Category Archives: Privacy

InSecurityWatch: Protest, war, drones, hacks


Plus the showdown in Hong Kong and lots more. . .

We begin with the Los Angeles Times:

Protests over Ferguson shooting enter third day; arrests in St. Louis

Activists rushed into St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday to protest a grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in nearby Ferguson as the region moved into its third day of demonstrations.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the municipal building, shouting “Shame, Shame.” Some then entered the building and police, carrying riot shields, quickly responded.

As many as five people were arrested, officials said.

The Los Angeles Times again, with some numbers:

183 Ferguson protesters arrested in L.A., many more than in other cities

Los Angeles police arrested 183 protesters overnight Tuesday — a much larger number than in other major cities in the nation on the second night of protests over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting case.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, at a news conference Wednesday morning, said he could not speak to what had occurred in other parts of the country but that the LAPD and CHP had been “extremely generous in allowing the expression of 1st Amendment activities.”

A bulk of the arrests occurred Tuesday night. Of the 183 held, 167 were arrested for disturbing the peace, 15 juveniles for violating curfew, and one person was taken into custody for alleged felony battery after throwing a frozen water bottle at a police officer’s head, Beck said.

And closer to Casa esnl, via the Oakland Tribune:

Ferguson protest: 92 arrests in Oakland during 2nd night of looting, vandalism

Merchants on Wednesday were mopping up after a second night of vandalism and looting in the wake of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown.

Tuesday night saw 300 march through downtown and North Oakland — vastly reduced from Monday’s estimated crowd of 2,000 — with protesters taking to the freeways two different times to block lanes.

Officials said officers arrested 92 people on Tuesday night, mostly on charges of obstruction and failure to disperse. Police had arrested 43 people the night before.

From BuzzFeed, across the Atlantic:

Ferguson Protest Brings Parts Of Central London To A Standstill

  • Hundreds of people marched through central London in solidarity with Michael Brown, who was shot dead by police in Ferguson

Hundreds of protestors congregated outside London’s US embassy in the early evening to protest about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown was shot dead by a police officer earlier this year. On Monday a grand jury decided that no charges would be brought against the officer involved.

Over 500 people were on the protest, which brought one of the capital’s main streets to a standstill.

A video report from RT:

London to Ferguson: Crowd protesting police racism tears down Parliament Square barriers

The McClatchy Washington Bureau makes connections:

Social media help take Ferguson protests national

“When you see people kneeling down on the highway, they’re trained to do that . . . it is just straight-up tactics from the civil rights movement,” James Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., said in an interview Wednesday. “But social media certainly has been a great tool.”

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service, has been engorged with Ferguson-related postings. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 580,000 Tweets citing Ferguson were counted by the analytical service Topsy. One targeted hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, was included in 72,000 Tweets in just one day.

Underscoring the reach of social media, prisoners at Boston’s South Bay Detention Facility held up signs reading “#BlackLivesMatter” to high-security windows. Other social media venues, such as Facebook, have likewise been aflame with Ferguson news and commentary. One page alone, called Justice for Mike Brown, had accumulated 43,934 “Likes” as of Wednesday.

Rounding out our Ferguson items, a graphic take from Jack Ohman, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee:

BLOG America

On to the war zones, now with Warthogs, via United Press International:

Air Force to deploy A-10s to combat Islamic State

  • “They’re going over there because there’s a need,” says the Air Force

A group of A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jets has arrived in the Middle East where they will be used to halt the spread of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The A-10s, or Warthogs, are currently the center of Washington debate — senior defense officials want to retire the 283 remaining A-10s to save nearly $4 billion, while many feel such a move would cut off one of the military’s more powerful tools.

“They’re going over there because there’s a need … to be postured for a combat rescue mission,” Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy explained to Stars and Stripes.

Although slow and low flying, A-10s can transport and deploy massive amounts of fire power to support combat troops on the ground. The planes have armored bellies to protect pilots from ground fire, and can be armed with a 30mm Gatling cannon and a variety of bombs, missiles and other explosives.

The Christian Science Monitor has the hush-hush:

Why US is mum on special ops raid that rescued hostages in Yemen

  • Eight hostages were brought to safety Tuesday after an intense firefight at the cave in remote eastern Yemen where the hostages were being held by Al Qaeda

There are two good reasons the cover-of-night, US-led commando raid that rescued eight Al Qaeda hostages in Yemen Tuesday received none of the fanfare and public back-slapping of previous successful counterterror operations.

One is obvious: No Americans were among the hostages – six Yemenis, one Saudi, and one Ethiopian – brought to safety after an intense firefight at the cave in remote eastern Yemen where the hostages were being held.

But the other explanation is that the Obama administration is very much interested in seeing the successful operation, which included both US and Yemeni forces, reinforce Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. He is a stalwart US ally in the fight against Al Qaeda in the region, but his grasp on power has been repeatedly shaken over recent months.

Al Jazeera America covers the latest drone attacks:

US drone strike in Pakistan kills five suspected Taliban fighters

  • Strike follows critical report on number of innocent civilians killed in US drone strikes

A U.S. drone strike on Wednesday killed five suspected militants in northwest Pakistan, a government official said, as an anti-Taliban offensive by the Pakistani military grew in intensity. The deadly strike comes one day after a human rights group issued a report drawing international attention to the number of innocent lives claimed by U.S. drone strikes.

The drone strike on Wednesday targeted a house in Datta Khel near the Afghan border. Pakistani fighters in the area allegedly used the residence as a safe house.

“The Government of Pakistan condemns the drone strike that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at Garga, north of Shawal in North Waziristan Agency,” the government said in a statement.

An update from the Express Tribune in Karachi:

Eight suspected militants killed in North Waziristan drone strike

Eight suspected militants were killed in latest US drone attack in border area of North Waziristan on Wednesday, security officials said.

“The drone fired two missiles, killing at least eight people and injuring two others,” a security official in the area told AFP via phone on condition of anonymity.

“There may be more dead bodies under the rubble,” he said.

The identity of those killed could not be determined immediately, however, few of them are believed to be foreign militants.

The same story as seen by Iran’s PressTV:

US drone attacks kill 11 people in Pakistan, Afghanistan

Program notes:

US assassination drone strikes in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan have killed nearly a dozen people.

A drone attack killed eight people in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border. The unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at a compound in the town of Dattakhel in North Waziristan. Three Afghans lost their lives in a similar attack in Afghanistan’s Laghman province. The US military conducts deadly drone strikes in several Muslim countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Washington says the air raids target militants, but a large number of civilians have been killed in the attacks.

Drone coverage from the domestic front from the Washington Post:

Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge, new FAA reports show

Pilots around the United States have reported a surge in near-collisions and other dangerous encounters with small drones in the past six months at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is gradually opening the nation’s skies to remotely controlled aircraft, according to FAA records.

Since June 1, commercial airlines, private pilots and air-traffic controllers have alerted the FAA about at least 25 episodes in which small drones came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft, the records show. Many of the close calls occurred during takeoffs and landings at the nation’s busiest airports, presenting a new threat to aviation safety after decades of steady improvement in air travel.

Many of the previously unreported incident reports — released Wednesday by the FAA in response to long-standing public-records requests from The Washington Post and other news organizations — occurred near New York and Washington.

