of Africa state, two U.S. officials who read an early draft of the report told Al Jazeera.

Official confirmation of Djibouti’s role in hosting “black sites” used in the CIA’s rendition program would be welcomed by Mohammad al-Asad, a Yemeni arrested at his home in Tanzania on Dec. 27, 2003, blindfolded and flown to a location he insists was Djibouti. Two U.S. officials who read an early draft of the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation — and who requested anonymity because the report remains classified — were unaware of whether al-Asad’s case was specifically cited in the document. But they confirmed that the report found that several detainees had been held in Djibouti, and that at least two of them had been wrongfully detained.

DutchNews.nl stands up to Washington:

Court was right to stop terror suspect deportation to US

The appeal court in The Hague was right to call a halt to the deportation of terror suspect Sabir K to the US in 2013, the advocate general of the Dutch supreme court said on Friday, according to broadcaster Nos.

The Hague court said last July there was still too much uncertainty over the involvement of America in K’s torture following his arrest in Pakistan. The Dutch government, which backs K’s deportation, then took the issue to the Supreme Court.

The advocate general’s advice is usually acted upon by the supreme court when it makes its rulings.

From Sky News, police John-shaming:

Prostitution Sting To Be Live-Tweeted By Police

Names and photographs of suspects arrested for soliciting prostitutes will be published on a police force’s Twitter account.

A police force has been criticised after promising to live-tweet a prostitution sting next week.

Officers in Maryland say they will “take you along for the takedowns” as they target people who use sex workers in Prince George County.

The names and photographs of suspects will be tweeted as they are arrested.

Another nit-tweet from TheLocal.se:

Student suspended for insulting prof on Twitter

A Swedish college has suspended a 21-year-old female student who took to Twitter to insult her teacher’s appearance while he was giving a lecture.

The male teacher at Jönköping University told administrators that he noticed the student taking a picture of him, and that the incident not only disrupted the lecture but left him feeling upset and violated.

The notes from the disciplinary hearing did not specify what kind of comments the 21-year-old woman made. She has since said her actions were “immature”.

And another leak-seeking, this ine on Casa esnl’s home turf via Berkeleyside:

City of Berkeley seeks source of leaked confidential info

The city of Berkeley is on the hunt to determine who released private police personnel documents related to a confidential investigation — into an in-custody death involving local officers last year — to UC Berkeley’s Daily Californian newspaper.

Thursday evening, Berkeley city manager Christine Daniel notified the mayor and council members about the leak, which she described to them via email as “an unfortunate and concerning event that occurred regarding confidential police personnel information.”

Daniel wrote that the Daily Cal had told the city it had gotten “confidential personnel-specific findings” from the Police Review Commission’s inquest into the in-custody death of Kayla Moore last year. (Moore’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city over that fatality.)

From Ars Technica, and they’ll take it only from their cold, dead hands?:

Feds issue “draft guidance” to restrict high-powered laser pointers

  • If passed, nearly all such lasers would be capped at 5 milliwatts of power.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration published new draft guidance that could effectively put an end to high-powered lasers in the United States. It will not be formally approved until the 90-day comment period has passed.

The move is likely in response to the growing threat of laser strikes against aircraft. Since early 2014, the FBI has offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who reports a laser strike to federal authorities, leading to an arrest. Since the FBI began keeping track in 2004, there have been more than 12,000 reported incidents nationwide—and the incident rate continues to climb.

Earlier this year, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison in a lasering incident, believed to be the harshest such sentence in the United States, and possibly in the world. Pilots say that being struck with such lasers can be terrifying, causing temporary blindness and sometimes lingering headaches.

From TechWeekEurope, let your paranoia run rampant:

Apple Earpods To Include Health Sensors – Report

New Apple earpods will reportedly include sensors to monitor a user’s heart rate and blood pressure

Apple is following Samsung into the health market after a leak suggested that its next generation earbuds (or earpods in Apple speak) will include health sensors.

The report (if true) highlights an increasing problem for tech firms in Silicon Valley, as the leak came from a posting on the anonymous social network ‘Secret’, which is favoured by many high-tech workers. Secret yesterday revealed plans to launch in the UK and elsewhere.

“Apple’s new EarPods will have sensors in them, for heart rate & blood pressure. Also iBeacons so they don’t get lost. They will require the lightning port, it’s why the audio jack was moved to the bottom,” said the anonymous posting on Secret.

The posting also reportedly added that “[The phone] stores the data in a similar way to thumbprint point data, fully encrypted and nothing identifiable. But nice to send to your doctor to keep track of at which point your blood pressure started rising for example.”

From Corriere della Sera, cans of worms, about to be opened, including cases in which intelligence agencies and undercover operators were deeply ivolved, often causally:

Renzi Declassifies “Years of Lead” Files

  • “A duty to victims”, says PM. Order accelerates transfer of classified documents held by central government administrations

last week’s announcement, Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, yesterday signed an order declassifying files on the Ustica (1980), Peteano (1972), Italicus (1974), Piazza Fontana (1969), Piazza della Loggia (1974), Gioia Tauro (1970), Bologna railway station (1980) and Rapido 904 train (1984) murders. The signing took place at Palazzo Chigi in the presence of the junior minister for the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for the security services, Marco Minniti, and the director of the department of security information (DIS), ambassador Giampiero Massolo. Mr Renzi commented: “One of the key features of this government’s actions is transparency and openness. Today’s decision is a step in that direction. I consider it a duty towards Italians and towards the relatives of the victims of these events, which remain a dark stain on our collective memory”.

Later, Mr Renzi tweeted that the government had declassified documents on “some of the darkest pages in Italian history”, adding to the list the 1973 attack on the police headquarters in Milan. In line with last Friday’s ruling by the interministerial consultative and decision-making committee on intelligence service policy (CISR), the order enables early transfer of “classified files held by all central government administrations that represent an important contribution to the historic memory of the nation”.]

After the jump, that latest from Asia, including a memorable anniversary ahead, the latest and complex developments in that ongoing Games of Zones, salami tactics, a panopticon expansion, and the latest from the regional wild card. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Stephen Hawking fears Skynet


Skynet, for those readers who may not have seen any of the Terminator movies, is the science fiction version of what might happen when artificial intelligence acquires autonomy, a will of its own, then sets about destroying those inefficient flesh-bound creatures who created it.

A far-fetched notion? Perhaps not, says world-renowned physicist Stphen Hawing in the Independent:

Artificial-intelligence (AI) research is now progressing rapidly. Recent landmarks such as self-driving cars, a computer winning at Jeopardy! and the digital personal assistants Siri, Google Now and Cortana are merely symptoms of an IT arms race fuelled by unprecedented investments and building on an increasingly mature theoretical foundation. Such achievements will probably pale against what the coming decades will bring.

