Category Archives: MSM

InSecurityWatch: Spies, laws, peepers, drones


And much, much more. . .

We begin with the genome-incorporating corporate panopticon from the Asahi Shimbun:

Yahoo offers DNA tests, expects growth in gene-based advertising

Advertisements tailored to individuals’ genetic makeup have moved closer to reality with the start of a DNA testing service by Yahoo Japan Corp.

The service, which began Nov. 7, analyzes 290 genetic aspects of saliva samples–from the risk of such illnesses as lung cancer and stroke to physical traits, including a tendency toward obesity and alcohol-tolerance levels.

The service costs 49,800 yen ($430), including tax. Users can also receive advice from doctors and nutritionists, for an additional charge.

In June, the company revised its regulations on the protection of personal information to allow for the use of DNA analysis results in advertising.

From the Boston Globe, an inescapable conclusion:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

  • The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

Glennon’s critique sounds like an outsider’s take, even a radical one. In fact, he is the quintessential insider: He was legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a consultant to various congressional committees, as well as to the State Department. “National Security and Double Government” comes favorably blurbed by former members of the Defense Department, State Department, White House, and even the CIA. And he’s not a conspiracy theorist: Rather, he sees the problem as one of “smart, hard-working, public-spirited people acting in good faith who are responding to systemic incentives”—without any meaningful oversight to rein them in.

Reuters covers signs of overstretch:

As Obama visits Asia, old alliances face new strains in face of China’s influence

In November 2011, with the Arab Spring uprisings in full tilt and Europe rocked by a debt crisis, President Barack Obama flew to Asia to promote a shift of America’s military, diplomatic and business assets to the region. His then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared in the same year that the 21st century would be “America’s Pacific century”.

Fast-forward to today: as Obama flies to Asia on Sunday, Washington’s “pivot” to the region is becoming more visible. It includes deployment of American Marines in Darwin, Australia, stepped up U.S. naval visits to the Philippines and many more joint drills with that nation’s armed forces, as well as the lifting of a ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam.

But just as Washington seeks to expand American interests in Asia as a counterpoint to China’s growing influence, some U.S. partners have shown less willingness to challenge Beijing. That may mean China will have a freer hand to assert its authority in the resource-rich South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap those of Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries.

The drubbing Obama’s Democrats took in this week’s mid-term elections, defeats that were blamed by many on his leadership, will hardly strengthen his position in discussions with China or with allies in the region. Obama will have less room for maneuver on foreign policy now he has a Republican-controlled Senate to deal with, and the political focus in Washington is already starting to turn to the 2016 presidential election.

More of the same, also via Reuters:

Unclear if China ready to sign IT agreement: WTO chief

China is part of “intensive” talks on a global trade pact regarding information technology products, the World Trade Organization’s chief said on Saturday, but it is unclear if a deal will be made at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders underway in Beijing.

The United States and other countries have been hopeful that China would sign on to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which requires signatories to eliminate duties on some IT products, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that ends on Tuesday.

Washington has blamed China, the world’s biggest exporter of IT products, for derailing talks on an update to the 16 year old WTO pact on technology trade by asking for too many exemptions.

On to the war of the moment/clash of cultures/blowback via the New York Times:

U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Target ISIS Leaders

An airstrike by a United States-led coalition hit a gathering of leaders of the Islamic State jihadist group in northwestern Iraq on Saturday, and Iraqi officials said they believed that a number of top militants had been killed.

Two Iraqi officials said that at least one strike had targeted a meeting near the town of Qaim, which is in Anbar Province, just across the border from the Syrian town of Bukamal. The area is in the desert heartland of the territory the group has seized for its self-declared caliphate.

Both officials said that the strikes had killed many militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, including two of its regional governors. Rumors also swirled that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been at the meeting and was either wounded or killed. The officials said they had no confirmed information about Mr. Baghdadi’s presence at the meeting.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, strange bedfellows:

Sunni tribes join Shiite militias in battle for Iraqi town, a rare show of sectarian unity

Sunni Muslim tribesmen, Shiite militia fighters and Iraqi security forces set out Saturday to recapture a key city in Anbar province and stop Islamic State atrocities against a local tribe in an extraordinary coalition that could stir sectarian tensions or potentially serve as a model for future cooperation against the militants.

The operation to liberate Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad, could reshape the situation in Anbar in a way that would impact the mission of U.S. troops who are being deployed to the province from among the additional 1,500 U.S. military advisers the Pentagon said it is sending to Iraq at the end of the year.

“This is a dramatic change,” said Hisham al Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi defense analyst. “We have the Sunni Arab tribes fighting hand in hand with the Shiites.”

And from BBC News, another inescapable conclusion:

Ex-USSR leader Gorbachev: World on brink of new Cold War

The world is on the brink of a new Cold War, and trust should be restored by dialogue with Russia, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said.

At an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday, Mr Gorbachev said the West had “succumbed to triumphalism”.

He expressed alarm about recent Middle Eastern and European conflicts.

Along the same lines, via the New York Times:

As Russia Draws Closer to China, U.S. Faces a New Challenge

Mr. Obama is returning to Asia as Russia pulls closer to China, presenting a profound challenge to the United States and Europe. Estranged from the West over Ukraine, Mr. Putin will also be in Beijing this week as he seeks economic and political support, trying to upend the international order by fashioning a coalition to resist what both countries view as American arrogance.

Whether that is more for show than for real has set off a vigorous debate in Washington, where some government officials and international specialists dismiss the prospect of a more meaningful alliance between Russia and China because of the fundamental differences between the countries. But others said the Obama administration should take the threat seriously as Moscow pursues energy, financing and military deals with Beijing.

“We are more and more interested in the region that is next to us in Asia,” said Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. “They are good partners to us.” He added that a recent natural gas deal between Moscow and Beijing was a taste of the future. “It’s just the beginning,” he said, “and you will see more and more projects between us and China.”

The ante, via the Los Angeles Times:

Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly

The nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile has shrunk by 85% since its Cold War peak half a century ago, but the Energy Department is spending nine times more on each weapon that remains. The nuclear arsenal will cost $8.3 billion this fiscal year, up 30% over the last decade.

The source of some of those costs: skyrocketing profits for contractors, increased security costs for vulnerable facilities and massive investments in projects that were later canceled or postponed.

“We are not getting enough for what we are spending, and we are spending more than what we need,” said Roger Logan, a senior nuclear scientist who retired in 2007 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The whole system has failed us.”

The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.