The Hill clicks Undelete:

National Archives backs off plan to destroy CIA emails

The National Archives and Records Administration is taking a second look at the CIA’s proposal to delete its employees’ emails after they leave the agency.

The record-keeping agency “intends to reassess” the proposal to destroy old emails of all but 22 top officials at the spy agency, chief records officer Paul Wester wrote to the agency last week.
Citing concerns from top congressional overseers and transparency advocates, “we are concerned about the scope of the proposed schedule and the proposed retention periods,” Wester wrote in the letter, which was unearthed by the Federation of American Scientists’s project on government secrecy on Wednesday.

The National Archives had tentatively backed the agency’s proposal to destroy “non-senior” staffers’ emails three years after they leave the agency “or when no longer needed.” At the time, the records agency said that any important communications will likely exist in other formats, which will be catalogued for a permanent record.

The Intercept spins the spin:

The US/UK Campaign to Demonize Social Media Companies as Terrorist Allies

In May, 2013, a British Army soldier, Lee Rigby, was killed on a suburban London street by two Muslim British citizens, who said they were acting to avenge years of killings of innocent Muslims by the British military in, among other places, Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the attackers, Michael Adebolajo, had also been detained and tortured in 2010 in Kenya with the likely complicity of Her Majesty’s Government. The brutal attack on Rigby was instantly branded “terrorism” (despite its targeting of a soldier of a nation at war) and caused intense and virtually universal indignation in the UK.

In response, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee resolved to investigate why the attack happened and whether it could have been prevented. Ensuring that nothing undesirable would occur, the investigation was led by the Committee’s chair, the long-time conservative government functionary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Yesterday, Sir Malcolm’s Committee issued its findings in a 191-page report. It contains some highly predictable conclusions, but also some quite remarkable ones.

Predictably, the report, while offering some criticisms, completely cleared the British intelligence agencies of any responsibility for the attack. It concluded: “we do not consider that any of the Agencies’ errors, when taken individually, were significant enough to have affected the outcome,” and “we do not consider that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were in the position to prevent the murder.”

After the jump, the U.N. calls for releasing the CIA torture report, draconian new state security legislation in Old Blighty, France deprivatizes the phone tap, Google European breaking legal questions pondered, ap-tracking Twitter, Hookers in your cell phone, you annual cyberscam warning, China corporateers win disclosure in a U.S. court, Egypt sends children to prison for protesting, the death rattle of the Arab Spring in Cairo, Turkey clamps down on the Fourth Estate, the wrong song sends a Pakistani actress to price for decades, brutality allegations probed in Australian military academies,  Hong Kong police mass to block re-Occupation while some of the colleagues are busted for brutality, and tycoons seek their own Hong Kong asylum. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, war, spooks, hacks, zones


Plus a major crackdown on Hong Kong Occupy encampments after the jump.

We begin with American domestic security via the Associated Press:

Brown family blasts prosecutor’s handling of case

Attorneys for Michael Brown’s family on Tuesday vowed to push for federal charges against the Ferguson police officer who killed the unarmed 18-year-old, and they renewed their calls for peace following a night of violent protests in which several businesses were burned to the ground.

The attorneys said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Brown. And they criticized everything from the types of evidence St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch presented to the jury to the way it was presented and the timing of the grand jury’s decision. They also said they hope that a federal civil rights investigation will result in charges against Wilson.

“We said from the very beginning that the decision of this grand jury was going to be the direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence by the prosecutor’s office,” said attorney Anthony Gray, who suggested McCulloch presented some testimony, including from witnesses who did not see the shooting, to discredit the process.

A notable observation, from the U.N. News Center:

UN rights chief concerned over ‘disproportionate’ killings of African-Americans by US police

The decision by a Grand Jury in Missouri to absolve a police officer for the fatal shooting of an African-American teenager has spotlighted broader concerns about institutionalized discrimination across the United States, the top United Nations human rights official said today.

“I am deeply concerned at the disproportionate number of young African Americans who die in encounters with police officers, as well as the disproportionate number of African Americans in US prisons and the disproportionate number of African Americans on Death Row,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a statement issued by his office in Geneva this morning.

“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” Mr. Zeid continued. “I urge the US authorities to conduct in-depth examinations into how race-related issues are affecting law enforcement and the administration of justice, both at the federal and state levels.”

Another voice weighs in, via the Guardian:

French justice minister denounces US police killings after Ferguson decision

  • Christian Taubira tweets Bob Marley lyric ‘Kill them before they grow’ and references killings of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice

France’s black justice minister Christiane Taubira has waded into the conflict over racially charged killings in the US, quoting reggae legend Bob Marley on Twitter to express her anger.

“Kill them before they grow,” the minister tweeted, citing Marley who sang the phrase in his 1973 hit song I Shot the Sheriff.

Taubira’s tweet came as riots erupted in the suburb of Ferguson outside St Louis after a grand jury chose not to press charges against a white officer who shot dead black teen Michael Brown in what he said was self-defence.

From the Oakland Tribune, Monday night’s totals:

Ferguson protests: Oakland mops up after 47 arrests, several officers injured

The city was cleaning up Tuesday after hundreds of protesters took to the streets, vandalizing several stores, setting fires and attacking police following a grand jury decision not to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Most of the damage took place in Old Oakland along Broadway and three police officers were injured, including one who was hit in the face with a brick, police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said.

At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, city officials said they were disappointed that protesters had not remained peaceful all night, but praised the conduct of police in the face of hostile crowds.

And they were back out again Tuesday night, blocking a freeway again.

Another demonstration, this one in Germany, via TheLocal.de:

Anti-refugee demo reveals xenophobia

German media were almost united this weekend in condemning demonstrations against refugee housing in the Berlin suburb of Marzahn-Hellersdorf – but can far-right sentiment ever really be overcome?

Left-wing newspaper taz noted the argument of conservative Berlin politicians that ordinary people’s concerns had been hijacked by extremists, but couldn’t agree that they were unknowingly instrumentalized.

“It’s questionable whether this, without the involvement of the organized far-right, would have led to the weekly aggressive marches,” the paper argued.

It also noted that the people at the heart of the demonstrations, from those running Facebook pages to speakers, all have close links to the far-right scene, including the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

MintPress News covers a story to chill your spine:

How the Pentagon’s Skynet Would Automate War

Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.

Pentagon officials are worried that the US military is losing its edge compared to competitors like China, and are willing to explore almost anything to stay on top—including creating watered-down versions of the Terminator.

Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.

Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel announced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “military-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing.

On to the military hot zone with the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Key provincial capital in Iraq may be about to fall to Islamic State

Islamic State fighters on Tuesday penetrated to the core of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq’s largest province, prompting local security officials to warn that the city was on the verge of falling to the extremists. Such a gain would be the Islamic State’s most significant victory in months.

Officials said that extremist fighters were only tens of yards away from entering the main government compound.

“The governorate building has been nearly cut off,” said a Baghdad security official in direct contact with the operations command for Anbar, the province where Ramadi lies. The official said that Islamic State forces had cut roads to the Iraqi Army’s 8th Division base to the west and the road to Habaniyya airbase to the east. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

And not so far away, via the New York Times:

As Bombing Toll Rises, Afghan Villagers Direct Anger at Government

Three years ago, villagers from the dusty Afghan district of Yahya Khel, near the Pakistani border, rose up against the Taliban, driving the insurgents away. They say they did it on their own, winning themselves a degree of security that felt tolerable.

