Category Archives: Secrecy

InSecurityWatch: War, warnings, spooks, cops


We open with more evidence of Cold War 2.0 from the Los Angeles Times:

NATO nuclear drawdown now seems unlikely

Last summer in Berlin, President Obama called for “bold reductions” in U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons to ease the risk of annihilation in Europe.

Obama was referring to the roughly 200 B61 nuclear bombs that the U.S. has deployed in five NATO nations stretching from the Netherlands to Turkey — as well as an even larger Russian arsenal estimated at 2,000 tactical weapons.

But since last summer, that hopeful outlook has evaporated. Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and nuclear threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin have killed any chance that the U.S. would withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons any time soon.

“Withdrawing our relatively few weapons would be the absolute wrong signal at this moment,” said James Stavridis, the retired U.S. admiral who served as NATO chief until 2013 and is now dean of the Fletcher School of international affairs at Tufts University.

While those with the missiles have woes of their own, via the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Executive officer of USS Cowpens relieved of duties

The Navy announced Friday that the executive officer of the San Diego-based USS Cowpens has been relieved of his duties, the third member of the ship’s leadership team to be ousted in 2014.

Cmdr. Armando Ramirez lost his position on the guided-missile cruiser on Sept. 18 due to an “alcohol-related incident,” the Navy said in a statement.

On June 10, the Navy ousted the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Gregory W. Gombert, and Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton, the ship’s command master chief. The reason given at the time was poor ship conditions.

The 567-foot Cowpens, nicknamed Mighty Moo, returned to San Diego in April from a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

A Navy investigation made public in August said that during the middle of the deployment, Gombert retreated to his cabin for several weeks for a health-related seclusion, and that he had an improper relationship with the cruiser’s acting executive officer.

From the horrific to the ludicrous with the Guardian:

‘Terror doodles’ prompt removal of Australian man from Tiger flight

  • Interior designer, 28, wrote ‘Terrorismadeup’ in notebook
  • Australian government set to introduce new terror powers

An Australian man claimed he was taken off a commercial flight on Saturday after doodles he was making in a notebook were deemed to represent a terrorist threat.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tiger Airways staff escorted Oliver Buckworth, a 28-year-old Melbourne-based interior designer, from a flight bound for the Gold Coast after a passenger reported the doodles.

Australian Federal Police said they had “responded to a request for assistance” from Tiger Airways. The Herald said it had seen a page of the notebook in question, which contained the sentence: “In a land of melting ice-creams, sandy feet and fluffy bears, how could anyone be fearful of terrorism.”

BBC News covers mass flight:

Syria crisis: 66,000 ‘flee Islamic State’ into Turkey

Some 66,000 refugees – mainly Syrian Kurds – have crossed into Turkey in 24 hours, officials say, as Islamic State militants advance in northern Syria.

Turkey opened its border on Friday to Syrians fleeing the Kurdish town of Kobane in fear of an IS attack.

The UN refugee agency said it was boosting relief efforts as hundreds of thousands more could cross the border.

While the Associated Press covers curious flight:

Turkish hostages freed, but questions linger

Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world’s most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo.

But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital’s airport, experts had doubts about the government’s story.

The official explanation “sounds a bit too good to be true,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”

More from the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Islamic State releases 49 hostages to Turkey

The 49 were taken hostage at the Turkish mission in Mosul, Iraq, the day the city fell to the Islamic State. They were held in or near Mosul during their entire 101 days of captivity, Turkish officials told McClatchy, then driven into Syria Friday night, where they released early Saturday morning in Tal Abyad, a border town.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu broke off a trip to Azerbaijan and flew to Sanliurfa in southern Turkey to greet the hostages, who arrived at the airport in two buses with the window curtains drawn.

The hostages, who included consul general Ozturk Yilmaz, other diplomats, their spouses, two infants, as well as special forces soldiers, appeared in remarkably good condition when they arrived at Sanliurfa airport _ the men in jackets and ties and the women in freshly pressed dresses. Most of the men had grown beards, but all were well-groomed.

Terrorism woes in Malaysia via Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

PM Lee highlights IS, rising nationalism in Asia as international concerns

At a dialogue session on Saturday (Sep 20), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East and rising nationalism in Asia as key worries on the international front

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has outlined two key worries on the international front – the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the Middle East, and rising nationalism in Asia which could upset the conditions for growth in the region. He was speaking at a dialogue session at “The Singapore Summit” on Saturday (Sep 20) at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Singapore has yet to decide on how it can support the US-led effort against IS in the Middle East. Responding to questions at a dialogue, Mr Lee said there is no solution to the IS problem in terms of taking them out or putting military forces on the ground.

“You can’t really change fundamentally the texture of the society and the people there and when you are gone, the problem will come back. So that is a very difficult problem in the Middle East,” he said.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, spooky apprehensions:

German lawmakers remain concerned about U.S. spying

German lawmakers who took part in an international intelligence forum this week left the country disappointed that members of the U.S. Congress were not more receptive to their concerns about U.S. spying on European allies.

The German lawmakers were among more than 100 members of parliaments and ambassadors from 24 nations who took part in a closed-door three-day intelligence security forum held at the Library of Congress. The goal was to address allies concerns about U.S. surveillance and discuss shared objectives in light of growing threat from groups such as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

A range of opinions were expressed and most appeared to agree the dialog was a positive step. The British lawmakers were most appreciative of the U.S. role in aiding Europe, according to attendees. The Germans and Austrians pressed the hardest on U.S. spying. Delegates from Georgia, Latvia, Moldova were concerned about dangers surrounding the Ukraine and Russia.

And from the Washington Post, business as usual:

DHS headquarters project faces more cost overruns, missed deadlines, GAO says

The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, already more than $1.5 billion over budget and 11 years behind schedule, may face even more overruns and missed deadlines because the government has still not developed reliable cost estimates, federal auditors said Friday.

In a report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office said DHS and the General Services Administration should consider alternatives to the plan to locate the headquarters complex on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital, a onetime psychiatric facility with a panoramic view of the District. The project, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, calls for renovating dozens of historic buildings, but it has been starved of funds and only one new structure has opened.

“Creating reliable cost and schedule estimates for the headquarters consolidation project should be an integral part of DHS and GSA efforts to reassess the project,’‘ the report said. “Without this information . . . the project risks potential cost overruns, missed deadlines, and performance shortfalls.’‘

After the jump, Portland police racism, police protest via gridiron disruption in St Louis, aid for the Wizard of Wikileaks, angry farmers disrupt French security, Indian media insecurity, ancient wounds rankle in Korea, Sino/Indian border and oceanic tensions heat up, and a curious worry on the shores of San Frnacisco Bay. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, cops, wars, feints


We begin with the utterly outrageous via Motherboard:

The Navy Routinely Spies on Citizens Then Helps the Police Prosecute Them

It’s not just the NSA: A Federal Appeals Court has just noted a disturbing and “extraordinary” trend of the Navy conducting mass surveillance on American civilians, and then using what they find to help local law enforcement prosecute criminals.

In this specific case, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent in George scanned the computers of every civilian in Washington state who happened to be using the decentralized Gnutella peer-to-peer network, looking for child pornography. The agent, Steve Logan, found child porn on a computer owned by a man named Michael Dreyer.

Logan then passed his evidence on to local law enforcement, who arrested and eventually convicted Dreyer, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The US Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that this was a massive overstep of military authority, a disturbing trend, and a blatant violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that prohibits the military from conducting investigations on civilians.

The government argued that it conducted the surveillance on the off chance that it caught a military member violating the law and suggested that it has this authority in any state with a military base.

From the Associated Press, serious Snowden blowback [or so they would have us believe]:

AP EXCLUSIVE: CIA halts spying in Europe

The CIA has curbed spying on friendly governments in Western Europe in response to the furor over a German caught selling secrets to the United States and the Edward Snowden revelations of classified information held by the National Security Agency, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The pause in decades of espionage, which remains partially in effect, was designed to give CIA officers time to examine whether they were being careful enough and to evaluate whether spying on allies is worth running the risk of discovery, said a U.S. official who has been briefed on the situation.