On to drones, first with a partnership from MercoPress:

Anglo-French defence co-operation contract to develop unmanned combat air systems

  • A set of defence co-operation contracts, worth £120 million, for the early phase of a joint development of Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) between the UK and French governments have been awarded in Paris. A UCAS capability would, by the 2030’s, be able to undertake sustained surveillance, mark targets, gather intelligence, deter adversaries and carry out strikes in hostile territory.

The contracts will underpin a two-year Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Feasibility Phase program and will involve six industry partners exploring concepts and options for the potential collaborative acquisition of a UCAS in the future.

The contracts award was jointly announced by Bernard Gray, the Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Defence Materiel and his counterpart, Laurent Collet-Billon, head of the French Directorate General of Armaments.

Mr Gray said that the development of Unmanned Combat Air Systems is of vital importance to the UK and France, “which have the most capable and experienced armed forces in Europe and well-established defence industrial bases”.

On a parallel track with Want China Times:

US must act soon to counter China droning on

Because the United States only allows its unmanned aerial vehicles to be exported to the United Kingdom, American experts fear that China will eventually dominate the global drone market, Washington’s National Interest magazine reports.

The Zhuihai Air Show held in Southern China every two years has attracted the attention of aviation experts from around the world. Beijing invested huge amounts of resources to improve the nation’s drone technology. With those drones displayed in Zhuhai, China seems to be ready to challenge the status quo of global arms control as it begins to catch up to its competition in the overseas market of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Following a report which indicated that China is cooperating with the Algerian military in developing unmanned aerial vehicles, Saudi Arabia announced that it purchased an undisclosed number of Wing Loong drones from China on May.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the very curious:

Judge orders Obama to explain rejection of Chinese bid to buy Oregon wind farms on national security grounds

President Barack Obama and a secretive government committee that vets foreign purchases of American companies must explain to a Chinese-owned firm why they rejected its bid to buy Oregon wind farms, under a new order by a federal judge.

The unprecedented ruling by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. judge for the District of Columbia who was nominated by Obama, also requires him to justify withholding any information from the Chinese on grounds of executive privilege, a legal principle that presidents going back to George Washington have claimed.

Jackson’s order was issued under a July mandate from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled then that Obama had violated the constitutional due process rights of Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. in his September 2012 directive voiding its purchase of an Oregon wind-farm conglomerate.

MercoPress goes undercover:

Former US soccer leader Blazer spied on FIFA as an FBI informant

  • Chuck Blazer, once the most powerful man in US soccer, was an FBI informant used to spy on Fifa, the New York Daily News reports. Blazer, who is now suffering from cancer, secretly recorded conversations with officials he arranged to meet at his London hotel during the 2012 Olympics, the report said.

Union-busting at Scotland Yard, via the Guardian:

Police ‘covered up’ links with union blacklisting

  • Leaked minutes show senior officer met group targeting union activists

Scotland Yard has been accused of seeking to cover up its involvement in the blacklisting of more than 3,200 construction workers following the emergence of minutes of a meeting between a senior officer in its anti-extremism unit and the organisation running the list.

The leaked document proves that as late as 2008 a detective chief inspector in the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu) briefed members of the Consulting Association, the secretive organisation that ran the blacklist keeping people out of work for decades. The association, which had a database of 3,213 names on which it held information, was raided and closed in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office, but not before it destroyed the professional and personal lives of thousands of workers, according to those on the list.

A committee of MPs holding an inquiry into its activities heard evidence that at least two of those blacklisted committed suicide as a result. In 2012 the Information Commissioner’s Office told an employment tribunal that it believed information held in the files was from the police or security services.

From the London Daily Mail, peek-a-boo!:

Is this creepy website live-streaming YOUR living room? 73,000 webcams now viewable to anyone because their owners haven’t set a password

  • Website insecam.com running footage from more than 73,000 cameras
  • A total of 11,000 cameras in the United States are able to be viewed
  • There are 2,422 cameras in the UK which are also providing a live feed
  • Cameras which have not had their factory passwords changed are accessible
  • Users can view businesses, factories, building sites and private homes
  • The site states: ‘you can see into bedrooms of all countries of the world’
  • Easy to stop – just change the password on the camera

A creepy website has collected streaming footage from more than 73,000 cameras around the globe that are connected to the internet, because the owners haven’t changed their default passwords, making them accessible to virtually anyone.

Insecam claims to feature feeds from IP cameras all over the world with more than 11,000 in the U.S. and 2,400 in the UK alone.

Some of the shots are harmless with fly-on-the-wall views of stores, offices and parking lots, but there are also far more personal areas covered by the cameras, with living rooms and bedrooms featured prominently.

From Want China Times, the mal-adroit:

Apple blocks malware targeting Chinese iPhone user

Apple said they have blocked the malware hidden in apps of third-party app stores in China which aim to access information from Chinese iPhone users, Tencent’s online tech news outlet reports.

The malware, dubbed WireLurker, was brought to light by a Silicon Valley-based cyber security company Palo Alto Networks in a report published on Nov. 6. When users downloaded the apps from the third-party app stores in China and installed the apps on their Mac computers, the malware hidden in the apps stole user information from any iOS device, including the iPhone and the iPad, when it was connected to the computer with a USB.

iPhones are relatively safe from malware given the strong firewall protection Apple uses for the phones. Apps that aren’t developed by Apple have to be authorized first and users can only download from Apple’s app store. WireLurker is the first malware capable of invading privacy on iPhones and other iOS devices and it poses a big threat to Chinese Apple users, the tech outlet said.

And from Channel 4 News in Britain, selling you out:

eBay for credit card fraudsters: Thousands of details up for sale

Program notes:

How safe is your money? We’ve discovered that the credit card details of thousands of Britons are being offered for sale on the internet.

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Sweden and Austria, Israel lobby tanks British Labor Party funding, a Chavez ally charged with cartel links, Brazil prepares for war to defend the Amazon, an Israeli Arab general strike over a police shooting, military press censorship proposed in Egypt, protesters seize a Libyan oil port, new anti-gay laws in Uganda, a rare admission by India’s army in deaths of teens, arrested Americans feed by Pyongyang, discouraging words for Hong Kong Occupy activists, Abe confirms a summit in Beijing, Chinese media proclaim a win while China moves forward on a regional economic zone, and echoes from a battle a century past haunt the Beijing/Tokyo axis. . . Continue reading

Someone’s gonna wear a hair shirt after that


Today’s honors for advertising blunder [or, hmmm, public relations coup?] of the day, via the London Telegraph:

BLOG Oopsie

EbolaWatch: Politics, fear, and lots of Africa


In fact, with the eyes of much of the world on American elections, African news media compromise the largest single source of today’s items.