Late Sunday afternoon, the insurgents exacted a horrific revenge. At a volleyball tournament here that drew teams and spectators from surrounding districts, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives just as fans were converging on the players to celebrate.

By Monday, the death toll had climbed to 61, according to the district governor, Musa Jan. Many were children. Some families were burying not just one member, but two.

Amid their grief, the men of Yahya Khel, a district in Paktika Province, were naturally angry at the insurgents who had sent the suicide bomber. But they were also critical of a national government they felt had offered them little over the past three years.

Getting censorious, via the London Telegraph:

Facebook ‘could have prevented Lee Rigby murder’

  • Facebook has been named as the internet company which failed to pass on crucial information that could have stopped the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby

Facebook failed to pass on information that could have prevented the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby and is a “safe haven for terrorists”, a report has concluded.

Michael Adebowale used the social networking site to express his “intent to murder a soldier in the most graphic and emotive manner” five months before the 2013 Woolwich attack.

The report found that Facebook had not been aware of that specific exchange.

However, Parliament’s intelligence and security committee discovered that Facebook had previously shut down Adebowale’s accounts on the site because he had discussed terrorism, but failed to relay concerns to the security services.

Rigby, 25, was run over and butchered by Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo outside Woolwich barracks in south-east London on May 22 last year.

War by other means, from TechWeek Europe:

Egyptian Cyber Group Attacks ISIS

  • The ‘Egyptian Cyber Army’ has joined those attacking the Islamic State’s online activities

A group of Egyptian nationalists has joined those attacking the online operations of the “Islamic State”, also known as ISIS, last week replacing a message from ISIS’ leader with a recording of a popular song.

The transcript of the message was replaced with an image recalling the Egyptian national flag, and a message in Arabic reading “Egyptian Cyber Army”.

ISIS has previously been attacked online by American and Iranian hackers, the Syrian Electronic Army and the hacktivist group Anonymous.

The New York Times covers a hack attack north of the border:

Hacker Disrupts Government Websites in Canada

Since Friday, people turning to the websites of Canada’s Parliament, its Supreme Court, the city of Ottawa and the Ottawa and Toronto police forces have been occasionally greeted by a gyrating, anthropomorphic banana or, more frequently, an error message.

The disruptions were prompted by a hacker or a small group of hackers supporting the cause of an Ottawa teenager who was charged last spring with making hoax telephone calls throughout North America. The calls led the police in a number of provinces and states to send out tactical squads in response to supposed emergencies, a practice known as swatting.

Using the name Aerith, with slight variations, the hacker claimed responsibility for the website disruptions in emails and a posting online. The sender claimed to be affiliated with the shadowy online collective Anonymous. When asked by email how many people were involved, Aerith, who said that he or she was in Brazil, replied, “We act as a group.”

Conceivably connected? Via CBC News:

Canada Revenue Agency privacy breach leaks prominent Canadians’ tax details

  • Business leaders, art collectors, authors and politicians among more than 200 on agency’s list of donors

Detailed tax information about the private lives of hundreds of Canadians — many of them rich and famous — was sent to CBC News by Canada’s tax agency in a major privacy breach.

The highly confidential details, including home addresses of taxpayers and the value of tax credits they were granted, are contained in a copy of a Canada Revenue Agency spreadsheet covering the years 2008 to 2013.

The 18 pages include information on donations made by such Canadian luminaries as author Margaret Atwood, former prime minister Jean Chrétien, grocery magnate Frank Sobey, cartoonist Lynn Johnston, pollster Allan Gregg, financier Stephen Bronfman, former CBC executive Richard Stursberg, Olympics chief Richard Pound and many others.

And video report on the leak from The National:

Revenue Canada privacy breach leaks prominent Canadians’ tax details

Program notes:

Detailed tax information about the private lives of hundreds of Canadians — many of them rich and famous — was sent to CBC News by Canada’s tax agency in a major privacy breach.

After the jump, major Hollywood hacks, perilous Flash-ing, the Chinese Google memory hole expands, France keeps Russian carriers in Ukrainian limbo, Colombian rebels release a pair but a general’s still Farced, the Brazilian cops’ growing civilian body count, on to Asia and allegations of torture in a Myanmar journalist’s death, a Korean naval drill provokes a Japanese rebuke, a Hong Kong Occupy crackdown — including a travel ban on its leaders, a censorious judgement from Beijing, followed by another round of arrests, China blows off criticism of its artificial island bases in contested waters, and Chinese ships cross the line. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, rage, hacks, spies, zones


We begin with the obvious from United Press International:

No charges for Ferguson officer in death of Michael Brown

  • The officer could have faced one of five charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter

A grand jury decided Monday not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in August.

St. Louis County, Mo., prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the 12-member grand jury made its decision after two days of deliberation.

“They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson,” McCulloch said.

The announcement was made at 9:25 p.m. as crowds gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department, at McCulloch’s offices in the county seat of Clayton and on West Flourisant Street, where Brown died.

The New York Times covers the inevitable:

From Plains to Both Coasts, Fury Boils Over

Months of anger and frustration, in the end, led only to more anger and frustration.

There were smoke bombs, tear gas and random gunshots. But in Ferguson, the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown was almost as bitter and hollow as his killing itself.

Brien Redmon, 31, stood in the cold watching a burning police car and sporadic looting after the announcement that there would be no indictments for Mr. Brown’s death at 18.

“This is not about vandalizing,” he said. “This is about fighting a police organization that doesn’t care about the lives they serve.”

More from Al Jazeera America:

Gunfire and flames after officer cleared in Ferguson teen’s shooting death

Police, protesters clash in Ferguson after grand jury does not not indict white policeman who killed unarmed black teen

[W]ithin minutes of the announcement, crowds began pouring into Ferguson streets to protest the decision. Some taunted police, shattered windows and vandalized cars. As many as 15 gunshots were also heard, though it’s unclear whether they came from law enforcement authorities or protesters.  Officers released smoke and pepper spray to disperse the gatherings. The storefront glass of at least two businesses were also broken on South Florissant Road. Fires erupted.

Well before the grand jury decision was announced, hundreds of protesters were already massed near the Ferguson police department. Shortly after McCulloch said Wilson would not be indicted, police streamed out of the station wearing riot helmets, and carrying batons and shields. Some of the protesters began throwing plastic bottles at the officer. Police fired what differing reports have described as either smoke or tear gas.

Thousands of protesters also gathered in downtown Manhattan, where they marched from Union Square to Times Square.

Closer to home with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Ferguson ruling sparks Oakland protest that shuts down freeway

Sorrow and anger over the decision by a grand jury in Missouri not to indict a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black man sent demonstrators into the streets in the Bay Area, with hundreds of people shutting down Interstate 580 in Oakland for hours.

From Oakland and Berkeley to San Francisco and San Jose, crowds massed to denounce the lack of criminal charges in the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., marching and chanting slogans against what they considered racial injustice. Civic leaders echoed President Obama’s call for peaceful demonstrations, but the mood of the crowds gave the gatherings the air of a tinderbox.

The most tense and disruptive action unfolded in Oakland, where hundreds of protesters marched downtown, blocking intersections before surging onto I-580 via the Lakeshore Avenue offramp around 8 p.m. There they played cat-and-mouse with police for hours, stopping traffic in both directions before being forced off the freeway by lines of officers in riot gear.

