We’ve been a bit under the weather, and consequently a very lonnngggg collection today of headlines for the world of spies, security, operators, militarists, hackers, and deep politics.
Our first headline comes from Al Jazeera America:
Report: Democratic countries curbing press freedoms in name of security
- Countries like US, UK that pride themselves on media freedoms tumble in annual World Press Freedom Index
Pervasive national security and surveillance programs have scaled back press freedom in established democracies like the United States, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its World Press Freedom Index released Tuesday.
In an index that usually shifts incrementally from year to year, “for the first time, the trend is so clear,” Delphine Halgand, the group’s U.S. director, told Al Jazeera. She said the “chilling effect” on investigative journalists fearful of government prosecution is most palpable in the U.S.
“After 2013, we cannot deny any more that in the U.S., the whistle-blower is the enemy,” Halgand said. “The U.S. is going after confidential sources, compromising the only possibility to do a real journalist’s work.”
From the report:
More from The Guardian:
NSA actions pose ‘direct threat to journalism’ leading watchdog warns
- Agency’s dragnet of communications data threatens to destroy the confidence between reporter and source on which most investigations depend, Committee to Protect Journalists said
The National Security Agency’s dragnet of communications data poses a direct threat to journalism in the digital age by threatening to destroy the confidence between reporter and source on which most investigations depend, one of the world’s leading journalism watchdogs has warned.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based body that promotes press freedom around the world, has devoted the first two chapters of its annual report on global threats to an assessment of the impact of the NSA’s data sweep. Its internet advocacy co-ordinator, Geoffrey King, warns that the NSA’s dragnet threatens to put journalists under a cloud of suspicion and to expose them to routine spying by government agencies.
By storing mass data for long periods, the NSA could develop the capability to recreate a reporter’s research, retrace a source’s movements and listen in on past communications, King warns. “It could soon be possible to uncover sources with such ease as to render meaningless any promise of confidentiality a journalist may attempt to provide – and if an interaction escapes scrutiny in the first instance, it could be reconstructed later.”
And then there’s the blunter approach. From Al Jazeera English:
The risk of reporting US drone strikes
- Yemen researcher says he received a death threat after investigating deadly wedding-convoy attack.
The disturbing phone call came after Baraa Shiban investigated a drone strike on a wedding party that killed 12 people in central Yeen in December. A clear message was delivered to the human rights researcher over the phone after a major news network reported the story based on his research.
“The caller refused to identify himself and threatened my life if I continued my investigation of the strike,” Shiban told Al Jazeera, noting he conducted similar studies of US drone operations in the past, but had never before received death threats.
Shiban works for the UK-based human rights group Reprieve and interviewed survivors two days after the attack. His investigation ascertained that 12 people were killed after four missiles were fired at the convoy. There were also 14 victims with severe wounds; some lost limbs, others their eyes.
From EnetEnglish.gr, another journalist jailed:
Police detain journalist for divulging ‘military secrets’
- Article based on information from law published in government gazette, journalist says
Police detained journalist Popi Christodoulidou on the orders of a prosecutor, Panagiota Fakou, over a report claiming coastguard divers are involved in guarding sensitive sites along with the police, despite the fact that the law does not provide for that
A screengrab from Popi Christodoulidou’s blogpost, which she has now been ordered to remove A screengrab from Popi Christodoulidou’s blogpost, which she has now been ordered to remove An Athens-based journalist was detained by police for a number of hours on Wednesday at Attica police headquarters on suspicion on disclosing military secrets in a blogpost, which she claims is based on information contained in a law published in the government gazette.
On the same day that Greece was ranked 99th in the World Press Freedom Index, Popi Christodoulidou was detained by police detectives shortly after 1pm, on the orders of a prosecutor, Panagiota Fakou, who at the request of the Hellenic Coastguard’s state security directorate opened a preliminary investigation on the leaking of “military secrets” by a civilian “perpetrator”.
The journalist was released at around 6pm and has been ordered to remove the offending post on her Peiratiko Reportaz blog or face arrest.
More journalistic woes from Mashable:
Report: Ethiopian Government Hacks Journalists in U.S. and Europe
The Ethiopian government reportedly used surveillance technology created by an Italian company to hack into the computers of Ethiopian journalists in the United States and Europe.
