Today’s headlines from the world of spies, deep politics, hackery, state violence, and the ongoing Asian Games of Zones is agenda’s so full we opted to switch the order of our compendia today, and we’ll get straight to it, first with a pair of stories about prominent conversations overheard.
We open with this from International Business Times:
Germany Recorded Hillary Clinton When She Was Secretary Of State, German Media Says
Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) recorded a conversation of Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state, three German media outlets reported on Friday. Clinton was recorded while flying in a U.S. government aircraft. Reports did not specify the exact date of the recording.
Germany’s largest daily newspaper and two public broadcasting services broke the story on the alleged incident and cited anonymous government sources that said the recording was by accident. One source said the recordings should have been destroyed immediately and it was “idiocy” that they weren’t. The report also mentions the BND recorded other “American politicians and other friendly countries,” but did not specify which politicians or what countries.
The disclosure came after last year’s revelation by Edward Snowden that the U.S. ran an espionage operation on Germany, one of America’s closest allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was bugged and recorded by the U.S., was highly critical of the surveillance, saying there must not be “spying among friends.” More recently, German officials revealed in July that the U.S had been working with a spy in Germany for more than two years.
And the other eavesdropping saga, via News Corp Australia:
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s phone was hacked at the height of the MH17 crisis
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s mobile phone was compromised while she was overseas leading tense negotiations to win access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine.
Australian intelligence officials seized Ms Bishop’s phone on her return from a two-week trip to the United States, Ukraine and Holland, having secured a deal to get Australian police into the crash area.
Russian-backed rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight with a surface-to-air missile on July 17, killing 298 passengers and crew, including 38 Australians.
It is thought that our intelligence agencies know which country those responsible for compromising Ms Bishop’s phone were operating from.
American accessory convicted, via Al Jazeera:
Court: Poland culpable for CIA secret prisons
- The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Poland to pay reparations to two Saudis being held in Guantanamo Bay
On July 24, seven judges on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Poland in a landmark case, making it the first European Union country to be held accountable for its involvement in the United States’ systematic, extrajudicial detention of suspects, known as the “extraordinary rendition” programme. Established by the George W Bush administration in the aftermath of September 11 attacks, the programme was run by the CIA, and designed to detain suspects deemed to be of “high value”.
In the unanimous ruling, the judges stated that “Poland had cooperated in the preparation and execution of the CIA rendition, secret detention, and interrogation operations on its territory” and that it had failed in its duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to “ensure that individuals within its jurisdiction were not subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The ECHR ordered Poland to pay $175,000 to Saudi-born Palestinian Abu Zubaydah and $135,000 to Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Both applicants are currently being held in US custody in Guantanamo Bay, isolated from the outside world.
From the Daily Californian, an alarm sounds in Berkeley:
UC to evacuate affiliates in Pakistan after bombing this week
The university is initiating evacuation of UC affiliates in Pakistan after a bombing in the city of Quetta on Tuesday.
Two UC Berkeley faculty members are currently in Pakistan on UC-related business, according to campus risk manager Andy Goldblatt. No students or staff have been reported to be in the country, although an email was sent Wednesday to campus deans, directors and chairs asking for help identifying other UC faculty, staff and students in Pakistan.
Campus professor Ron Gronsky, special faculty assistant to the chancellor for international relations, said in the email that not all UC affiliates take the recommendation that they register their international travel with the university.
The Los Angeles Times plays the overture for the next act:
Nouri Maliki’s departure sets stage for deeper U.S. role in Iraq
The resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki after a bitter final power struggle sets the stage for increasing U.S. arms shipments and military advisors, deepening America’s role in a conflict President Obama had sought to avoid.
White House officials, who had urged Maliki to step down, praised him for agreeing Thursday to back Haider Abadi, a less divisive successor who they hope can unite Iraq’s political and religious factions against the Islamic State militants who control or threaten much of the country.
“Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country,” national security advisor Susan Rice said in a statement. “These are encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path.”
And from the Associated Press, hints of Perry-less times ahead for the Lone Star State:
Texas’ Perry indicted for coercion for veto threat
A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday for abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption — making the possible 2016 presidential hopeful his state’s first indicted governor in nearly a century.
A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit, which is run by Travis County District Rosemary Lehmberg’s office. Several top aides to the Republican governor appeared before grand jurors in Austin, including his deputy chief of staff, legislative director and general counsel. Perry himself wasn’t called to testify.