The potential benefits are huge; everything that civilisation has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools that AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease, and poverty would be high on anyone’s list. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.

Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. In the near term, world militaries are considering autonomous-weapon systems that can choose and eliminate targets; the UN and Human Rights Watch have advocated a treaty banning such weapons. In the medium term, as emphasised by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in The Second Machine Age, AI may transform our economy to bring both great wealth and great dislocation.

Headlines: Spies, drones, zones, pols, lies


Today’s tales from the dark side and the worlds of security, threats, hackers, cops and more begins with a fix form the Washington Post:

Microsoft issues fix for major Internet Explorer bug — even for Windows XP users

Microsoft released a security update for its Internet Explorer browser Thursday to fix a bug that allowed hackers to take over a computer.

The tech company said it will be releasing a similar update for Windows XP, even though it dropped support for the 12-year-old operating system last month. Users who have automatic updates enabled should not have to take any action, Microsoft said.

Microsoft first notified users about the bug, which affects those using IE versions 6 through 11, over the weekend. Hackers could exploit the bug to trick users into opening an infected link or file attachment. Cybersecurity firm FireEye has said that about a quarter of Internet users around the world were potentially affected by the bug.

And from Associated Press, insecurity on campus, Berkeley included:

55 US schools face federal sex assault probes

From huge state universities to small colleges and the Ivy League, 55 schools across America are facing federal investigation for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

For the first time, the Education Department revealed its list of colleges under investigation on Thursday — though no details of the complaints — as the Obama administration sought to bring more openness to the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation’s campuses.

The schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools including Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Ivy League schools including Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are also on the list.

From the Guardian, nightmare scenario:

Soldier gets life sentence for murders with Georgia anti-government militia

  • Judge spares Anthony Peden, who pled guilty to killing a teenage girl and her boyfriend, the death penalty for military service

Saying his mind was scarred by combat and numbed by heroin, an army soldier told a south-east Georgia judge Thursday that he shot a teenage girl twice in the head because he thought he saw “the glint of a gun” as she opened her car door.

Sergeant Anthony Peden, 28, was sentenced to life in prison nearly a month after he pleaded guilty to murder charges in the December 2011 slayings of 17-year-old Tiffany York and her boyfriend, former soldier Michael Roark. Prosecutors say the couple was led to the woods near Fort Stewart in Georgia and slain by a group of soldiers to protect an anti-government militia group they had formed inside the military.

From the Guardian , insecurity in uniform:

US military sexual assault reports soared 50% in 2013, says Pentagon

  • Department of Defense attributes rise in reporting to greater trust in military justice system after year of pushing through reforms

It remains unclear whether the new figures signify a jump in the number of assaults or whether they could be the result of more military personnel coming forward to file reports.

The US Department of Defense, which has introduced reforms over the past year, said that they were confident the increase in reporting was down to greater trust and confidence in the military justice system among victims.

Reports of sexual assault filed by members of the military have soared by an unprecedented 50%, according to an annual survey by the Pentagon published on Thursday.

It remains unclear whether the new figures signify a jump in the number of assaults or whether they could be the result of more military personnel coming forward to file reports.

The US Department of Defense, which has introduced reforms over the past year, said that they were confident the increase in reporting was down to greater trust and confidence in the military justice system among victims.

intelNews.org raises a question:

Are America’s most senior military intel officers being forced out?

There are rumors that the two most senior military intelligence officers in the United States, who have announced their intention to step down in the coming months, are being forced out by the White House.

Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, who directs the Defense Intelligence Agency, and his Deputy Director, David R. Shedd, both said on Wednesday that they intend to quit their jobs before the end of the summer.

The Department of Defense said later on Wednesday that the two officials had been scheduled to step down “for some time” and that the leadership of the DoD “appreciates the service of these two dedicated and professional leaders”. But the announcement does not change the fact that America’s two leading military intelligence administrators have suddenly decided to quit their jobs

From BuzzFeed, a question of snooping:

Supreme Court Considers Police Cell Phone Searches, From Flip Phones To Airplane Mode

Lawyers argue at the Supreme Court over whether the Constitution protects arrested people from having their cell phones searched without a warrant.

Should the police’s ability to search through your phone be a decision made on “an app-by-app basis”? That’s one of the questions facing the Supreme Court in two cases the justices heard Tuesday.

The court will consider how changes in technology should affect the limits on searches of smartphones after arrest in the cases — and several justices expressed concerns at the court Tuesday about the broad range of information and services stored in today’s phones.

“It has always been the case that an occasion of an arrest did not give the police officers authority to search through the private papers and the drawers and bureaus and cabinets of somebody’s house,” attorney Jeffrey Fisher argued Tuesday, in defense of David Leon Riley, who was found with photos and notes on his phone that police used to show involvement in gang-related activity. “That protection should not evaporate more than 200 years after the founding because we have the technological development of smartphones that have resulted in people carrying that information in their pockets.”

From the Washington Post, defiance:

Apple, Facebook, others defy authorities, notify users of secret data demands

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.

Fueling the shift is the industry’s eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

MintPress News rejects:

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To NDAA’s ‘Indefinite Detention’ Clause

The nation’s highest court refused to hear a case that is challenging the authority and legality of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Indefinite Detention” clause. The refusal to hear the case has plaintiffs calling for action.

Citing failure to prove that journalists, authors and political activists could be detained under the controversial National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it would not hear the case commonly known as Hedges v. Obama, about a month after the federal government requested the court not take up the case.

Filed in January 2012, the Hedges v. Obama lawsuit specifically challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, which the plaintiffs argue contains vague language that allows the government to unlawfully and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, including journalists, who “associate” or “substantially support” enemies of the U.S. such as terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

By declining to hear the case the nation’s  highest court leaves a July 2013 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intact. In the court’s ruling, the justices explained they ruled against the plaintiffs — journalist Chris Hedges, former Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and a senior fellow at the Nation Institute, linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, journalist and activist Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla — because the court believed the plaintiffs failed to prove at the U.S. government would unlawfully detain journalists and political activists, and therefore had no standing to sue.

But others protest, via the Guardian:

US immigration rights activists rally to condemn detentions in courthouses

  • May Day rally targets surge in detentions at US courthouses
  • Activists say undocumented people now fear to enter courts

Courthouses are ostensibly sanctuaries of justice, but immigrant rights advocates say undocumented people now fear to enter them lest they end up deported.

An apparent surge of detentions last year and early this year at courthouses around the country has fed a perception that turning up for any reason – to testify, pay a fine or just accompany a relative – can end in shackles and deportation.