Journalists at the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), a news organization comprised mostly of Ethiopian expatriates, were targeted with spying software made by the Italian company company Hacking Team, according to a new report by Citizen Lab, a nonprofit research lab that investigates surveillance technology across the world.
The investigation, released on Wednesday, is another example of how governments around the world are increasingly using hacking tools. These are often purchased from vendors that design and market them specifically for law enforcement agencies — but often governments end up using them against dissidents or journalists.
From EurActiv, a friend of The Guardian:
Media freedom watchdog defends the Guardian against government pressure
Europe’s main media freedom watchdog told Britain today (12 February) it believed that political pressure applied to the Guardian newspaper over its handling of leaked intelligence data could have a “chilling effect” on independent journalism.
Former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden’s disclosures about activities of Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency and its cooperation with America’s National Security Agency (NSA) have embarrassed Prime Minister David Cameron’s government which has said they damaged national security.
Many of the leaks were published in the Guardian.
“The continual accusations and attacks on the Guardian, their editor-in-chief and journalists by leading politicians is nothing but harassment and intimidation,” Dunja Mijatovic, representative for media freedom at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told Reuters.
And from euronews, when “liberals” meet:
Hollande and Obama stress common Syria-Iran stance as French state visit nears end
The French and American presidents have continued to stress their common ground as François Hollande’s state visit draws to a close.
Barack Obama said both had resolved to put more pressure on Russia and Iran over stopping the bloodshed in Syria.
The French leader tackled the thorny issue of data protection after the revelations of US spying exposed in the NSA scandal.
“We have worked towards cooperation which can enable the fight against terrorism and at the same time to respect principles. And we are making headway over this cooperation. And there is a mutual trust which has been restored and which should be based both on respect for each other’s country and also based on the protection of privacy,” François Hollande told a joint news conference in Washington.
And on to the world of that espio-Superstar, first from The Guardian:
Congressional trio criticise James Cole’s NSA testimony as misleading
- Lawmakers write to deputy attorney general after Cole described limits on NSA’s power to surveil members of Congress
Deputy attorney general James Cole testifies on Capitol Hill. Deputy attorney general James Cole. Sensenbrenner, Issa and Nadler said Cole’s testimony was ‘not entirely accurate’. Photograph: Cliff Owen/AP
Three powerful members of the House judiciary committee said James Cole, the US deputy attorney general, was “not entirely accurate” in testimony describing limits on the National Security Agency’s powers to surveil the US Congress.
The letter from former committee chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, oversight committee chair Darrell Issa – both Republicans – and New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, came as the Obama administration saw a new front open up in the battle over its surveillance powers: a class-action lawsuit filed by Senator Rand Paul, a 2016 presidential contender, who said he plans to contest the bulk collection of US phone records “all the way to the supreme court.”
Cole told the House judiciary committee on 4 February that while the NSA “probably” collects the phone records of members of Congress – a subset of the dragnet the NSA casts on practically all US phone data – the NSA only studied those records when it has “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of a number’s onnection to terrorism, a restriction imposed by the secret surveillance court overseeing the NSA.
From the New York Times, making excuses:
Spy Chief Says Snowden Took Advantage of ‘Perfect Storm’ of Security Lapses
The director of national intelligence acknowledged Tuesday that nearly a year after the contractor Edward J. Snowden “scraped” highly classified documents from the National Security Agency’s networks, the technology was not yet fully in place to prevent another insider from stealing top-secret data on a similarly large scale.
The director, James R. Clapper Jr., testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Snowden had taken advantage of a “perfect storm” of security lapses. He also suggested that as a highly trained systems administrator working for Booz Allen Hamilton, which provides computer services to the agency, Mr. Snowden knew how to evade the protections in place.
“He knew exactly what he was doing,” Mr. Clapper said. “And he was pretty skilled at staying below the radar, so what he was doing wasn’t visible.”
But Mr. Clapper confirmed the outlines of a New York Times report that the former N.S.A. contractor had used a web crawler, a commonly available piece of software, to sweep up a huge trove of documents.
