First up, via The Hill and redolent with irony:
Republicans to limit Obama’s aid to moderate Syrian rebel forces
House Republicans expect to unveil legislation Monday evening that would give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, but with some limits on that authority.
The House Armed Services Committee is drafting the bill in consultation with the administration. It is expected to take the form of an amendment to a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through Dec. 11, according to a senior committee aide.
Votes on the spending bill and the Syrian aid could come as soon as Wednesday.
From the London Daily Mail, covering a staunch ally:
Dozens of Christians ‘including women and children’ are arrested in Saudi Arabia after tip-off to state’s Islamist police force
- 28 people were arrested at home of Indian man in the eastern city of Khafji
- Reports claim women and children were among the congregation
- Human rights activists have appealed to the U.S. to help secure release
- In Saudi Arabia it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith
Islamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported.
The raid was the latest incident of a swingeing crackdown on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia by the country’s hard-line Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.
Vice News partners up:
The US and France Are Teaming Up to Fight A Sprawling War on Terror in Africa
In July of this year, France launched Operation Barkhane, an ambitious counterterrorism initiative spread across five countries in Africa’s Sahel and Sahara regions. The mission seeks to build upon the success of the French military intervention that drove al Qaeda-linked jihadi militants from northern Mali in 2013, and comes at a time when the US is expanding its own counterterrorism operations on the continent, setting the stage for what some analysts consider a burgeoning Franco-American alliance in Africa.
“This is a new chapter in French-American relations,” Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst who is now a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, told VICE News. “There is an unprecedented level of cooperation going on.”
In an August 11 memo to US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama, citing an “unforeseen emergency,” authorized the transfer of up to $10 million “to assist France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremism.” The move hints at a division of labor in which the US foots the bill for a cash-strapped French military that is both logistically and politically better placed than the US to engage in combat operations in the Sahel.
Al-Akhbar English raises a very interesting question:
The mysterious link between the US military prison Camp Bucca and ISIS leaders
Beyond conspiracy theories – which are often justified in an era where everything appears as though it is part of a plan or a scheme – we have the right to ask why the majority of the leaders of the Islamic State (IS), formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had all been incarcerated in the same prison at Camp Bucca, which was run by the US occupation forces near Omm Qasr in southeastern Iraq.
In the context of conspiracy theories, there are a lot of rumors about links between IS and the US intelligence or affiliated organizations. But to what extent are these theories credible? Is there evidence that corroborate them?
These questions seem legitimate, provided that ready-made answers are not accepted without convincing evidence. However, it is difficult to get this kind of evidence, and we might need another Edward Snowden or WikiLeaks to learn the real truth about the relationship between IS and US intelligence.
From Techdirt, but of course:
CIA’s John Brennan Refuses To Tell Senate Who Okayed Spying On The Senate
- from the constitutional-crisis dept
As you may recall, over the past few months, there’s been a rather big story brewing, concerning how the CIA spied on Senate staffers. Specifically, after having explicitly promised not to do so, the CIA snooped on a private network of Senate staffers who were putting together the giant $40 million report on the CIA’s torture program. The CIA tried to spin the story, claiming that they only spied on that network after realizing that those staffers had a document that the CIA thought it had not handed over to the staffers (they had), believing that perhaps there had been a security breach. However, when read carefully, the CIA’s spin actually confirmed the original story: the CIA, against basically all of its mandates and the basic concept of the Constitutional separation of powers, had spied on the Senate. While both the Senate and the CIA asked the DOJ to investigate, eventually the DOJ said the matter was closed and there would be no prosecutions.
At the end of July, the CIA finally came out and admitted that it had spied on the Senate, and effectively admitted that CIA boss John Brennan had flat out lied about it back in March. The CIA’s inspector general then revealed that the spying went even further than people had originally believed. This raised even more questions, but with Brennan “apologizing” and Senator Dianne Feinstein saying that she was satisfied with the apology, it seemed like this unfortunate incident may have been over and done with.
Apparently not. Last week, in the latest meeting concerning the torture report redactions, apparently some Senators asked Brennan to reveal who authorized the spying on the Senate staffers, and Brennan refused to tell them, leading to a bunch of very angry Senators — which may create some further issues, given that the Senators are supposed to oversee the CIA.