Under the stand-down order, case officers in Europe largely have been forbidden from undertaking “unilateral operations” such as meeting with sources they have recruited within allied governments. Such clandestine meetings are the bedrock of spying.

From the London Daily Mail, ah yes, those folks:

‘He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness': The inappropriate remarks made by CIA supervisors during performance reviews declassified after decades

  • Comments were made by CIA supervisors during appraisals in the 1980s
  • Feature misused vocabulary, odd phrases and inadvertent connotations
  • Include: ‘He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness’, ‘I both like and dislike this officer’ and ‘Although unmarried she has growth potential’
  • Quotes among hundreds of documents declassified by agency yesterday

And from Gizmodo, Old Spook ties?:

Larry Ellison’s Oracle Started As a CIA Project

Yesterday, Vox somehow managed to write an entire article about the history of Oracle and its founder Larry Ellison without mentioning the CIA even once. Which is pretty astounding, given the fact that Oracle takes its name from a 1977 CIA project codename. And that the CIA was Oracle’s first customer.

Vox simply says that Oracle was founded in “the late 1970s” and “sells a line of software products that help large and medium-sized companies manage their operations.” All of which is true! But as the article continues, it somehow ignores the fact that Oracle has always been a significant player in the national security industry. And that its founder would not have made his billions without helping to build the tools of our modern surveillance state.

“Recognizing the potential demand for a commercial database product, [Ellison] founded the company that became Oracle in 1977,” Vox writes, conspicuously omitting the whole “because CIA wanted a relational database” part of the history.

From BuzzFeed, the revolving door moves to the bedroom:

Wife: NSA Official. Husband: Exec At Firm Seeming To Do Or Seek Business With NSA

  • NSA: It’s secret.

A large government contracting firm that appears to be doing or seeking business with the National Security Agency employs the spouse of one of the most powerful officials at the agency, according to corporate records, press releases, and company websites. But the NSA has declined to address whether there is a potential conflict of interest or to disclose any information about contracts or the official’s financial holdings.

The spouse, for years, has also had an intelligence technology company incorporated at the couple’s suburban residence in Maryland.

The NSA official, Teresa H. Shea, is director of the Signals Intelligence Directorate, which means she oversees electronic eavesdropping for intelligence purposes. She’s held that crucial position since 2010. SIGINT, as it is called, is the bread and butter of NSA espionage operations, and it includes intercepting and decoding phone calls, whether cellular or landline; radio communications; and internet traffic. Shea’s directorate was involved in the controversial domestic surveillance program, much of which was revealed by Edward Snowden.

As for Shea’s husband, James, he is currently a vice president at DRS Signal Solutions, part of DRS Technologies, a major American defense contracting company owned by the Italian defense giant Finmeccanica. On his LinkedIn page, he boasts of his “core focus” in “SIGINT systems,” and cites his employer, DRS, for its work in “signals intelligence, cyber, and commercial test and measurement applications.”

Next, a new feint in Cold War 2.0 from the London Telegraph:

US sends jets to intercept Russian aircraft

  • American and Canadian jets scrambled after six Russian aircraft entered the US’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ)

On Wednesday, six Russian aircraft entered the United States’ air defense identification zone (ADIZ), an area beyond sovereign U.S. airspace, according to a statement from NORAD, a US and Canadian aerospace command, and US Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

In response, “two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets acting under the authority of NORAD identified and intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the ADIZ, west of Alaska,” the statement said.

On Thursday, Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Canadian ADIZ.

From the Guardian, when your secrets aren’t your secrets:

California judge rules against privacy advocate and protects police secrecy

  • Man loses bid to access to police license plate records in case with repercussions on surveillance and government databases

A California judge’s initial ruling against a tech entrepreneur, who seeks access to records kept secret in government databases detailing the comings and goings of millions of cars in the San Diego area, via license plate scans, was the second legal setback within a month for privacy advocates.

The tentative decision issued Thursday upheld the right of authorities to block the public from viewing information collected on their vehicles, by way of vast networks that rely on cameras mounted on stoplights and police cars.

The rapidly expanding systems and their growing databases have been the subject of a larger debate pitting privacy rights against public safety concerns in a new frontier over high-tech surveillance. A Los Angeles judge ruled in August that city police and sheriff’s departments don’t have to disclose records from the 3m plates they scan each week.

From Reuters, piling on political fortunes at home plunge:

French jets strike in Iraq, expanding U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State

French jets struck a suspected Islamic State target in Iraq for the first time on Friday, expanding a U.S.-led military campaign against militants who have seized a third of the country and also control large parts of neighboring Syria.

President Francois Hollande said Rafale jets hit “a logistics depot of the terrorists” near the city of Mosul, which has been held by Islamic State for more than three months. It promised more operations in coming days.

The French military action, which follows U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq and near the capital Baghdad, appeared to win qualified endorsement from Iraq’s top Shi’ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

From the Associated Press, indeed:

Islamic State plot in Australia raises questions

The Islamic State plot to carry out random beheadings in Sydney alleged by police is a simple and barbaric scheme that has shaken Australians. But terrorism experts on Friday questioned whether the ruthless movement had the capacity or inclination to sustain a terror campaign so far from the Middle East.

Some terrorism experts saw the plot as a potential shift in Islamic State’s focus from creating an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. Others, including Professor of International Relations and Security Studies at Murdoch University, Samuel Makinda, said it is more likely a symptom of policy confusion within a disparate group.

“If you have people coming in from different backgrounds from all these countries, when it comes to policy making, they’re going to fight each other, they’re going to kill each other,” Makinda said.

“On ISIS, I see no direct threat to Australia or to any other country at the moment except those in the Middle East,” he added.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers political theater:

Australia terror crackdown sees armed police in parliament

Australia deployed armed police inside parliament on Friday (Sep 19) in the face of extremist threats, ramping up an anti-terror crackdown after foiling a plot by Islamic State militants to carry out gruesome “demonstration executions” in the country.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott called an emergency meeting of his national security committee after urging Australians not to be intimidated by murderous plots, including beheadings. “All levels of government will do whatever we humanely can to keep our community safe,” he told a press conference. “The best way for people to respond to the threat of terror is to go about their normal lives,” Abbott said. “Terrorists want to scare us out of being ourselves. There will be armed federal police in and around our national parliament at all times.”

The prime minister has refused to link the latest threats against Australia to the nation’s role in fighting the Islamic State organisation in Iraq. He refuses to use the word “state” and brands the group a “death cult”.

From the Guardian, applying stick to hornet’s nest:

Anti-Islam ad campaign to run on New York City buses and subways

  • Blogger paid $100,000 to place ads, one of which was rejected by MTA on grounds it could ‘incite or provoke violence’

Controversial blogger and activist Pamela Geller has paid $100,000 to place advertisements on New York City buses and in subway stations that feature anti-Islamic messages and images including one of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by Isis in August.

The campaign, which is being funded by Geller’s advocacy group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AMDI), features six posters including the one that features Foley. All the posters carry messages critical of Islam. One features a picture of Adolf Hitler.

This is not the first time Geller’s organisation has used posters on New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s ad space to court controversy. In 2012, her organisation paid for posters to appear in ten New York subway stations.

After the jump, spawning a boom for drones, tanks-but-no-tanks at San Diego schools, killing on a Pakistani campus, troubling ghosts from the Korean/Japanese past, and troubling memories of a bloody British hand in Asia. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, hacks, war, weapons


For the first item in today’s compendium pf the world of spies, snoops, cops, crimes, wars, geopolitics, hackery, and the like, we turn to reassurance from the Guardian:

CIA chief: ‘If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it’

  • John Brennan expresses frustration with Senate and media while decrying lack of trust in agency at intelligence conference

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency expressed frustration with his Senate overseers and the media on Thursday, even as he and his fellow heads of US intelligence agencies pledged to win back the trust of a skeptical American public.

