Category Archives: Media

Headlines of the day I: Spies, Laws, Zones, Pols


We begin today’s tales from the dark side with a huge number from the Washington Post:

Snowden downloaded 1.7 million intelligence files, Pentagon report concludes

A classified Pentagon report concludes that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden downloaded 1.7 million intelligence files from U.S. agencies in the single largest theft of secrets in the history of the United States, according to lawmakers.

The report, they said, asserts that the breach has the potential to put military personnel at risk.

“This report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk. Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

BBC News wants to talk:

MEPs seek video link with Snowden for NSA spying probe

Euro MPs have agreed to invite fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden to give evidence via live video link to a European Parliament inquiry into US surveillance.

Mr Snowden is in Russia, wanted by the US over his revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) snooping.

The parliamentary Civil Liberties Committee vote was passed by 36 votes in favour, two against and one abstention. No date has been fixed yet.

The Guardian reaches a solemn conclusion:

NSA and GCHQ activities appear illegal, says EU parliamentary inquiry

  • Civil liberties committee report demands end to indiscriminate collection of personal data by British and US agencies

Mass surveillance programmes used by the US and Britain to spy on people in Europe have been condemned in the “strongest possible terms” by the first parliamentary inquiry into the disclosures, which has demanded an end to the vast, systematic and indiscriminate collection of personal data by intelligence agencies.

The inquiry by the European parliament’s civil liberties committee says the activities of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ, appear to be illegal and that their operations have “profoundly shaken” the trust between countries that considered themselves allies.

The 51-page draft report, obtained by the Guardian, was discussed by the committee on Thursday. Claude Moraes, the rapporteur asked to assess the impact of revelations made by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, lsocondemns the “chilling” way journalists working on the stories have been intimidated by state authorities.

More from Deutsche Welle:

EU report reveals massive scope of secret NSA surveillance

The European Parliament has wrapped up its inquiry into mass surveillance. In a draft report, politicians are being hard on all sides – the US government, the NSA, but also on hesitant EU governments and companies.

It was Thursday afternoon and the first week after the winter break – and it was hardly a surprise that only few seats were filled in room JAN 2Q2 at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels. But Claude Moraes, British MEP from the group of Socialists and Social Democrats (S&D), woke the European Union from its winter slumber with a bang.

The rapporteur of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) had come to present the 52-page draft report on the committee’s inquiry into the NSA spying scandal and its implications on European citizens. The draft report is hard on all sides – including governments and companies in the EU.

The report summarizes the findings from the past six months. On page 16, the text says that the recent revelations in the press by whistleblowers and journalists, together with the expert evidence given during the inquiry, have resulted in “compelling evidence of the existence of far-reaching, complex and highly technologically advanced systems designed by US and some Member States’ intelligence services to collect, store and analyze communication and location data and metadata of all citizens around the world on an unprecedented scale and in an indiscriminate and non-suspicion-based manner.”

The 52-page report is posted in English here [PDF].

The Associated Press mulls:

Obama ponders limiting NSA access to phone records

President Barack Obama is expected to rein in spying on foreign leaders and is considering restricting National Security Agency access to Americans’ phone records, according to people familiar with a White House review of the government’s surveillance programs.

Obama could unveil his highly anticipated decisions as early as next week. On Thursday, the president met with congressional leaders at the White House to discuss the review, while White House staff planned to meet with privacy advocates. Representatives from tech companies are meeting with White House staff on Friday.

The White House says Obama is still collecting information before making final decisions.

Among the changes Obama is expected to announce is more oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a classified document that ranks U.S. intelligence-gathering priorities and is used to make decisions on scrutiny of foreign leaders. A presidential review board has recommended increasing the number of policy officials who help establish those priorities, and that could result in limits on surveillance of allies.

National Journal has doubts:

Lawmakers Skeptical Obama Will Reform NSA After White House Summit

President Obama met with hand-picked lawmakers at the White House on Thursday to discuss the National Security Agency’s controversial spying programs, capping a week of meetings at the White House focused on potential reforms for the maligned federal agency.

The gathering in the Roosevelt Room occurred ahead of Obama’s planned announcement of possible NSA reforms the administration hopes to push out before his State of the Union address at the end of the month. It included top defenders of NSA surveillance, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as well as loud critics, such as Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

At least some of the lawmakers left the meeting unconvinced that the president is going to do enough to curtail the NSA. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said “it’s increasingly clear that we need to take legislative action to reform” the NSA’s intelligence gathering.