He was indicted by an Austin grand jury on felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. Maximum punishment on the first charge is five to 99 years in prison. The second is two to 10 years.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press challenges First Amendment insecurity:
Media coalition protests police treatment of reporters during Ferguson events
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press led a coalition of 48 national media organizations that sent a protest letter [PDF] objecting to the treatment of reporters during the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown.
The letter was sent to the heads of the city and county police, as well as the state highway patrol.
“Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes,” the letter states. “The actions in Ferguson demonstrate a lack of training among local law enforcement in the protections required by the First Amendment as well as the absence of respect for the role of newsgatherers. We implore police leadership to rectify this failing to ensure that these incidents do not occur again.”
From the Washington Post, another source of insecurity:
Ex-cop who burned body again gets 17 years
For a second time, a former New Orleans police officer has been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for burning the body of a man shot to death by another New Orleans police officer in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina.
Gregory McRae, 53, already is imprisoned for burning Henry Glover’s body. However, an appeals court had ordered a recalculation of his original 17-year sentence after one of his original convictions was thrown out.
In giving the same 17-year, 3-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said Friday that McRae was guilty of covering up an unlawful killing by fellow Officer David Warren. Africk’s assertion comes despite a jury’s earlier acquittal of Warren.
The Center for Investigative Reporting covers another insecurity on the borders:
Ousted chief accuses border agency of shooting cover-ups, corruption
More than two dozen people have died in violent clashes with U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010. Despite public outrage over some of the killings, no agent or officer has faced criminal charges – or public reprimand – to date.
Yet at least a quarter of the 28 deaths were “highly suspect,” said James F. Tomsheck, the agency’s recently removed head of internal affairs. In a sweeping and unauthorized interview with The Center for Investigative Reporting, he said the deaths raised serious questions about whether the use of lethal force was appropriate.
Instead, Tomsheck said, Border Patrol officials have consistently tried to change or distort facts to make fatal shootings by agents appear to be “a good shoot” and cover up any wrongdoing.
The Oakland Tribune covers questionable consistency:
Judge orders investigation into Oakland’s police arbitration losses
A federal judge with sweeping power over Oakland’s police department ordered an investigation Thursday into why the city consistently loses arbitration cases with officers who are appealing discipline.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson wrote that an arbitrator’s recent decision overturning the termination of an officer videotaped tossing a tear gas grenade into a crowd of Occupy Oakland protesters struck at the heart of a reform drive that he has overseen for more than a decade.
“Just like any failure to impose appropriate discipline by the (police) chief or city administrator, any reversal of appropriate discipline at arbitration undermines the very objectives of the (reform program),” Henderson wrote.
From the London Daily Mail, yet another way to bug you:
Are apps secretly listening to your calls? Security experts discover gyroscopes can identify voices from VIBRATIONS
- Computer scientists from Stanford University and Israeli defence research group Rafael have turned a phone gyroscope into a crude microphone
- Smartphones contain the sensors which are used for games and orientation
- They found gyroscopes can pick up frequency of soundwaves around them
- Vibrations are then decoded by software, making it possible for experts to eavesdrop on phone conversations – with 65 per cent accuracy
- No permission is needed from third parties to access gyroscopes
Many people are careful to protect their pin numbers, and are vigilant about giving smartphone apps access to their microphone in case they could be listened in on.
But now there’s a new snooping threat, and it comes from a smartphone’s gyroscope.
From the Guardian, security questions:
Australian intelligence watchdog wants clarification on national security plan
- Inspector General of Intelligence and Security also wants increased budget for effective oversight of expanded surveillance
Australia’s intelligence watchdog has called on the Abbott government to clarify various elements of its national security reforms – and also increase its budget so that it is in a position to carry out effective oversight in an environment where the surveillance footprint is being significantly expanded.
In a public hearing in parliament on Friday, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) said the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) should be required to report more extensively on the use of new powers proposed in the Coalition’s national security reforms.
IGIS said the government should consider adding a requirement to the first tranche of its security legislation requiring Asio to report on instances where it used force in operations, where it accessed third party property, or where it disrupted computers.
From the Guardian, those with info want others to have less info:
CIA security luminary: ‘Right to be forgotten is not enough’
- Leading security expert Dan Geer says the EU ruling does not go far enough in protecting users’ privacy
The EU’s so-called “right to be forgotten” laws have not gone far enough to protect citizens’ privacy, according to Dan Geer, one of the world’s best-known security experts.
Geer, currently chief information security officer at the CIA’s venture capital arm, told delegates at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas that he was confused by the Guardian’s coverage of the issue. The so called “right to be forgotten” issue stemmed from a European court of justice ruling, forcing Google to remove a link relating to a 1998 newspaper article from its search results after a complaint from the person named in the article.