“I certainly believe having the public’s trust makes all of our jobs much easier and better,” Brennan said on a panel at an intelligence conference, where he was joined by his colleagues at the helms of the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But ahead of an impending clash with the Senate intelligence committee, which is due to release a public version of a report into CIA torture in the coming weeks, Brennan rejected “the narratives I see floating around the media.”

From Gigaom, someone’s takin’ a bit out of the Apple:

Apple’s “warrant canary” disappears, suggesting new Patriot Act demands

When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called “warrant canary,” which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.

Now, Apple’s warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company’s last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the “canary” language is no longer there.

From the Register, score another one for Edward the Leaker:

Snowden’s NSA leaks have galvanised the storage world

  • Vendors raise their game after gov securo-busting revealed

In a recent CyberArk survey of 373 C-level and IT security executives across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific, 37 per cent of respondents said Snowden’s breach of NSA security had influenced their security strategy more than any other incident over the past year.

Difficult decisions are having to be made across industries. Where and how to store data tops the list of priorities. Who to trust has also become a pertinent question when it comes to access management and procurement processes. Storage and security have become sexy again.

Indeed, one of the material outcomes of Snowden’s leaks has already been realised: inspired by renewed consumer and business interest in privacy, technology is becoming more secure.

From the New York Times, oversharing reported by James Bamford:

Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal

In Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

From RT, bloody irony:

GTA-ISIS: Militants hooking youngsters with ‘Jihad video game’ trailer

Islamic State (IS) militants have released a jihadist video game trailer in which the aim is to destroy Iraqi and US forces, Arabic media report. The game, styling itself as a Grand Theft Auto adaptation, appears specifically aimed at young people.

The recruitment propaganda video trailer aimed to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State,” according to the media wing of the IS (formerly known as ISIS), cited in Arabic media.

“The content includes all of the organization’s military tactics against its opponents,” the Islamic state said.

Homeland Security News Wire covers an intelligence failure:

U.S. intelligence, leaders unclear on exact danger posed by ISIS

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength of the Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength ofthe Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

From the Associated Press, The Most Transparent Administration in History™ flunks the test, again:

Journalists view Obama administration’s transparency as much worse than Bush’s

Editors and reporters meeting in Chicago raised concerns Wednesday about what they described as a lack of access and transparency undermining journalists’ work, several blaming the current White House for setting standards for secrecy that are spreading nationwide.

Criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration on the issue of openness in government came on the last day of a three-day joint convention of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers.

“The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news, said during a panel discussion.

James Risen, a New York Times reporter who is facing potential jail time as he battles government efforts to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information, also spoke at the conference. Risen said intense pressure on reporters and their sources is having a chilling effect on newsgathering.

He spoke of scaring one source just by going to his home and knocking on the front door. “He opened the door and he turned white,” Risen said. “He marches me back through the kitchen [to a back exit] and said, “‘Go out that way.’”

Guns beat butter again, via the Guardian:

UN to cut food aid to Syria

Without more money, World Food Programme warns food rations will be reduced and voucher schemes slashed

The UN warned on Thursday that it will be forced to cut food rations for more than 6 million Syrians from next month unless it received more funding.

The World Food Programme said that while it still expects to reach almost 6 million Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring states in October and November, there will be significant cuts to the amount of food delivered. The WFP said it had no money for programmes in December.

A WFP official told Reuters that the food basket for Syrians could shrink to 825 calories, well under half the daily recommended intake.

From the Associated Press, bordering on sanity:

Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

The U.S. Border Patrol will begin testing body-worn cameras on agents next month, the head of its parent agency said Thursday, a step toward seeing if the technology should be used in the field as the government seeks to blunt criticism about agents’ use of force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner since March, said a variety of cameras will be tested beginning Oct. 1 at the Border Patrol’s training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.

He didn’t say when or even if cameras will be introduced to the roughly 21,000 agents in the field.

From Sky News, making a good point:

Assange: ‘Google Like A Privatised NSA’

  • Julian Assange tells Sky News the search engine gathers and files information just like America’s National Security Agency.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused Google of behaving like a “privatised version of the NSA” in the way it collects and stores information about people.

He told Sky News the internet giant was not doing anything illegal but its behaviour was highly questionable. “It is not doing things which are illegal, what it is doing is legal,” he said. “It is collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, and using it to create profiles of people and then selling that to advertisers and others.

“Those are the same procedures that security agencies go through. That is why the NSA has latched on top of what Google is doing. Since 2009 the NSA had been engaged in the Prism system where information collected online is available to it.”

The accompanying video from Sky News:

Julian Assange ‘Will Leave Embassy With Asylum Intact’

Program note:

Sky’s Sarah Hewson talks to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

From BuzzFeed, and reminding us of the a high school joke about the cat, who crept in, crapped, and crept out:

U.S. Company Distances Itself From Egyptian Surveillance System

  • And the website of its Egyptian affiliate is taken down.

The U.S.-based Blue Coat company has issued a statement distancing itself from a project to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and Skype in Egypt, following a BuzzFeed News report.

Egyptian officials had told BuzzFeed News that a company called See Egypt had won a tender to begin providing the government with a surveillance system that would allow them to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others. In interviews, the Egypt-based SeeEgypt called itself a “sister company” to Blue Coat, and listed the company as one of their affiliates.

Now, Blue Coat has issued a response saying that their products are not being resold to the Egyptian government.

From the Dissenter, gee, are we surprised:

Email Suggests Manufacturer of Stingray Surveillance Equipment May Have Lied to FCC

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the manufacturer of StingRay surveillance products of providing inaccurate information and possibly even lying to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is the agency that is supposed to regulate communications over cable, radio, satellite, television and wire.

Harris Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of StingRay technology. The technology was “initially designed for the military and intelligence community” and “operates by mimicking cellular service providers’ base stations and forcing all cellular phones in range to register their electronic serial numbers and other identifying information,” according to the ACLU.

The ACLU of Northern California chapter managed to obtain a series of emails from 2010 between the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and Harris Corporation employees, where the “equipment authorization application for law enforcement use of Harris’ StingRay line of products” is being discussed.

After the jump, a death sentence for an Iranian blogger, beating the messenger in Russia, Plasticopalypse Now!, a horrifying traffic scenario suggested, China bases more claims in troubled waters, and a top cop’s curious pal. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Law, wars, hacks, cops, spies


We begin with a hopeful finding, via the Guardian:

High school students care more about free speech than adults, poll finds

  • For first time in poll’s history, American students are more in favour of the first amendment than adults

American high school students are more concerned about freedom of speech and the first amendment than adults, including their teachers, a new poll has found.

The national study of 10,463 high school students and 588 teachers was released Wednesday to coincide with the celebration of Constitution Day and was funded by the John S and James L Knight Foundation.

This was the first time in the poll’s history that students were more in favour of the first amendment than adults. Ten years ago when the poll began 35% of students said the amendment went too far compared with 30% of adults.

The poll also found that students who consumed the most news online were the most supportive of free expression. And those who had been taught about the first amendment were more supportive still.

Salon covers a half-measure:

Los Angeles schools will relinquish grenade launchers … but not rifles or armored vehicles

  • L.A. Unified says that M-16 automatic rifles are “essential life-saving items”

The Los Angeles Unified school police announced on Tuesday their intention to give up military-grade weaponry obtained through the 1033 federal program that gives civilian police departments surplus military equipment. The school police said it intended to relinquish three grenade launchers, but notably will keep 61 rifles and one Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle.

The Yomiuri Shimbun investigates:

Attorney general: U.S. will launch study of policing bias

Broadening its push to improve police relations with minorities, the Justice Department has enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement in five American cities and recommend strategies to address the problem nationally, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

The police shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri underscored the need for the long-planned initiative, Holder said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the three-year project, which will involve training, data analysis and interviews with community residents, could be a “silver lining” if it helps ease racial tensions and “pockets of distrust that show up between law enforcement and the communities that they serve.”