The Guardian presses:

Ron Wyden: the future of NSA programs is being determined now

  • Oregon senator attended key White House meeting Thursday
  • Obama met with ACLU, Epic and Open Technology Institute
  • Expectations mounting that Obama will propose changes

Privacy advocates pressed Barack Obama to end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications data at a series of meetings at the White House on Thursday, seizing their final chance to convince him of the need for meaningful reform of sweeping surveillance practices.

A key US senator left one meeting at the White House with the impression that President Obama has yet to decide on specific reforms. “The debate is clearly fluid,” senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a longtime critic of bulk surveillance, told the Guardian after the meeting. “My sense is the president, and the administration, is wrestling with these issues,” Wyden said.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers a defense:

FBI chief defends national security letters

FBI Director James Comey on Thursday pushed back against proposed changes in a controversial investigative tool he called key to fighting terrorists.

While a White House advisory panel is urging tighter judicial oversight of the FBI’s so-called “national security letter” program, Comey said the proposed revisions could fatally impede investigations.

Meeting with 20 reporters at FBI headquarters, Comey said the advisory panel’s recommendation to boost judicial oversight of the national security letters would “actually make it harder to conduct a national security investigation than a bank fraud investigation.”

USA TODAY bloviates:

FBI director: Snowden not a ‘hero whistle-blower’

FBI Director James Comey says he’s confused when he hears people referring to former national security contractor Edward Snowden as a “hero whistle-blower.”

“I have trouble applying the ‘whistle-blower’ label to someone who just disagrees with the way our country is structured and operates,” he told reporters Thursday.

The government program to conduct electronic surveillance through phone carriers and Internet service providers is an example of “the government operating in the way the framers intended,” with all three branches of government playing a role, Comey said.

But revelations about that program — which came from documents Snowden took with him when he left a contractor for the National Security Agency — “is a small piece of the information that was stolen,” Comey said. And that includes information about other operations that would not have whistle-blower protection, he said.

Reuters blows back:

India’s election regulator drops plan to partner Google after spying fears

India’s election regulator dropped plans on Thursday to partner Google Inc on a project to ease voter access to information, after a backlash against the move from campaigners who fear Google and the U.S. government could use it for spying.

India, the world’s largest democracy, will go to the polls in a general election due by May. Google, the world’s No.1 search engine, had pitched a project to the Election Commission to create a simpler and faster search tool for voters to check whether they were registered correctly or not.

But the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes.

PCMag.com has a request:

What It’s Like When The FBI Asks You To Backdoor Your Software

At a recent RSA Security Conference, Nico Sell was on stage announcing that her company—Wickr—was making drastic changes to ensure its users’ security. She said that the company would switch from RSA encryption to elliptic curve encryption, and that the service wouldn’t have a backdoor for anyone.

As she left the stage, before she’d even had a chance to take her microphone off, a man approached her and introduced himself as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  He then proceeded to “casually” ask if she’d be willing to install a backdoor into Wickr that would allow the FBI to retrieve information.

This encounter, and the agent’s casual demeanor, is apparently business as usual as intelligence and law enforcement agencies seek to gain greater access into protected communication systems. Since her encounter with the agent at RSA, Sell says it’s a story she’s heard again and again. “It sounds like that’s how they do it now,” she told SecurityWatch. “Always casual, testing, because most people would say yes.”

After the jump, on to Asia, for the latest developments in the Game of Zones, Korean divisions, escalating semantics and zone enforcement, corruption at Scotland Yard, and a righteous question for the Washington Post. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spooks. Fabricators, more


Today’s excursion into the black world begins with ominous news from Foreign Policy:

FBI Drops Law Enforcement as ‘Primary’ Mission

The FBI’s creeping advance into the world of counterterrorism is nothing new. But quietly and without notice, the agency has finally decided to make it official in one of its organizational fact sheets. Instead of declaring “law enforcement” as its “primary function,” as it has for years, the FBI fact sheet now lists “national security” as its chief mission. The changes largely reflect the FBI reforms put in place after September 11, 2001, which some have criticized for de-prioritizing law enforcement activities. Regardless, with the 9/11 attacks more than a decade in the past, the timing of the edits is baffling some FBI-watchers.

“What happened in the last year that changed?” asked Kel McClanahan, a Washington-based national security lawyer.