We begin with an election day sit-down via the Associated Press:

Obama gets Ebola update from virus response team

President Barack Obama received an update from his Ebola response team as West Africa continued to struggle against the deadly outbreak that has killed nearly 5,000 people.

Obama met Tuesday at the White House with Cabinet and other officials involved in the administration’s response both in Africa and the United States. The U.S. has been sending military personnel into the afflicted region to help set up treatment units and train health care workers.

The administration also has devised guidelines for travelers returning to the U.S. from West Africa. Some states have imposed stricter guidelines. Only one individual is known to have Ebola in the U.S. He is a doctor who served in West Africa and is now being treated in a New York City hospital.

Next, because you’ve probably been curious about just what’s entailed, here’s a just-released video from Britain’s Western Sussex Hospitals on the fine art of donning and doffing all that protective garb before dealing with the presence of the live Ebola virus in patients and the places they dwell:

Ebola order of PPE Put on and Removal

Next, Ebolaphobaia run amok from the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Parents’ Ebola fears push Catholic teacher to quit

A teacher at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School who had recently returned from a mission trip to Kenya has resigned amid swirling frustration and fears about Ebola.

Susan Sherman was not immediately available Monday to comment on her resignation.

Cecilia Hart Price, chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Louisville, confirmed that Sherman resigned and that St. Margaret Mary’s principal has already begun trying to fill the teaching position.

The school had asked Sherman to take a paid “precautionary leave” of absence of 21 days upon her return from her trip after “strong parent concerns” about Ebola. It also asked Sherman, who is a registered nurse, to provide a doctor’s note stating she was in good health.

Japanese Ebola screening transparency from NHK WORLD:

Ebola information guidelines set

Japan’s government says it will release detailed information on suspected Ebola patients spotted at its quarantine stations after their blood and other samples are ready to be transferred to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases for testing.

The health and transport ministries set up the arrangements in response to recent public calls for the disclosure of such information.

The public request came after a man with a fever of 37.8 degrees was tested in a hospital in Tokyo last week after arriving in Japan from Liberia. The ministries were criticized for initially concealing the flight number of his plane, the number of passengers aboard, and other details.

Next, via Voice of America, a voice of optimism:

Economist Optimistic About W. Africa’s Post-Ebola Prospects

The chief economist of the African Development Bank says Ebola’s effect on West African economies is “astounding,” –  but he is optimistic that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will bounce back faster than some experts expect. He spoke from a conference in Ethiopia’s capital.

The Ebola virus’s deadly rampage through West Africa has claimed more than just lives – it has threatened the region’s economy, slowing trade and decreasing productivity. On this point, leaders at the African Development Bank agree with their colleagues at the World Bank and other financial institutions that have warned of the massive economic impact of the often-fatal virus.

The bank’s acting chief economist and vice-president Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa spoke from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday.

A euronews video fires a rhetorical broadside:

Asia ‘must do more’ to fight Ebola, says World Bank group president

Program notes:

Asian countries are not doing enough to fight Ebola, that is the conclusion of World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim.

The virus has killed more than 5,000 people mostly in West Africa. Thousands of health care workers are needed to stem the tide of the outbreak.

“But many countries in Asia that could help simply are not, especially when it comes to sending health workers,” said Kim. “I call on countries across Asia to offer trained health workers now to help stop Ebola at its source.”

Another cautionary note from the NewDawn in Monrovia, Liberia:

Ebola difficult to narrow to zero says UN Representative

The head of the UN Ebola Emergency Response to Liberia, Anthony Bambary, says it’s difficult for the Ebola virus in Liberia to reach point zero. Speaking with reporters Tuesday in Monrovia, Mr. Bambary said cases in Liberia are declining in certain regions due to measures that have been adapted by the Government and with the help of the UN and international partners.

He also said the Government of Liberia needs more logistical support and money to help in the fight against the deadly virus. Mr. Bambary said in 30 days, there has been fast deployment in West Africa to fight the virus and there will be more investments to help governments of the region and their peoples in the fight because the virus is a global treat.

The UN envoy said he had visited Guinea and Serra Leone and was in Liberia, adding that he has already met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He noted that there have been great improvements and commended the Government and international partners for collaborating in the Ebola fight, while adding that the UN has also been a great help in the process though there are still difficulties in some areas.

From the Vanguard in Lagos , Nigeria, another quarantine announced:

China to quarantine Ebola doctors returning from W Africa

China will quarantine medical staff who work with Ebola patients in West Africa for 21 days after they return from duty, a senior health official said Monday.

Doctors returning to China will be subjected to a battery of tests before they enter the observation period, said He Qinghua, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s Bureau for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As these doctors are responsible for the testing of the virus, on their return to China they will be put under a 21 day quarantine period to be supervised by local community service centres,” He said at a press briefing.

From the Associated Press, collateral damage:

Ebola hits health care access for other diseases

The Ebola outbreak has spawned a “silent killer,” experts say: hidden cases of malaria, pneumonia, typhoid and the like that are going untreated because people in the countries hardest hit by the dreaded virus either cannot find an open clinic or are too afraid to go to one.

Evidence of what the World Health Organization calls an “emergency within the emergency” is everywhere in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries worst hit by the Ebola epidemic.

It can be seen in a decline in the number of kids being vaccinated for preventable diseases. It can be seen in the mother who crosses Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, searching for an open clinic that will treat her 3-year-old daughter who has a fever and is vomiting, both signs of Ebola but also of many other diseases. It can be seen at the hospital in Kissidougou, Guinea, which sees not even a tenth of the patients it used to.

It can also be seen at the hospital outside Sierra Leone’s capital run by the medical charity Emergency. It is inundated with patients because nearby hospitals are closed or only partially operating.

On to Sierra Leone with the Associated Press and an alarming development:

Thousands break Ebola quarantine to find food

Thousands of people in Sierra Leone are being forced to violate Ebola quarantines to find food because deliveries are not reaching them, aid agencies said.

Large swaths of the West African country have been sealed off to prevent the spread of Ebola, and within those areas many people have been ordered to stay in their homes. The government, with help from the U.N.’s World Food Program, is tasked with delivering food and other services to those people. But there are many “nooks and crannies” in the country that are being missed, Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid’s Sierra Leone representative, said Tuesday.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 5,000 people and authorities have gone to extreme lengths to bring it under control, like the quarantines in Sierra Leone. The country said Tuesday that it would keep a state of emergency, which includes restrictions on large gatherings, in place for a full year.