And from Al Jazeera English, heading down a familiar road:

US lawmakers back plan to arm Syrian rebels

  • House of Representatives vote 273 to 156 to approve President Obama’s train-and-equip plan meant to defeat ISIL

US lawmakers have voted to authorise training and arming of vetted Syrian rebels to combat fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a crucial step in President Barack Obama’s bid to thwart the self-declared jihadist group surging across Iraq and Syria.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 273 to 156 to approve Obama’s train-and-equip plan despite misgivings by both Democrats and Republicans.

Some war-weary Democrats say the move could open the door to full-blown American military intervention in the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times coveys reassurance:

Obama reiterates that U.S. forces have no ‘combat mission’ in Iraq

Emphasizing the American military’s unrivaled expertise, President Obama thanked service members Wednesday and repeated that U.S. forces taking on the Islamic State militant group would not serve in combat, a day after his top general repeatedly raised that prospect.

American forces “do not and will not have a combat mission,” Obama told troops at the U.S. Central Command headquarters here. “They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists.”

He made that pledge a day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military’s top officer, described for a Senate panel the challenges of fighting the militants without combat troops on the ground.

But the New York Times conveys counterspin:

U.S. Army Chief Says Ground Troops Will Be Needed Against ISIS

The United States general who beat back Islamic extremists in Iraq in 2007 suggested on Wednesday that the battle against Islamic State jihadis would only succeed with the use of ground forces.

Speaking a day after his commander, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops might be needed in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno was careful not to specify that those ground troops had to be American. But he made clear that success would be dependent on the presence of forces from all of Iraq’s sectarian groups.

Airstrikes have halted the advance of the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, General Odierno, now the Army chief of staff, told journalists from four news organizations, including The New York Times, in what aides said were his first public comments on the current situation in Iraq. Ultimately, though, “you’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting them out,” he said, referring to the Islamic extremists.

And from the Washington Post, tramp, tramp, tramp:

U.S. boots are already on the ground against the Islamic State

Talking with U.S. and foreign military experts over the past week, I’ve heard two consistent themes: First, the campaign against the Islamic State will require close-in U.S. training and assistance for ground forces, in addition to U.S. air power; and, second, the best way to provide this assistance may be under the command of the Ground Branch of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, which traditionally oversees such paramilitary operations.

There are some obvious drawbacks with this approach: These “special activities” may be called covert, but their provenance will be obvious, especially to the enemy; they will build irregular forces in Iraq and Syria that may subvert those countries’ return to a stable, transparent system of governance and military operations; and history tells us (from Vietnam to Central America to the Middle East) that black operations, outside normal military channels, can get ugly — opening a back door to torture, rendition and assassination. That’s why clear guidelines and congressional oversight would be necessary.

Though these paramilitary operations are rarely discussed, the United States has extensive experience with them, especially in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East. The 2001 campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan was led by the CIA, using teams of Special Operations forces to mobilize fighters from the Northern Alliance. In 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, Kurdish special forces were brought to a base in the Western United States and trained in insurgency tactics. They conducted fierce attacks as the war was beginning.

In other words, it’s the same old foreign policy so eloquently expressed by Nancy Sinatra way back in 1966:

From Defense One, points we often made back in the days of Vietnam:

The Constitution Is More Than Just an Obstacle To Fighting ISIL

Congress seems to be on track to authorize President Obama to address the situation in the Middle East. Strikingly enough, however, it is authorization for one small part of it—to provide arms to Syrian rebels. Currently, U.S. law prevents the president from transferring weapons to rebel groups, and Obama wants an exception for Syria.

What about the prolonged campaign he announced last week to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy?” Obama’s strategy—systematic airstrikes against ISIS targets “wherever they are”; material support to Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian forces fighting ISIS on the ground; intelligence and counterterrorism campaigns against ISIS; and humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the fighting—sounds like what I will call, for lack of a better term, “war.”

And war needs authorization from Congress. Not little dribs and drabs of authorization, and not small measures tucked onto spending bills, but a resolution, adopted after a serious debate, authorizing the whole thing, setting out our war aims, and indicating when or how the authority will expire.

The president says he has the authority to do what he wants but wouldn’t mind if Congress wants to tag along by voting him “more” authority. Members of Congress say, variously, Why is he asking us? Why isn’t he already doing more without it? Can’t we wait to see what happens? Can we go now?

From the Guardian, media mania:

Islamic State video threatens to target White House and US troops

  • Video purports to be trailer for film entitled Flames of War with strapline ‘fighting has just begun’

Islamic State militants have threatened to target the White House and kill US troops in a new slickly made video response to Barack Obama’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” the organisation.

The video, in the style of a blockbuster movie trailer for what is “coming soon”, purports to show a masked man apparently about to shoot kneeling prisoners in the head. Towards the end of the clip there is shaky footage of the White House filmed from a moving vehicle, suggesting the building is being scoped out for attack.

It was released on Tuesday after US defence chiefs suggested that American troops could join Iraqi forces fighting Isis, despite Obama’s assurance that US soldiers would not be engaged in fighting on the ground.

While the video has been yanked from YouTube, it was still available at LiveLeak when last we looked [and WordPress doesn’t enable embedding videos from that site].

More on that media thing from the Christian Science Monitor:

How Islamic State is wielding the Internet in new ways

Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of a New York man on charges he was trying to recruit for the Islamic State. US officials say they are increasingly concerned about the possibility of a home-grown terror threat.

[E]ven as a handful of Americans attempt to get more engaged with extremist groups, media observers say IS has become one of most sophisticated social media operations yet seen.

“I think that what’s new is the sophistication and focus of the groups like ISIS,” says Nicco Mele, a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Boston, who focuses on the intersection of media, politics, and power in the digital age. “The frequency and quality and quantity of what’s happening here is significant – it’s sophisticated, clearly planned, and executed with a well-oiled team.”

Up to a hundred Americans have tried to travel abroad to fight alongside IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in recent weeks – including some killed by the US bombing campaign in Iraq. But officials say they are also worried about the solitary, would-be domestic terrorist, inspired by propaganda and instructions found online, who would then attempt to carry out an attack similar to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.

Business Insider covers the furor Down Under:

Australian Authorities Say Terrorists Planned To Drape People In ISIS Flags And Behead Them In Public

Police have confirmed Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism operation targeted a group planning “random acts of violence” against a member, or members of the public, on the streets of Sydney.

News agencies are reporting court documents, to be released later this morning, are expected to reveal the terror group planned to behead a member of the public in Sydney, or potentially engage in a random mass shooting.

Australian Federal Police and intelligence officials launched the “largest counter-terrorism operation” in Australia across a number of suburban areas in Sydney and Brisbane this morning.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani blackout continues:

Two years on, no light at the end of the tunnel for YouTube

Two years, a new government and the promise of change, and at least 20 court hearings later, internet users from Pakistan are still denied access to YouTube. This restriction of access has become the symbol of a state which has increasingly become obsessed with controlling the online space in a non-transparent manner.

The ban had been imposed on September 17, 2012 by then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf following national outrage over a sacrilegious video clip. The video had prompted outrage across the Muslim world and prompted temporary bans on the website in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan. Threat of bans in Saudi Arabia prompted YouTube to selectively curb access in that country and it took a court order to censor it in Brazil.

But even after a US court ordered YouTube to take down versions of the video following a suit filed by one of the actors appearing the clip, the site remains inaccessible in Pakistan. The refrain, that the clip hurts religious sentiments of the people, is obscene or hurts national security has acted as an effective screen for a process which is less than transparent and has gone on to impact services and content beyond just pornography and blasphemous videos.