The Daily Dot makes an exit:
NSA employee resigns after admitting he gave Snowden access
A civilian employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) has resigned his position after admitting he shared access to classified information with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. A memo detailing the incident and signed by Ethan Bauman, NSA’s director of legislative affairs, was obtained by NBC News and published online.
According to the memo, which was labelled as sensitive but not classified, the unidentified NSA employee entered his password into Snowden’s computer terminal upon request. Allegedly, Snowden was then able to capture the password and use it to gain greater access to classified materials. The letter identifies the civilian as male, but does not refer to him by name.
“On 18 June 2013, the NSA civilian admitted to FBI Special Agents that he allowed Mr. Snowden to his (the NSA civilian’s) Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate to access classified information on NSANet; access that he knew had been denied to Mr. Snowden,” the memo reads.
From The Hill, the Aqua Buddha acolyte acts:
Paul sues Obama over NSA spying
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration for violating the privacy rights of millions of Americans.
Paul, a Tea Party star, called it the largest class-action lawsuit ever filed on behalf of the Bill of Rights.
He and FreedomWorks, the co-plaintiff in the case, have named President Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander among the defendants.
“We will ask the question in court whether a single warrant can apply to the records of every American phone user all the time, without limits, without individualization,” Paul said at a press conference in front of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Paul, who has circulated a petition to build support for his case, said 386,026 people have expressed support.
From The Guardian, no taps for the NSA?:
Utah lawmaker floats bill to cut off NSA data centre’s water supply
- Impending bill from Republican Marc Roberts highlights growing movement at state level against government surveillance powers
The National Security Agency, already under siege in Washington, faces a fresh attempt to curtail its activities from a Utah legislator who wants to cut off the surveillance agency’s water supply.
Marc Roberts, a first-term Republican lawmaker in the Beehive State, plans this week to begin a quixotic quest to check government surveillance starting at a local level. He will introduce a bill that would prevent anyone from supplying water to the $1bn-plus data center the NSA is constructing in his state at Bluffdale.
The bill is about telling the federal government “if you want to spy on the whole world and American citizens, great, but we’re not going to help you,” Roberts told the Guardian.
Here’s a video report about a similar measure on the other side of the country from RT America:
NSA headquarters could go dark if bill passes in Maryland
State legislators in Maryland have introduced a bill that would cut off water, electricity and other utilities to National Security Agency headquarters, which are located in the Old Line state. The bill is called the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, and supporters say the bill would block the NSA from spying on citizens in Maryland. Similar bills are being introduced in Washington, Utah and Missouri. RT’s Liz Wahl asks Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and who helped draft Maryland’s legislation, how the bill would impact NSA operations.
The Hill raises another legal issue:
NSA operating outside the law, panelist says
The collection of phone records by the National Security Agency has no basis in the law, a member of an independent federal advisory board said Wednesday.
“With all respect to both executive branch officials and judicial officials, nobody looked at the statute as carefully was we did,” James Dempsey, the vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I came to this conclusion slowly. I came to it a little bit to my own surprise. But if you read the statute, the words just don’t add up to this program.”
Members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) testified Tuesday for the first time since their 3-2 decision last month to condemn the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records as an illegal program that should be terminated.
Backtracking, via The Guardian:
Edward Snowden asylum demand dropped by European parliament
- MEPs fail to reach consensus on amendment to inquiry calling on governments to assure NSA whistleblower of his safety
Edward Snowden Meets With German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Stroebele
The report will call for international protection for whistleblowers without mentioning Edward Snowden by name. Photograph: Sunshinepress/Getty Images
The European parliament is to ditch demands on Wednesday that EU governments give guarantees of asylum and security to Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower.
The parliament’s civil liberties committee is to vote on more than 500 amendments to the first ever parliamentary inquiry into the NSA and GCHQ scandal, a 60-page report that is damning about the scale and the impact of mass surveillance.
And the result, via EUobserver:
MEPs say No to Snowden asylum in Europe
A European Parliament committee on Wednesday (12 February) voted against calling for asylum protection for former US intelligence agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden leaked top secret documents last summer to the media exposing the scale of US and British global surveillance. He is in Russia to avoid prosecution from American authorities.