Activists in Wisconsin amended the route of the traditional May Day march on Thursday to end with a rally at the Milwaukee county courthouse, where speakers denounced immigration authorities for nabbing people inside its hallways, a practice they said sabotaged confidence in the justice system.

Similar outcries from California, Kentucky and Washington state recently prompted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to issue new internal guidelines, but they have not been published, leaving activists wary.

From the Guardian, a curious rejection:

Germany blocks Edward Snowden from testifying in person in NSA inquiry

  • Officials say a personal invitation for US whistleblower to attend hearing would put ‘grave strain’ on US-German relations

The German government has blocked Edward Snowden from giving personal evidence in front of a parliamentary inquiry into NSA surveillance, it has emerged hours before Angela Merkel travels to Washington for a meeting with Barack Obama.

In a letter to members of a parliamentary committee obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung, government officials say a personal invitation for the US whistleblower would “run counter to the political interests of the Federal Republic”, and “put a grave and permanent strain” on US-German relations.

Opposition party members in the committee from the Left and Green party had for weeks insisted that the former NSA employee was a key witness and therefore would need to appear in person, not least because of concerns that Russia otherwise could influence his testimony.

Droning on with the Los Angeles Times:

FAA under pressure as clamor for small commercial drones grows

  • It seems like a perfect time to get into the drone business.

With easy access to technology and patchy regulation, small commercial drones already have been used to film box-office hits and market expensive real estate.

Internet retailer Amazon is testing its sixth generation of an unmanned aircraft system that could one day whisk packages to customers within hours. With big corporations like FedEx and Domino’s Pizza flirting with the technology, law firms, trade groups and insurers are lining up to capitalize on an expected economic gold mine.

There’s only one catch: Commercial drones are illegal.

The McClatchy Foreign Staff resists:

As border security expands, complaints of abuse rise among Americans

Critics say the lawsuits, all three filed by U.S. citizens, are part of a pattern that’s become endemic to the nation’s efforts to secure its southern border. In addition to complaints that U.S. Border Patrol agents have used deadly force when their lives were not at risk _ agents have killed 21 people since the beginning of 2010, most of them unarmed migrants _ agents from the two federal agencies that monitor the borders stand accused of mistreating American citizens.

Violent confrontations are only part of the picture. U.S. citizens who live along the border complain that U.S. agents have become a virtual interior police force _ disrespectful of private property, looking for pretexts to search vehicles and detaining residents for hours at checkpoints.

“In the last three years, the Border Patrol has caused me more damage than the illegals,” said John Ladd, whose family has operated a ranch in southeast Arizona for the past 118 years. “They’ve abused private property rights immensely.”

And from the Guardian, Old Blighty loses luster:

UK slips down global press freedom list due to Snowden leaks response

  • British government’s draconian response to the Guardian’s reporting sees UK drop five places on Freedom House list

Britain has slipped down the global rankings for freedom of the press as a result of the government’s crackdown on the Guardian over its reporting of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures.

The annual index of media freedom, published on Wednesday, attributes the UK’s drop to “negative developments”, mainly the way the government responded last year to the Guardian with threats of legal action, the destruction of computer hard drives and the nine-hour detention of David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Freedom of Press 2014 is published by the US-based Freedom House, an NGO established in 1941 that has been ranking countries worldwide since 1980 in relation to democracy, human rights and press freedom.

From BBC News, dark arts at work?:

Gerry Adams arrest: Sinn Féin claims ‘dark side’ to NI police

  • Martin McGuinness said the arrest of Gerry Adams was an attempt to influence the outcome of the elections

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has claimed Gerry Adams’ arrest is due to a “dark side” within policing conspiring with enemies of the peace process.

He added that the detention was a “deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of elections” in three weeks.

Mr Adams is being questioned about the 1972 murder of Jean McConville but has denied involvement in her death.

From MercoPress, when security become oppression:

Amnesty International accuses Spain of repressive legislation and heavy hand with protestors

The Spanish government is using the full force of the law to suffocate legitimate peaceful protest, Amnesty International in Spain has said. Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director for Amnesty, published a brief report last week in which he said that the excessive use of force by Spanish police and plans to strengthen repressive legislation are a damning indictment of the Spanish government’s determination to crush peaceful protest.

“The Spanish government is using the full force of the law to suffocate legitimate peaceful protest,” said Tigani. “The police have repeatedly used batons and rubber bullets against demonstrators, injuring and maiming protestors and by-standers alike. The police act with complete impunity, while peaceful demonstrators and leaders of social movements are continually harassed, stigmatized, beaten, sometimes arrested to face criminal charges, imprisonment and fines.”

Amnesty International’s report, Spain: The right to protest under threat, sets out to expose violations by police against demonstrators, the lack of accountability for these violations and the determination of the Spanish authorities to strengthen repressive legislation. Since the economic and financial crisis hit Spain, the loss of jobs, austerity measures and the perceived lack of transparency in decision-making, have led thousands of people to take to the streets.

In 2012, there were nearly 15,000 demonstrations throughout Spain, amounting to around 40 per day. In 2013, there were 4,500 demonstrations in Madrid alone: an increase of 1,000 from the year before. But Amnesty says that, as the Madrid government itself has recognized, demonstrators committed violence in less than one per cent of the rallies.

From the Independent, tensing up:

Ukraine crisis: Military conscription to be reintroduced by interim government

President Turchynov said he made the decision in light of Russian “threats” against “Ukrainian integrity”Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov announced on Thursday that the country will renew military conscription, in response to what the government views as an intensifying security threat from Russia.

The decision came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine should end its military presence in the eastern and southern regions of the country, where pro-Moscow insurgents have seized buildings.

After the jump, the latest from Asia, including the latest dramatic posturings and escalations from the Game of Zones underway as Washingotn and its Asian allies struggle desperately to contain the Chinese dragon. . . Continue reading

Headlines: Threats, drones, zones, spies, hacks


We begin today’s tales-from-the-dark-side collection with a reminder that the threats you suspect aren’t always the ones that get you. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Bacteria Are Adapting to Drugs Faster than We Can Develop New Ones

Some harmful bacteria are adapting to drugs faster than cures can be developed, according to a report published today by the World Health Organization. Infections resistant to antibiotics are “happening right now in every region of the world and [have] the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country,” the organization wrote.

The WHO report is the latest urgent alarm that our medical arsenal may be running out of ammunition against potentially deadly bugs. The last new class of antibiotic drugs was developed in the 1980s. The drought since then, the organization says, is “a discovery void.”

As microbes reproduce, they evolve to become more resilient to the therapies that doctors have used to treat bacteria since the first patients got penicillin in the 1940s. That process is accelerated when drugs are overused, or used improperly.

