Today’s walk on the dark side is a doozy, so let’s skip the intro and go straight to the latest.
First up, and from the New York Times, call it playtime for spooks:
Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls
Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.
Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
And from the Economic Times, your number is up:
Lawmaker reveals scale of US mobile data requests
US mobile carriers provided some one million records to law enforcement in 2012 related to warrants, wiretaps, location data and “cell-tower dumps,” documents released by a US senator showed.
The documents do not detail information handed over to the National Security Agency, which is classified, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the figures nonetheless highlight concerns over privacy laws for mobile phones.
Wired has a chilling detail:
Cops and Feds Routinely ‘Dump’ Cell Towers to Track Everyone Nearby
A myriad of factors determine how many people are caught in the web of one of these so-called “cell-tower dumps” or “searches,” including the time, location and a mobile-phone tower’s capacity. The data from a dump can provide a wealth of information regarding whoever is carrying a mobile phone in a tower’s area — from the phone number to various device information pointed to a phone’s account.
From The Guardian, a word from the wise:
State surveillance of personal data is theft, say world’s leading authors
500 signatories include five Nobel prize winners
Writers demand ‘digital bill of rights’ to curb abuses
Meanwhile the euroblowback continues, as PCWorld reports:
Dutch minister to question US Embassy about rooftop antennas
The Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will question the U.S. Embassy over the purpose of its rooftop antennas, the minister wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives Monday.
Minister Ronald Plasterk will question the embassy after concerns were raised that the antennas can be used to intercept data from mobile phones used in the nearby Ministry of the Interior in The Hague and the Binnenhof, where the houses of parliament are located.
New Europe has the word from Bubba:
Bill Clinton condemns economic espionage following reports NSA snooped in Brazil
Former President Bill Clinton has condemned industrial espionage reportedly committed by the National Security Agency.
Clinton told Rio de Janeiro daily O Globo in an interview published Monday that “we shouldn’t collect economic information under the pretext of security.” The comment came in response to questions about classified documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that showed that the agency hacked the computer network of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras.
And the New York Times has the word from Silicon Valley:
Tech Giants Issue Call for Limits on Government Surveillance of Users
Eight prominent technology companies, bruised by revelations of government spying on their customers’ data and scrambling to repair the damage to their reputations, are mounting a public campaign to urge President Obama and Congress to set new limits on government surveillance.
On Monday the companies, led by Google and Microsoft, presented a plan to regulate online spying and urged the United States to lead a worldwide effort to restrict it. They accompanied it with an open letter, in the form of full-page ads in national newspapers, including The New York Times, and a website detailing their concerns.
From Spiegel, advice unlikely to be heeded:
Telecoms Boss: US ‘Should Abide by European Privacy Rules’
The head of German Internet giant Deutsche Telekom has criticized European reaction to the NSA spying scandal and demanded the EU set international privacy standards. US technology players also published an open letter calling for major changes to spying laws.
And does Salon have a job for you, recent grad:
NSA seeks a few brave interns: Spy agency recruiting students as young as 15
In this lackluster economy, a young person could do a lot worse than getting a cushy job reading your emails
Neos Kosmos has Down Under blowback:
Xenophon demands spooks inquiry
While the two major parties continue to oppose an inquiry into data surveillance, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens upper house member Scott Ludlam are pushing for a full senate examination into the level of spying taking place on Australian citizens.
Mr Xenophon has asked the government to disclose the extent of surveillance of phone and internet records by Australian security agencies working with the US National Security Agency.
From CNN, allegations of old-fashioned spookery, with benefits:
First on CNN: Sources: Diplomatic fraud ring also spied
This is a Russian spy ring that would embarrass Anna Chapman.
Justice Department prosecutors last week filed charges against what they say is a group of current and former Russian diplomats who allegedly ran a nine-year scheme that bilked $1.5 million from Medicaid, the U.S. health benefits program for the poor.
But CNN has learned that there’s a spy angle to this case. Federal counterintelligence investigators say they believe some of the alleged participants in the fraud scheme were also engaged in espionage, sources tell CNN. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were on the trail of the alleged spies for some time, sources say. But in the end, the Justice Department decided to bring only the fraud charges.
From the Los Angeles Times, insecurity in maximum security:
18 Los Angeles sheriff’s officials indicted, accused of abuse, obstruction
Eighteen current or former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials have been indicted in five separate criminal cases in connection with a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of abuse and misconduct inside L.A. County jails.
The four grand jury indictments unsealed Monday and one criminal complaint allege that deputies beat jail inmates and visitors without justification, unjustly detained people and conspired to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.
Yet another Snowden bomb detonates in Europe, via TheLocal.se:
Cold War treaty confirms Sweden was not neutral
Sweden signed a top secret intelligence treaty with the US and other countries in 1954, forecast the 2008 Georgian war, and now routinely spies on Russia civil targets, leaked documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal.