From The Intercept, spooky high dudgeon:

Irate NSA Staffer Doesn’t Like Being Filmed in Public, for Some Reason

The NSA sent someone bearing the nametag “Neal Z.” to the University of New Mexico’s Engineering and Science Career Fair today, in the hopes of recruiting young computer geniuses to help manage the yottabytes of data it is collecting about you. But instead of eager young applicants, Mr. Z. encountered University of New Mexico alumnus Andy Beale and student Sean Potter, who took the rare opportunity of being in the room with a genuine NSA agent to ask him about his employer’s illegal collection of metadata on all Americans. Mr. Z. did not like that one bit.

In two videos posted on YouTube—each shot from a slightly different perspective—you can watch Beale politely question Mr. Z. about NSA programs, and watch Mr. Z. attempt to parry those queries with blatant falsehoods like, “NSA is not permitted to track or collect intelligence on U.S. persons.” As Beale continues to attempt to engage the recruiter on the legality of the NSA’s mass surveillance initiatives, Mr. Z. becomes increasingly angry, calling him a “heckler,” saying, “You do not know what you’re talking about,” and warning, “If you don’t leave soon, I’m going to call university security to get you out of my face.”

After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Mr. Z announces, “You’re done,” and attempts to grab the phone that Potter had been using to film the encounter, literally at the very moment he says, “I’m not touching your phone.” Beale and Potter were later ejected from the facility by campus police for “causing a disturbance,” though their on-camera behavior is unfailingly quiet and civil.

Here’s one of the videos, posted by Andy Beale:

NSA Attacks Student at University of New Mexico

After the jump, a German demand on Google, spooky Danish blowback, a twisted Kiwi concession, public intelligence endangered, spying in the bovine interest, committing covert journalism on the farm, hacks at your bank account at home and abroad, Papuan police punished, allegations of Chinese defense contractor hacks, Chinese line-crossing, a spooky Japanese coup on China, Korean diplomatic shifts, a Japanese panopticon extension, an Asian test of the American fog of war, and a Thai sartorial security alert. . .
Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, threats, hacks, weapons


Lots of ground to cover, so straight ahead with the Guardian:

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

  • Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey refuse to rule out greater role for US ‘advisers’ if airstrikes

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

A day after US warplanes expanded the war south-west of Baghdad, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, preferring the term “close combat advising”.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau takes action:

U.S. hits Islamic State south of Baghdad in first strike under new Obama orders

The United States bombed an Islamic State position southwest of Baghdad on Monday in what the U.S. Central Command said was the first airstrike undertaken under expanded rules of engagement President Barack Obama outlined in a speech last week.

The Central Command statement posted Monday night provided no details of the strike, but the area southwest of Baghdad is a Sunni Muslim stronghold where Islamic State forces have been active since June. The statement said the Islamic State forces were firing on Iraqi security forces.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president’s speech last Wednesday,” the statement said, using the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, hands wringing in anticipation:

Growing global conflict a bonanza for arms makers

Geopolitical instability has left many global corporations jittery.

But the world’s biggest arms producers are doing well, with shares of the top 12 publicly listed firms – based on a list by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – rising by almost 30 per cent on average in the last year.

Stock price data on the 12 companies reveal most have benefitted in a year in which the number of conflict zones in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has risen. While some companies have under-performed during the period, many have risen by more than 50 per cent.

Customers line up, via Defense One:

Governments Line Up To Buy the Drone That Terrorized Gaza

A few weeks after Israel and Hamas signed an open-ended truce to end their nearly two-month-long war in Gaza, Israeli defense contractors are parading weapons used in the conflict at a conference in Tel Aviv. The annual Israel Unmanned Systems conference, which began Sunday and runs through Friday (Sept. 19), is jointly hosted with the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. According to its website, attendees include “senior officials from commercial and government entities” from Europe, Asia, North and South America.

The conference’s sponsors include the largest Israeli private defense contractors, among them Haifa-based Elbit Systems. Elbit’s Hermes 450 (pdf), a “multi-role tactical high-performance unmanned aircraft system” (UAS)—in other words, a battle drone—operated this summer in the Gaza Strip, and may have carried out attacks.

Photos taken by an Agence France-Presse photographer that appeared in a July post on The Aviationist, a blog, showed the aircraft flying over the skies of Gaza. It had a pod under each wing that looked like it could be a fuel tank, but which, according to an Israeli source quoted by the blog, was “a firing pod for a light missile.” The source would not independently confirm or deny that it was used in attacks on Hamas positions but David Cenciotti, founder of the blog, told Quartz that it’s highly likely that the Hermes 450 was the IDF’s vehicle of choice for such attacks.

But it looks like one deal came undone, via RT:

Israel nixes drone deal with Ukraine to not anger Russia – report

Israel’s Foreign Ministry blocked the proposed sale of military hardware to Ukraine to avoid a strain in relations with Russia – even after the country’s Defense Ministry approved the transaction – Israeli media reported. The deal with Kiev included UAVs.

Ukraine sent a delegation into Israel in order to arrange for a purchase of weapons and hardware – which reportedly included Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones – to be used against self-defense forces, Israel’s Channel Two reported.

The report revealed that the country’s Defense Ministry approved the sale of drones manufactured by Aeronautics. Later, however, the decision was blocked by the Foreign Ministry out of fear of angering Russia and provoking it to sell more weapons to Syria and Iran, which Israel views as direct threats.

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, semantics and legality:

Blinding them with science: Is development of a banned laser weapon continuing?

It is clear that lasers are being aimed at eyes in combat situations, but the militaries involved say the intent is not to blind, but to warn or protect against attack.

A 2010 article in the UK version of Wired says that laser “dazzlers” have been used by British soldiers against fighters in remote parts of Afghanistan—well away from public scrutiny. The Green Laser Optical Warner, or GLOW, is meant to temporarily stun, or “dazzle” the eye with glare. With an effective range of 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet, GLOW is intended to be used to stop suspicious characters from approaching a military checkpoint. It has been called an escalation of force option, providing an intermediate step before shooting starts. US forces used a similar device in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Green Laser Interdiction System, which has an effective range of a few kilometers at night, Laser Focus World wrote in 2012.

But something bright enough to dazzle at 300 meters can cause permanent eye damage at 50 meters, and these devices can be set to deliver a narrow (and more intense) beam. To get around the ban against blinding weapons, systems like the GLIS run off of a low-power source.

But the developers of the dazzler systems seem to be tiptoeing closer and closer to the line that defines what is a banned weapon and what is not—and their products are becoming more and more readily available. (One dazzler can be purchased for $15,999 on the Internet, although the seller notes that it is subject to government restrictions.)

From the Guardian, boots in the wings:

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

  • Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey refuse to rule out greater role for US ‘advisers’ if airstrikes

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

A day after US warplanes expanded the war south-west of Baghdad, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, preferring the term “close combat advising”.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, bombs away:

U.S. hits Islamic State south of Baghdad in first strike under new Obama orders

The United States bombed an Islamic State position southwest of Baghdad on Monday in what the U.S. Central Command said was the first airstrike undertaken under expanded rules of engagement President Barack Obama outlined in a speech last week.

The Central Command statement posted Monday night provided no details of the strike, but the area southwest of Baghdad is a Sunni Muslim stronghold where Islamic State forces have been active since June. The statement said the Islamic State forces were firing on Iraqi security forces.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president’s speech last Wednesday,” the statement said, using the U.S. government’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State.

Al Jazeera America carries a caution:

Iran warns US against using ISIL threat to push a hostile agenda

  • Analysis: Tehran has played a key role against ISIL in Iraq, but fears a Saudi effort to isolate and pressure Iran

Despite already having demonstrated its centrality to the campaign to push the Islamic State (ISIL) out of Iraq, Iran was pointedly excluded from Monday’s conference in Paris to forge a military coalition against the extremist group. And Tehran was far from happy, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashing out against the Obama administration’s new war plans.

Khamenei decried the Paris conclave as a dangerous effort by the United States and Arab countries hostile to Iran to use the challenge of ISIL as an opportunity to promote an anti-Tehran agenda in Syria and throughout the region. “Iran sees this as an effort by Saudi Arabia and its allies, and the United States, to exert leverage and pressure on Iranian interests, to degrade or weaken Iranian influence in Syria,” said Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council.