In the United States, 80 percent of antibiotics (measured by weight) are used for farm animals, as journalist Maryn McKenna documented last year, mostly to promote growth rather than to treat disease. The Food and Drug Administration in December attempted to reduce antibiotic use in farming, but the rules have been criticized as ineffective. Europe has largely banned the use of low-dose antibiotics to promote animal growth.

And from the Guardian, numbers that might lead one to question certain policies:

Global terrorism rose 43% in 2013 despite al-Qaida splintering, US reports

  • State Department says 16 Americans killed out of 17,891 total
  • Surge complicates sprawling counter-terrorism efforts led by US

Terrorist attacks rose 43% worldwide in 2013 despite a splintering of al-Qaida’s leadership and a sprawling global counter-terrorism campaign, according to new statistics released by the State Department on Wednesday.

The exposure of Americans to terrorism abroad remained minimal in 2013, with 16 US citizens killed out of 17,891 globally and seven Americans wounded out of 32,577. Almost 3,000 people were kidnapped or taken hostage by terrorists in 2013, and a mere 12 of them were Americans.

Despite the increase in attacks, the vast majority of terrorist incidents were local and regional, not international in focus, the State Department data indicates.

From Ars Technica, a defeat for corporate pedophilia:

Google ends “creepy” practice of scanning Gmail education apps

Tech giant was sued over alleged violations of wiretap and privacy laws.

Technology giant Google has ended its practice of scanning its users’ Apps for Education accounts for advertising purposes after being sued by students and other Gmail users last year, the company announced Wednesday.

The Google Apps for Education tool suite is a service the company provides for free to more than 30 million students, teachers, and administrators globally. The service includes access to Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and cloud storage.

Users of the Apps for Education tools suite and other Gmail users have alleged that the company’s data scanning practices violated federal and state anti-wiretapping and privacy laws, according to the suit filed in a California federal court.

And whilst on the subject of corporate-enabled snooping, there’s this from Kyle Chayka for the Guardian:

The facial recognition databases are coming. Why aren’t the privacy laws?

  • Now that the US supreme court is finally considering cellphones, let’s get ahead of Moore’s Law and defend our new metadata

Online dating is kind of like going on a shopping trip. But instead of looking at pairs of shoes, we’re perusing people, glancing over their photos and profiles in an effort to gauge how interested we might be in them. So why shouldn’t we be warned, like a grocery-store expiration date, when one is rotten?

Such is the intention of CreepShield, a new web-browser extension that uses facial recognition technology to allow users to scan the faces they see on social networking websites – Facebook, eHarmony, OKCupid, even Grindr – and see if the faces match any public records in databases of sex offenders.

The app seems somewhat useful. Unless, of course, you’re mistakenly identified as a sex offender. When I uploaded my own photo after writing a recent Newsweek cover story on biometric surveillance, the CreepShield search engine showed results that were less than 50% sure I was a match – though there were some people in the database who looked eerily similar to me.

From MintPress News, Diane Feinstein strikes again:

Why US Intelligence Officials Pressured Senate To Block Public Release Of Drone Strikes

“A basic report of the number of people killed shouldn’t be too much to ask,” one human rights advocate argues.

It appears Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and her colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee have largely forgiven the U.S. intelligence community for eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their email correspondence.

Acting on the request of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Feinstein and her colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Monday to remove a provision from a major intelligence bill that would have required the U.S. government to disclose information about when drone strikes occur — especially overseas — as well as information about the victims of the drone strikes.

Though previous drafts of the intelligence legislation didn’t require the White House to disclose the exact number of drone strikes carried out worldwide, human rights groups applauded the move to publish an annual report available to the public on the exact number of “combatants” and “non-combatant civilians” killed or injured by U.S. drone strikes each year.

The Oakland Tribune covers drone fears closer to Casa esnl:

Berkeley council takes cautious look at issue of drones

Speakers at Tuesday evening’s City Council workshop to develop domestic drone policy ranged from those who called for making the city a “drone free zone,” to supporters of limited drone use in police and fire emergencies.

The council made no policy recommendations at the workshop, but referred the issue for further study to the city’s Agenda Committee.

Jack Hamm, vice chair of the Disaster Fire Safety Commission read his commission’s resolution advocating drone use by Berkeley police and fire departments in “appropriate circumstances.”

From Spiegel, more Snowden revelations blowback:

NSA What? Spying Scandal Unlikely to Dominate Merkel’s US Visit

  • German Chancellor Merkel expects little progress in clarifying the NSA affair in Washington this week. She is still angered by US spying on her cell phone communications, but will instead address the Ukraine crisis and free trade with President Obama.

The Washington Post announces a purge:

Head of Pentagon intelligence agency forced out, officials say

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency is being pushed out of the job after a series of clashes over his leadership at an agency that is under pressure to shift focus following more than a decade of war, current and former U.S. officials said.

Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn is expected to announce Wednesday that he is leaving his job as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency more than a year before he was scheduled to depart, according to officials who said that Flynn faced mounting pressure from Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and others in recent months.

The Pentagon did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The move comes at a time when the DIA is in the midst of a series of major changes, including an effort by senior Pentagon officials to expand the agency’s network of spies overseas and work more closely with the CIA. Flynn, who served as a top intelligence adviser to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Iraq and Afghanistan, arrived in July 2012 with an ambitious agenda to accelerate the agency’s transformation. But critics said his management style also sowed chaos, setting aggressive plans for changes without adequate follow-through.

Wired threat level raises an interesting question:

Has the NSA Been Using the Heartbleed Bug as an Internet Peephole?

When ex-government contractor Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s widespread efforts to eavesdrop on the internet, encryption was the one thing that gave us comfort. Even Snowden touted encryption as a saving grace in the face of the spy agency’s snooping. “Encryption works,” the whistleblower said last June. “Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”

But Snowden also warned that crypto systems aren’t always properly implemented. “Unfortunately,” he said, “endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”
Since the Heartbleed bug has existed for two years, it raises obvious questions about whether the NSA or other spy agencies were exploiting it before its discovery.

This week, that caveat hit home — in a big way — when researchers revealed Heartbleed, a two-year-old security hole involving the OpenSSL software many websites use to encrypt traffic. The vulnerability doesn’t lie in the encryption itself, but in how the encrypted connection between a website and your computer is handled. On a scale of one to ten, cryptographer Bruce Schneier ranks the flaw an eleven.