“Really interesting information,” said intelligence analysis professor Wilhelm Agrell regarding the Sveriges Television (SVT) report revealing Sweden’s long-standing cooperation with the US and other western nations.
From The Guardian, well-earned:
Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013
NSA whistleblower’s victory, for exposing the scale of internet surveillance, follows that of Chelsea Manning last year
From EurActiv, a curious story indeed, given that the Iron Chancellor herself was totally tapped:
Data protection reform in peril as Germany stymies deal
The prospects of agreeing a proposed Europe-wide data privacy rules by spring next year, a key objective of the European Commission, look in doubt after EU ministers last week failed to agree on the concept of a one-stop-shop for data protection.
Justice ministers representing the 28 member states attempted to reach agreement on the proposed data protection regulation at a meeting in Brussels last week (6 December).
And our first headline on the ongoing Asian security flap, via Channel NewsAsia Singapore, the unsurprising:
China “regrets” South Korea’s air zone expansion
China expressed “regret” on Monday at South Korea’s expansion of its air defence identification zone, weeks after Beijing provoked regional fury by establishing its own.
And a concurrence via the Japan Times:
Tokyo has no gripe with Seoul’s expanded ADIZ
Zone poses no threat to territory, unlike China’s Senkaku gambit
Tokyo has accepted Seoul’s expanded air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, Japanese officials said Monday, noting that unlike China’s abruptly declared ADIZ, South Korea’s won’t infringe on the freedom of flight in airspace over the high seas under international law.
Part of South Korea’s expanded ADIZ now overlaps Japan’s in the East China Sea. But Tokyo has not complained to Seoul, apparently so Japan and South Korea can maintain united opposition to the ADIZ China declared last month in areas covering the contested Japanese-held Senkaku islets, as well as a reef under the South’s control.
Xinhua has the latest from Beijing:
China dismisses Japan’s opposition to South China Sea ADIZ
China dismissed the Japanese Defense Minister’s remarks on the South China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). “China is determined to safeguard national security. No country should make comments on this matter,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a regular press briefing.
Want China Times provokes:
China coast guard patrols disputed East China Sea waters
Three China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels patrolled territorial waters surrounding the Diaoyu (Senkaku or Diaoyutai) islands on Sunday, according to the country’s State Oceanic Administration.
And then there’s that key plank of the emerging Japanese national security state. From the Japan Times:
Secrets law bruises Abe’s ratings
According to a Kyodo News survey, the Cabinet’s support rate fell 10.3 percent points to 47.6 percent from the previous poll last month. It is the first time this Cabinet’s rating has fallen below 50 percent in a Kyodo survey.
A poll by the JNN television network reported a 13.9 point fall to 54.6 percent, while the daily Asahi Shimbun reported a 7 point drop to 46 percent from a month earlier.
In the Kyodo poll, 54.1 percent of the respondents said the law should be revised immediately when the Diet opens next month. Another 28.2 percent said it should be scrapped, and only 9.4 percent said it should be put into force as it is currently stands.
NHK WORLD has another form of blowback:
14 lawmakers leaving Your Party
Nearly half the legislators in Japan’s opposition Your Party have announced that they intend to leave the party, criticizing the party leader’s cooperative stance toward Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They want to form a new party with the aim of assembling an opposition force.
And the response, also from NHK WORLD:
Abe defends his secrecy law, vows to ease concerns
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to ease public concerns over the newly enacted law to protect state secrets.
Abe said the law will not allow the government to indefinitely expand the range of protected secrets, and that the public will not be deprived of their right to know. He added that the lives of ordinary people will not be put at risk.
The Mainichi notes a potential obstacle:
New Japan-U.S. accord under secrets law may not lead to more info sharing
The Foreign and Defense ministries in Japan are considering forming a new defense secrets protection agreement with the United States as the controversial special state secrets protection law has been enacted.
However, since a confidential information protection system under the new law is far removed from the U.S. system to prevent administrative bodies from arbitrarily designate information as secrets, there is no guarantee that any progress will be made on efforts between the two countries to share information.
The dean of American investigative reporters drops a bombshell, via the London Daily Mail:
President Obama accused of LYING about intelligence which he said proved Assad was behind sarin gas attacks in Syria
- The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist claims the Obama Administration ‘cherry-picked intelligence’ on Syria
- Hersh, 76, cited conversations with military officials who spoke of their ‘immense frustration’ with the President
- Previously he had claimed that the official account of the 2011 raid which killed Osama Bin Laden as ‘one big lie’
- He says the US media is too ‘afraid’ to pick on Obama
Hersh’s story, which ran in the London Review of Books, is posted here.