Khamenei called Secretary of State John Kerry a liar for saying in Paris that Iran had not been invited to join the coalition, listing numerous moments at which the U.S. had solicited Iranian involvement. “The West assembled a coalition of 40-50 countries against Syria and couldn’t do a damn thing,” Khamenei said, referring to Washington’s previous efforts to rally allies to oust Syria’s Assad regime, which remains a key ally of Iran.

From BuzzFeed, playing the border card:

Texas Congressman: ISIS Could Work With Drug Cartels To Get Into U.S.

  • “I mentioned several weeks ago if ISIS wants to come into the United States they’ll contact the drug cartels.”

“I asked the chief border patrol section…chief, I said, ‘Who’s coming across the border from Mexico?’” Texas Rep. Ted Poe said during an appearance on Tony Perkins’ radio program Washington Watch Monday. “And he said, ‘Since January, people from 144 countries have come across.’ He said, ‘Just before you got here three Ukrainians came across the Texas-Mexico border.’ It’s because it’s open. Wide open for anyone who wishes to cross.”

The Texas congressman also claimed ISIS could work with Mexican drug cartels to enter the United States.

“I mentioned several weeks ago if ISIS wants to come into the United States they’ll contact the drug cartels who bring people to the United States illegally and they will bring them,” he said. “The Pentagon at first said, ‘Oh, that’s not true.’ And now the Pentagon is backing off. So let’s do the obvious. Let’s protect the southern border of the U.S.”

From the Independent, another threat alleged:

Islamic State: Pope is ‘being targeted by Isis’, Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns

The Islamic State (Isis) is intent on killing the Pope, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See has warned the Vatican.

Habeeb Al-Sadr, who has been the ambassador since 2010, has advised that one of Isis’ goals is to assassinate the Pontiff and warned that the jihadists “don’t just threaten”, according to Italian newspaper La Nazione.

Mr Al-Sadr confirmed he did not have any specific intelligence on an impending attack but said that their “genocide” of Yazidi Christians and destruction of holy Islamic sites was an indication of their intent.

“What has been declared by the self-proclaimed Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope,” he told La Nazione on Tuesday, adding: “The threats against the Pope are credible.”

The Intercept debunks:

No, Snowden’s Leaks Didn’t Help The Terrorists

Did Edward Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance compromise the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist groups? Contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of the subject says no. As reported by NBC:

“.…Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups….. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.”

The report itself goes on to make the point that, “Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them.” This point would seem obvious in light of the fact that terrorist groups have been employing tactics to evade digital surveillance for years. Indeed, such concerns about their use of sophisticated encryption technology predate even 9/11. Contrary to claims that such groups have fundamentally altered their practices due to information gleaned from these revelations, the report concludes. “The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden.”

And while we’re at it, at RT story from April 05, 2014, and the links between spooks and the corporateer agenda:

US blasts Europe’s plan for anti-snooping network as ‘unfair advantage’

US officials on Friday slammed plans to construct an EU-centric communication system, designed to prevent emails and phone calls from being swept up by the NSA, warning that such a move is a violation of trade laws.

Calling Europe’s proposal to build its own integrated communication system “draconian,” the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said American tech companies, which are worth an estimated $8 trillion per year, would take a financial hit if Brussels gives the initiative the green light.

“Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a ‘Schengen cloud’ by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them,” the USTR said in its annual report.

In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing activities at the National Security Agency, which proved that much of the world’s telecommunication meta-data is being stored away in the United States, European countries – notably Germany and France – are desperate to get a handle on their own networks without relying on a meddlesome middleman.

RT again, though from today this time, beat the press:

Governments spy on journalists with weaponized malware – WikiLeaks

Journalists and dissidents are under the microscope of intelligence agencies, Wikileaks revealed in its fourth SpyFiles series. A German software company that produces computer intrusion systems has supplied many secret agencies worldwide.

The weaponized surveillance malware, popular among intelligence agencies for spying on “journalists, activists and political dissidents,” is produced by FinFisher, a German company. Until late 2013, FinFisher used to be part of the UK-based Gamma Group International, revealed WikiLeaks in the latest published batch of secret documents.

FinFisher’s spyware exploits and monitors systems remotely. It’s capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers, as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile portable devices. Three back-end programs are required for the spy program to operate. FinFisher Relay and FinSpy Proxy programs are FinFisher suite components that route and manage intercepted traffic, redirecting it to the FinSpy Master collection program. The spyware can steal keystrokes, Skype conversations, and even connect to your webcam and watch you in real time.

From Techdirt, implementation prior to evaluation:

FBI Rolls Out Biometric Database On Schedule, Accompanying Privacy Impact Assessment Still Nowhere To Be Found

  • from the move-along,-nothing-to-see-but-millions-of-faces dept

The FBI has just announced that all systems are go for its biometric database.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division announced today the achievement of full operational capability of the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System. The FBI’s NGI System was developed to expand the Bureau’s biometric identification capabilities, ultimately replacing the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) in addition to adding new services and capabilities.

This puts the agency pretty much right on schedule for its stated goal of “full operational capacity in fiscal year 2014.” As was to be expected from its earlier foot-dragging, the press release makes no note of the Privacy Impact Assessment that was supposed to precede the roll out.

The system itself has been in the works since 2008. Coincidentally, this is also the last time anyone at the FBI delivered a Privacy Impact Assessment. Since then, the database’s sweep and power has increased immensely. The PIA promised in 2012 still hasn’t been delivered and there’s no indication at the FBI’s website that one is right around the corner.

More from News Corporation Australia:

FBI’s facial recognition system will combine faces of criminals and ordinary citizens

THE FBI has launched its “next generation” facial recognition system — and the implications are terrifying.

It not only draws on a database of criminal mugshots, it searches through ordinary people too. Anyone who has ever had a background check when applying for a job could be identified in a police hunt.

And the system is hardly infallible — a search will pull up 50 faces, with only an 85 per cent likelihood that the suspect will be on list, by the FBI’s own estimation.

From Salon, endorsement:

Obama administration throws support behind body cameras for cops

  • One of the most widely supported reforms being pushed in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing gets a big endorsement

Responding to an online petition made in response to the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown that quickly racked-up more than 150,000 signatures, the Obama administration announced on Monday through a written statement from White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs Roy Austin that while it cannot force the nation’s policy to wear small cameras on their uniforms by decree, it supported the growing movement within law enforcement itself to embrace the practice, reports the Associated Press.

“We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation,” Austin wrote in response to the petition, after noting that such a law would have to come from Congress, not the White House. Austin also noted that while the White House’s support for the idea was secure, the administration was not unmindful about the policy change’s likely costs (both financial and in terms of personal privacy).

Austin announced that the Department of Justice had plans to launch a thorough evaluation of how body cameras on police uniforms were working out for those forces that had already decided to use them. According to the Associated Press, the DOJ also has a report suggesting that when cops and civilians know their interactions are being recorded, both behave more calmly and cooperatively. The footage could prove valuable for training purposes, too.

And from the Guardian, what is it about Missouri cops?:

FBI investigate Missouri police stun gun incident that left teenager injured

  • Police in Kansas City used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him in critical condition

The FBI is investigating after a police officer in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

An Independence police officer used the stun gun on Bryce Masters of Independence on Sunday afternoon after stopping a car Masters was driving because it had a warrant attached to it, police said in a statement.

The officer, identified by the police department as Tim Runnels, has been placed on administrative leave.

After the jump, Italian payoffs, a petro hack attack, Google keeps mum on its Koch Brothers ties, drone deals canceled, Obama sends subs to counter China, a Chinese crackdown justification, Private spy cams and bugs banned in China, another kind of worrisome nuclear stockpile in Japan, and the open Mideast nuclear secret. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, spies, hacks, threats


While environmental news was in short supply today, not so stories from the realms of the bellicose, the intrusive, and the criminal.