From The Intercept, covetousness from across the pond:

British Spy Chiefs Secretly Begged to Play in NSA’s Data Pools

Britain’s electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Headquarters, has long presented its collaboration with the National Security Agency’s massive electronic spying efforts as proportionate, carefully monitored, and well within the bounds of privacy laws. But according to a top-secret document in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, GCHQ secretly coveted the NSA’s vast troves of private communications and sought “unsupervised access” to its data as recently as last year – essentially begging to feast at the NSA’s table while insisting that it only nibbles on the occasional crumb.

The document, dated April 2013, reveals that GCHQ requested broad new authority to tap into data collected under a law that authorizes a variety of controversial NSA surveillance initiatives, including the PRISM program.

PRISM is a system used by the NSA and the FBI to obtain the content of personal emails, chats, photos, videos, and other data processed by nine of the world’s largest internet companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Skype. The arrangement GCHQ proposed would also have provided the British agency with greater access to millions of international phone calls and emails that the NSA siphons directly from phone networks and the internet.

From Britain, where the security state meets the pavement, via Sky News:

Police Face Disciplinary Over Stop And Search

The Home Secretary says it is “absolutely disgusting” that six times more black and ethnic minority people are stopped.

Police officers will face disciplinary hearings if they do not stick to a new, tougher code of practice for stop and search.

Home Secretary Theresa May said an investigation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found in 27% of stop and searches there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Figures also show those with black or ethnic minority backgrounds were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, which she said was “absolutely disgraceful”.

And a ghost from the bloody past leads to an arrest, via USA TODAY:

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams arrested in 1972 IRA killing

Northern Ireland police say they have arrested Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on suspicion of involvement in the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow.

Adams confirmed his own arrest Wednesday in a prepared statement and described it as a voluntary, prearranged interview.

Police had been expected to question the 65-year-old Adams about the 1972 killing of Jean McConville, whom the IRA executed as an alleged spy. The IRA did not admit the killing until 1998.

ANSA covers the curious case of cops who cheered collegeus for kicking, clubbing, and otherwise fatally beating  Federico Aldrovandi, an 18-year-old student from Ferrara after stopping him for public drunkeness:

Alfano scrubs police meeting after brutality-death applause

  • Calls standing ovation for Aldrovandi convicts ‘grave’

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano on Wednesday cancelled a meeting with the SAP police union after its members gave a standing five-minute ovation to three fellow officers who were convicted of killing an 18-year-old man during a routine stop in Ferrara in 2005.

“I revoke the appointment that I had given to the Union of Autonomous Police at the Interior Ministry in Rome on Tuesday,” Alfano said.

“It was an unacceptable and extremely serious gesture,” Alfano added.

The minister told public radio GR1 that the applause was “even more grave because it was done by men who represent the State and can not fail to acknowledge the meaning of a final judgement”. “That applause did great damage to the police,” Alfano added.

And in the business-as-usual department, this from the Guardian:

US intercepts Moscow’s calls to spies in Ukraine, report says

  • US secretary state reportedly tells private meeting recordings disprove Russian denials about involvement in separatist unrest

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, claims America has obtained intercepted phone calls that prove Moscow is deliberating trying to destabilise eastern Ukraine, according to reports of leaked remarks he made at a private meeting last week.

US news site the Daily Beast quoted Kerry saying: “Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow … We know exactly where they are coming from.”

On to Asia with the Guardian again, with grim news for the Fourth Estate:

Pakistan’s spy agency ISI accused of kidnapping and killing journalists

  • Amnesty International details journalists’ claims of harassment, intimidation and attacks at the hands of military intelligence

Amnesty International says it has “credible concerns” that Pakistan’s powerful military spy agency kidnaps, threatens and even kills journalists who cross it.

The allegations come amid an unprecedented public standoff between the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the country’s biggest media group over an attempt by unknown gunmen to kill Hamid Mir, a popular journalist on the Geo television network.

In a detailed report, the human rights group says journalists face extraordinary challenges in Pakistan, including deadly threats from banned militant groups and the armed wings of political parties. But Amnesty says it found that “no state actor is more feared by journalists than the ISI”.

And on Thailand, where the pot continues to boil in a dispute following town/country lines, via the Associated Press:

Thai government, poll body agree on July 20 vote

Thailand’s government and the state Election Commission have agreed to hold new general polls on July 20.

The commission announced the date after meeting Wednesday with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and other officials.

Thailand held a general election on Feb. 2 after Yingluck dissolved Parliament’s lower house in response to protests calling on her to step down. The Constitutional Court nullified the election in late March because it failed to be held according to law after the protesters disrupted the registration process and voting.

More from the South China Morning Post:

Thai opposition refuses to commit to July election, threatens ‘final uprising’

Thailand’s prime minister and the country’s Election Commission agreed yesterday to hold an election in July despite the opposition’s reluctance to say whether it will take part.

Anti-government protesters have vowed to disrupt any election – as they did in boycotting a February poll that was later annulled – as part of a six-month campaign to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

“The prime minister and the Election Commission agree on a July 20 election,” Puchong Nutrawong, secretary general of the commission, said.

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has shown no sign of giving in, even though the number of demonstrators has dwindled.

We are approaching D-day … This will be our final uprising, our ultimate gathering,” Suthep told supporters on Tuesday.

And after the jump, on to the latest chapters in the ongoing Game of Zones playing out in Asia as America and its allies play dangerous diplomilitary games with China, plus a nightmare scenario hits the road. . .. Continue reading

Headlines II: Spooks, zones, drones, more


We begin today’s tales from the dark side with yet another sign of inept management under the regime of the politician who now serves as ppresident of the University of California, via Homeland Security News Wire:

Former DHS IG altered oversight reports, shared information

Charles Edwards, the acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, has been found to have routinely shared insider information with other department leaders, according to a new report from a the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee published last week.

Charles Edwards, the acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, has been found to have routinely shared insider information with other department leaders, according to a new report from a the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee published last Thursday.

TheWashington Post reports that Edwards “altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general.” Additionally, he “routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them information about the timing and findings of investigations.”

From Techdirt, yet another cost of NSA snooping:

Brazil Passed On Boeing For $4.5 Billion Fighter Jet Deal Because Of Concerns Over NSA Surveillance

  • from the costly… dept

We’ve pointed out a few times now, how the NSA seems unable to do basic cost-benefit analysis on its widespread surveillance. The NSA still seems to think that its surveillance is “costless” (perhaps beyond the $70 billion or so from taxpayers). However, as we’ve pointed out time and time again, distrust in US businesses thanks to the NSA’s overreaching surveillance creates a very real cost for the economy.

And it seems to be growing day by day. Brazil, which has been one of the more vocal protesters concerning NSA surveillance, has just awarded a $4.5 billion contract for new fighter jets to Saab, rather than Boeing, which many expected to get the deal. And, Brazilian officials are making it clear that the NSA surveillance issue played a major role in throwing the contract from the Americans to the Swedes.

