Headlines II: Tales from the dark side

From the world of spies, lies, drones, hacks, and more.

For our first headline, this from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Despite Senate hopes of speedy release, CIA torture report won’t be made public for months

The release of the long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques — widely denounced as torture — is certain to take much longer than the 30 days sought by Senate Democrats.

The panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at the beginning of April that she hoped the CIA would complete by now the process of excising from the report information deemed harmful to national security.

The procedure, however, likely will take months, several experts said. That’s because it’s complex and time-consuming. Not only does the CIA have to review information that came from its archives, but other U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the Pentagon and the State Department have to evaluate material that they provided, they said.

Reuters delivers a glass of whine:

Snowden leaks prompt ‘insidious’ claims about spies: UK lawmaker

Supporters of former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden use “insidious” language that blurs lines between spying in democratic and authoritarian states, a senior British lawmaker said on Thursday.

Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee which oversees the work of Britain’s spy agencies, said their staff had “noble motivations” and no desire to be “all-seeing” or “all-hearing”. . .

“Unfortunately, the insidious use of language such as ‘mass surveillance’ and ‘Orwellian’ by many of Mr. Snowden’s supporters to describe the actions of Western agencies blurs, unforgivably, the distinction between a system that uses the state to protect the people, and one that uses the state to protect itself against the people,” Rifkind said.

Deutsche Welle covers a coming hearing — or not:

German NSA investigative panel to allow Snowden to testify

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is to testify before a German panel investigating the activities of the spy agency. However, the panel has not yet determined whether he may travel to Berlin for the hearing.

The parliamentary committee, comprised of representatives from Germany’s four parties in the Bundestag, announced the decision on Thursday after deliberating over the matter for roughly two hours.

The vote was unanimous, according to Martina Renner, the chairperson of Germany’s Left party for the special committee.

Lawmakers involved the formal inquiry of NSA activities did not decide on Thursday, however, where the long-awaited hearing would take place.

Meanwhile, the ex-top eavesdropper has taken a spin in the revolving door. From Politico:

Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander seeks post-Snowden second act

Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander is launching a consulting firm for financial institutions looking to address cybersecurity threats, POLITICO has learned.

Less than two months since his retirement from the embattled agency at the center of the Edward Snowden leak storm, the retired four-star general is setting up a Washington-based operation that will try to attract clients based on his four decades of experience in the military and intelligence — and the continued levels of access to senior decision-makers that affords.

“He’s already out pushing hard,” said an industry source recently briefed by Alexander on the new business venture. “He’s cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That’s part of his stock and trade.”

North of the border, and more snoopery from CBC News:

Chantal Bernier says Ottawa snooping on social media

  • Privacy commissioner urges government to clarify rules for when and where data can be collected

Federal government departments are collecting data on Canadian citizens via their social media accounts for no good reason, Canada’s privacy watchdog says.

In a letter to Treasury Board president Tony Clement in February, interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier says “we are seeing evidence that personal information is being collected by government institutions from social media sites without regard for accuracy, currency and accountability.”

The letter dated Feb. 13th also reads: “Should information culled from these sites be used to make administrative decisions about individuals, it is incumbent upon government institutions to ensure the accuracy of this information.”

The letter is just the latest example of how Canada’s chief privacy watchdog has raised a red flag about troubling gaps in the security of Canadians’ personal information.

South of the border, lawmakers also fret, as BuzzFeed reports:

Democratic Congressman Worries About NSA Having Access To Phone Calls With His Hypothetical Mistress

  • Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York was speaking at the House Judiciary Committee mark-up of the USA Freedom Act which would end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications records, when he commented on metadata being able to show calls to a “mistress if I had one.” “You can learn a lot from metadata about a person and invade his privacy tremendously.”

From the Independent, and, like, they’re surprised?:

US accuses Israel of ‘alarming, even terrifying’ levels of spying

Friends do not spy on friends. That illusion about America’s attitude to its allies was conclusively debunked by Edward Snowden’s revelations about America’s National Security Agency and its British partner in global electronic eavesdropping, GCHQ. But by every account, the US is being repaid in kind by one of its closest international friends – Israel.

Israel has been trying to steal secrets from the US, its principal protector and benefactor, but also occasional rival, ever since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948, and even before. But according to the latest issue of Newsweek, quoting Obama administration officials, these activities have “crossed red lines” rarely encountered in the past.

