Today’s tales form the world of the dark arts and militarism begins with a saga playing out in classic spy vs. spy fashion, with the tapper suddenly becoming the tapped. Our first headline comes from New Europe:
EU, US, Russia, Ukraine: spy games on your youtube
US officials say they suspect Russia is behind the leak of an apparently bugged phone conversation about Ukraine between two senior American diplomats in which they make disparaging comments about the European Union. Another conversation also leaked features two EU officials making comments about the US.
“I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia’s role,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The US officials noted that an aide to Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, was among the first to tweet about a YouTube video that contains audio of the alleged call between the top US diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The video, which shows photos of Nuland and Pyatt, is subtitled in Russian.
In the audio, voices resembling those of Nuland and Pyatt discuss international efforts to resolve Ukraine’s ongoing political crisis. At one point, the Nuland voice colorfully suggests that the EU’s position should be ignored. “F— the EU,” the female voice said.
The video in question via Re Post:
Casting suspicions with EUobserver:
Ukraine leak designed to ‘split’ EU-US diplomacy
The publication on YouTube of what appear to be two sensitive US and EU diplomatic conversations on Ukraine is designed to spoil relations between the allies, EU diplomatic sources say.
The items were uploaded by an anonymous user called “Re Post” on Tuesday (4 February) and have several thousand clicks each already.
In the imputed US clip, which appears to date to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer of top jobs to opposition MPs on 25 January, Viktoria Nuland, a senior US state department official, is allegedly speaking to Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine.
They bat around ideas on which of the MPs should be Prime Minister in an interim government. Nuland adds she wants a senior UN diplomat to come to Kiev to seal an accord on the US-model cabinet.
“So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it and, you know, fuck the EU,” she says.
“Oh exactly, and I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it,” Pyatt replies.
And the mea culpa, via EUbusiness:
Top US diplomat for Europe says sorry for cursing the EU
US officials, while not denying such a conversation took place, refused to go into details, and pointed the finger at Russia for allegedly bugging the diplomats’ phones.
“Let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts, and of course has apologized,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
While Psaki said she had no independent details of how the conversation was captured and uploaded onto the social networking site, she added: “Certainly we think this is a new low in Russian tradecraft.”
More from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
White House implicates Russia in leaked call between US diplomats
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney referred most of the questions to the State Department, but noted that the conversation “was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government.
“I think it says something about Russia’s role,” Carney said of the appearance of the leaked remarks. “But the content of the conversation is not something I’m going to comment on.”
Carney said relations between the US and the EU are “stronger than ever” and said there was “no question” that Nuland and the ambassador are trying to “help de-escalate the crisis” in Ukraine.
“It’s certainly no secret that our ambassador and assistant secretary have been working with the government of Ukraine, with the opposition, with business and civil society leaders to support their efforts to find a peaceful solution through dialogue and political and economic reform,” Carney said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future.”
Here’s a piece about the crisis from a Russian state medium, RT:
‘This is what you cook for Ukraine?’ State Dept. Psaki grilled over leaked tape
Senior US State Department official Victoria Nuland has allegedly been caught giving a harsh message to the EU while discussing Ukrainian opposition leaders’ roles in the country’s future government. The phone call was taped and posted on YouTube. US officials refused to confirm or deny the tape’s authenticity, but State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki said that she “didn’t say it was inauthentic.” While being grilled about this and other tape-related statements, Psaki hinted that the tape could have been leaked by Moscow.
Another Russo-centric crisis in the headlines from Network World:
Experts warn of Russian spying, hackers at Sochi Olympics
Americans heading to Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics are being warned that privacy is not a right in the host country and all their electronic communications will likely be monitored.
The United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is recommending the use of electronic devices that are devoid of sensitive information and can be left behind, if Russian authorities decide to confiscate the equipment.
To avoid problems, personal smartphones, tablets and laptops should be left at home. Americans should only use devices bought or borrowed for the trip and can be wiped clean when leaving the country to avoid taking malware back home.
Sam venue, different focus from Homeland Security News Wire:
DHS alerts Russia-bound airlines of toothpaste tube bombs risk
The U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies have advising airlines flying to Russia to be aware of the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes. DHS issued a bulletin to airlines flying into Russia alerting them to the potential threat. The new concern about explosive toothpaste tubes notwithstanding, the biggest worry is still Islamist groups based in southern Russia’s Caucasus region.
The U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies have advising airlines flying to Russia to be aware of the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes.
Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Wednesday that DHS issued a bulletin to airlines flying into Russia alerting them to the potential threat. McCaul said the bulletin indicated that officials believed the explosives might be used during flights or smuggled into the city of Sochi, where competition at the Winter Olympics begins later today. The opening ceremony will be held Friday.