Another California story, via the Los Angeles Times:

Michael Brown protesters scatter as LAPD uses nonlethal

Demonstrators protesting the killing of Michael Brown were dispersed shortly near downtown Los Angeles after midnight Tuesday by Los Angeles police officers using non-lethal projectiles.

The demonstrators, who at one point numbered more than 300, marched across Los Angeles on Monday night, briefly closing the 110 Freeway as they protested a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the controversial shooting of the black teenager.

The main group marched to USC and then towards the Staples Center, where confrontations with police grew  tense. A group of protesters pushed at a fence that blocked off a hill that led to the 110 Freeway and knocked it over. People streamed over the fallen gate and climbed onto the freeway and sat down, shutting down traffic on the freeway. About 150 protesters gathered on the road and chanted “No justice, no peace. No racist police!”

And before the verdict, an abysmal quotation, from teleSUR:

St. Louis Cop Association: It’s Like ‘Night Before Christmas’

The head of the St. Louis County Police Officers’ Association has been criticized for comparing the situation to Christmas.

While many observers have warned the situation Monday is tense in St Louis County ahead of the widely anticipated grand jury decision on police officer Darren Wilson, one man thinks a little differently.

“It’s just like the night before Christmas,” said St. Louis County Police Officers’ Association president, Gabe Crocker.

“We all get a little excited, we all get a little impatient, and so on, and so forth,” Crocker told CNN.

On to another “police action” also generating outrage, via the Guardian:

41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground

  • New analysis of data conducted by human rights group Reprieve shared with the Guardian, raises questions about accuracy of intelligence guiding ‘precise’ strikes

A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.

Reprieve, sifting through reports compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, examined cases in which specific people were targeted by drones multiple times. Their data, shared with the Guardian, raises questions about the accuracy of US intelligence guiding strikes that US officials describe using words like “clinical” and “precise.”

The analysis is a partial estimate of the damage wrought by Obama’s favored weapon of war, a tool he and his administration describe as far more precise than more familiar instruments of land or air power.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson, who spearheaded the group’s study.

From the Los Angeles Times, the deplorable:

Jordan sending refugees back into Syria, Human Rights Watch says

Jordan has sent Syrian refugees, including wounded civilians and unaccompanied minors, back across the border in violation of international responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The New York-based monitor issued a statement accusing Jordan of ignoring long-accepted principles forbidding governments from returning people back to areas where their lives may be in danger.

There was no immediate response from officials in Jordan, now home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

And from South China Morning Post, we always like a pun in the headline:

It’s time to chuck Hagel: Obama pressures Pentagon chief into stepping down

  • Pentagon chief resigns under pressure, paving way for first female defence secretary

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, senior administration officials said, following a tenure in which he has struggled to break through the White House’s insular foreign policy team.

Hagel is the first senior Obama adviser to leave the administration following the sweeping losses for Obama’s party in the midterm elections. It comes as the president’s national security team has been battered by multiple foreign policy crises, include the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

At a White House ceremony Obama said Hagel had been an “exemplary” defence secretary, adding: “Last month, Chuck came to me to discuss the final quarter of my presidency and determined that, having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

From New York Times, delayed again:

U.S. and Allies Extend Iran Nuclear Talks by 7 Months

A yearlong effort to reach an enduring accord with Iran to dismantle large parts of its nuclear infrastructure fell short on Monday, forcing the United States and its allies to declare a seven-month extension, but with no clear indication of how they plan to bridge fundamental differences.

In a news conference hours before a deadline on Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry said a series of “new ideas surfaced” in the last several days of talks. He added that “we would be fools to walk away,” because a temporary agreement curbing Iran’s program would remain in place while negotiations continued. In return, Iran will receive another $5 billion in sanctions relief, enabling it to recover money frozen abroad — something that is likely to add to the threat of new sanctions from the newly-elected Republican Congress.

But the fundamental problem remained: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has yet to signal that he is prepared to make the kind of far-reaching cuts in Iran’s enrichment capability that would be required to seal an accord. And it is unclear that his view will change before a March 1 deadline for reaching a political agreement, the first phase in the seven-month extension.

From the Guardian, Chuckie’s missives:

Prince Charles letters: minister’s veto of publication was lawful, court told

  • Supreme court hears QC James Eadie open the government’s latest effort in its nine-year campaign to keep the letters secret

The prince has gained a reputation for writing private letters to government ministers promoting his views. The letters have been called “black spider memos” because of his scrawled handwriting.?

At issue in the supreme court hearing are 27 letters exchanged between the heir to the throne and ministers in seven Whitehall departments between September 2004 and April 2005.?

Three judges in a freedom of information tribunal ruled in 2012 that the letters should be disclosed, on the basis that the public was entitled to know how and when the prince sought to influence government.?

Grieve, however, used his power of veto to overrule the tribunal, arguing that publication would seriously damage Charles’s future role as king. He said the letters had to be kept secret to preserve the prince’s political neutrality.?

From the Guardian again, the past returns to haunt:

Amnesty urges Ireland to reopen hooded men case against UK

  • European court of human rights cleared UK of torture in 1978 but recent film alleges some evidence was withheld

Amnesty International has challenged the Irish government to take the UK back to the European court of human rights (ECHR) over the British security forces’ alleged torture of suspects during the Troubles.

The court ruled in 1978 that five interrogation techniques used on 14 men who were detained without trial in the early 1970s constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.

The techniques included hooding suspects, putting them into stress positions, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation and the use of white noise. The 14 became known as the hooded men.

In June this year an RTE documentary alleged that the UK withheld evidence from the court, which Amnesty argues may have affected the outcome of the case. It also called on the UK to launch an independent investigation.

While Network World looks an panopticon enhancements coming:

UK plans to introduce new Web snooping law

A U.K. counterterrorism bill would require ISPs to retain IP addresses in order to identify individual users of Internet services.

The proposed law is meant to bridge a “capabilities gap” that authorities face when trying to obtain communications data, said U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May, who introduced the bill, in a speech on Monday.

The measures will build on emergency legislation that the U.K. introduced during the summer, May said, who added that “it is not a knee-jerk response to a sudden perceived threat.”

From Network World, closer to home panopticon posturning closer to home:

NSA privacy director defends agency’s surveillance

The U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programs are legal and under close scrutiny by other parts of the government, the agency’s internal privacy watchdog said Monday in an online Q&A.

NSA surveillance and data collection programs conform to the U.S. Constitution, Rebecca Richards, the agency’s first civil liberties and privacy director, wrote during an hour-plus Q&A on Tumblr.

The NSA operates under rules that “ensure that its activities fall within the parameters of the Constitution,” Richards wrote when asked why she believes the surveillance programs are constitutional.

Techdirt captures contradiction:

NSA Chief Warns Of Pending Cyberattack… Which He Wants To Make Easier With Backdoors

  • from the ridiculous dept

NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers has often seemed somewhat more reasonable than his predecessor, but he’s still not above spewing FUD. The latest is that, last week, he pulled out the favorite of surveillance state supporters everywhere: the pending cyberpocalypse, in which hackers take down the economy. Prepare for the “dramatic cyberattack” that is inevitably on the way:

The director of the National Security Agency issued a warning Thursday about cyberthreats emerging from other countries against networks running critical U.S. infrastructure systems.

