Lots of breaking news from the realms of black ops, espionage, and security, even though it’s a Sunday. We open with this from CBC News:
Edward Snowden says NSA engages in industrial espionage
- Ex-NSA contractor cites German engineering firm Siemens as one target
The U.S. National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its value to national security, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told a German TV network.
In text released ahead of a lengthy interview to be broadcast on Sunday, ARD TV quoted Snowden as saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target.
“If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to U.S. national interests — even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security — then they’ll take that information nevertheless,” Snowden said, according to ARD, which recorded the interview in Russia where he has claimed asylum.
More from TheLocal.de:
Snowden to German TV: NSA wants to kill me
Fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden voiced fears that US “government officials want to kill me”, in a TV interview to be broadcast in Germany on Sunday night.
The comment comes just days after Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said the American feared for his life, following a report by US website BuzzFeed of explicit threats against him from unnamed Pentagon and National Security Agency (NSA) officials.
Snowden also told the German broadcaster: “These people, and they are government officials, have said they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket, and then watch as I die in the shower.”
One consequence, via Reuters:
Snowden won’t return to U.S. without amnesty, says legal adviser
Edward Snowden would be willing to enter talks with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to negotiate his return to the United States but not without a guarantee of amnesty, his legal adviser said on Sunday.
Jesselyn Radack said she was glad Holder indicated last week he would talk to lawyers for the former U.S. spy agency contractor to negotiate his return from Moscow, but that Snowden would need better protection.
“It’s a little disheartening that he (Holder) seemed to take clemency and amnesty off the table, which are two of the negotiating points,” said Radack, who was interviewed via satellite from Moscow by NBC’s “Meet the Press”.
From the London Daily Mail, the NSA wants your kids:
Fears over NSA recruiting website for CHILDREN that says coding is ‘kewl’
- The site launched in 2005, but has been refreshed multiple times since
- It has been thrust into the spotlight as Edward Snowden’s revelations have cast an unfavorable light on the spy agency
- It is one of many government agencies with children’s sites
The majority of visitors browse while at school, are male and from the U.S.
The NSA has a children’s website filled with characters that give the agency a Saturday morning cartoon feel.
Cryptokids comes replete with a buck-toothed rabbit, an Army fatigued-wearing bald eagle and a turtle wearing a backwards ball cap and sunglasses who thinks coding is ‘kewl.’
The site launched in 2005, but the New York Times brought into the broader consciousness Saturday after revelations made by former contractor Edward Snowden have cast an unfavorable light on the spy agency.
Homeland Security News Wire calls for moderation:
Expert calls for “surveillance minimization” to restore public trust
Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to an expert on privacy and surveillance. “Surveillance minimization requires surveillance to be targeted rather than universal, controlled and warranted at the point of data gathering rather than of data access, and performed for the minimum necessary time on the minimum necessary people,” he says.
Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to a law academic from the University of East Anglia.
Dr. Paul Bernal, whose research covers privacy, surveillance, and human rights, says the role of government surveillance and of surveillance by commercial groups and others must be reconsidered.
A UEA release reports that he suggests surveillance minimization as a way forward and presented the idea today at the 7th International Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference which took place in Brussels, Belgium, 22-24 January.
The Verge critiques:
Cryptography experts pen open letter against NSA surveillance
The pressure on the US government to reform the NSA’s surveillance programs is growing. Apple, Google, and Microsoft all called for change last month alongside a petition from international authors calling for an end to mass surveillance. President Obama announced big changes to government surveillance programs, but most of them centered around the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, not its spying on internet communications. In an open letter published on Friday, more than 50 cryptography experts are asking the US government to make more changes to protect privacy.
“The value of society-wide surveillance in preventing terrorism is unclear, but the threat that such surveillance poses to privacy, democracy, and the US technology sector is readily apparent,” the authors of the open letter state. “Because transparency and public consent are at the core of our democracy, we call upon the US government to subject all mass-surveillance activities to public scrutiny and to resist the deployment of mass-surveillance programs in advance of sound technical and social controls.”
Although the letter doesn’t mention Obama, it’s clear the president’s recent speech has not eased concerns from cryptographers over the weakening of encryption standards.
From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a new body count:
More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since the first attack that injured [civilian Fahim] Qureshi – eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.
Although drone strikes under Obama’s presidency have killed nearly six times as many people as were killed under Bush, the casualty rate – the number of people killed on average in each strike – has dropped from eight to six under Obama. The civilian casualty rate has fallen too. Strikes during the Bush years killed nearly more than three civilians in each strike on average. This has halved under Obama (1.43 civilians per strike on average). In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.
The decline in civilian casualties could be because of reported improvements in drone and missile technology, rising tensions between Pakistan and the US over the drone campaign, and greater scrutiny of the covert drone campaign both at home and abroad.
And a key graphic from the report:
MintPress News drones on in the Show Me State:
Missouri Contemplating Drone Restrictions
- The Feds “already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘gazillions’ after a secret meeting last fall.”