From Edward Snowden in the Intercept:
Snowden: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Isn’t Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance
Like many nations around the world, New Zealand over the last year has engaged in a serious and intense debate about government surveillance. The nation’s prime minister, John Key of the National Party, has denied that New Zealand’s spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. This week, as a national election approaches, Key repeated those denials in anticipation of a report in The Intercept today exposing the Key government’s actions in implementing a system to record citizens’ metadata.
Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance.
The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.
The Intercept again, this time with Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher:
New Zealand Launched Mass Surveillance Project While Publicly Denying It
The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted.
Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key, who said the law was merely designed to fix “an ambiguous legal framework” by expressly allowing the agency to do what it had done for years, that it “isn’t and will never be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” and the law “isn’t a revolution in the way New Zealand conducts its intelligence operations.”
Snowden, in a post for The Intercept published today, accused Prime Minster Key of fundamentally misleading the public about GCSB’s role in mass surveillance. “The Prime Minister’s claim to the public, that ‘there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance’, is false,” the former NSA analyst wrote. “The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.”
And last chronologically, from Ryan Gallagher in the Intercept:
The Questions for New Zealand on Mass Surveillance
In response to our story, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (pictured above) has said that the Speargun project was not finalized. What he claims is that the project was instead eventually replaced by a narrower initiative. In a radio interview on Monday morning, Key described this as a toned down version of what he called “mass cyber protection.” What’s now in place, he said, is a “bespoke functionality which an individual company or agency could deploy,” apparently to mitigate cyber attacks.
In a bid to prove this, Key declassified documents later on Monday (after we published our story) that outlined a project called Cortex. Key seemed to think — or perhaps hope — that these documents would kill off any concerns and put the controversy to a swift end. But they fail to address a number of crucial issues — critics have already dismissed them as a “red herring” — and in fact only seem to cloud matters further.
First of all, the Cortex documents contradict what Key said on the radio show, because they state that under Cortex GCSB “is not proposing to procure or develop bespoke systems” and that “all of the technology has been in use for some time.” Again, Key had described the system as a “bespoke functionality” and suggested the technology had been newly introduced.
The Cortex files show that the government signed off on a new “proactive” cybersecurity effort aimed helping government agencies and other organizations detect malware attacks. But what Key has not mentioned in any of his interviews is that the monitoring that was enabled by this system also, by design, has to filter through private communications to identify malware in the first place. The documents Key declassified clearly state that under Cortex “technology can be used to separate personal communications from other data, so that privacy issues associated with GCSB activities to be proportionate to cyber threats.” (Emphasis added.) In the United States, the cybersecurity bill CISPA was opposed by privacy advocates and eventually killed because of widespread concerns associated with the type of activity Cortex appears to enable.
Consequences from the Christian Science Monitor:
New Zealand spying row: Snowden as election wildcard?
- The former NSA contractor serves up timely allegations ahead of New Zealand’s elections on Sept. 20, potentially undermining incumbent Prime Minister John Key
Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden today accused the New Zealand government of spying on its citizens, just days before the country goes to the polls in national elections.
“If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Intercept, an online news site run by journalist Glenn Greenwald. In it, he said that he regularly saw data from New Zealand when he was working for the NSA.
His allegation threatens to upend what has so far been a predictable campaign – a poll three days ago showed Prime Minister John Key as the choice of 61.6 percent of voters, compared to 17.9 percent for his closest challenger, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Reuters provides cover:
Swiss say would shield Snowden from ‘political’ extradition to U.S.
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden could be granted safe passage in Switzerland if he helped a potential criminal inquiry into U.S. spying there, the Swiss public prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
He would probably not be extradited to the United States if Washington asked, but it was also unlikely that he would be granted political asylum, according to a document laying out Switzerland’s legal options if Snowden were to visit.
The prosecutor’s office, which provided the document to Reuters, stressed the issue was “purely hypothetical” because Snowden had not been invited to come from his current refuge in Russia. It had no further comment.