Adm. Michael Rogers said he expects a major cyberattack against the U.S. in the next decade. “It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic,” he said.

Of course, as venture capitalist/entrepreneur Marc Andreessen pointed out in response, the best way to stop that from happening would be to not require that software have backdoors that can easily be hacked.

After the jump, the Dutch get aggressive over privacy protection, Uncle Sam linked to the latest complex malware, malware in your E-cigs, more complications for the kidnapped Colombian general, incendiary institutionalized Israeli discrimination draws nigh, Pakistan’s nuclear program accelerates, Thai editor jailed for lèse majesté, cops prepare for Hong Kong Occupy eviction, Beijing ups the surveillance ante, Predictions of heightened tension in the insular Game fo Zones, hints of a Chinese supersonic drone, rising tensions over basing on a growing Chinese island with U.S. objections spurned, South Korea stages a challenge to a Japanese island claim, a clue as to some of what the island game is about, more criticism of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s militarization push, and a lawsuit over French nuclear tests in the Pacific. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Threats, ISIS, hacks, cops, spies


Plus a whole lot more. . .

We begin with bodacious bluster via the Japan Times:

North Korea warns of wiping Japan ‘off world map’ over U.N. resolution

North Korea on Sunday denounced a recent U.N. resolution condemning its human rights violations, warning of retaliation against Japan and other sponsor countries.

“We will take toughest counteraction” against the United States, and “Japan, too, can never escape this toughest counteraction,” the North Korean National Defense Commission said in a statement, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

“Japan should bear in mind that if it continues behaving as now, it will disappear from the world map for good, not just remaining a near yet distant country,” the statement continued.

More from Punch Nigeria:

N’Korea furious over UN human rights ruling

North Korea’s top military body has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for supporters of the latest United Nations censure on its human rights record, as state media reported leader Kim Jong-Un presided over fresh military drills.

A resolution asking the UN Security Council to refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible charges of “crimes against humanity” passed by a resounding vote of 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions in a General Assembly human rights committee last week.

Introduced by Japan and the European Union and co-sponsored by some 60 nations, the resolution drew heavily on the work of a UN inquiry which concluded in February that the North was committing human rights abuses “without parallel in the contemporary world”.

On to the war of the moment, via the Associated Press:

Islamic State group recruits, exploits children

Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists’ headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

From Deutsche Welle, German recruits:

German intelligence: Dozens of Germans killed fighting for ‘IS’

German intelligence sources say some 60 Germans have died fighting for the jihadist group “Islamic State.” Many others have returned from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq – and now pose a threat at home.

At least 60 Germans have died fighting alongside militants from the jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) with at least nine being killed in suicide attacks, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said in an interview published Sunday.

Maassen told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that some 550 radical German Islamists had gone to conflict regions in Syria and Iraq to help IS in an offensive that has seen the group capture large amounts of territory in both countries in recent months.

German authorities were increasingly concerned about the high figure, which had gone up more rapidly in the past six weeks, he said, calling it “a sad success for Islamist propaganda.”

The London Telegraph covers those from Britain:

Muslim MP: 2,000 Britons fighting for Islamic State

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood says 2,000 jihadists have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK – a fourfold increase on official estimates

As many as 2,000 Britons are fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, a senior Muslim MP has claimed.

Officials had suggested that the number of British jihadists within the ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other terrorist groups was about 500.

However, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, a constituency with a significant number of Muslims, has suggested this was a fourfold underestimate of the number of British jihadists fighting in the region.

“The authorities say there are 500 British jihadists but the likely figure is at least three to four times that,” he said. “I think 2,000 is a better estimate. My experience in Birmingham is it is a huge, huge problem.”

And the Guardian covers the inevitable:

Increased terror threat is stretching resources, says Met police chief

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says security services have halted four or five plots this year, as terrorism awareness campaign begins

Security services have foiled four or five terrorist plots this year and the threat is increasing, Britain’s top policeman has said.

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the heightened threat was putting pressure on resources and hinted that he expects the government to increase funding in the autumn statement.

The comments, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, came before the launch of a nationwide terrorism awareness campaign. Officers will be briefing more than 6,000 people at 80 venues including schools, universities, airports, shopping centres, cinemas and farms in a bid to engage the public and businesses in preventing attacks.

From TheLocal.fr, a French recruit:

Armed Isis Islamist grew up in small French village

One of three Kalashnikov-wielding Islamists seen burning their French passports in an Islamic State propaganda video this week grew up in a small village in southern France, the mayor said Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who goes by the name of Abou Ossama Al-Faranci in the Internet video, left the village of some 1,400 people five years ago, residents told the newspaper La Depeche du Midi.

The bearded blue-eyed man seen in the footage urging Muslims to stage attacks in France was reported to have gone to school in the village and have converted to Islam, studying the Koran in a Muslim centre in a private home.

And from TheLocal.se, the Swedish contingent:

Up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis: report

As many as 300 Swedes could have joined the Islamic State insurgency, Sweden’s intelligence chief said Saturday.

“A hundred cases of people who have left to join the fighting have been confirmed, then there are the presumed cases…, and then there are those that have not been counted, which brings the total to between 250 and 300,” said the head of the intelligence services, Anders Thornberg, on Sveriges Radio.

Thornberg said the flow of youths leaving to become jihadists in Syria was rapidly rising.

“A certain number of young Swedish men are leaving and training in camps, learning to become terrorists to use explosives and weapons,” he said.

And from north of the U.S. border via CBC’s The National:

Canadians volunteer to fight ISIS

Program notes:

Canadian volunteers have joined the ground war against ISIS. Are their actions legal? And would they fire at a radicalized Canadian?

While the Diplomat covers other Asian concerns:

Islamic State and a South Asian Caliphate

Islamic State has its eyes on South and Southeast Asia. The threat is long-term, but should not be ignored.

Although Islamic State’s ultimate aspirations are unrealistic, some of its targets in Asia are vulnerable, most notably that cradle and crucible of terrorism on the continent, Pakistan. Bordering Afghanistan, where terrorist violence is already resurgent with NATO thinning out, Pakistan is a promising base for Islamic State in South Asia. It also offers a huge bonanza that Islamist movements would willingly bleed for: nuclear weapons.

Although Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are guarded by a professional army, the degree to which the Pakistan Army itself has been radicalized is not easily quantifiable. After all, this is the same Army that sends its officers for tenures in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Whether these officers return to the army with or without any radical leanings is anyone’s guess.

Pakistan-based terror groups seem to be leaning more and more towards Islamic State. Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) is a fractured entity today. More and more of its members are openly declaring their allegiance to Islamic State. The recluse Taliban supremo, Mullah Omar, and the staid al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Jawahri are losing ground.

Afghanistan also offers fertile ground for terror. The Afghanistan Taliban shares with Islamic State a strategic approach in which both prefer control and domination of territory as the prime objective. However, the Afghanistan Taliban would like to retain its primacy in Afghanistan. It may not want to be an Islamic State surrogate. Its long association with al-Qaeda is another obstacle.

Unrest in France from the Guardian:

Protesters clash with police in France over young activist killed by grenade

  • Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed by a so-called ‘offensive grenade’ during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project

Protesters clashed with police in southern France on Saturday over the death of a young activist killed by a police grenade, in the latest of a series of demonstrations which have embarrassed the Socialist government.