In the words of one Congressional aide, with access to classified briefings in January on the subject, Israel’s behaviour was “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying”. Israel, it would appear, is after everything it can lay its hands on: not just diplomatic and policy documents, but industrial and military technology. The means include Israeli trade missions to the US, joint ventures between Israeli and American companies and, presumably, spying by Israeli intelligence agencies.

Quartz recruits [and they’re, like, surprised?]:

China and the US are racing to turn poor, naive Millennials into spies

Chinese state media are accusing an “unnamed foreign country” of recruiting spies at Chinese universities and through popular blogs and social media. This week, a series of news reports claim that unsuspecting Chinese, some of them as young as 16 years old, are being lured into working for foreign intelligence agents.

The reports seem to be a response to a short documentary posted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations last month, telling the story of a 28-year-old Michigan native, Glenn Duffie Shriver who says he was was recruited to spy for the Chinese while living in Shanghai, and was eventually caught by US authorities. The FBI video describes Chinese intelligence officers plying the young American with cash and luxury liquor, and appealing to his fascination with China.

The fact that this kind of covert recruitment occurs isn’t as surprising as each government’s attempts to paint the other as emotionally manipulative and ruthless. It may be a sign that US and Chinese intelligence agencies are waging a war for public opinion, as well as critical information.

From the Guardian, a non-disappearing act:

Regulators reprimand Snapchat over false claims about messaging service

  • Company had promised messages ‘disappear forever’
  • FTC says Snapchat deceived over personal data collection

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Thursday that the fast-growing service had deceived people about the privacy of the messages sent through its service and secretly collected sensitive information about its users.

According to Snapchat, this month users are sending 700m photos and videos per day. Snapchat messages, known as snaps, are timed to delete after they have been viewed and it has become a popular service for people “sexting” – sending pornographic photos and texts – as well as for people wanting greater privacy from their messaging services.

The FTC said that in marketing the service Snapchat failed to disclose the ease with which users can save a message by taking an undetectable screenshot or by using a third-party app. Apps allowing snap recipients to copy and store messages indefinitely have been downloaded “millions of times”, said the FTC. Despite a security researcher warning the company about this possibility, the FTC said, “Snapchat continued to misrepresent that the sender controls how long a recipient can view a snap.”

The Guardian again, with questions about domestic security:

Albuquerque residents attempt citizen’s arrest of police chief

  • Protests against police brutality cause rowdy city council meeting to end with attempted citizen’s arrest of controversial chief

As the threat of another tense standoff at an Albuquerque city council meeting brews, protesters angry over a series of police shootings are harkening back to the city’s long history of civil disturbance and modeling their demonstrations after those including a notorious 1960s citizen raid of a northern New Mexico courthouse.

In 1967, protesters contending the US government stole millions of acres of land from Mexican American residents stormed a courthouse to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the district attorney. During the raid, the group shot and wounded a state police officer and jailer, beat a deputy and took the sheriff and a reporter hostage.

Now a leader of this week’s protest cited that episode as the motivation for the city council demonstration in which protesters attempted a citizen’s arrest of the police chief.

Here’s a video report from station KRQE in Albuquerque:

Protesters take over Albuquerque City Council meeting

Program notes:

Angry protesters took over Albuquerque City Council Monday night calling for immediate change at APD and the ousting of both Albuquerque’s Police Chief, Mayor and more.

BBC News covers criminalized blogging, the venue not so surprising:

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi gets 10 year jail sentence

A Saudi court has imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi for 10 years for “insulting Islam” and setting up a liberal web forum, local media report. He was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000; £133,000).

Amnesty International called the verdict “outrageous” and urged the authorities to quash the verdict.

Mr Badawi, the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, was arrested in 2012.

From TheLocal.se, flying high to spy high, oops:

SAS flight in Russian spy plane near miss

A Scandinavian Airlines flight had to take last minute evasive action to avoid colliding with a Russian spy plane just off the Swedish south coast in March, according to a report which emerged on Thursday.

According to a Sveriges Television report on Thursday, the incident occurred on March 3rd just 50 kilometres south of the Swedish city of Malmö – home to over 300,000 people.

The plane was reportedly a Russian Ilyushin 20m military aircraft used for signals surveillance. The two aircraft are reported to have passed by each other a mere 90 metres apart.