From Common Dreams, that’s why it’s called CONgress:
‘More Harm Than Good’: Congressional NSA Reforms a Sham, say Critics
- Intelligence community whistleblowers and civil liberties groups call on Congressmen to reject ‘gutted’ USA Freedom Act
The current “gutted” version of the U.S.A. Freedom Act (S. 2685) will only serve to legalize government’s currently illegal surveillance of innocent civilians, charged a coalition of whistleblowers and civil liberties organizations in a letter published Monday calling on members of Congress to reject the empty reform.
“Governmental security agencies’ zeal for collecting Americans’ personal information without regard for cost, efficacy, legality, or public support necessitates that Congress act to protect the rights of residents across the United States and around the globe,” writes the group under the banner of the OffNow campaign. The letter is signed by a number of intelligence community whistleblowers, including Thomas Drake and Daniel Ellsburg, as well as over 15 publications and organizations, such as RootsAction.org, CREDO Action, Fight for the Future, Restore the Fourth and the Sunlight Foundation.
The U.S.A. Freedom Act, they charge, “is not the substantive reform originally envisioned and supported by the public” after it was introduced to both houses by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in October 2013. In late May, H.R 3361 passed the House of Representatives—after being heavily marked up by the House Judiciary subcommittee—and moved on to the Senate where it has languished in the Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
TheLocal.at ramps up:
Austria boosts anti-terrorism measures
The Austrian government plans to step up its fight against Islamic terrorist organizations such as Isis, by extending laws against sedition.
These laws will only be applied if ten or fewer persons are involved. Dual citizens will lose their Austrian passport, should they engage in combat.
At a joint press conference on Monday morning, Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter – all members of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) – also announced that the Badges Act would be toughened. Insignias of organizations such as Al Qaeda and Isis cannot be publicly displayed.
From the Guardian, raising a spooky challenge:
EU court to investigate laws allowing GCHQ to snoop on journalists
- Bureau of Investigative Journalism files application with European court of human rights over protection of sources
The European court of human rights (ECHR) is to investigate British laws that allow GCHQ and police to secretly snoop on journalists.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has gone straight to Strasbourg in a bid to get a finding that domestic law is incompatible with provisions in European law which give journalists the right to keep sources confidential from police and others.
Its application was filed on Friday and has been accepted by the ECHR, which has indicated in the past it will expedite cases on surveillance through its legal system.
The move follows concerns arising out of Edward Snowden’s revelations last year that GCHQ had been secretly gathering intelligence from the country’s largest telecoms companies using a secret computer system code-named Tempora without the knowledge of the companies.
United Press International beefs up the BMOC, with M as in Militarization:
Campus police acquiring surplus military gear
The militarization of police extends to college campuses, as campus police forces acquire surplus armored vehicles, assault rifles and other equipment from the Pentagon.
Amid national debate about militarized police forces, highlighted by police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, a Freedom of Information Act request reveals colleges and universities around the country are using the Pentagon’s 1033 program to outfit campus police with surplus military equipment, including body armor, armored vehicles, and assault rifles.
Supporters argue the gear is needed to respond to school shootings and other “special situations,” while detractors claim college campuses are no place for military-grade weaponry.
A report in the Indianapolis Star found community and campus police in Indiana acquired more than 4,400 items — including Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles, Humvees, M-14 and M-16 rifles — through the Pentagon program, which supplies surplus defense equipment to local law enforcement, requiring them to pay only the cost of shipping.
Nextgov activates the panopticon:
FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology Goes Live
The FBI’s futuristic identification powers are ready for prime time.
The Next Generation Identification System, a controversial biometric database that relies heavily on facial-recognition technology, is now fully operational, the agency announced Monday.
The program is designed to help law-enforcement officials identify criminal suspects, but it has endured repeated scrutiny from civil-liberties groups that say the database will endanger the privacy of everyday citizens guilty of no wrongdoing.
After the jump, yet another iPhone security flaw, corporatizing your heirs, a Peruvian security murder charge, Austrian online spying, internal turmoil and a military win in Pakistan, major moves in India’s Game of Zones, an Indonesian security ramp-up, Malaysia and China add arms, North Korean sub uncertainty, and Google’s com drones plan. . . Continue reading