At least 16 people were arrested in Toulouse after garbage containers were set on fire and bus stops smashed on the margins of an otherwise peaceful march where demonstrators held placards reading “end to the licence to kill”.

Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed last month by a so-called “offensive grenade” during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project in wetlands near Toulouse. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve later ordered these devices banned.

From RT, Falangist frolics:

Far-right Spaniards mark anniversary of General Franco’s death

Hundreds of far-right activists gathered in Madrid center to commemorate the anniversary of the death of General Franco. Fascist symbols were seen at the rally which praised the late dictator.

Around 300 far-right activists gathered on Orient Square in Central Madrid on Sunday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of the fascist dictator and Falange party’s leader Francisco Franco. The general died on November 20, 1975.

Organized by several far-right political parties and nationalist organizations including Nudo Patriota Espanol, Movimiento Catolico Espanol and Patriotas, the event also marked the anniversary of the death of Jose Primo de Rivera, the founder of Falange Espanola who was executed by the Spanish republican government on November 20, 1936. Falange Espanola, created in 1933, was a nationalist party inspired by Italian fascism.

More questions about an Old Blighty coverup, via the Independent:

Child abuse cases are ‘tip of the iceberg’ in sexual exploitation of young people, said Theresa May

The cases of child abuse exposed so far are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the extent of sexual exploitation of young people, the Home Secretary Theresa May has warned.

Ms May spoke of her dismay over the number of abusers who have been able to operate with impunity both in the past and today.

She said it was impossible to assess whether the activities of a paedophile ring involving senior figures in public life were covered up in the 1980s, but insisted an independent inquiry into historical sex abuse would establish the full facts.

“It’s not possible to say whether there was a cover-up, that is why I think it is so important we have the inquiry so we get at the truth,” she told the Andrew Marr Show.

From the Los Angeles Times, misconduct afloat:

Captain of San Diego-based warship relieved of duty

The captain of one of the Navy’s premier warships has been relieved of command after an investigation found that he routinely used foul and abusive language toward crew members and engaged in inappropriate touching and questioning of women.

Capt. Wayne Brown was relieved as commander of the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship Boxer after an investigation concluded that he had “lost the respect, trust and confidence of his subordinates” because of his temper and his behavior toward female crew members that included touching and also asking them whether they were using birth control with their husbands or boyfriends, according to the investigative report.

Brown created a “hostile, offensive and intimidating work environment,” according to the investigation that was undertaken after complaints from enlisted personnel and junior officers.

From BBC News, superbug:

Regin, new computer spying bug, discovered by Symantec

A leading computer security company says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world. Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most. It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say.

Hacks in China, from Want China Times:

Domain names in China hacked by overseas IPs

Nearly 60% of dot-com domain names in China were hijacked by backdoor programs in the first half of 2014 and 48.8% of them were controlled by overseas IP addresses, the Beijing-based China Securities Journal reports.

Huang Chengqing, director of China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China (CNCERT or CNCERT/CC) disclosed the statistics at a forum on cyber security at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province on Nov. 20.

Domain names are the addresses websites use to allow internet users to find them. When one gets hijacked, the person looking for that site gets redirected to a site controlled by hackers. In many cases though, hackers can be traced back to their IP address or special idenifier each computer has.

After the jump, Chilean colonels convicted of torturing a presidential father, a controversial Israeli redefinition, an Israel warning to France over Palestinian recognition, an Israeli solder busted, a British arms sale exposed, China seeks stronger security ties with Egypt as Cairo tightens the reins of internal repression, Iranian nuclear deal hits stumbling blocks as Kerry pushes against the deadline, on to China and a military espionage arrest, an academic’s prison sentence upheld, new China missile can reach the U.S., China seeks insular partnerships while Uncle Sam objects to one Chinese insular development as a Chinese officer gives the rationale, Coast Guard militarization, and another press prosecution. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, crime, spies, & threats


And lots of bad news for the Fourth Estate.

We open with a fascinating report certain to make a reader more secure, from the Los Angeles Times:

Banking industry culture primes for cheating, study suggests

Is your banker honest? Not if you remind him of where he works, a new study suggests.

Employees of an international bank were more inclined to lie for financial gain if they were thinking about their jobs than if they were thinking about their home life, according to a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The conclusions imply that cheating propensity is embedded in the business culture of the banking industry, and not in the type of person who goes into banking.

“These are not generally dishonest people,” said University of Chicago behavioral economist Alain Cohn, lead author of the study. “What our results suggest is that current norms in the banking industry tend to favor dishonesty and that the banks should initiate a change in norms.”

Domestic insecurity from Al Jazeera America:

FBI sends in reinforcements ahead of Ferguson grand jury announcement

  • FBI sends 100 agents to Missouri town that became flashpoint for racial tensions after policemen shot unarmed black teen

Police and protest organizers painstakingly laid the groundwork this weekend to avert street violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and the FBI sent in nearly 100 extra agents as a St. Louis-area grand jury was expected to soon announce its decision on whether to indict the white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August.

In a possible sign that an announcement on the grand jury’s decision is imminent, prosecutors told media organizations that they were making plans for a news conference to announce the outcome — but the date, time and location remained undetermined.

Protests on Friday night led to the arrest of three demonstrators as hundreds blocked traffic along South Florissant Road, the main thoroughfare through Ferguson where marchers and police have tangled regularly since the late-summer unrest over the Brown shooting.

Ancillary reinforcements, via Fusion:

Across the tracks from Ferguson, Clayton enlists private army to brace for trouble

The predominantly white residents of Clayton seem convinced that the protesters will take out their anger there, and are hurrying to insulate themselves from the threat with private security firms.

Asymmetric Solutions, a St. Louis-based security and intelligence company that is staffed by U.S. special-operations veterans, has been working with companies around the metropolitan area whose assets are valuable enough to justify the firm’s steep rates. A project manager for the company, who asked not to be named, predicts that outside of Ferguson “most of the difficulty will occur in the Clayton area…the bastions of white wealth and privilege.”

When the grand-jury decision comes down, the firm will deploy its operatives to probable flashpoints. “You’ll never notice any of our people,” he said. “We’re not putting fighters out there—we’re putting thinkers and managers out. Their ability to wage war effectively is simply one more tool in the toolbox.”

From United Press International, war prolonged:

Obama signs secret order expanding U.S. role in Afghanistan

President Obama reportedly signed a classified order authorizing an expanded military mission in Afghanistan in 2015, allowing U.S. forces to carry out missions against the Taliban

President Obama quietly signed a classified executive order authorizing a more expansive role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2015, ensuring American troops will be fighting in the country for at least one more year, The New York Times reported.

The order allows American troops to take a direct role in missions against militant groups that include the Taliban.

It’s a broader mission than the president described in a May announcement, when he said the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year and the remaining 9,800 troops would be focusing on training Afghan forces and handling al-Qaida threats.

And a possible stimulus, via the New York Times:

Hour’s Drive Outside Kabul, Taliban Reign

The explosion ripped through the floor of the Humvee, tearing a hole in the armored vehicle and injuring the district governor. The crack of Taliban gunfire followed.