Bringing it all back home with PCWorld:
More than 4,000 groups sign up to protest NSA
More than 4,000 groups and websites have signed on to support a day of protest against U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs, scheduled for Tuesday.
In addition, tens of thousands of people have pledged to make calls and post messages on the Web in support of surveillance reform, said organizers of The Day We Fight Back.
Among the groups supporting the day of Web protest are the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, BoingBoing, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Mozilla, Reddit and Tumblr.
“Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action,” organizers wrote on TheDayWeFightBack.org. “Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.”
From Nextgov, Tweet this!:
Twitter Breaks Rank, Threatens to Fight NSA Gag Orders
Twitter threatened to launch a legal battle with the Obama administration on Thursday over gag orders that prevent it from disclosing information about surveillance of its users.
The statement puts Twitter at odds with other technology giants including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook, who all struck a deal with the government last month to drop their lawsuits in exchange for looser secrecy rules.
“We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs,” Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of global legal policy, wrote in a blog post.
He said the company has pressed the Justice Department for greater transparency and is also “considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.”
North of the border and suspicions from the Toronto Globe and Mail:
RCMP, intelligence agency accused of spying on pipeline opponents
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed complaints against the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, saying the law enforcement agencies may have illegally spied on opponents of pipelines and then shared the intelligence information with the petroleum industry.
The group has asked the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate the situation.
“What we’re hoping here is to find out more about what’s happened,” Josh Paterson, executive director of the BCCLA, said Thursday at a news conference in Vancouver.
RT covers yet another U.S. mea culpa:
US ambassador admits tapping Angela Merkel’s phone was ‘stupid’
The US ambassador to Germany has admitted it was a “stupid” idea to tap the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel while discussing business, friendship and mutual trust at a trade association meeting.
“We have done a number of stupid things, Chancellor Markel’s phone being one of them,” Ambassador John Emerson told the VBKI trade association at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Berlin.
He apologized for the stress and loss of trust the recent NSA wiretapping revelations might have caused the German government, according to reports by the Local.
Big Brother adds eyes via the Washington Post:
New surveillance technology can track everyone in an area for several hours at a time
As Americans have grown increasingly comfortable with traditional surveillance cameras, a new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements.
Already, the cameras have been flown above major public events such as the Ohio political rally where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) named Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, McNutt said. They’ve been flown above Baltimore; Philadelphia; Compton, Calif.; and Dayton in demonstrations for police. They’ve also been used for traffic impact studies, for security at NASCAR races and at the request of a Mexican politician, who commissioned the flights over Ciudad Juárez.
Defense contractors are developing similar technology for the military, but its potential for civilian use is raising novel civil liberties concerns. In Dayton, where Persistent Surveillance Systems is based, city officials balked last year when police considered paying for 200 hours of flights, in part because of privacy complaints.
From Al Jazeera America, a crackdown in Ankara:
Turkish parliament adopts Internet censorship bill
- Measure also forces service providers to submit users’ activity records to officials on request, without notifying users
Turkey’s parliament has adopted a new Internet bill roundly criticized as an assault by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on freedom of expression, access to information and investigative journalism. The measure was approved as Erdogan’s government is in the midst of a sweeping corruption probe that has shaken his Cabinet.
After hours of debate, the measure was adopted late on Wednesday in parliament, where Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) dominates with 319 of the 550 seats.
The bill permits a government agency, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB), to block access to websites without court authorization if they are deemed to violate privacy or to contain material seen as “insulting.”
Reaction from Deutsche Welle:
EU criticizes Turkey’s Internet law
The EU has criticized Turkey’s tightened Internet controls. Lawmakers adopted the new Internet legislation late on Wednesday following hours of debate involving fierce objections from the opposition.
The criticism came after Turkey’s parliament amended regulations allowing the government to block websites without a court order and mandate Internet service providers to store data up to two years. President Abdullah Gul still must sign the new law, which allows the blocking of websites believed to violate privacy or contain content considered insulting.
“The law needs to be revised in line with European standards,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele. “The Turkish public deserves more information and more transparency, not more restrictions.”
The legislation also forces providers to retain user data for two years and present it to authorities without notifying the user in question. The new measures build upon existing Internet restrictions introduced in 2007 that, according to a Google transparency report published in December, make Turkey equal to China as the world’s biggest web censor.
The 2007 law has allowed for temporary blocking of websites including WordPress, Dailymotion and Vimeo. YouTube was also blocked for two years until 2010.
After the jump, the latest developments in Asia’s sundry zonal, military posturing, and historical crises, Mission Impossible tech, a spooky blast from the past, hacks and embarrassments, cartels and vigilantes battle online, hackers seize control of cars, and more. . . Continue reading