From Guardian, criminal stupidity?:

FBI agent faces charges in Pakistan for boarding a flight with weapons

  • US State Department confirms that Joel Cox is federal agent and says Pakistani authorities are co-ordinating to resolve arrest

A FBI agent arrested in Pakistan for trying to board a civilian flight with bullets and a knife in his luggage is being investigated on possible criminal charges, Pakistani authorities said on Thursday.

Joel Cox, confirmed by the US State Department as an FBI agent, was arrested on Sunday at the airport in the southern city of Karachi after trying to board a flight with the knife and 15 9mm bullets in his luggage, police said.

The case has revived memories of Raymond Davis, an American CIA contractor who was arrested in January 2011 after shooting dead two men he believed were about to rob him in the eastern city of Lahore.

After the jump, the latest from the ongoing Asian Game of Zones, including drones, a ship-ramming China/Vietnam engagement and sundry responses, history wars, Japanese remilitarization, and more. . .

Our first headline is a twofer, both Asia and drones. From Want China Times:

Seoul says three crashed drones sent by North Korea

The South Korean defense ministry said Thursday that three drones discovered around the inter-Korean border were sent by North Korea.

Defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a press briefing that the US-South Korea joint investigation team conducted a scientific probe into the three suspected North Korean drones after announcing an interim probe result on April 11.

Kim said three drones were pre-arranged to take off from and return to the north based on an investigation into the built-in CPU chips. The unmanned aerial vehicles flew in accordance with pre-arranged coordinates via global positioning system, the ministry said.

From the Independent, the wild card does it again!:

North Korea labels President Obama a ‘cross-breed’ in racist attack

North Korea has published a lengthy and racist attack on the US President, allegedly describing Barack Obama as a “clown,” a “dirty fellow” and somebody who “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being”.

The vitriolic screed was published on 2 May by the Korean Central News Agency but not in English, according to The Washington Post, and escaped the attention of foreign media outlets.

It was only picked up when blogger Josh Stanton uncovered the piece, in which he claims it says Mr Obama “still has the figure of monkey while the human race has evolved through millions of years”.

The crudely-worded rhetoric labels the President as a “crossbreed with unclear blood” and continues: “It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo and lick the bread crumbs thrown by spectators.”

Heating up the latest arena in the Game of Zones via Reuters:

China blames Vietnam for sea collisions, but calls for talks

China accused Vietnam on Thursday of intentionally colliding with its ships in the South China Sea, but called for talks to end a bitter row sparked by Beijing’s parking of a giant oil rig in contested waters.

A senior foreign ministry official in Beijing demanded that Vietnam withdraw its ships after its southern neighbor asserted that Chinese vessels used water cannon and rammed eight of its vessels at the weekend near the rig. Hanoi said two vessels were badly damaged and six people were wounded in the worst setback to ties between the two Communist nations in years.

China said the drilling operations were being carried out in its territory and it had acted with the “utmost restraint” in using water cannons in response to rammings it blamed on Vietnam.

Here’s a video report from the Wall Street Journal:

Vietnam, China Naval Vessels Clash Over Oil Rig

Program notes:

Vietnam released footage it said was of a Chinese vessel ramming a Vietnamese Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea as Vietnam tried to prevent the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters. Via The Foreign Bureau, WSJ’s global news update.

Tokyo weighs in, via Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Japan “deeply worried” by China-Vietnam maritime spat

Japan said Thursday it was “deeply worried” by China’s behaviour in a spat with Vietnam over contested waters, and urged Beijing to rein in its “provocative” actions. . .

“We have strong concerns as there is information that many Vietnamese vessels were damaged and some people were injured,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

“We are deeply worried as regional tensions have risen with China unilaterally starting rigging activities in disputed waters” in the South China Sea, the top government spokesman said.

China proclaims, via BBC News:

China warns Vietnam over stand-off in South China Sea

China has warned Vietnam to withdraw its ships from disputed waters after vessels from the two sides collided in a tense confrontation.

Vietnam has accused China of massing 80 vessels, including navy ships, to back an operation to drill for oil off the disputed Paracel islands.

It released video footage to back its claim that Chinese ships had rammed Vietnamese vessels.

Uncle Sam weighs in, via JapanToday:

Japan, U.S. express concern at China-Vietnam maritime dispute

Japan and the United States said Thursday they were deeply concerned by the latest flare-up between China and Vietnam over contested waters, with Tokyo urging Beijing to rein in its “provocative” actions.