From the Irish Times, more resistance to Uncle Sam’s snoops:

Data Commissioner decision challenged by Facebook user

  • Max Schrems’ complaint to Irish authorities ‘extremely important’ after Snowden, court told

A complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner regarding the transfer of Facebook user data from Europe to the US National Security Agency (NSA) was “extremely important” in light of the Edward Snowden allegations, the High Court was told today.

The court heard arguments that Commissioner Billy Hawkes wrongly refused to investigate a complaint that an Irish arm of social network giant Facebook could not permit the mass transfer of personal data to US intelligence services operating the Prism surveillance programme.

The Data Protection Commissioner was not entitled to “turn a blind eye” to the allegations by the former NSA contractor Snowden , the court was told by Paul O’Shea BL, counsel for Austrian law student Max Schrems.

Foreign Policy covers another front in the information wars:

Exclusive: New Bill Requires Voice of America to Toe U.S. Line

A powerful pair of lawmakers in the House of Representatives have agreed on major legislation to overhaul Voice of America and other government-funded broadcasting outlets that could have implications for the broadcaster’s editorial independence, Foreign Policy has learned.

The new legislation tweaks the language of VOA’s mission to explicitly outline the organization’s role in supporting U.S. “public diplomacy” and the “policies” of the United States government, a move that would settle a long-running dispute within the federal government about whether VOA should function as a neutral news organization rather than a messaging tool of Washington.

“It is time for broad reforms; now more than ever, U.S. international broadcasts must be effective,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement.

As does Columbia Journalism Review:

Federal judge: Delayed access to court records raises First Amendment concerns

  • Courthouse News editor sees “nationwide plague”—and he’ll get a chance to make his case

It’s been a routine for generations of legal beat reporters: Every weekday afternoon, at courthouses across the United States, a reporter steps behind the records counter and thumbs through the lawsuits filed that day, looking for news.

This custom is endangered, though, and not just because files have moved online, or because there aren’t as many legal beat reporters as there used to be. Many state courts now keep new civil cases out of sight of the press and public for days, and sometimes even weeks, after they’re filed.

“It’s a nationwide plague,” said Bill Girdner, the founder and editor of Courthouse News Service.

And the Asahi Shimbun finds the same game in another venue:

Ahead of secrets law, information concealed on nuclear facilities

Kiyohiko Yamada has studied the situation surrounding the problem-plagued nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture for a quarter-century, but the information he recently saw was perhaps the most startling.

“Why are there so many blacked-out parts?” Yamada, 57, who lives in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, said he thought when he viewed the website of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

The page was an application form for construction work submitted to the government in January by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), the operator of the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, next to Misawa.

Next up, the Washington Post takes us to Afghanistan and some bloody spookishness:

Mystery surrounds move of Afghan ‘torturer in chief’ to U.S. amid allegations of spy agency abuse

In Afghanistan, his presence was enough to cause prisoners to tremble. Hundreds in his organization’s custody were beaten, shocked with electrical currents or subjected to other abuses documented in human rights reports. Some allegedly disappeared.

And then Haji Gulalai disappeared as well.

He had run Afghan intelligence operations in Kandahar after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and later served as head of the spy service’s detention and interrogation branch. After 2009, his whereabouts were unknown.

The Guardian takes us into the realm of drone wars:

US senators remove requirement for disclosure over drone strike victims

  • Bill had called for disclosure of ‘noncombatant civilians’ killed
  • Director of national intelligence gives assurances to Senate

At the behest of the director of national intelligence, US senators have removed a provision from a major intelligence bill that would require the president to publicly disclose information about drone strikes and their victims.

The bill authorizing intelligence operations in fiscal 2014 passed out of the Senate intelligence committee in November, and it originally required the president to issue an annual public report clarifying the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by drone strikes in the previous year. It did not require the White House to disclose the total number of strikes worldwide.

While RT looks over Uncle Sam’s shoulder:

World catching up with US in $28.7 bln drone race

Analysts predict that in less than a decade’s time, the United States will spend less than half the global total on drone research and development. Asia in particular is expected to surge ahead, with South Korea set to produce “suicide drones.”

The US draw down in Afghanistan after over a decade of war, coupled with China’s desire for expensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are primary factors behind the expected reversal in US drone dominance, Forecast International, Inc., which provides defense and aerospace market intelligence and analysis, reported earlier this month.

Research and development for UAV technology is expected to balloon to $28.7 billion worldwide over the next 10 years, $11 billion of which will originate in the US.

And a truly troubling story from Military Aerospace Electronics, and sounding a lot like this:

DARPA launches CODE program for UAVs to share information and work together

U.S. military researchers are launching a program to enable surveillance and attack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to work together on missions involving electronic jamming, degraded communications, and other difficult operating conditions.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., released a formal solicitation Friday (DARPA-BAA-14-33) for the Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program to enable UAVs to work together in teams and take advantage of the relative strengths of each participating unmanned aircraft.

The CODE program is to expand the mission capabilities of existing UAVs through increased autonomy and inter-platform collaboration. Collaborative autonomy has the potential to increase capabilities and reduce costs of today’s UAVs by composing heterogeneous teams of UAVs that can capitalize on the capabilities of each unmanned aircraft without the need to duplicate or integrate capabilities into one UAV, DARPA officials say.

Next up, International Business Times covers another information security woe: Times:

Microsoft Should Make Windows XP Open-Source For Millions It Has Left ‘Stranded’ With Internet Explorer Bug: Expert

As Microsoft rushes to fix a major security defect in its popular Web browser, Internet Explorer, one enormous group of computer users will remain vulnerable to the bug: the 488 million people worldwide who still rely on Windows XP to power their computers.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) discontinued support for the 12-year-old operating system on April 8 and ceased offering updates on it to protect users against threats, effectively leaving customers to fend for themselves in a world increasingly susceptible to security flaws exploited by malevolent forces. So as Microsoft eventually releases patches that fix Internet Explorer for those using other operating systems, it says that XP users will go without.

Some advocates demand that Microsoft provide a patch for XP users. They note that the Seattle-based software giant cashed in on enormous sales of XP, suggesting that this creates a moral imperative – if not a legal obligation – to make sure users can surf the Web safely. A dozen years after XP’s release, some 27 percent of computers worldwide rely on the system.

More NSA blowback, this time from Nextgov:

NIST Removes NSA-Tainted Algorithm From Cryptographic Standards

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has finally removed a cryptographic algorithm from its draft guidance on random number generators, more than six months after leaked top-secret documents suggested the algorithm had been deliberately sabotaged by the National Security Agency.