The vote was part of a larger, non-binding, resolution backed by the MEPs in the civil liberties committee. The resolution condemns the blanket collection of personal data on the scale he disclosed.
A short paragraph, buried among the hundreds of amendments in the committee’s National Security Agency (NSA) inquiry report, had requested that EU member states drop criminal charges against him, if any, and “offer him protection from prosecution, extradition or rendition.” But it did not make the final cut.
The Guardian views Snowden from Down Under:
Scott Ludlam’s support of Snowden ‘celebrates treachery’, says Brandis
- George Brandis says former NSA contractor’s disclosures about western intelligence gathering ‘put Australian lives at risk’
Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, has criticised a senator for celebrating “the American traitor Edward Snowden”, arguing the disclosures about western intelligence gathering has “put Australian lives at risk”.
Brandis asked in parliament how the Greens senator Scott Ludlam could hold his head up high while honouring the former US National Security Agency contractor’s “criminal conduct and treachery”.
The trigger for the criticism was a question from Ludlam about “indiscriminate government surveillance” and whether the government recognised the legitimate concerns of Australians and the need to follow the US in reforming intelligence practices.
And the target of that Aussie ire raises a question, via United Press International:
Snowden: Danes should question government about NSA surveillance
U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden says Danes should not trust their government’s statement that there has been no illegal surveillance in Denmark.
Snowden, in an interview with the blog denfri.dk, said Danish citizens should not depend on the government or on journalists to reveal the truth, the Copenhagen Post reported Thursday.
“The Danes should start asking some serious questions when their government starts acting in the same way as the German one,” he said.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said publicly that the U.S. National Security Agency had assured him that on surveillance had been conducted in Germany in violation of its laws or against its interests. Documents leaked by Snowden revealed the NSA had done both.
And from TheLocal.se, a call to end another legal whistleblower nightmare:
‘Interrogate Assange in London’: lawyers
Lawyers representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden have demanded that he be questioned in London over rape and sexual molestation allegations made by two Swedish women.
“All Assange asks is that he be treated according to Swedish law,” lawyers Thomas Olsson and Per Samuelsson wrote in an op-ed article published on Wednesday in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).
Assange broke bail and sought refuge at the Ecuador’s embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning under a European arrest warrant. He claimed that he would risk further extradition to the United States on espionage charges over his whistleblowing website if he went to Sweden.
From TheLocal.de, when a Hawk becomes a turkey:
Drone scandal costs another €200 million
Germany’s Euro Hawk drone scandal showed no sign of ending on Wednesday, with alternatives for the failed programme running €200 million over budget. It means the military may turn back to the discarded, original plan.
The Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr, Volker Wieker, told a defence committee on Wednesday that the tests on four alternatives to Euro Hawk were not only taking longer than expected but were €200 million over budget. The budget had been set at €613 million.
It means that reactivating the discarded Euro Hawk programme could no longer be ruled out, he said.
The Euro Hawk scandal erupted in May last year when it emerged the drones were unlikely to get permission to fly in German airspace because of a lack of an anti-collision system to protect other aircraft. By that point more than €500 million had already been spent on the programme.
And from RT, class war declared:
Greece on high alert after extremists declare war on ‘German capitalist machine’
Greek authorities have stepped up security after a leftist extremist group declared war on the “German capitalist machine.” The group has claimed responsibility for attacks on a Mercedes-Benz branch and on the German ambassador’s residence in Athens.
An anarchist group calling itself the Popular Fighters has come forward, claiming to be behind a botched rocket attack on the offices of German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz in the Greek capital.
The attack itself was carried out on January 12. Investigators found evidence this week that showed the rocket was fired from the near vicinity of the factory, but veered off course and landed in a field.
On Tuesday the group sent a 20-page manifesto to Greek satirical magazine To Pontiki, explaining the attack was carried out in solidarity with the Greek people against the “German capitalist machine.”
After the jump, a lethora of Asia news, including Afghan anxieties, Sci Fi scenarios, cyberwar and hack attacks, a Spanish check, the Greek panopticon emerges, another Swedish info-expat, Twitter censorship, drones in your pocket, and Nazis on acid. . .and more: Continue reading