McClanahan noticed the change last month while reviewing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the agency. The FBI fact sheet accompanies every FOIA response and highlights a variety of facts about the agency. After noticing the change, McClanahan reviewed his records and saw that the revised fact sheets began going out this summer. “I think they’re trying to rebrand,” he said. “So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security.”

BuzzFeed covers the latest Congressional mood swing:

More Congressmen Say They’re Open To Clemency Deal To Bring Edward Snowden Back To U.S.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s more of a whistle-blower than a villain,” said Rep. Jim McGovern.

And Los Angeles Times makes the case for states’ rights:

Lawmaker wants to bar state from aiding spying without warrants

Reports of the National Security Agency collecting data on millions of Americans has spurred one of the first state bills of the year in California, a measure that would prohibit state agencies from assisting federal spying and data collection without warrants.

Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) introduced SB 828 Monday after NSA officials admitted collecting phone information on all Americans as part of a program aimed at identifying communications between possible terrorists.

The program is a “direct threat to our liberty and freedom,” Lieu said in a statement.

Techdirt goes Orwellian:

Court Decision Exempts Secret Memo From FOIA, Sets Stage For Future Secret Laws To Go Unchallenged

from the legally-binding-‘deliberations?’ dept

The “most transparent administration” received another win for continued secrecy, thanks to an appeals court decision that allowed it to continue to withhold a DOJ memo that created an exploitable loophole in consumer data privacy protections.

The document at issue is a classified memo issued by the Office of Legal Counsel on Jan. 8, 2010. A report later that year by the Justice Department’s inspector general at the time, Glenn A. Fine, disclosed the memo’s existence and its broad conclusion that telephone companies may voluntarily provide records to the government “without legal process or a qualifying emergency,” notwithstanding the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

TechWeekEurope covers the latest NSA-related scandal:

UAE Alleges US Backdoors Found In Its Spy Satellites

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is reportedly threatening to cancel a 3.4 billion dirhams (£570m) deal to purchase two military imaging satellites from France over claims that two US-supplied components compromise the security of the data transmitted between the satellite and the ground station.

While the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) is not directly named in the matter, the incident, reported by US-based Defense News, recalls concerns over the US spy agency’s allegedly widespread hacking activities, which are claimed to have included mobile and computing devices as well as cloud-based systems.

The satellite deal, signed in July after competition for more than a decade, involves the supply of two high-resolution Pleiades-type Falcon Eye military observation satellites, as well as a ground station and training for 20 engineers, with delivery set for 2018. Airbus Defence and Space is supplying the Astrobus-based satellite platform, with Italian-French joint venture Thales Alenia Space providing the observation and data transmission technology.

Nextgov makes a threat assessment:

Defense Leaders Say Cyber is Top Terror Threat

Defense officials see cyberattacks as the greatest threat to U.S. national security, according to a survey released Monday.

Forty-five percent of respondents to the Defense News Leadership Poll named a cyberattack as the single greatest threat—nearly 20 percentage points above terrorism, which ranked second.

The Defense News Leadership Poll, underwritten by United Technologies, surveyed 352 Defense News subscribers, based on job seniority, between Nov. 14 and Nov. 28, 2013. The poll targeted senior employees within the White House, Pentagon, Congress, and the defense industry.

Techdirt covers more Orwellian buffoonery, perhaps forgetting that once upon a time, he’d have been a chief suspect:

Rep. Peter King Says NSA Should Spy On Congress, Because They Might Be Talking To Al Qaeda

from the or-the-IRA? dept

Every day, Rep. Peter King seems more and more like a TV villain politician. He’s so… over the top in his crazy surveillance state opinions that it’s almost difficult to believe he’s real. Just take a stroll through his previous statements, in which he’s attacked the NY Times for supporting Ed Snowden, whom he calls both a “traitor” and a “terrorist appeaser.” He’s said that it’s a “disgrace” that anyone might call out the fact that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress. He’s argued that it’s “slander” to call the NSA’s activities “spying.” And he’s argued that Glenn Greenwald should be arrested and prosecuted for reporting on Snowden’s leaks.

A European Orwellian scenario from EUobserver:

EU data law hits set-back in Germany

Germany’s new justice minister, Heiko Maas, wants to delay turning the EU’s controversial data retention directive into German law.

His announcement, made in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday (5 January), comes amid legal action by the European Commission and despite the fact two leading parties in Germany’s grand coalition want to go ahead.