Restrictions on movement and gatherings have also been used in Liberia and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

While public health authorities have said such measures may be necessary to bring under control an Ebola outbreak unlike any other, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization for aid organizations, warned on Monday that they were cutting off food to thousands of people.

One possible consequence from the Guardian:

New Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone raises fears of new infection chain

  • Koinadugu had prided itself on being the only area to have kept Ebola at bay by operating self-imposed quarantine system

A fresh outbreak of Ebola in a part of Sierra Leone where the virus was thought to have been contained has raised fears of a new, uncontrolled infection chain that could send the death toll soaring.

A Red Cross ambulance team was sent to the remote district of Koinadugu, which had prided itself on being the only area to have kept Ebola at bay, on Tuesday to urgently collect 30 corpses for medical burial.

The outbreak is a major setback for the Ebola response force and the district, which two weeks ago remained resolved to control the spread of the virus that has officially infected 5,338 people and claimed 1,510 lives in the country.

Koinadugu has been operating a self-imposed quarantine for four months, thanks to the intervention of an expat businessman, Momah Konte, who returned from Washington and worked with local officials and tribal chiefs to try to prevent the spread.

How Sierra Leone is like America, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone emergency “still in force”

The Sierra Leone government late on Monday declared that the emergency introduced in July to deal with the Ebola crisis is still in force. The government laid to rest weeks of speculation over the fate of the state of emergency declared by President Ernest Bai as part of measures to tackle the epidemic.

In the announcement on July 31President Ernest Bai Koroma pronounced several measures which he said at the time would be in force for an initial period of 60 days and to be extended to 90 days if the epidemic was not contained.

That 90-day period elapsed at the end of October.

From the Guardian, both good news and bad:

Ebola’s catastrophic consequences on Sierra Leone’s small-scale mining sector

  • Ebola is having a devastating impact on Sierra Leone’s informal mining sector, which provides a livelihood to some of the country’s poorest people

In Sierra Leone, the macro-economic impacts of the crisis came into sharp focus two weeks ago, when the country’s second largest iron ore producer, London Mining, went into administration. The London-listed company was one of the country’s largest employers, providing jobs for 1,400 local people at its mine in Marampa, and contributing an estimated 10% to GDP. While the company has been hard hit by a 40% drop in the global price of iron ore, it seems that the disruption caused by the Ebola epidemic served as the final nail in the coffin.

The Ebola crisis is having devastating consequences on Sierra Leone’s macro-economy, but it is also having far reaching knock-on effects at the micro-level, suppressing informal livelihood opportunities for poor people. This is particularly the case for those who are dependent on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing activities that generate disposable income for hundreds of thousands of families in an employment-constrained economy.

With many parts of the country in effective quarantine and regional trade routes blocked off, there are enormous logistical challenges for ASM. It is Sierra Leone’s second largest employer after agriculture and provides a livelihood for an estimated 200,000-300,000 individuals and their families. It is also an activity that is characterised by a high degree of mobility, and it often takes place in confined spaces where there is poor hygiene. While the spread of Ebola has forced many ASM operators to abandon mining altogether, tight border controls implemented to halt the spread of disease have also made activities within the ASM sector increasingly difficult.

After the jump, on to Liberia and a public healthcare reevaluation, the president gets European solace, the latest positive numbers, sexual side effects, a presidential caution, journalists draw a not-so-subtle threat, and the government warns against congregating in crowds, 112 false alarms in Ghana, and turning to cell phone messaging in Senegal. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Hacks, war, spooks, zones


Belated by exhaustion [16-hour blogging days taking a toll], but here tis. . .

First, from the Intercept, oh joy:

Hackers Could Decide Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots

When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers.

Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.”

That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”

On to the war of the day, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canadian warplanes launch air strikes against Islamic State militants

Canada has made its mark on the battlefield in Iraq with CF-18 warplanes dropping their first bombs in this country’s combat mission there.

Canadian fighter jets attacked Islamic State militant targets near the city of Fallujah on Sunday, Ottawa said.

It’s not clear how much damage the CF-18s caused. The military says it requires two days, until Tuesday, before it can tell Canadians what was achieved.

More from CBC News:

Canada’s forces face daunting mission against ISIS in Iraq

  • If mission remains an air war, it will neither be quick, nor easy to destroy ISIS

Canada has pitched its tent with the US-led coalition against ISIS, the radical Sunni Muslim militant group which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, terrorizing—and often executing—those in its way. Its aim is to topple the governments of both of those countries to create one huge Islamic state that is stricter in its interpretation of the Koran than either Afghanistan’s Taliban or Saudi Arabia next door. The coalition’s aim is to destroy it.

That will neither be quick, nor easy. It may not even be possible.

The coalition itself is awkward. It mostly consists of the United States, with some Arab countries offering token help against ISIS in Syria, and some western countries—Canada, Britain, Australia, France and others—helping in Iraq.

Canada shares its Kuwait base with U.S. forces, but the American military Central Command doesn’t seem to have noticed that Canadian planes have arrived. As recently as Sunday, news releases listing coalition activities and members left out any reference to Canada.

From the Guardian, more blowback:

Muslim leader shot outside Sydney prayer hall by alleged Isis supporters

  • Rasoul Al Mousawi to undergo surgery after he was shot in the face outside an Islamic centre in Greenacre just hours after threats allegedly made

A Shia Muslim community leader will undergo surgery after being shot in the face with pellets outside a Sydney religious hall, which witnesses say was targeted by supporters of Islamic State hours earlier.

Rasoul Al Mousawi, 47, was standing outside the building in Greenacre in Sydney south-west around 1.15am on Monday morning when a number of pellets were fired.

Police said Al Mousawi sustained wounds to his head and shoulder and is expected to undergo surgery, but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, a serious setback:

Slaughter of Anbar tribesmen shows weakness in U.S. plan to beat Islamic State

Exhausted, hungry and low on ammunition, al Goud and hundreds of his tribesmen ceased firing on Oct. 22 in return for a pledge from the Islamic State that civilians wouldn’t be harmed. They then set out on a 15-hour overnight drive through the desert, leaving behind families and associates and nursing another in a long list of Sunni tribal grievances that are hindering reconciliation with the Shiite-led government and threatening to derail President Barack Obama’s plan to crush the Islamic State.

“They did nothing for us,” al Goud said in an interview last week in a rented house in Baghdad. “It’s all killing and disaster.”