The announcement came as NIST opened to a final round of public comments its revised Special Publication 800-90a, which contains three algorithms now that the Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator has been removed following negative feedback from the public.

According to documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden in September, NSA “became the sole editor” of Special Publication 800-90 and allegedly introduced weaknesses to the now-removed algorithm. NIST responded swiftly to that news, recommending against using the standards and suggesting reopening them to public scrutiny in an effort to rebuild trust with the public.

From The Guardian, yet another information security breach, and a very troubling one at that:

Government has no idea how many people accessed asylum seekers’ details

  • FoI request reveals panicked emails as bureaucrats scrambled to contain fallout from the leak of personal information
  • Scott Morrison’s media adviser wanted to exaggerate IT skills needed to obtain confidential details about 10,000 detainees

The Department of Immigration does not know how many people accessed the personal details of almost 10,000 asylum seekers in detention that were accidentally placed on its website, raising the prospect that the confidential information has been circulated to an unknown number of people around the world.

Correspondence between the office of the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, and department officials obtained under freedom of information laws by Guardian Australia includes an internal briefing on the day the breach was discovered. It says: “The department is unable to identify how many people may have downloaded the information.”

After the jump, major developments in the Asian Game of Zones, including nuclear saber-rattling, artillery posturing, and a myterious Latin American death. . . Continue reading

Headlines, threats, pols, cons, and more


Today’s global news wrapup covers lots of ground, starting with a New York Times story on the skewed jobs picture resulting from the —ahem — Obama recovery:

Recovery Has Created Far More Low-Wage Jobs Than Better-Paid Ones

The deep recession wiped out primarily high-wage and middle-wage jobs. Yet the strongest employment growth during the sluggish recovery has been in low-wage work, at places like strip malls and fast-food restaurants.

In essence, the poor economy has replaced good jobs with bad ones. That is the conclusion of a new report from the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group, analyzing employment trends four years into the recovery.

“Fast food is driving the bulk of the job growth at the low end — the job gains there are absolutely phenomenal,” said Michael Evangelist, the report’s author. “If this is the reality — if these jobs are here to stay and are going to be making up a considerable part of the economy — the question is, how do we make them better?”

Next, two headlines defining the meaning of Republican Family Values™. Both from USA TODAY.

First, this:

Kissing congressman won’t run for re-election

Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., said Monday he will not seek re-election in November, after being caught on video kissing a female aide.

McAlllister, who was elected just five months ago in a special election, first informed The News Star in Monroe, La., of his decision. He will serve out this term, which ends in January 2015.

“I am committed to serving the 5th District to the best of my ability through this term, but I also have to take care of my family as we work together to repair and strengthen the relationship I damaged,” McAllister said. He and his wife, Kelly, are returning to Washington later Monday.

And by way of contrast, this:

Rep. Grimm charged with tax fraud, says he won’t quit

A 20-count indictment unsealed Monday charged Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.,with an alleged tax evasion scheme involving the concealment of more than $1 million in receipts from his New York restaurant where he employed an undisclosed number of undocumented immigrants.

Grimm surrendered to federal authorities Monday and pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, obstruction, mail fraud and perjury related to the alleged scheme involving his fast-food restaurant Healthalicious. But he said he would not resign his seat in Congress.

“In total, Grimm concealed over $1 million in Healthalicious gross receipts alone, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of employees’ wages, fraudulently depriving the federal and New York state governments of sales, income and payroll taxes,’‘ court documents state.

So there it is: Cheat on your wife, lose your position. Cheat Uncle Sam and you soldier on, just like another recent GOP icon.

And from the Toronto Globe and Mail, bad news for Bill Gates:

U.S. advises avoiding Microsoft’s Internet Explorer until bug fixed

  • Malicious Operation Clandestine Fox campaign targets U.S. defence, financial firms

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised computer users to consider using alternatives to Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer browser until the company fixes a security flaw that hackers have used to launch attacks.

The bug is the first high-profile security flaw to emerge since Microsoft stopped providing security updates for Windows XP earlier this month. That means PCs running the 13-year old operating system could remain unprotected against hackers seeking to exploit the newly uncovered flaw, even after Microsoft figures out how to defend against it.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a part of Homeland Security known as US-CERT, said in an advisory released on Monday morning that the vulnerability in versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer could lead to “the complete compromise” of an affected system.

From Want China Times, Motor City looks East for salvation:

Chinese immigrants could save Detroit: governor

Bankrupt Detroit announced its new immigration plan that aims to attract Chinese investors, and the combined investment from China has reached US$100 billion, the ninth highest among the 50 states in the United States.

Although is was seeking Chinese investment, the city’s chronic problems with public disorder, racial conflict, and chaos in urban planning may still put its future at risk, according to the Southern Weekly.

The city, which has a factory that produced the first Ford car, was a major hub for automobile manufacturing worldwide. Its collapse after suffering huge debt and dying industries symbolizes the world’s farewell to the era of traditional industry.

Closer to home, The Guardian covers ranching chaos in the Golden State:

California drought drives exodus of cattle ranchers to eastern states

Ranchers herd their stock away from dying grasslands as beef prices reach record highs and industry faces uncertain future

In the midst of the worst California drought in decades, the grass is stunted and some creeks are dry. Ranchers in the Golden State are loading tens of thousands of heifers and steers onto trucks and hauling them eastward to Nevada, Texas, Nebraska and beyond.

“If there’s no water and no feed, you move the cows,” said Gaylord Wright, 65, owner of California Fats and Feeders Inc. “You move them or they die.”

The exact headcount for livestock on this cattle drive is not known. But a Reuters review of state agriculture department records filed when livestock cross state borders indicates that up to 100,000 California cattle have left the state in the past four months alone.

While the McClatchy Washington Bureau covers another impact of water shortages combined with drug war rules:

With no federal water, pot growers could be high and dry

Newly licensed marijuana growers in Washington state may find themselves without a key source of water just as spring planting gets under way.

Federal officials say they’ll decide quickly whether the U.S. government can provide water for the growers or whether doing so would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes possession of the drug illegal.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which controls the water supply for two-thirds of Washington state’s irrigated land, is expected to make a decision by early May, and perhaps as soon as this week, said Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief spokesman.

And on the subject of pot, United Press International covers dires predictions unfulfilled in the Centennial State:

Only 15 percent of Colorado residents say they have bought recreational marijuana

The Quinnipiac Poll finds most Colorado residents say legalizing pot has not eroded state’s “moral fiber” and more than half expect it to help state budget.

While almost half of Colorado residents say they have used marijuana, only 15 percent say they have done so since the state legalized it Jan. 1, a new poll finds.