The directive allows governments and intelligence agencies to track the movements, meetings, phone and Internet use of every EU citizen by forcing operators to set up separate databases specifically for police access. The data is retained from anywhere between six months to two years.

Reuters seeks security:

U.S. wants Afghanistan to sign security deal in ‘weeks not months’

The United States wants the Afghanistan government to sign a bilateral security agreement in matter of weeks if a contingent of U.S. troops is to remain there after 2014, the White House said on Monday.

The Afghan government had ignored U.S. demands for it to sign a framework security agreement by the end of 2013, after protracted negotiations that have strained relations between the two countries.

U.S. officials say unless a deal is reached to keep upwards of 8,000 U.S. troops inside the country after 2014, the United States might instead completely withdraw from the country.

Off to Asia, starting with the latest from Korean with the London Daily Mail:

Is Kim Jong-Un’s aunt now dead as well? Reports claim wife of recently executed uncle has suffered fatal heart attack or committed suicide

  • Kim Kyong-hui, 67, is aunt of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, 30
  • Her husband Jang Song-Thaek was executed by Kim Jong-un last month
  • Mrs Kim, whose only child died in 2006, is said to have had heart disease
  • North Korean media say officials believe she is dead but not how or where

South China Morning Post covers a Korean shift:

North Korean coal minister replaced in wake of Jang’s execution

  • Fate of Rim Nam-su unclear after reshuffle in North Korea analyst links to recent purge

North Korea has replaced its coal minister, apparently after the shock execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, who had been accused of attempting to take control of the country’s lucrative coal export business.

Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency introduced Mun Myong-hak as “minister of coal industry” as it was reporting on the 30th anniversary of the Pukchang area coal-mining complex in the western province of South Phyongan yesterday.

And on to Japan, where Reuters covers the latest pitch from the increasingly bellicose Japanese prime minister:

Japan’s Abe wants to explain shrine visit to China, Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he wanted to meet Chinese and South Korean leaders to explain why he visited a controversial war shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime aggression.

Abe’s December 26 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals are enshrined along with other war dead, infuriated China and South Korea and prompted concern from the United States, a key ally.

“Seeking dialogue with China and South Korea is extremely important for the peace and security of this region,” Abe told a news conference after paying a customary New Year’s visit to a shrine in the central Japanese city of Ise.

From China Daily, the immediate blowback:

Beijing rejects Abe’s call for official meeting

Beijing and Seoul responded coolly on Monday after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again requested official meetings with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts.

“Abe has repeatedly claimed that he underscores improving relations with China, but what he said is hypocritical. It was he who closed the door on dialogue,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye also blamed Japan on Monday for strained ties.

More from the Diplomat:

Shinzo Abe Is Not Welcome In China, And Never Will Be

As long as Abe remains Prime Minister, don’t expect China-Japan ties to thaw.

In a recent press conference, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo expressed a desire to meet with Chinese and South Korean leaders to explain why he visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine in late December of 2013. “Seeking dialogue with China and South Korea is extremely important for the peace and security of this region,” Reuters quoted Abe as saying. “I would like to explain my true intentions regarding my visit to Yasukuni.”

The response from China was quick and predictable: no way, no how. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told the press that China had already “explicitly stated its position” towards the possibility of Abe meeting with Chinese leaders. The answer was (and remains) a resounding no. Hua accused Abe of “playing a double game in China-Japan relations ever since he took office.” Abe pays lip service to improving the relationship, but “the erroneous actions he takes jeopardize the overall interests of China-Japan relations and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

After the jump, Japan and China hit hyperbolic heights, Russia joins the Game of Zones and Abe ups the ante, Japan creates a killing zone, a spooky murder, and criminal destruction of the commons. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Democracy’s last gasp


From Chris Hedges, writing at Truthdig:

This is our last gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives.

The public debates about the government’s measures to prevent terrorism, the character assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into overdrive.

The most radical evil, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, is the political system that effectively crushes its marginalized and harassed opponents and, through fear and the obliteration of privacy, incapacitates everyone else. Our system of mass surveillance is the machine by which this radical evil will be activated. If we do not immediately dismantle the security and surveillance apparatus, there will be no investigative journalism or judicial oversight to address abuse of power. There will be no organized dissent. There will be no independent thought. Criticisms, however tepid, will be treated as acts of subversion. And the security apparatus will blanket the body politic like black mold until even the banal and ridiculous become concerns of national security. 