A week later, the Islamic State executed more than 40 Albu Nimr captives on a Hit street and drove thousands of Albu Nimr civilians into the desert, where hundreds have been slaughtered – more than 400 by Monday. Tribal leaders’ calls for help from the Iraqi army and for U.S. airstrikes again went unanswered.

But good news for a very few from RT:

Head Hunters: ISIS offers top oil jobs for ‘ideologically suitable’ engineers

Program notes:

ISIS jihadists have a job offer for a professional to manage the seized refineries. Reports have emerged that Islamic State is scouring North Africa for a suitable candidate to oversee production. In return, the jihadists are offering over 200-thousand dollars a year. But for that, the right candidate will have to be a skilled industry professional – devoted to Islamic State’s ideology.

And not so good news for other, also from RT:

ISIS introduces ‘price scheme’ for selling enslaved women and girls

Islamic State has set fixed prices to sell Yazidi and Christian women who have been abducted by members of the militant group, Iraqi media have reported. The barbaric tariffs range from around $40 for older women to $170 for children.

The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, says they will execute anyone who violates the controls, which have been implemented. $43 is the price for a Yazidi or Christian women who is aged between 40 and 50. For those aged between 20 and 30, the price is $86. The sickening trend continues, with girls falling into the 10 to 20 age group being sold for $129 and children up to the age of nine, commanding the highest prices of $172 or 200,000 dinars.

The document states that there has not been so much interest in purchasing slaves recently. “The market to sell women and spoils of war has been experiencing a significant decrease, which has adversely affected ISIS revenue and financing of the Mujahideen,” said the document, which was obtained by the website IraqiNews.com.

The document also says that no individual is allowed to buy more than three slaves. However there are no exceptions for foreigners, such as those from Turkey, Syria and the Gulf States.

While the Independent examines origins:

Camp Bucca: The US prison that became the birthplace of Isis

In March 2009, in a wind-swept sliver of Iraq, a sense of uncertainty befell the southern town of Garma, home to one of the Iraq War’s most notorious prisons. The sprawling detention center called Camp Bucca, which had detained some of the Iraq War’s most radical jihadists along the Kuwait border, had just freed hundreds of inhabitants. Families rejoiced, anxiously awaiting their sons, brothers and fathers who had been lost to Bucca for years. But a local official fretted.

“These men weren’t planting flowers in a garden,” police chief Saad Abbas Mahmoud told The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid, estimating 90 percent of the freed prisoners would soon resume fighting. “They weren’t strolling down the street. This problem is both big and dangerous. And regrettably, the Iraqi government and the authorities don’t know how big the problem has become.”

Mahmoud’s assessment of Camp Bucca, which funneled 100,000 detainees through its barracks and closed months later, would prove prescient. The camp now represents an opening chapter in the history of Islamic State — many of its leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were incarcerated and likely met there. According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration — and was formative in the development today’s most potent jihadist force.

Screens going up from BuzzFeed:

U.S. To Tighten Screening Of Europeans And Australians Amid Concerns Of Islamist Militants

Additional security measures will be imposed for millions of travelers from countries that do not require U.S. visas due to the rising threat of Islamic militants with Western passports.

The Department of Homeland Security will introduce heightened screening measures for travelers from Europe, Australia, and other countries exempt from U.S. visas on Monday due to growing number of Islamist militants in Syria with Western passports, the Washington Post reported.

According to the new rule, travelers who do not need visas to enter the U.S. will need to provide detailed information to authorities before boarding a flight to the country. Usually such travelers undergo lighter security.

And from RT, add fuel to fire:

Afghan police sell arms to Taliban ‘to feed families’ as wages go unpaid for months – report

The Afghan police service has been forced to sell its arms to the Taliban, as officers have not received wages for months. Some have even joined the insurgents, local Khaama Press newspaper reported.

The local police in Ghazni, Logar, and Maidan Wardak provinces say they have not been paid for three months and do not have money to feed their families.

“We have turned to begging for bread,” Mohmad Ajan, who had fought the Taliban insurgents for the last two years in Maidan Wardak, told Khaama Press. He added that the policemen face “hunger, thirst and the cold.”

Many officers reportedly say they have no other choice but to sell their personal arms and ammunition. The buyers are usually local people – but sometimes they are Taliban militants. It has also been reported that some of the policemen have joined the militants.

While the Los Angeles Times sounds a familiar theme:

U.S. Muslim leaders say FBI pressuring people to become informants

Muslim leaders nationwide say the FBI is pressuring some Islamic community members and religious leaders to spy on fellow Muslims as part of a government effort to combat extremist recruiting in the U.S.

The campaign has intensified in recent weeks, with mosques in California, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and other states reporting unannounced visits by FBI agents, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

In a nationwide alert, the group urged mosque and community leaders to seek the advice of an attorney if they are approached by the FBI for questioning. They worried that the civil rights of numerous imams were being violated as the religious leaders were asked to meet with FBI agents, who then pressed them to inform on members of their congregations.

On to Cold War 2.0 from News Corp Australia:

Russian military flights sending message they are ‘great power’: NATO leader

RUSSIA’S recent military flights into European airspace are meant to demonstrate to the West that the country is a “great power,” NATO’s supreme allied commander said on Monday.

Although there has been an increase in Russian air activity over Europe during the past year, last week marked the first time Moscow had sent in larger formations of warplanes, General Philip Breedlove told reporters.

“My opinion is they’re messaging us. They’re messaging us that they are a great power,” Breedlove said.

Moscow wanted to show it can exert influence on the alliance’s calculations, he said.

The London Telegraph looks at the other cyberwar:

Britain’s spy chief says US tech firms aid terrorism

New GCHQ director Richard Hannigan accuses some Silicon Valley companies of becoming ‘the command and control networks of choice’ for terrorists

Technology giants such as Facebook and Twitter have become “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists and criminals but are “in denial” about the scale of the problem, the new head of GCHQ has said.

Robert Hannigan said that Isil terrorists in Syria and Iraq have “embraced the web” and are using it to intimidate people and inspire “would-be jihadis” from all over the World to join them.

He urged the companies to work more closely with the security services, arguing that it is time for them to confront “some uncomfortable truths” and that privacy is not an “absolute right”.

He suggested that unless US technology companies co-operate, new laws will be needed to ensure that intelligence agencies are able to track and pursue terrorists.

The Independent takes a different tack:

GCHQ head demands internet firms open up to intelligence services, claiming privacy is not an absolute right

The new head of Britian’s GCHQ intelligence agency has demanded that internet firms open themselves up to intelligence services, and has claimed that privacy is not an absolute right.