Generally, residents still support legalization, with 67 percent saying it has “not eroded the moral fiber” of Coloradoans, a Quinnipiac poll reported Monday. Only 30 percent said it has.

Half of those polled said they expect legalization to aid the criminal justice system, and 54 percent said that it has not made driving in Colorado more dangerous. More than half, 53 percent, said legalization “increases personal freedoms in a positive way,” and the same percentage expect the change to save the state money.

And from MIT Technology Review, more consequences of the mare’s nest exposed by Edward Snowden:

Spying Is Bad for Business

Can we trust an Internet that’s become a weapon of governments?

The big question in this MIT Technology Review business report is how the Snowden revelations are affecting the technology business. Some of the consequences are already visible. Consumers are favoring anonymous apps. Large Internet companies, like Google, have raced to encrypt all their communications. In Germany, legislators are discussing an all-European communications grid.

There is a risk that the Internet could fracture into smaller national networks, protected by security barriers. In this view, Brazil’s new cable is akin to China’s Great Firewall (that country’s system for censoring Web results), or calls by nationalists in Russia to block Skype, or an unfolding German plan to keep most e-mail traffic within its borders. Nations are limiting access to their networks. The result, some believe, could be the collapse of the current Internet.

Analysts including Forrester Research predict billions in losses for U.S. Internet services such as Dropbox and Amazon because of suspicion from technology consumers, particularly in Europe, in the wake of Snowden’s revelations. “The Snowden leaks have painted a U.S.-centric Internet infrastructure, and now people are looking for alternatives,” says James Lewis, director of the strategic technologies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

One business is really booming, as Homeland Security News Wire reports:

Demand for terrorism insurance remains strong

The fourth edition of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Report has found that demand for terrorism insurance remains strong and the renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIA) plays a key role in making coverage available and affordable. A survey of roughly 2,600 organizations found that the demand and price for terrorism insurance has remained constant since 2009. Education organizations purchase property terrorism insurance at a higher rate, 81 percent, than companies in any other industry segment surveyed in 2013, followed by healthcare organizations, financial institutions, and media companies.

The fourth edition of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Report has found that demand for terrorism insurance remains strong and the renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIA) plays a key role in making coverage available and affordable.

The 2014 Marsh & McLennan Companies survey of roughly 2,600 clients found that the demand and price for terrorism insurance has remained constant since 2009. Education organizations purchase property terrorism insurance at a higher rate, 81 percent, than companies in any other industry segment surveyed in 2013, followed by healthcare organizations, financial institutions, and media companies.

On to Europe and rising doubts, reported by The Guardian:

Anti-EU vote could rise above 30% in European elections, says thinktank

  • Hardline sceptics could get 29% of vote and critical reformers 5%, although Open Europe’s definitions of groups are disputed

Anti-EU parties could win more than 30% of the vote across the continent in the European elections, according to calculations by the Open Europe thinktank, up from 24.9% on the vote in 2009.

The calculation – challenged by other analysts – suggests hardline sceptics could take as many as 218 (29%) of the 751 available seats, up from 164 out of 766 (21.4%) in the current parliament. Open Europe says this bloc is diffuse, ranging from mainstream governing parties to neo-fascists.

It forecasts that the European parliament will continue to be dominated by parties that favour the status quo or further integration, although their vote share is set to fall slightly.

BBC News covers good news for us, bad news for the banksters:

RBS plan for 200% bonuses blocked by Treasury body

Royal Bank of Scotland has abandoned attempts to pay bonuses twice the size of salaries after being told the move would not be approved.

UKFI, the body that manages the Treasury’s 81% stake in the bank, told RBS it would veto plans for a 2:1 bonus ratio at the next shareholder meeting.

“There will be no rise” while RBS is “still in recovery”, the Treasury said.

New EU rules mean the bank has to ask its shareholders for approval of annual bonuses above 100% of base salaries.

On to Germany and a warning from TheLocal.de:

Bundesbank warns of German slowdown

German economic growth is heading for a significant slowdown in the second quarter of 2014 after a robust first three months, the German central bank said on Monday.

“After the extremely strong start to the year, economic growth in Germany is expected to see a noticeable slowdown in the second quarter,” the Bundesbank said in its latest monthly report.

Growth in industrial orders has not continued with the “same intensity” as in the first two months of the year, it said.

Lisbon next, and embarrassing hacks from the Portugal News:

Attorney general’s office hacked, passwords accessible online

The web page of the Lisbon attorney general’s office has been hit by a hacker attack by ‘Anonymous Portugal’.

Saturday’s edition of Portuguese paper ‘Dário de Notícias’ said that personal details of more than 2,000 public prosecutor magistrates had been accessible online including their mobile and land line number and their passwords to reserved areas on the site.

The paper said that the hack, code named ‘national Blackout’, had also affected companies, political parties and the criminal investigation police.

On to Spain and a bare minimum protest from thinkSPAIN:

Naked police protest in council meeting

LOCAL Police officers burst into a council meeting in Torrevieja (Alicante), stripped down to their underpants and protested over forced changes to their working hours.

The 30 or so policemen bore slogans on their naked backs which said ‘no more chaos’ and ‘we’ve had enough’, among others.

Torrevieja’s PP council ordered the police off the premises and said it had no intention of changing officers’ duty hours back again, because their new timetables were ‘more efficient’.

Next up, Italy, and more Bunga Bunga blowback from EUbusiness:

Scandal-hit Berlusconi insists ‘friend of Jews, Germans’

Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi insisted he is a friend of Jewish people and Germany on Monday in a bid to quell international outrage sparked by his controversial remarks about the Holocaust.

The former premier said he was “a historic friend of the Jewish people and the state of Israel” and it was “surreal to attribute to me anti-German sentiment or a presumed hostility towards the German people, to whom I am a friend.”

The 77-year-old’s statement, posted on the website of his centre-right Forza Italy party, came after an international outcry over his claim on Saturday that Germans denied the existence of Nazi concentration camps.

The media mogul, who is campaigning for the European elections on behalf of his party despite a tax-fraud conviction, made the comment while lashing out at European Parliament chief Martin Schultz, the centre-left candidate in the race to lead the EU Commission.

After the jump, the latest mixed messages from Greece, a Ukrainian bailout, mass death sentences in Egypt, Chinese Brazilian dreams, a tension-filled Indian elections, printing houses in China, ramping up the Asian Game of Zones, nuclear nightmares, and tales of birds and bees. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Mixed opinions on Ukraine


The majority of Americans want sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine, according to new research [PDF] from the Pew Research Center, but most don’t want to promote arms for Kyiv. Also in the report: Support for sanctions is directly related to income level, with 66 percent of those who make over $75,000 favoring action, a policy favored by only 35 percent of those making less than $30,000:

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