The comments came after Hanoi said Chinese vessels rammed its patrol ships and turned water cannon on them near a controversial drilling rig in a disputed patch of the South China Sea.

At the same time, Japan and China continue to face off in their own territorial row over a small island grouping in the East China Sea and amid claims that Beijing is becoming increasingly assertive.

And the latest, via Kyodo News:

Vietnam, China continue to square off in disputed waters

Tensions in a disputed part of the South China Sea remained high on Thursday, a Vietnamese coast guard official said, after a series of collisions this month between its and Chinese vessels, while Japan and the United States are urging Beijing to exercise restraint and avoid worsening the most serious situation in the area in years.

“The overall situation is the same as what happened on Wednesday,” Rear Adm. Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the Vietnam Coast Guard, told Kyodo News.

Ngo declined to state whether or not clashes had also occurred on Thursday, but said there was no change in the dangerous situation of many vessels from both countries being deployed.

And then the Great White Fleet weighs in, via Want China Times:

USS Blue Ridge confronts PLA warships in South China Sea

The USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the US Seventh Fleet, confronted two PLA Navy warships in the disputed South China Sea region on May. 5 according to the official website of the US Navy.

The report said the two Chinese warships were the Hengshui, a Type 054A frigate, and the Lanzhou, a Type 052C destroyer. During the confrontation, an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 was dispatched from the deck of the USS Blue Ridge to take photos of the two Chinese vessels, four of which were uploaded on to the US Navy website for download.

And the latest, via South China Morning Post:

China warns Vietnam to leave South China Sea drilling area

  • Beijing accuses Vietnamese vessels of ramming Chinese ships, and tells Washington to mind its own business as tensions rise in South China Sea

China has demanded that Vietnam withdraw its ships from a part of the disputed South China Sea where a Chinese firm is establishing an oil rig, and accused Vietnamese vessels of ramming Chinese ships in the area.

After the latest confrontation between vessels from the two countries, a senior Foreign Ministry official in Beijing said China was “shocked” at the “provocations of Vietnam” and vowed the drilling in the disputed Paracel Islands would continue.

“Vietnamese vessels are colliding intentionally with Chinese vessels carrying out normal operations, trying to disturb and stop the drilling work by Chinese,” said Yi Xianliang, deputy director general of the ministry’s boundary and ocean affairs department. He also warned Washington not to interfere, referring to remarks by US officials about “dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels” in the area.

While the history front stays hot, reports Jiji Press:

Japanese Lawmaker Voices Frustration over Activist Museum

Japanese ruling party lawmaker Takeshi Noda expressed frustration Wednesday over a memorial museum set up in Harbin by the Chinese government to honor a Korean activist who killed Japan’s first prime minister.

The memorial is not acceptable because the activist, Ahn Jung Geun, was an assassin, Noda said in a meeting in Beijing with Tang Jiaxuan, former Chinese state councilor who is now president of the China-Japan Friendship Association.

Tang responded by saying that from China’s standpoint, Ahn was a righteous person that pursued Korea’s independence.

China fires another historic round, from People’s Daily:

China Voice: Abe’s attitude root of Japan-Germany difference

On a recent trip to Europe, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly said that Japan will not follow in the footsteps of Germany in addressing its wartime atrocities.

The reason, according to the Japanese leader, was that the circumstances of the two countries were vastly different as Europe, unlike Asia, was aiming for integrated region.

It is obvious that the prime minister has made a ridiculous, if not malicious, mistake by upending causality. Abe may be right in just one point: the circumstances facing Japan are indeed very different from Germany. However, that is the result of, not the reason for, refusal to apologize.

From Tokyo, where the constitutional game plays out, via the Asahi Shimbun:

Abe to put off Cabinet approval on issue of collective self-defense

The Abe administration will delay seeking Cabinet approval of a change in the government’s interpretation of the Constitution that would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had initially sought to obtain Cabinet approval in the current Diet session, which is scheduled to wind up on June 22. But at a May 7 news conference in Brussels, where Abe was on a final stop of a six-nation tour of Europe, he indicated that no rigid deadline had been set.

Abe’s latest move is seen as a major concession to junior coalition partner New Komeito, which had resisted the change based on its pacifist background.