Accusing internet companies of being “in denial” of the role they play in terrorism, Robert Hannigan said they had become the “command-and-control networks of choice” for a new generation of criminals and extremists, such as the militant group Isis which has swept across Iraq and Syria and is well known for its use of online propaganda.

Citing the group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS), Hannigan said it did not show the beheadings of hostages including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning in recent videos as proof of extremists’ increasing expertise in online propaganda.

“By self-censoring they can stay just the right side of the rules of social media sites, capitalising on western freedom of expression,” he said.

More from the Guardian:

Former NSA lawyer: the cyberwar is between tech firms and the US government

  • Stewart Baker said that Apple and Google could be restricting their business in markets like China and Russia by encrypting user data

The battle over encryption of consumer internet users’ data has pitched US technology companies against the US government itself, former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Web Summit in Dublin, Baker claimed that moves by Google and Apple and others to encrypt user data was more hostile to western intelligence gathering than to surveillance by China or Russia.

“The state department has funded some of these tools, such as Tor, which has been used in Arab Spring revolutions or to get past the Chinese firewall, but these crypto wars are mainly being fought between the American government and American companies,” he said, in conversation with Guardian special projects editor James Ball.

And a rebuff from the Independent:

Tech giants reject GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan’s call for deal with government

  • Organisation representing major technology companies including Apple criticise comments by the new director of government listening post

A technology industry group which represents Silicon Valley giants including Apple, Microsoft and Google has insisted there will be no “new deal” with the Government to tackle web extremism.

Robert Hannigan – the new director of GCHQ, the government listening post – had earlier called for a pact between “democratic governments and technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens”.

But the head of a leading industry group tech UK representing 860 companies employing more than half a million people in Britain rejected the idea and said any new moves should instead be based on a “clear and transparent legal framework”.

Julian David, chief executive officer of techUK, also said Mr Hannigan was “wrong” to claim IT companies were in denial about misuse of social media and other technology by Isil terrorists and other extremists.

From the Guardian, most peculiar, in light of the above:

Apple users raise privacy concerns after hard-drive files uploaded to servers

  • Line between devices and cloud services fades as online storage allows users to switch without losing data

After security researcher Jeffrey Paul upgraded the operating system on his MacBook Pro last week, he discovered that several of his personal files had found a new home – on the cloud. The computer had saved the files, which Paul thought resided only on his own encrypted hard drive, to a remote server that Apple controls.

“This is unacceptable,” thundered Paul, an American based in Berlin, on his personal blog a few days later. “Apple has taken local files on my computer not stored in iCloud and silently and without my permission uploaded them to their servers – across all applications, Apple and otherwise.”

He was not alone in either his frustration or surprise. Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green tweeted his dismay after realising that some private notes had found their way to iCloud. Bruce Schneier, another prominent cryptography expert, wrote a blog post calling the automatic saving function “both dangerous and poorly documented” by Apple.

The criticism was all the more notable because its target, Apple, had just enjoyed weeks of applause within the computer security community for releasing a bold new form of smartphone encryption capable of thwarting government searches – even when police have warrants. Yet here was an awkward flip side: police still can gain access to files stored on cloud services, and Apple seemed determined to migrate more and more data to them.

And from the Washington Post, more corporate cyberstalking:

Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with ‘supercookies’

Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed “supercookies” — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.

The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the “private” or “incognito” modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance.

Verizon and AT&T say they have taken steps to alert their customers to the tracking and to protect customer privacy as the companies develop programs intended to help advertisers hone their pitches based on individual Internet behavior. But as word has spread about the supercookies in recent days, privacy advocates have reacted with alarm, saying the tracking could expose user Internet behavior to a wide range of outsiders — including intelligence services — and may also violate federal telecommunications and wiretapping laws.

And another techie turmoil from the Guardian:

Six types of killer use Facebook to commit crimes, says study

  • Criminologists identify murderer profiles who use networking site but emphasise technology itself is inherently safe

Researchers at Birmingham City University have identified six types of killer who use Facebook to commit crimes, in the first-ever study on how the social networking site can affect criminal behaviour.

Dr Elizabeth Yardley and Prof David Wilson, from the university’s centre of applied criminology, analysed cases of murder in which the site had been reported as a significant factor. They found 48 examples from across the world, including that of Wayne Forrester, an HGV driver, who killed his wife Emma in 2008 after reading her Facebook posts in which she claimed that they had separated and she wanted to meet other men.

They identified the types of killer as: reactor, informer, antagonist, fantasist, predator and imposter.

intelNews covers a work-around:

Brazil builds direct Internet cable to Europe to avoid US spying

The government of Brazil is to construct a transatlantic cable across the Atlantic Ocean in order to avoid having its Internet traffic to and from Europe intercepted by American intelligence agencies. According to reports, the fiber-optic cable will stretch for 3,500 miles from the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza to the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

It will cost the Brazilian government in excess of US$185 million, but it will allow the country’s existing Internet traffic to and from Europe to travel without going through cables owned by American service providers. According to Brazilian officials, the construction of the cable is among several steps announced by the Brazilian government aimed at disassociating its communications infrastructure from American companies.

The move follows revelations made last year by American defector Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency specifically targeted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications as part of its intelligence-collection efforts targeting Brazil.

The South China Morning Post covers another:

China to launch hack-proof quantum communication network in 2016

China will complete and put into service the world’s longest quantum communication network stretching 2,000km from Beijing to Shanghai by 2016, say scientists leading the project.

The quantum network is considered “unhackable” and will provide the most secure encryption technology to users.

By 2030, the Chinese network would be extended worldwide, Xinhua reported.

China is the first major power to come up with a detailed schedule to put the technology into extensive, large-scale use. The South China Morning Post earlier reported that Beijing would launch the world’s first quantum communication satellite in 2016.

From TechWeekEurope, help wanted:

Why The UK Desperately Needs 200,000 IT Security Specialists

  • Businesses must take urgent measures to protect themselves from growing cyber crime threat, cyber security recruiter warns

The UK’s lack of available talent with the right cyber security skills presents a very real danger to British businesses, according to a London-based cyber security specialist recruiter.

Responding to recent reports by EY and the office of the Minister for Universities and Science, Cornucopia IT Resourcing, warned that the unless the deficit in the number of available cyber security professionals is addressed, British businesses will remain the target of cyber attacks.
Security breach

Accordingly, 93% of large companies and 87% of SMEs have suffered at least one security breach in the last 12 months, at an average cost of £450k-850k and £35k-65k respectively, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

This has fuelled a demand for cyber security experts which the industry is struggling to meet.