Geer described it as “notably ironic” that the Guardian had championed Edward Snowden’s revelations about intrusion by government agencies into civilians’ privacy, while also claiming in one editorial (though he did not specify which) that nobody has a right to be forgotten.
From the Washington Post, why are not surprised?:
U.S. firm helped the spyware industry build a potent digital weapon for sale overseas
CloudShield Technologies, a California defense contractor, dispatched a senior engineer to Munich in the early fall of 2009. His instructions were unusually opaque.
As he boarded the flight, the engineer told confidants later, he knew only that he should visit a German national who awaited him with an off-the-books assignment. There would be no written contract, and on no account was the engineer to send reports back to CloudShield headquarters.
His contact, Martin J. Muench, turned out to be a former developer of computer security tools who had long since turned to the darkest side of their profession. Gamma Group, the British conglomerate for which Muench was a managing director, built and sold systems to break into computers, seize control clandestinely, and then copy files, listen to Skype calls, record every keystroke and switch on Web cameras and microphones at will.
According to accounts the engineer gave later and contemporary records obtained by The Washington Post, he soon fell into a shadowy world of lucrative spyware tools for sale to foreign security services, some of them with records of human rights abuse.
More of the same from The Verge:
Hacking Team is spreading government malware through YouTube and Microsoft Live
You don’t have to click on a sketchy link to end up downloading malware. A new report from Citizen Lab’s Morgan Marquis-Boire shows how companies can spread targeted malware by intercepting web traffic en route, sending malicious traffic from an otherwise friendly link. A company called Hacking Team has been using the tactics on traffic from YouTube and Microsoft’s login.live.com servers, seeding innocent videos with surveillance software designed to track the target’s activities online.
The attacks are more targeted than traditional malware, usually targeting a single person at a time, and relying on access to government internet infrastructure to intercept the traffic. Hacking Team typically works with governments like Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, but Marquis-Boire says similar capabilities have been used by intelligence agencies in the US, Britain, Russia, China and Israel. Snowden documents released in The Washington Post have identified NSA malware injection attacks that infected more than 80,000 different devices.
Since the attacks are injected into everyday web traffic, defending against them is difficult, but many companies have already adopted HTTPS encryption as a possible defense. HTTPS would encrypt the connection between the user and the server, preventing injection attacks. At the moment, only a small fraction of web traffic is encrypted, but Google is offering incentives to sites that switch over, including a small boost in search rankings. It’s unclear whether login.live or YouTube will switch to default HTTPS, but Marquis-Boire says both Microsoft and Google “have taken steps to close the vulnerability by encrypting all targeted traffic.”
intelNews lays blame:
Malware targeting ex-Soviet states has Russian hallmarks
A malicious software that has infiltrated the computer systems of dozens of embassies belonging to former Eastern Bloc nations “has all the hallmarks of a nation-state” cyberespionage operation, according to researchers.
Security firm Symantec said last week that the malware appears to be specifically targeting embassies of former communist nations located in China, Jordan, as well as in locations across Western Europe.
In a report published on its website, Symantec said “only a nation state” was likely to have the funds and technical resources to create a malware of such complexity. Additionally, the malware seems to be designed “to go after explicit government networks that are not easy to find”, according to Symantec senior security researcher Vikram Thakur.
Big Brother still seduces, via Nextgov:
The Snowden Effect
Revelations last year that the National Security Agency is collecting Americans’ telephone metadata soured some people’s opinions about the U.S. intelligence community, but they apparently haven’t affected the views of many computer security professionals.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that leaks by Edward Snowden, the former systems administrator and contractor with the National Security Agency, have not hindered efforts to recruit or retain cyber staff at the three-letter agencies. Instead, the disclosures actually might have helped intelligence agencies attract computer aficionados by spotlighting the agencies’ bleeding edge technology.
“We have had no indication that cyber pros have any reticence about working for the government,” says Mark Aiello, president of Massachusetts-based Cyber 360 Solutions, a staffing firm. “It is probably the opposite, and mostly for the opportunity to work with some advanced tools or techniques. The Big Brother aspect is appealing if you are the watcher, not the watched.”
From Motherboard, young accomplices:
DARPA Uses Preteen Gamers to Beta Test Tomorrow’s Military Software
Sieg Hall doesn’t look like much from the outside. Located at the University of Washington, the building was constructed in the 1960s, when it was a focal point for Vietnam-era antiwar protests. Before renovations were carried out it had become so dilapidated that students had a tradition of taking home chunks of rock off its façade. If I didn’t know better, Sieg is just another nondescript computer science building, not a front line in military research and development.