First up, from the Los Angeles Times, that way madness lies:

Cameron vows to destroy Islamic State ‘and what it stands for’

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday praised slain British aid worker David Haines as a hero and pledged to continue working as part of an international coalition to “hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice no matter how long it takes.”

The militant group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, released a video Saturday purporting to show his beheading. Britain’s Foreign Office said the video appeared to be authentic.

“Step by step we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL and what it stands for,” Cameron said. “They are not Muslims, they are monsters.”

From BBC News, boots on the way to meet ground:

Islamic State crisis: Australia to send 600 troops to UAE

Australia says it is sending 600 troops to the Middle East ahead of possible combat operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the deployment, initially to the United Arab Emirates, was in response to a specific US request.

Nearly 40 countries, including 10 Arab states, have signed up to a US-led plan to tackle the extremist group. France is hosting a regional security summit on Monday.

From the New York Times, piling on:

Arab Nations Offer to Conduct Airstrikes Against ISIS, U.S. Officials Say

Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said on Sunday.

The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against the group, also known as ISIS.

“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.

The Associated Press covers the revenue front:

Oil smuggling, theft, extortion: How ISIS earns $3M a day

Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts.

The extremist group’s resources exceed that “of any other terrorist group in history,” said a U.S. intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments. Such riches are one reason that American officials are so concerned about the group even while acknowledging they have no evidence it is plotting attacks against the United States.

The Islamic State group has taken over large sections of Syria and Iraq, and controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the noses of some of the same governments it is fighting: Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

From BuzzFeed, the hyperbolic:

Arizona Congressman Claims It’s “True That We Know That” ISIS Is On The U.S. Border

“It is true that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks.” It appears he’s citing a report that federal authorities have dismissed.

A Republican Arizona congressman says ISIS currently is or has operated on the U.S. border in the past couple weeks, appearing to cite a report that federal authorities have dismissed.

Rep. Trent Franks, appearing on E.W. Jackson’s radio program over the weekend, appeared to cite a report from a conservative website that has been dismissed by federal law enforcement officials about ISIS operating in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso.

“It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks,” Franks said. “So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real.”

BBC News eavesdrops:

US and UK spy agencies ‘have access to German telecoms’

US and British intelligence services are able to secretly access information from German telecoms operators, according to a German newspaper report.

A programme called Treasure Map gives the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, data from operators including Deutsche Telekom, Der Spiegel said. The data is said to include information from networks as well as from individual computers and smart-phones.

Der Spiegel cites documents provided by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

And from Der Spiegel itself:

Treasure Map: The NSA Breach of Telekom and Other German Firms

According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. In pursuing that goal, they have broken into networks belonging to Deutsche Telekom.

When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as “Evil Olive” and “Egoistic Giraffe.” Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called Treasure Map even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, starring Johnny Depp.

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn’t just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

From Spiegel via Cryptome [PDF], the cover of the Treasure Map PowerPoint:

BLOG Treasure

And Deutsche Welle has more:

While NSA ‘maps’ the Internet landscape, German tech companies want Cloud cover

Microsoft Germany wants Cloud services to be regulated at home in a bid to protect data from foreign espionage. The announcement coincides with a new report pointing to NSA activities targeting German telecommunications.

In the latest efforts toward warding off foreign hackers, the head of Microsoft Germany is planning to develop Cloud technology that would be offered only within Germany.

Microsoft’s current computing centers in the Netherlands and Ireland are becoming more popular with the company’s biggest clients, Microsoft Germany head Christian Illek told the German daily Tagesspiegel on Sunday.

“But this is obviously not enough for medium-sized German companies,” Illek said.

And from the Intercept, still more:

Map of the Stars

  • The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

“Fuck!” That is the word that comes to the mind of Christian Steffen, the CEO of German satellite communications company Stellar PCS. He is looking at classified documents laying out the scope of something called Treasure Map, a top secret NSA program. Steffen’s firm provides internet access to remote portions of the globe via satellite, and what he is looking at tells him that the company, and some of its customers, have been penetrated by the U.S. National Security Agency and British spy agency GCHQ.

Stellar’s visibly shaken chief engineer, reviewing the same documents, shares his boss’ reaction. “The intelligence services could use this data to shut down the internet in entire African countries that are provided access via our satellite connections,” he says.

Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

From the Guardian, another country, semantics elevated:

New Zealand PM deceiving public over spying claims, says Glenn Greenwald

  • Journalist says he will produce documents by Edward Snowden that prove John Key approved mass surveillance of citizens

An already tumultuous New Zealand election campaign took another dramatic turn less than a week before polling day when the prime minister, John Key, responded angrily to claims by the American journalist Glenn Greenwald that he had been “deceiving the public” over assurances on spying.

Greenwald, who is visiting New Zealand at the invitation of the German internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, says he will produce documents provided by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that prove the New Zealand government approved mass surveillance of its residents by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA.

Dotcom, who is sought for extradition from New Zealand by the US on copyright charges relating to his now defunct Megaupload file-storage site, is hosting an event in Auckland on Monday called The Moment of Truth, which doubles as a rally for the Dotcom-founded Internet party.

From the Independent, the latest police flap:

Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute

Daniele Watts, an African-American actress who has starred in Hollywood films such as Django Unchained, has claimed she was “handcuffed and detained” by Los Angeles police officers after being mistaken for a prostitute.

Two police officers approached Watts and her white husband Brian James Lucas when they were seen showing affection in public, the actress said in a Facebook post.

She claims she refused to produce her photo ID when asked by police, and was then handcuffed and held in a police car as the officers tried to figure out who she was. She reportedly cut her wrist as she was handled roughly by the LAPD officers.

Watts also posted pictures to Facebook, in which she is handcuffed and crying. She was released shortly afterwards.

And from RT America, how ‘bout them apples, eh?:

American police scammed Canadian visitors out of $2.5 billion

Program notes:

American police are targeting their northern neighbors, according to a travel warning from the Canadian government. State and federal law enforcement officers are reportedly shaking down Canadians visiting the US, illegally confiscating legally carried cash. Over 61,000 of these incidents have occurred since 9/11, resulting in $2.5 billion being seized, according to The Washington Post. RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has more details on the trend.

From the Guardian, a ghost from the past:

Italy targets former Uruguayan naval officer over role in alleged torture

  • Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli denies any wrongdoing after accusations relating to South American’s dirty wars

Italian prosecutors are poised to seek charges of murder and kidnapping against a former Uruguayan naval intelligence officer accused of participating in South America’s dirty wars.

Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli has denied any wrongdoing. But in a 24-page document, he was said to have acknowledged that, in the 1970s when Uruguay’s civil-military government was cracking down on suspected leftwing insurgents and sympathisers, torture was a “normal procedure” in his unit. He insisted, however, that it did not go beyond “keeping prisoners for several hours on their feet without eating or drinking”.

In what La Stampa reported was his only statement to investigators, he was quoted as saying: “I declare myself innocent. I do not accept the accusations.”

After the jump, on to Asia starting with penal tourism, a Chinese anniversary, Sino/Canadian rapprochement, a Game of Zones escalation, and a rejection. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, cops, spies, bluster


Today’s coverage from the world of spies, politicians, militarists, and the merely criminal opens with this from BBC News:

Pope Francis warns on ‘piecemeal World War III’

A “piecemeal” World War III may have already begun with the current spate of crimes, massacres and destruction, Pope Francis has warned.

He was speaking during a visit to Italy’s largest military cemetery, where he was commemorating the centenary of World War I.

“War is madness,” the Pope said at a memorial to 100,000 Italian soldiers at Redipuglia cemetery near Slovenia.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the conditionally belligerent:

Americans ready for military action – for now

A nation furious about the beheading of two Americans is eager for military action. At least for the moment. And at least for the kind of low-risk military action now planned.

But the moment could change. As history in Iraq and the Middle East shows, the campaign against the Islamic State might not go as planned. Allies could prove unreliable. The enemy could adapt. The U.S. might have to send in its own troops. And the image could _ could _ change from two U.S. citizens being beheaded to American GIs coming home without limbs.