While this headline from RT makes us wonder how the NSA, GCHQ, et al might use the tech involved:

Anti-depression app: Smartphones to analyze mental health through speech

If you are one of more than 350 million people globally who suffer from depression, then scientists are working for a new smartphone app for you that will detect when you’re having a tough time through speech analysis.

Researchers from the University of Maryland are seeking to develop an app based on their scientific finding that claim that as patients’ feelings of depression worsen, certain vocal features change in their voice.

Acoustician Carol Espy-Wilson and her colleagues have discovered that patients’ vocal patterns change as feelings of depression worsen.

“Their emotions are all over the place during this time, and that’s when they’re really at risk for depression. We have to reach out and figure out a way to help kids in that stage,” she said in a press release.

After the jump, American nuclear tests, more Air Force firings of nuclear commanders, nude-selfie-stealing Cal copper clapped in irons, a latter-day Berlin Wall protest, Mexican mayor suspected in college student protests busted with his wife as parents stand tall, a look at the unique college at the eye of the storm, and another Mexican police commander is slain, disproportionate punishment in Israel, religious slayings in Pakistan, on to China and a Japanese gambit rebuffed, a laser anti-drone defense locked and loaded, and major diplomatic moves toward Pakistan and Indonesia, a chemical warfare munitions destroying facility readied, and the latest from Hong Kong, on to Japan and jet-fueled anxiety, naval anxieties at Chinese naval encroachment plus lesser worries from Chinese poachers, the Philippines lust for closer military ties with Tokyo, and a famous author confront his country’s hysterical historical hypocrisies, Kim wants tourists [just not ones from Ebolaland], and the bloody plight of the Fourth Estate. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spies, media war, terror, cops


And that Asian Game of Zones is heating up again.

We begin with the not-so-idiot box from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law:

I’m Terrified of My New TV: Why I’m Scared to Turn This Thing On — And You’d Be, Too

I just bought a new TV. The old one had a good run, but after the volume got stuck on 63, I decided it was time to replace it. I am now the owner of a new “smart” TV, which promises to deliver streaming multimedia content, games, apps, social media, and Internet browsing. Oh, and TV too.

The only problem is that I’m now afraid to use it. You would be too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy.

The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how, and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.

It also has a built-in camera — with facial recognition. The purpose is to provide “gesture control” for the TV and enable you to log in to a personalized account using your face. On the upside, the images are saved on the TV instead of uploaded to a corporate server. On the downside, the Internet connection makes the whole TV vulnerable to hackers who have demonstrated the ability to take complete control of the machine.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

You may not be watching, but the telescreen is listening.

And on to the mounting tensions in familiar place, via BBC News:

Pakistan bomb kills 50 at Wagah border with India

More than 50 people have been killed and at least 100 injured in a suicide bombing close to Pakistan’s only border crossing with India. The blast hit near the checkpoint at the Wagah border crossing, near Lahore.

The Pakistani Taliban told the BBC that it had carried out the attack, although another militant group, Jundullah, also said it was responsible.

At least 15 people were badly injured, and officials said three members of the Pakistani border force had died.

The Wagah crossing is a high-profile target, with large crowds gathering every day to watch an elaborate flag-lowering ceremony as the border closes.

Negotiating with Reuters:

Qaeda’s Nusra lays out conditions to release captured Lebanese soldiers

The Syrian Nusra Front has offered to free Lebanese soldiers it has captured in exchange for Islamist prisoners held in Syria and Lebanon, the SITE Intelligence Group reported on Sunday.

The al Qaeda-linked front said in a statement monitored by SITE that it had presented a Qatari negotiator with three proposals for the release of the soldiers, taken when its fighters and militants from the Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, briefly seized the border town of Arsal in August.

According to the statement, which SITE said was posted on Twitter on Saturday, Nusra asked for the release of 10 “brothers” held in Lebanon, or seven prisoners in Lebanon and 30 female prisoners held in Syria, or six prisoners and 50 female prisoners for each captive soldiers.

And the McClatchy Foreign Staff covers a defeat:

US-backed forces in Syria suffer big setback

Al Qaida-backed militants Saturday stormed the base of the most prominent civilian commander in the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel force, forcing him and his fighters to flee into hiding in the Jebal al Zawiya mountains of northern Syria.

Jamal Maarouf, a contractor in private life, became internationally known for leading the successful offensive in January that forced the Islamic State from most of two northern provinces. His ouster from his own village was an enormous setback for him, the rebel forces and his international backers.

Even more ominous was that that the Islamic State, now far stronger and claiming to run a Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, reportedly had joined Jabhat al Nusra in the attack on the village of Deir Sinbul.

More from the Guardian:

US plan for proxy army to fight Isis in Syria suffers attack

  • Syrian opposition leader blames Washington for rout as air strikes on Isis seen as aiding Assad crackdown

The US plan to rally proxy ground forces to complement its air strikes against Isis militants in Syria is in tatters after jihadis ousted Washington’s main ally from its stronghold in the north over the weekend.

The attack on the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) by the al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra came after weeks of clashes between the two groups around the city of Idlib, which has remained one of the last bastions of regime control in northern Syria throughout the civil war.

Militants overran the command centre of the SRF’s leader, Jamal Maarouf, in Deir Sonbol in a humiliating rout that came as US and Arab air forces continued to attack Isis in the Kurdish town of Kobani, 300 miles east, in an effort to prevent the town from falling.

From Techdirt, a spooky lobotomy:

Senator Wyden Attacks CIA Redaction Demands As ‘Unprecedented’

  • from the unprecedented-problems-may-need-unprecedented-solutions dept

It’s well known that CIA’s been stalling over the release of the officially declassified 480 page “executive summary” of the 6,300 page CIA torture report, put together by staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee over many years at a cost of $40 million. It’s known that the report is somewhat devastating to the CIA and the CIA isn’t happy about it (at all). Originally, the CIA suggested redactions that made the report incomprehensible, even as James Clapper said it was “just 15%” that was redacted. Recent reports have focused on the fight over redacting pseudonyms. Apparently the CIA wants all names, including pseudonyms redacted, while the Senate Intelligence Committee thinks that pseudonyms (but not real names) should be left in so that the report accurately reflects if the actions were done by a large number of diverse individuals, or by some particular individuals again and again and again. The CIA, likely employing some sort of “mosaic theory” claim, say that they’re worried that even with pseudonyms, identifying the same person in a few different situations will make it easier for some to figure out who they are.