Seeking cover, the Afghan police convoy sped behind a mud compound and unleashed a hail of bullets. Undeterred, the Taliban fighters edged closer. As bullets smacked around his head, an Afghan soldier in a white head scarf crouched behind a waist-high wall trading shots with the insurgents, a cigarette tucked in his lips.

“This is our daily life,” said the police chief of Tagab district, a mostly Taliban-controlled patch of Kapisa Province about an hour from Kabul, as rounds struck the compound’s edges, showering his men with dirt. “Everything is like this — you can see it with your own eyes.”

In areas like this, it is the government that operates in the shadows, following the dictates of the Taliban in order to stay alive. Afghan soldiers in Tagab district will not leave their base except for one hour each day starting at 9 a.m., when the Taliban allow them to visit the bazaar as long as the soldiers remain unarmed.

From Deutsche Welle, terror talk:

Inside IS – The Structure of Terror | Quadriga

Program notes:

After beheading yet another western hostage, the Islamic State terrorist organization is now threatening direct attacks on the US and Britain. Documents that have recently come to light allow some insights into the group’s structure, and reveal an extensive finance network and sophisticated logistics systems for weapons and supplies. Is IS more powerful than experts previously believed?

Guests:

Amir Musawy, Berlin correspondent for Iraqia TV

Asiem El Difraoui, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Media and Communication Policy in Berlin

Antje Bauer, reporter specializing in the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Read more: http://www.dw.de/quadriga-inside-is-the-structure-of-terror-2014-11-20/e-18014096-9798

From the New York Times, hardly surprising:

Among Pakistan Militants, Signs of Affinity With ISIS

Across Pakistan, the black standard of the Islamic State has become seemingly ubiquitous.

From urban slums to Taliban strongholds, the militant group’s logo and name have appeared in graffiti, posters and pamphlets. Last month, a cluster of militant commanders declared their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

Such is the influence of the Islamic State’s steamroller success in Iraq and Syria that, even thousands of miles away, security officials and militant networks are having to reckon with the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

More Pakistani news from the New York Times:

Eavesdropping on Pakistani Official Led to Inquiry Into Former U.S. Diplomat

American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.

That conversation led to months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, and an F.B.I. raid last month at her home, where agents discovered classified information, the officials said.

The investigation is an unexpected turn in a distinguished career that has spanned four decades. Ms. Raphel (pronounced RAY-full) rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.

And from the New York Times once more, tortuous deliberations:

Senate Democrats Clash With White House on C.I.A. Torture Report

In a tense confrontation with President Obama’s closest adviser on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats accused the White House of trying to censor significant details in a voluminous report on the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.

During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, the senators said that the White House was siding with the C.I.A. and trying to thwart negotiations over the report’s release. The negotiations have dragged on for months because of a dispute over the C.I.A.’s demand that pseudonyms of agency officers be deleted from the report.

The C.I.A., supported by the White House, has argued that even without using the real names of the officers, their identities could still be revealed.

According to several people in attendance, the meeting was civil, but neither side gave ground, and it ended without resolution. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent five years working on the 6,000-page report, which is said to provide grim details about the torture of detainees in C.I.A. prisons during the Bush administration, and describe a persistent effort by C.I.A. officials to mislead the White House and Congress about the efficacy of its interrogation techniques. The committee voted this year to declassify the report’s executive summary, numbering several hundred pages, but the fight over redactions has delayed the release.

From IDG News Service, spooky business as usual:

NSA director: No changes in telephone record collection coming

The U.S. National Security Agency is planning no major changes in its domestic telephone records collection program after a bill to rein in those efforts failed in the Senate this week, the agency’s director said.

The NSA will continue to collect U.S. telephone records in bulk, while operating under some restrictions President Barack Obama put on the program back in January, Admiral Michael Rogers, the NSA’s director, said during a House of Representatives hearing on cybersecurity Thursday. The NSA would rather wait to see what specific changes to the program Congress will require before making major changes, he told the House Intelligence Committee.

The NSA had hoped to get direction from Congress in the short term, but the agency may have to re-evaluate the telephone records program “if we’re unable to gain consensus in the window that we thought,” Rogers said. “I don’t have an answer to that in my own mind.”

The Los Angeles Times covers Fourth Estate outrage in Old Blighty:

British journalists slam police surveillance in lawsuit

British freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson had set his camera on a tripod outside London’s upscale Dorchester Hotel to film a protest against a group of delegates from an arms and defense trade show who were dining inside. He wore a red bandanna on his right wrist, a winter vest, a red-and-white striped shirt and a pair of blue jeans with a tear in the right knee.

The details of his attire are recorded in a 12-page police file Parkinson, 44, obtained through a freedom of information request which makes clear the extent to which British authorities have monitored him and other journalists as they carried out their work.

Britain’s National Union of Journalists, along with Parkinson and five others who obtained their own police intelligence records, filed a lawsuit this week against London’s Metropolitan Police and the British government. The action challenges police surveillance of journalists, including the retention of the information collected on a national database, as a violation of British law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

More Fourth Estate suppression from the Observer:

Media ‘gagged over bid to report MP child sex cases’

  • Security services accused of aiding Westminster paedophilia cover-up

The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.

The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

From PCWorld, Windows™ into a corporate soul, eliminating yet more jobs:

Microsoft turns to robotic security guards to watch for trouble

OK, so the robot apocalypse probably won’t happen any time soon, but the new robot sentries guarding Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus seem like something straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

According to ExtremeTech, each of the K5 security guard robots from robotics company Knightscope stands 5 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, so you probably don’t want to mess with one.

The K5 robots don’t come with any weapons onboard—thankfully—but they use a suite of alarms, sirens, and cameras to monitor and patrol the grounds of Microsoft’s campus. If one spots trouble, it’ll either sound an alarm or dispatch a human security guard to its location.

From the Guardian, another European separatist movement:

European parliament set to call for break-up of Google in antitrust case

  • Draft motion seeks to serve as solution to Google’s dominance of search markets in Europe and is seen as drastic escalation of running antitrust case

The European parliament is reportedly poised to call for a break-up of Google in a drastic escalation of Europe’s long-running antitrust case against the tech giant.

A draft motion seen by the Financial Times, and expected to be agreed next week, calls for the “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” as a potential solution to Google’s dominance of the search market in Europe.

The European Commission has been investigating concerns that Google has abused its dominant position in search since 2010 and the dispute has become increasingly bitter. In September the EU’s incoming digital commissioner Günther Oettinger warned that any settlement with Google could “cement its strength in the market rather than diluting it”.

After the jump, hackers busted, crime and the power of privilege, dronal decadence, a kidnapped Colombian general’s release promised, Fourth Estate woes in Libya, terrorism leads to call for Nigerian school closures, a split in the Hong Occupy movement, a Fourth Estate prosecution, Chinese journalism woes in the Philippines, a major development in China Seas Game of Zones, China denigrates criticism of its military expansion,  Washington calls for settlement of a Seoul/Tokyo insular spat, and yet another delay in settlement of that controversial Okinawa U.S. base relocation. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Disease, climate, critters, nukes


We begin with another African outbreak, via the Guardian:

Plague kills 40 people in Madagascar

  • World Health Organisation is concerned about risk of disease spreading in the capital where two cases have been recorded

An outbreak of the plague has killed 40 people out of 119 confirmed cases in Madagascar since late August and there is a risk of the disease spreading rapidly in the capital, the World Health Organisation has said.