Read the rest.

Chart of the day: Cellular collisions


From the Pew Research Center, confirmation that our media have become our masters:

BLOG Cell

Headlines of the day: Spooks, lies, and history


Have a walk on the dark side, starting with a non-denial denial from The Guardian:

NSA statement does not deny ‘spying’ on members of Congress

  • Agency responds to questions from Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Statement cites ‘same privacy protections as all US persons’

The National Security Agency on Saturday released a statement in answer to questions from a senator about whether it “has spied, or is … currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials”, in which it did not deny collecting communications from legislators of the US Congress to whom it says it is accountable.

We love the Boing Boing headline:

Congress: Are you spying on us? NSA: We don’t spy on you except to the extent that we spy on everydamnbody

When Senator Bernie Sanders asked the NSA whether it was spying on Congress, he was very clear: “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.”

When the NSA answered, it was a lot less clear: “Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons.”

So, we’ll take that as a yes, then?

From the Department of He’s Just Ignorant, Not a Perjurer, via The Guardian:

Clapper did not lie to Congress on NSA, says national intelligence counsel

  • Robert Litt writes to New York Times to deny allegation
  • Says ‘inaccurate’ testimony could not be corrected publicly

In his letter to the newspaper, referring to one of the key Senate advocates of NSA reform, Litt continued: “Senator Ron Wyden asked about collection of information on Americans during a lengthy and wide-ranging hearing on an entirely different subject. While his staff provided the question the day before, Mr Clapper had not seen it. As a result, as Mr Clapper has explained, he was surprised by the question and focused his mind on the collection of the content of Americans’ communications. In that context, his answer was and is accurate.

“When we pointed out Mr Clapper’s mistake to him, he was surprised and distressed. I spoke with a staffer for Senator Wyden several days later and told him that although Mr Clapper recognized that his testimony was inaccurate, it could not be corrected publicly because the program involved was classified.”

The Times of India covers another form of very rational digital insecurity:

Security fears over Election Commission-Google tie-up

Google and EC have reportedly entered into an agreement under which the internet giant will help EC to manage online voter registration and facilitation services ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

A group of cyber security experts have questioned the Election Commission’s move to tie up with Google for voters’ registration, saying it could have possible impact on national security and democracy itself.

In the light of recent exposes about the penetrative and widespread intelligence gathering by the US agencies exposed by Edward Snowden, the activists also alleged that the EC’s move was done without any strategic considerations and could have long-term repercussions.

“It is shocking that in a country like India which is called world’s software superpower, Election Commission, instead of an Indian company, has chosen a foreign company like Google, which has colluded with American intelligence agencies like NSA (National Security Agency) for global cyber spying, to provide electoral registration and facilitation services by providing them the whole database of registered voters in India,” the Indian Infosec Consortium said in the capital on Saturday.

Computerworld talks corporate benefits:

Thanks to the NSA, quantum computing may some day be in the cloud

The spy agency is spending $80M on basic research related to quantum computing

The National Security Agency (NSA) is spending some $80 million in basic research on quantum computing. And what the NSA spends its research money on may ultimately help commercialize quantum computing — and even make it accessible via the cloud.

This is what Defense Department agencies do: They fund basic research that private industry sees as too risky, but if the work leads to breakthroughs, it’s the commercial sector that may benefit the most.

Historical perspective from MintPress News:

Edward Snowden Evolved From Gaming Geek To Conscientious Whistleblower

Once a computer gaming jock and fan of Japanese animation, Snowden became the most famous leaker in the annals of US intelligence.

But back in May 2003, Snowden was a little-known teenage tech geek helping friends at Ryuhana Press, a website where the young Snowden worked at what he described as “Web Editor/Coffee Boy. “His avatar was a geek, with a T-shirt emblazoned “I [heart] Me,” spiky hair, granny glasses on the tip of his nose and a green scarf draped around his neck. “I really am a nice guy,” was the intro to his online web profile that continued, “you see, I act arrogant and cruel because I was not hugged enough as a child, and the public education system turned it’s [sic] wretched, spiked back on me.”