The country has little patience for an extended campaign involving American combat troops and casualties. Years of prolonged, inconclusive U.S. fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Vietnam, linger in the public American psyche.

From Fox News, semantic disagreement:

White House, Pentagon contradict Kerry, say US ‘at war’ with ISIS

The White House and Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the U.S. “is at war” with the Islamic State — contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry and others who a day earlier refused to use that term, prompting criticism from lawmakers that the administration was downplaying the conflict.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby used almost identical language when pressed by reporters Friday whether or not the expanded military operation against the terrorist group is in fact a war.

“In the same way that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … the United States is at war with ISIL,” Earnest said.

From the New York Times, another human sacrifice:

ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a video Saturday of the third beheading of a foreign hostage, a British aid worker. The execution was a clear message to Britain, a vital ally of the United States as it builds an international coalition to target the militant group, which has made stunning advances across Syria and northern Iraq in recent months.

The video shows the aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, kneeling on a bare hill under the open sky, in a landscape that appears identical to where two American journalists were killed by the group in back-to-back-executions in the past month. In the moments before his death, the 44-year-old Mr. Haines is forced to read a script, in which he blames his country’s leaders for his killing.

“I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution,” he said. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State.” He added: “Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”

From MintPress News, a reminder:

How The West Created ISIS

… with a little help from our friends

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

The Associated Press sounds another alarm with a familiar name:

al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

The Hill covers the predictable:

Senators: Curbing NSA could help ISIS

Critics of a proposal to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) say the rising threat of terrorism in the Middle East should give lawmakers pause as they consider harnessing the government’s spy powers.

The bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would handicap American intelligence officials at a crucial moment, they say, and make it harder to track terrorists around the globe.

Supporters of the bill — including top legal and intelligence officials in the Obama administration — deny that it would hamper the country’s ability to track groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They say that it’s a practical response to the uproar over the NSA programs that were exposed by Edward Snowden last summer.

Vice News plays catchup:

The NSA Has Revealed New Details About Its Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden’s Emails

Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden’s available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency’s vast surveillance programs.

According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA’s associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a “comprehensive” investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs “would be expected to be found within the agency.” Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a “original classification authority,” which means he can classify documents as “top-secret” and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he’d raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden’s account and emails “obtained by restoring back-up tapes.” He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with “NSA affiliates” with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

TV3 News Auckland covers contested Kiwi claims:

Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance

The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.

John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.

Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.

Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.

Mr Key has repeatedly denied spy agency the GCSB conducts mass surveillance of New Zealanders, even saying he would resign if it were prove, and he was standing by that today.

From Ars Technica, seeking a memory hole patch:

Senator demands US courts recover 10 years of online public records

  • “Restore access,” lawmaker says of docs purged because of computer upgrade issue.

The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade’s worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history.

“Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings,” Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO).

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sadly familiar story:

Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online.  Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.

Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic. For example, while Article 4 refers to “provocation aux actes de terrorisme” or “incitement to terrorism”—a clearly defined legal concept—it also refers to “apologie du terrorisme” or “apologizing” or “glorifying” terrorism, implying a condemnation of opinions alone rather than any overt acts, as Reporters Without Borders points out.  La Quadrature du Net’s mini-site on the bill addresses further concerns (in French).

Anti-terror laws have been used in various countries around the world to prosecute individuals for their speech about unpopular ideas. In the United States, the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna—a young Muslim who translated and posted material referred to by prosecutors as “Al Qaeda propaganda”—involved the use of conspiracy and so-called “material support” laws. In Ethiopia, anti-terror laws have been used to silence journalists and are currently being used to prosecute the dissident Zone9 Bloggers. And the list goes on.

From Davis, California, via the New York Times, buyer’s remorse:

Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

The police department of this modest college town is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored car that is the “perfect vehicle,” the police chief told the City Council, “to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”

It is well maintained, low-mileage and free, the chief, Landy Black, said in explaining why the department had augmented its already sizable cache of surplus matériel, including rifles, body armor and riot helmets, with an MRAP: a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

From the New York Times again, tax farming reconsidered:

Mistrust Lingers as Ferguson Takes New Tack on Fines

On Tuesday, the City Council decided to abolish fines that are routinely issued if a defendant fails to show up for court, repeal a “failure to appear” law that led to many incarcerations, and give people a month to come forward and void their warrants. It also created a special docket for defendants who have difficulty making payments on outstanding fines and moved to establish a civilian review board to oversee the Police Department, which is under investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Residents and experts said that while the actions were significant, the problems many drivers face across St. Louis County, where a patchwork of municipal courts enforce an array of ordinances, were so widespread that Ferguson alone could not fix them. Many African-Americans, who are pulled over at higher rates than whites, face traffic fines that, if not paid, can land them in jail.

So the trust level was not high in court and at the police clerk’s window in Ferguson this week.

From the Guardian, another Ferguson revelation:

Ferguson video shows witness saying Michael Brown’s hands were raised

  • Footage of two construction workers moments after black teenager’s fatal shooting appears to support other witness accounts

Video of the moments after black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, indicates that a witness on the scene said the unarmed 18-year-old’s hands were raised when he was killed.

The cell phone footage, released by CNN, of two construction workers at the scene early last month appears to support accounts by other witnesses that Brown was retreating or surrendering when he was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, legal experts said on Friday.

The video shows one of the men raising his hands immediately after the fatal shooting and shouting, “He had his fuckin’ hands up.”

From the London Daily Mail, notable mostly because the victim was white:

Family’s outrage at cops who violently arrested a father of two for ‘appearing intoxicated while taking care of his kids’… but actually has a TERMINAL ILLNESS that makes him look that way

  • Jeffrey Banes, 39, was arrested in West Virginia by four cops who left him choking on his own blood while subduing him
  • His family says Banes’ illness, Huntington’s disease, can make it seem as if he’s intoxicated because it affects his motor functions
  • The violent arrest was captured on camera

And then there’s another arrest caught on camera, raising some interesting questions by an insanely idiotic form of pranking certain to lead to violent deaths should it continue. From RT America:

Swatting prank sends real life SWAT teams after gamers’ opponents

Program notes:

Online gamers are falling victim to a new prank known as swatting. The practice involves pranksters calling police with fake emergencies, resulting in heavily armed SWAT teams busting down gamers’ doors looking for hostages. California is among the first states to propose legislation formalizing a punishment for such fake distress calls, but many are worried the penalties may go too far. RT’s Marina Portnaya takes a look at the trend and the controversy surrounding it.

From Reuters, about damn time:

Next for Corporate America: Body wires and wire taps?

Wall Street executives may have personally escaped the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice but executives at companies accused of foreign bribery schemes may not be so lucky.

Prosecutors say they are clearly shifting away from only big corporate settlements in such cases and are beginning to target more individuals. The numbers are not eye-popping. But officials say the results are encouraging and these cases may provide road maps for other financial fraud prosecutions.

“Certainly…there has been an increased emphasis on, let’s get some individuals,” said Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Reuters again, with a loathsome threat:

Foley family says was ‘threatened’ by U.S. official over ransom: ABC

The family of murdered American journalist James Foley says it was threatened by a U.S. official who warned that family members could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors, ABC News reported on Friday.

ABC News quoted Foley’s mother and brother as saying a military officer working for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council had told them several times that they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom.

The White House refused to discuss conversations that the family had with officials, but said they involved people from different government branches, including the White House, the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.

After the jump, with self-censoring cameras, the dance floor panopticon, Nazi nastiness in Germany, metadata revelations, a Crimean underwater warrior handover, a new malware threat, a stalemate in Pakistan, an anti-terror treaty sought, Down Under underwater hesitation, America’s pro-Japanese remilitarization push continues, Tokyo goes for the metadata, an American spy light justification, A Washington concession to Beijing, and a dispute over prisoners. . . Continue reading