JapanToday continues embracing the usual suspects in the usual ways:

EU, Japan stress common ground on global security

The European Union and Japan stressed Wednesday their common ground on global security issues, highlighted by the Ukraine crisis, promising to step up cooperation and seal a massive free trade deal.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy said talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed both sides took a “like-minded” approach to global challenges, notably on Ukraine where both men urged Russia to reverse course or face further sanctions.

Getting revisionist with the Mainichi:

Draft gov’t proposal details legal revisions for collective self-defense

The draft government legal policy on collective self-defense and other security issues has come to light, highlighting calls for revisions to at least 18 laws and agreements including the Self-Defense Forces Act.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is eager to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense through constitutional reinterpretation and other legislation, is set to announce the government policy as early as this month once it is finalized.

The draft policy envisages three scenarios wherein Japan will need to respond — a response involving use of force, international cooperation that does not involve use of force, and a response to an intrusion that doesn’t involve armed attacks. Each scenario is entailed with two to four case examples. One of the case examples envisages Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense, such as protection of U.S. vessels and forced ship inspections.

The Asahi Shimbun invokes the demographic angle:

Key LDP member: Defense debate misses real risk–fewer young people

A prominent member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party says the current debate on the right to collective self-defense misses the mark: With a shrinking birthrate, Japan will not have the numbers for an army in the future.

In an interview carried in the June edition of Sekai monthly magazine published by Iwanami Shoten, Publishers, Seiko Noda, chairwoman of the party’s General Council, claimed that the Abe administration’s argument on constitutional reinterpretation is shortsighted.

“The national security issue is closely linked with the problem of the declining number of children,” said Noda, who is a vocal proponent of countermeasures to deal with Japan’s declining birthrate and aging population. “But lawmakers specializing in the national security issue tend to think of the two issues as completely separate.”

On the domestic front as an anniversary nears, a journalist pays the price. From the Guardian:

Gao Yu arrested by Chinese authorities

  • Prominent journalist accused of leaking state secrets as dissenters are rounded up ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

The prominent Chinese journalist Gao Yu has been “criminally detained” – a few weeks ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown – for allegedly leaking state secrets to a foreign news site, Chinese state media has announced.

The detention of the outspoken 70-year-old journalist was just one of several detentions of government critics over the previous days ahead of the politically sensitive 4 June anniversary.

The official news agency Xinhua said the journalist was detained on 24 April, with authorities seizing evidence at her Beijing home. Gao was a well-known government critic who was imprisoned after the 1989 crackdown and had been reported missing since 26 April. The report said Gao had made confessions.

Here’s how China’s state media, in this case the Global Times, portrayed her arrest, without revealing just what document she is charged with leaking:

Beijing police detain suspect allegedly for leaking state secrets

A female suspect named Gao Yu was detained for leaking “state secrets” to foreign contacts, said Beijing police on Thursday.

Gao, a Beijing resident aged 70, was suspected of illegally obtaining a highly confidential document and sending an electronic copy of it to an overseas website in June last year, said the police statement.

The document was later published at the website and widely reposted abroad, the statement said.

Police detained her on April 24 and seized substantial evidence at her residence, it said.

Gao expressed deep remorse about what she did.

The police statement quoted her as saying that she deeply regretted that her behavior harmed the nation’s interests and violated the law, and she is willing to accept punishment from the law.

For our final item, and from People’s Daily, following a long string of bombings and other attacks:

Public security bureau becomes main target of terrorist activities

The Report on the National Security of China (2014), China’s first blue book on national security, was issued in Beijing on Monday. According to the report, against a backdrop where international terrorist activities are on an upward trend, terrorist incidents within China’s territory in 2013 showed a range of new features. The report draws the conclusion that terrorist activities within China’s territory are expanding across regions, with the government and the police as the main targets. The infiltration of religious extremists is posing a threat to the solidarity of socialist belief.

Terrorist activities within China’s territory are expanding across regions.

According to the report, with the gradual expansion of its overseas interests China is facing a growing international security risk. Terrorism in the era of globalization will also affect Chinese living abroad.

Additionally, against a backdrop where international terrorist activities are on an upward trend, terrorist incidents within China’s territory in 2013 were a freequent occurrence. According to official information, 10 violent terrorist attacks took place within China’s territory in 2013.


One response to “Headlines II: Tales from the dark side

  1. Pingback: Scientists develop first completely covert communication system with lasers | Tucson Pool Saz: Tech - Gaming - News

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