McClatchy Washington Bureau covers litigation:
Court weighs whether Guantanamo detainee searches are too aggressive
And The Guardian covers another litigation:
Amnesty to take legal action against UK security services
Human rights group says it is ‘highly likely’ its emails and phone calls have been intercepted by British intelligence
Süddeutsche Zeitung takes us into the kingdon of drones:
Deadly Drone War, Made in Germany
American bombs dropped in Africa are carried by drones commanded in Ramstein, Germany. The German government has turned a blind eye and has feigned ignorance. That’s convenient, especially when it has allowed its most important ally to break international law. And then there’s the innocent victims of this secret war. This is the woeful tale of Salman Abdullahi, who lost his father to the ‘war on terror’, which is ‘made in Germany’.
And Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers consequences:
Pentagon chief talks drones with Pakistani PM
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Monday that US drone strikes were “counter-productive” as Washington tried to ease tensions with Islamabad.
Still more consequences from the Express Tribune in Karachi:
NATO countries request reopening of supply routes, Imran refuses
Representatives of Nato member countries requested Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to reopen supply routes to Afghanistan via Pakistan, Express News reported on Monday.
The Nato countries said that the blockade was causing inconvenience to the Nato forces in Afghanistan. Imran, however, turned down the request and said that the blockade would continue till drone strikes are stopped.
And on another drone front, via The Verge:
Europe’s largest parcel service, DHL, shows off a test flight of its delivery drone
A small unmanned aerial vehicle flew a 6.6-pound package of medicine across a river today as part of research by the German delivery giant DHL into the use of drones. A company spokesman told the Associated Press that this was part of preliminary research and that the company is exploring how drones could be used to deliver urgent packages to areas which are difficult to access with traditional transport.
TheLocal.de has more droneage:
Deutsche Post completes first drone flight
Deutsche Post used a drone to deliver a package for the first time on Monday, flying a box from a pharmacy across the Rhine just a week after Amazon carried off a similar stunt.
Deutsche Post dubbed its yellow drone the Paketkopter and said it carried medicine from a pharmacist in Bonn across the Rhine to its own head office.
And The Verge takes us across the pond and aerial covetousness:
The FBI’s drone ambitions date back to the 1990s
New documents reveal development of secret drone program
And the London Daily Mail gives us a whole new spin on the phrase “killer drone”:
The boar war: Hunters using DRONES and high-power firearms… to kill pigs in America’s deep south
- Louisiana Hog Control track pigs with thermal imaging camera on a plane
- While an operator flies the aircraft hunters on the ground follow directions
- Feral pigs cause billions of dollars worth of damage to crop fields ever year
From TheLocal.it, European insecurity?:
‘Potential terrorists could be among migrants’
The exodus of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria represents a security threat to the European Union, Italy’s foreign minister said on Monday, warning that potential terrorists could be among the displaced.
“Like all major humanitarian crises”, the Syria conflict “has political aspects and consequences that can have devastating effects”, Emma Bonino told reporters in Rome.
And a timely reminder from IntelNews:
Israel has long list of assassination targets, says analyst
From RIA Novosti, another security front:
Russia Activates Aerospace Defense Radar Aimed at Europe
Russia has begun testing a new radar designed to detect highly maneuverable aerial targets – including cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles – at a range of up to 3,000 kilometers (over 1,800 miles), allowing it to cover most of Europe.
The new-generation over-the-horizon radar, dubbed Container, was put on trial duty near the town of Kovylkino in Russia’s republic of Mordovia on December 2.
More airborne insecurity, from Public Radio International:
Thousands are on US terrorist watch lists, rightly or wrongly, and there’s nothing they can do about it
At least 700,000 are on the US terrorist watch list currently — though it’s hard for anyone to know for sure.
The government doesn’t reveal who they are, or why they’ve been marked as a potential threat, but we know the number of people who’ve been marked has grown considerably over the last few years. It rose sharply after the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009, eventually peaking at nearly 1,000,000 travelers.
Insecurity on the ground from the New York Post:
‘Kill him, he’s a f–king Muslim!’
A man acquitted of attempted murder after shooting four members of a Borough Park community-watch group in self-defense says his attackers were yelling, “Kill him, he’s a f–king Muslim!”
“I hope you die, you son of a bitch!’‘ one of the Brooklyn men hissed at David Flores, 37, before shooting him, Flores told The Post in his first interview since the verdict. Flores — who is Christian but thinks the “vigilantes’‘ from the Boro Park Shomrim mistook his religion because he was wearing a small woven cap — took a bullet to his left arm.
The Register finds a nagging worm in the Apple
iSPY: Apple Stores switch on iBeacon phone sniff spy system
Hey BOB, you sure you don’t wanna iThing? Look, there they are! Huh? Huh?
Apple has switched on its controversial iBeacon snooping system across 254 US stores. The fruity firm’s iSpy network allows Apple to watch fanbois as they walk around an Apple store and then send them various messages depending on where they are in the shop.
And for our final item, from RFI:
France to tackle internet sexism
France’s digital watchdog has been charged with tackling sexism online. Digital Economy Minister Fleur Pellerin and Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem have commissioned a report on the image of women on the web.