But it’s here, tucked away on the third floor, that you’ll find precisely that: the Center for Game Science, a research lab that makes educational video games for children, and that received the bulk of its funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the wing of the US Department of Defense that supports research into experimental military technology.
Why is DARPA the original primary funder of the CGS? According to written and recorded statements from current and former DARPA program managers, as well as other government documents, the DARPA-funded educational video games developed at the CGS have a purpose beyond the pretense of teaching elementary school children STEM skills.
Instead, the games developed at CGS have had the primary purpose of using grade-school children as test subjects to develop and improve “adaptive learning” training technology for the military.
From MercoPress, invoking the T-word in a curious context:
Cristina Fernandez will use anti-terrorism law against US company that closed its Argentine plant
Argentina’s government will use an anti-terrorism law for the first time to seek criminal charges against a U.S.-based international printing firm which closed its Argentine plant without warning, president Cristina Fernández said on Thursday. She linked the company to some of the hedge funds in litigation with Argentina over defaulted bonds.
Several hundred workers were left jobless when RR Donnelly abruptly filed for bankruptcy and shut down its printing presses on the outskirts of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.
“We are facing a real case of fraudulent behavior and an attempt to intimidate the population,” said Cristina Fernandez in a speech at Government House.
“We will apply the anti-terrorist law. We filled a motion under charges of altering the economic and financial order and terrorizing of people,” the head of state expressed after blaming Donnelly with tax fraud and evasion.
On to other attempts to suppress information, first from the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Sexism of Authorities Aggravates Violence Against Women Journalists in Mexico
The sexism of Mexican authorities generates impunity and has led to a 300 percent increase in violence against women journalists in just a decade, according to a report presented by an NGO.
In the last few years 86 cases of violence against women journalists were reported, of which 54 percent occurred in 2013, the study by the Communication and Information for Women organization (CIMAC) revealed.
It added that Mexico City reported 35 percent of the total number of cases, thus making the capital “the most dangerous place for women in this profession.”
GlobalPost sends up a rocket:
Hamas says it has deported foreign journalists for reporting on missile launches
- The group that runs Gaza says foreign media coverage of this latest conflict with Israel was skewed against the Palestinians.
Did Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, intimidate, harass or even deport journalists trying their damnedest to cover a dangerous war with Israel?
If you take Hamas’ word for it, the answer appears to be yes.
In an interview with the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen TV, Hamas spokeswoman Isra Almodallal said that foreign journalists have been deported from Gaza for filming Hamas rocket launches.
Why? According to Almodallal, they “were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative. So when they were conducting interviews or when they went on location to report they would focus on filming the places from where the missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.”
From the Associated Press, many questions remain:
Liberian police seal newspaper office
Dozens of riot police have sealed the offices of a newspaper critical of the Liberian government and officers attempted to detain its publisher. Police spokesman Sam Collins says the paper’s criticisms could “plunge the country into confusion” when the government is struggling to contain an Ebola outbreak.
Philibert Brown’s National Chronicle has often accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government of corruption and on Wednesday it called for the government to step down.
Brown has been ordered to report for questioning Friday.
Sirleaf’s government has come under stiff criticism for its record on press freedoms. Sirleaf has signed the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the Africa-wide repeal of defamation and “insult” laws, but multiple libel convictions have been handed down since she came to power in 2006.
From International Business Times, more media under fire:
China’s Anti-Corruption Crackdown Increasingly Targets CCTV, Flagship Network
In the latest sign that China Central Television, the country’s state-run television giant, is in political trouble, the government announced Friday that one of the network’s top officials is under detention.
China arrested Huang Haitao, deputy director of CCTV 8, a channel devoted to scripted dramas, according to 163.com, a popular news portal. His arrest is in connection with a wide-ranging government audit of CCTV, which claims an audience of more than 1 billion viewers.
Huang is only the latest prominent CCTV personality to run afoul of Chinese authorities since the December 2013 arrest of Li Dongsheng, a former vice president of the network. In late May, authorities arrested Guo Zhenxi, the head of CCTV’s financial news network, while high-profile anchor Rui Chenggang, whose “Economic News” program has an estimated 10 million viewers, was detained on July 11.
After the jump, more tensions in the Asian Games of Zones, including Pakistani protests and violence, a resounding chorus of moans from the ghosts of history, claims and counterclaims, U.S. marines of a Japanese island, and as story that really is too good to be true. . . Continue reading