In response, Senator Ron Wyden has attacked the CIA’s position and noted that it’s “unprecedented” and that plenty of other, similar, reports have made use of pseudonyms, without a problem.

Spooks in court, via The Hill:

NSA phone program faces key court test

The National Security Agency (NSA) is getting its day in court.

On Tuesday, a closely watched case over the spy agency’s most controversial program heads to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most powerful federal bench in the country.
Along with other high-profile court cases challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s spying, civil liberties advocates are sensing that the wind is at their backs, even as Congress has failed to push legislation past the finish line.

“We want [the court] to reach the constitutional issues because it has to be decided now, for the sake of the future,” said Larry Klayman, the conservative lawyer whose case against the Obama administration is before the Circuit court. “And all we’re really asking is that the NSA adhere to the law.”

Klayman’s case challenges the constitutionality of the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, a program revealed by Edward Snowden last summer.

And a blow to privacy Down Under from The Register:

Oz gov lets slip: telco metadata might be available to civil courts

  • Quite by accident, truth leaks out

A series of slips by the nation’s top cop followed by communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has made Australia’s data retention bill even more of a potential horror than it seemed when it was introduced last week.

It started with the Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin saying that stored telecommunications metadata could be used to go after people who infringe copyright online. That statement, made on October 30, was unequivocal – he used the word “absolutely”.

It’s always a bad idea for police to rashly tell the world what they really think.

And from the Washington Post, the European memory hole reaches across the Atlantic:

Pianist asks The Washington Post to remove a concert review under the E.U.’s ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

The pianist Dejan Lazic, like many artists and performers, is occasionally the subject of bad reviews. Also like other artists, he reads those reviews. And disagrees with them. And gripes over them, sometimes.

But because Lazic lives in Europe, where in May the European Union ruled that individuals have a “right to be forgotten” online, he decided to take the griping one step further: On Oct. 30, he sent The Washington Post a request to remove a 2010 review by Post classical music critic Anne Midgette that – he claims — has marred the first page of his Google results for years.

It’s the first request The Post has received under the E.U. ruling. It’s also a truly fascinating, troubling demonstration of how the ruling could work.

From TheLocal.at, an Austrian internal security problem:

Armed youths attack Tyrol refugee centre

Police in Tyrol are investigating an attack on the Bürglkopf refugee centre near the market town of Fieberbrunn on Wednesday evening.

Five youths were heard shouting xenophobic slogans at around half past midnight, 35 metres away from the remote property.

They then shot a gun in the air and reportedly threw fireworks at the centre’s windows.

The youths were dressed in black hooded jackets and shouted things like “foreigners out” and “we’re going to kill you, pigs”, according to an anonymous witness quoted in profil magazine.

The Associated Press covers a political exclusion zone:

AP Exclusive: Ferguson no-fly zone aimed at media

The U.S. government agreed to a police request to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, for 12 days in August for safety, but audio recordings show that local authorities privately acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests.

On Aug. 12, the morning after the Federal Aviation Administration imposed the first flight restriction, FAA air traffic managers struggled to redefine the flight ban to let commercial flights operate at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and police helicopters fly through the area — but ban others.

“They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. “But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.

At another point, a manager at the FAA’s Kansas City center said police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”

As in Ferguson, so in France from TheLocal.fr:

Violent protests erupt in France over alleged police brutality

Violent protests broke out on Saturday in two French cities against alleged police brutality, leaving several people injured.

Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas as demonstrators hurled bottles of acid and stones in the northwestern city of Nantes, injuring at least five protesters and three police officers. Police made 21 arrests in Nantes, while in the southwestern city of Toulouse, where clashes also erupted, 13 people were detained.

The protests were held over the death of environmental activist Remi Fraisse, 21, who was killed last Sunday during clashes between security forces and demonstrators at the site of a contested dam in southwestern France.

Initial investigations showed traces of TNT on his clothes and skin, suggesting he may have been killed by a police stun grenade.

After the jump, global urban insecurity, Mexican police as murder suspects, cartel killers’ Twitter terrorism, Spanish sins of the past threatened with Argentine trials, Egyptian press control tightens, next to China and tightened controls on foreign TV and film, drone-enhanced war games and a triumphant claim, Indian umbrage at a Chinese submarine visit next door, American angst over Chinese fly-bys, North Korea launches a ballistic missile sub, A Japanese ghost form the past pays a visit as the government refines its remilitarization drive, and the curious cost of Hong Kong domestic security. . . Continue reading

Bernie Sanders tackles the ownership class


In particular, the folks who count the nation’s political class as their personal property, bought and paid for.

And Chevron’s attempt to buy a city council here on San Francisco Bay is just the latest and perhaps most flagrant example of the Supreme Court-enabled limitless campaign spending that has put the super-elite in complete charge of the game.

From Moyers & Company:

Bernie Sanders on Breaking Big Money’s Grip on Elections

Program notes:

Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s independent senator, is angry about what he sees as big money’s wholesale purchase of political power. It’s a grave threat, he believes, not only to our electoral process but to democracy itself.

Two weeks ago, Sanders visited a town hall meeting in Richmond, California, to fire up supporters of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and a slate of progressive city council candidates. They’re running against a ticket backed by the energy giant Chevron, the third largest corporation in the United States. Chevron owns an enormous refinery in Richmond and is spending $3 million to defeat the progressives, who have charged the oil company with damaging the city’s economy and environment.

Chevron’s Richmond money – they’re spending more than $100 per voter – is just a fraction of the billions being spent this year on the most expensive midterm elections in history, money unleashed by Citizens United, McCutcheon and other court decisions that have turned voting into what feels more like an auction than ‘one person, one vote.’ Because the Supreme Court says money is speech and big business can buy all it wants, corporations are trying to drown out the voice of anyone trying to speak out against them, whether in Congress or a state legislature, on a judge’s bench or in city hall.

“Apparently for these guys, owning and controlling our economy is not enough,” Sanders told the rally. “They now want to own and control the government. And we are not going to allow them to do that. Not in Richmond, not anywhere.”

Quote of the day: Obama’s transparency fail


From Erik Wemple, writing in the Washington Post:

At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act.

The WHCA convened the event both to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not.

Peter Baker, the veteran Washington reporter from the New York Times, provided perhaps the best instance of White House-administered madness. In covering a breaking story recently, Baker received a note from a White House handler indicating that President Obama had been briefed on the matter in question.

That information came to Baker “on background.” The gist: Not from me — a meeting has occurred..