So far two cases and one death have been recorded in the capital Antananarivo but those figures could climb quickly due to “the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” WHO warned.

“The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country,” it added.

And another one in Europe, from DutchNews.nl:

More cases of bird flu in the Netherlands, poultry farmers fear the worst

Three more cases of avian flu have been identified at Dutch poultry farms, this time near Kamperveen in Overijssel, the economic affairs ministry said on Friday.

The first farm, which rears broiler chickens and has around 10,000 birds on site, was identified on Friday morning. One of the other two farms had some 15,000 ducks. All three farms are being cleared.

On Thursday avian flu was found at a farm in Ter Aar. That has now been confirmed the same infectious type as on the first farm last weekend. A nationwide ban on the movement of eggs, poultry and poultry manure will remain in force, the ministry said.

While the Guardian covers taxation as an instrument of public health:

Largest American Indian reservation approves junk-food tax to fight obesity

  • A 2% increase on sales tax for food with little to no nutritional value
  • One-third of Navajos are diabetic or prediabetic
  • Obesity rate in some age groups is as high as 60%

The sales tax on cookies, chips, sodas and other junk food sold on the country’s largest American Indian reservation is going up.

Navajo nation president Ben Shelly signed legislation Friday to increase by 2% the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value, starting next year. No other sales tax on the Navajo nation specifically targets the spending habits of consumers. It will remain in effect until 2020, but it can be extended by the Navajo nation council.

Navajos advocating for a junk-food tax said they wanted to pass a bill that could serve as a model for Indian country to improve the rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members. Proposals targeting sugary drinks with proposed bans, size limits, tax hikes and warning labels haven’t gained widespread traction across the country.

And from AllAfrica, when one epidemic displaces another:

Liberia: Ebola Hampers HIV/Aids Care

Ebola has crippled the provision of treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Liberia, according to health workers and patients.

“We cannot get treatment normally now because of the outbreak of the Ebola disease in Liberia,” said 36-year-old Jeff Thompson, from Monrovia’s Jallah Town, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011. “Our care centres are closed and all the health workers are scared to come to work.”

There are an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Liberia, according to UNAIDS.

Before the Ebola outbreak, more than 70 percent of them had access treatment via 144 HIV/AIDS care centres scattered across the country. But now, due to a shortage of health workers and fear about Ebola transmission, more than 60 percent these facilities have shut their doors, according to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP)

From Al Jazeera America, water rustlers:

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

  • In northern areas of the state, counties report illegal diversions from tanks, wells and streams

Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.

California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

And from CBC News, another kind of contagion:

Jelly-covered plankton multiplying in Canadian lakes

  • Low calcium levels from acid rain, logging blamed

Jelly-covered plankton that look like tapioca are multiplying in many Canadian lakes, clogging up water pipes and potentially disrupting the food chain.

The population of freshwater plankton called Holopedium has doubled in Ontario lakes between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s, reports a study published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The plankton are thriving in lakes that are low in calcium — and the calcium levels of many lakes have fallen in recent decades because of acid rain and logging.

From the New York Times, a global warming identity crisis:

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive.

In 30 years, there may be none.

A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them.

Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. Some farmers who depend on irrigation in the parched days of late summer are no longer sure that enough water will be there. Bull trout, once pan-fried over anglers’ campfires, are now caught and released to protect a population that is shrinking as water temperatures rise.

From the Los Angeles Times, combinatorial crises:

‘Looming environmental crisis’ at Salton Sea prompts plea for help

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis” at the Salton Sea.

In a letter this week to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, the irrigation district asked that the board sponsor negotiations to get the state to fulfill its obligation to stop the deterioration of the sea caused by the sale of Imperial Valley water to San Diego County.

After a six-month negotiation period, the irrigation district wants the control board “to condition water [sales] on the state satisfying its unmet restoration obligation at the Salton Sea.”

And from the Guardian, forestalling crises?:

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters

  • International Maritime Organisation committee adopts measures to protect the environment in face of predicted polar shipping rush

The international body in charge of sea safety adopted measures on Friday to protect people and the environment during a predicted shipping rush in the Arctic.

But environment groups and insurers said the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee had failed to address key issues including a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil and how to safeguard against cowboy operators.

The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention. These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.

After the jump, a wildlife crisis in Kenya, tourism threatening indigenous cultures, boosting tools to fight environmental crime, Big Coal buys Fabebook Likes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with a radioactive water freeze trap foiled and a more concrete solution, and removal of more hot fuel commences along with exclusion zone landlocked shipwrecks, plus a radiation release in Scotland. . . Continue reading

How a British company enabled mass spying


When it comes to sheer quantities of information hoovered up from the global data stream, the U.S. National Security Agency is a piker compared to Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], as Edward Snowden’s leaks conclusively demonstrate.

In these videos from Britain’s Channel 4 News, the extent and scope of Britain’s monitoring is revealed, focusing on the island nation’s role as the central hub for the world’s network of data cables [a fact that is leading the BRICs nations to announce plans to develop their own cable system independent of the GCHQ-monitored cables].

As noted in a text story Channel 4 News posted online:

One of the UK’s largest communications firms had a leading role in creating the surveillance system exposed by Edward Snowden, it can be revealed.

Cable and Wireless even went as far as providing traffic from a rival foreign communications company, handing information sent by millions of internet users worldwide over to spies.

The firm, which was bought by Vodafone in July 2012, was part of a programme called Mastering the Internet, under which British spies used private companies to help them gather and store swathes of internet traffic; a quarter of which passes through the UK. Top secret documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by Channel 4 News show that GCHQ developed what it called “partnerships” with private companies under codenames. Cable and Wireless was called Gerontic.

Under the moniker, the company carried out tests on equipment used to carry out the surveillance, it came up with suggestions on how the spies could go about tapping its network, and even had a GCHQ employee working full-time within the company.

And a 2011 document reveals that Cable and Wireless went further. The company rented space on a cable owned by Indian telecoms company Reliance Communications that stretched from Asia across the Middle East and landed in Porthcurno in Cornwall. Reliance’s transatlantic cable lands in Sennen Cove six miles to the north. And the two cables come together at nearby Skewjack Farm. Documents show that in 2011, this allowed Britain’s spies to access all traffic from Reliance’s main cable and send it to the GCHQ base up the coast in Bude.

Top secret documents from GCHQ show it was this access point, codenamed Nigella and run by Cable and Wireless, that allowed Britain’s spies to gather the private communications of millions of internet users worldwide.

The first video examines the program itself and how it works.

From Channel 4 News:

Spy cable revealed: How telecoms firm worked with GCHQ

Program notes:

An unprecedented grab of personal data: this programme reveals that a communications firm not only handed over its own information to GCHQ, but also allowed access to the internet traffic of another telecoms company.

The second video features an aborted debate between a German member of parliament — Green Party legislator Konstanin von Notz — and former GCHQ Director Sir David Omand, a debate that ends abruptly when Omand storms out during questions over the controversy that erupted after it was revealed that the German provider serving the German government — including Chancellor Angela Merkel — was providing GCHQ access to its cables:

Sir David Omand walks out of live interview

Program notes:

Sir David Omand was debating German Green MP Konstantin von Notz, who is part of an inquiry into allegations that Angela Merkel’s conversations were intercepted by the NSA, on Channel 4 News’ main story.