For the second time in less than a year, the Missouri House of Representatives will be considering legislation that will regulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles within the state. Missouri House Bill 1204, the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, states that “no person, entity, or state agency shall use a drone or other unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance or observation of any individual, property owned by an individual, farm, or agricultural industry without the consent of that individual, property owner, farm or agricultural industry.”
The bill would also ban the use of photographs or recordings from drones in criminal investigations without a court warrant being issued first. This bill was preceded by a bill last April that was spurred on by a now-debunked story that the celebrity gossip website TMZ was planning to use an unmanned vehicle in order to get candid footage that its paparazzi had no access to.
The 2013 bill, which passed the Missouri House but stalled in the state Senate, would had made journalistic use of drones illegal, as well as outlaw warrantless use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Off to England and a beast resurrected via The Guardian:
D-notice system to be reviewed in wake of Edward Snowden revelations
- Inquiry into future of system that warns media not to publish stories leads to fears that compliance may become compulsory
Officials are planning to review the historic D-notice system, which warns the media not to publish intelligence that might damage security, in the wake of the Guardian’s stories about mass surveillance by the security services based on leaks from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Sources said Jon Thompson, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence, was setting up an inquiry into the future of the committee, raising fears that the voluntary censorship system also known as the DA-notice could be made compulsory.
The committee is supposed to be consulted when news organisations are considering publishing material relating to secret intelligence or the military. It is staffed by senior civil servants and media representatives, who give advice on the publication of sensitive stories.
Latin blowback from AFP:
Ecuador firm on reducing US presence, spies
Ecuador on Saturday stressed it wanted the number of US military staff on its territory reduced, and warned it also would not allow US “espionage equipment.”
“It just makes no sense that an outsized number of US military staff, who report to the US Southern Command, would be here, at the US Embassy,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters.
President Rafael Correa said Wednesday he would ask the United States to withdraw American military personnel assigned to its embassy in Quito.
New Europe scents hypocrisy:
Germany faces dilemma over NSA spy scandal
Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office has told parliament there is insufficient evidence to pursue a formal investigation into allegations that American intelligence targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile telephone in 2002.
Der Spiegel, Germany’s top-selling news magazine, was the first to report that Merkel’s phone was intercepted by America’s National Security Agency (NSA). The weekly also said that the NSA intercepted conversations and spied on a number of German politicians. The public prosecutor’s decision not to investigate is turning out to be as controversial as the allegations against the United States. Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of parliament with Germany’s Green Party, told Der Spiegel that it is absurd. “They’re just looking for reasons to shirk responsibility because the issue is too controversial for them,” he says.
Gregor Gysi, who heads the parliamentary group of the Left Party, said: “The fact that the German government and the Federal Prosecutor isn’t acting shows that their fear of the US government is greater than their respect for our legal system”.
As for members of the government, Der Spiegel reports that Justice Minister Heiko Maas is sympathetic to the idea of opening an investigation. But Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel have yet to take a clear position on the matter.
And The Guardian finds good old fashioned deception:
Campaigner’s lawyers challenge secrecy over police spy accused of lying in court
John Jordan seeks explanation of why his conviction will be quashed after claims undercover officer gave false evidence
Prosecutors are due on Monday to defend their decision to keep secret the cause of a miscarriage of justice involving an undercover police officer who allegedly used his fictitious identity in a criminal trial to conceal his covert work.
The conviction of an environmental campaigner, John Jordan, for assaulting a police officer is to be overturned after it was revealed that one of his co-defendants was an undercover policeman who allegedly gave false evidence on oath during his prosecution.
The undercover spy, whose real name is Jim Boyling, was pretending to be an ardent environmental campaigner when he was prosecuted, alongside Jordan, following disorder at a protest.
While the London Telegraph discovers brothers in arms:
Comrades in arms: Britain and Russia to sign defence deal
- Once they were Cold War foes. Now Britain and Russia are preparing to work together on defence projects
Britain could buy weapons from its former Cold War foe for the first time under a landmark defence treaty, the Telegraph can reveal.
Defence chiefs are preparing to sign a deal that would see British defence companies working jointly on projects with the Russian arms industry.
The treaty allows arms companies to buy kit from Russia – and Russian diplomatic sources said they hope one day to see British soldiers carrying the Red Army’s famous Kalashnikov rifle as a result.
From Kyodo News, a rational move as Japan sheds its traditional anti-militarism and forges a new, increasingly armed and confrontational national security machine. [Who do they think they are? The U.S.?]:
U.S. asks Japan to return plutonium exported during Cold War
Washington has been pressing Tokyo to return over 300 kilograms of mostly weapons-grade plutonium given to Japan for research purposes during the Cold War era, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Sunday.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which is keen on ensuring nuclear security, wants Japan to return the plutonium supplied for use as nuclear fuel at a fast critical assembly in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, the sources told Kyodo News.
The highly concentrated plutonium could be used to produce 40 to 50 nuclear weapons.
After the jump, the ongoing regional game of military escalatio [H/T to Tom Lehrer], the ever escalating Asian zone crises, new military alliances emerge, a familial mass slaughter in North Korea. . .and more: Continue reading