For his 19th birthday in June 2003, friends of Snowden posted pictures of him lowering his pants for colleagues, pinning clothespins to his chest and dancing. One colleague jokingly posted, “Who is he? What does he do? Does he really love himself as much as his shameless marketing would make you believe?” Snowden – who was regularly cited by friends as well spoken, deliberate and intellectual – described himself in the following statement: “I like Japanese, I like girls, I like my girlish figure that attracts girls and I like my lamer friends.” In a prescient sense that eventually he’d be pursued by law enforcement, he wrote – “That’s the best biography you’ll get out of me, coppers!”

The Toronto Globe and Mail talks clemency:

Moves to curb spying help drive clemency argument for Snowden

To the prosecutors pursuing him, Edward J. Snowden has committed espionage by divulging U.S. national secrets. But the growing backlash against government surveillance has spurred a spirited debate about whether he should be forgiven.

The whistleblower-versus-traitor argument has taken on a new dimension with recent moves to curtail the programs that Snowden revealed. A federal judge ruled that one program was probably unconstitutional, technology companies are demanding changes, lawmakers are considering restrictions, and even a White House panel urged modifications.

From Just Security, the perfect Catch-22:

OLC Memos and FOIA: Why the (b)(5) Exemption Matters

The headline of yesterday’s D.C. Circuit decision in Electronic Frontier Foundation v. Department of Justice, in which the Court of Appeals rejected a FOIA request for a 2010 OLC opinion regarding the legality of the FBI’s controversial use of “exigent” National Security Letters (NSLs) (issued without many of the usual–mandatory–FBI certifications), is unsurprising. But the reasoning is another story. Indeed, as I explain in the brief post that follows, Judge Edwards’s analysis may have the effect, unintended or otherwise, of insulating virtually all nonpublic OLC memos and opinions from FOIA requests–regardless of their subject-matter or sensitivity.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. . .from RT:

US the biggest threat to world peace in 2013 – poll

The US has been voted as the most significant threat to world peace in a survey across 68 different countries. Anti-American sentiment was not only recorded in antagonistic countries, but also in many allied NATO partners like Turkey and Greece.

A global survey conducted by the Worldwide Independent Network and Gallup at the end of 2013 revealed strong animosity towards the US’s role as the world’s policeman. Citizens across over 60 nations were asked: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”

The US topped the list, with 24 percent of people believing America to be the biggest danger to peace. Pakistan came second, with 8 percent of the vote and was closely followed by China with 6 percent. Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and North Korea came in joint fourth place with 5 percent of the vote.

German dreams of drones [the V-3?] from TheLocal.de:

Military calls for drones to protect soldiers

Germany’s military elite has called on the new coalition government to buy armed drones to protect the country’s soldiers.

The Armed Forces Association (Bundeswehrverband), commander of Germany’s troops in Afghanistan, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Armed Forces have all spoken out in support of drones.

Germany’s drone buying programme stalled when the last defence minister, Thomas de Mazière, spent hundreds of millions of euros on Euro Hawk drones that were not allowed to fly in German airspace.

Mission unaccomplished, from euronews:

Iraqi army battles to flush al Qaeda from Fallujah

Iraqi troops are still fighting a pitch battle to regain control of two key cities from militants linked to al Qaeda.

In Ramadi, military anti-terrorist teams have been engaged in street fighting with army forces reluctant to enter residential areas.

At least eight people were killed and 30 others wounded in Fallujah as Iraqi troops shelled rebel positions.

A mixture of Sunni Islamist and tribal forces are dug into Ramadi and the western region’s other main city, Fallujah. The seizure on Monday of territory is the first time in years that Sunni insurgents have taken effective control of the region’s most important cities.

Some perspective from RT:

Confirmed: 2013 deadliest for Iraq since 2008, UN estimates

A total of 8,868 people, including 7,818 civilians, have been killed in violent attacks across Iraq in 2013, the United Nations reports – the highest annual death toll in the war-torn country in five years.

In December alone, at least 759 Iraqis were killed and another 1,345 wounded in terrorist attacks and violence, reports the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNIRAQ), which monitors the impact of armed violence and terrorism on Iraqi civilians.

On to those East Asian crises, first with this from the Global Times:

Chinese envoy urges world to stop Abe from reversing post-war order

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a controversial war shrine is a deliberate political act aimed at reversing the verdict of history on World War II, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said Friday.

In a joint interview with Washington-based Chinese-language media, Cui added that the international community should not allow Abe to disrupt the post-war order and lead Japan back to the catastrophic path of militarism.

Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo on Dec. 26 was not an isolated individual act, but rather a deliberate act with clear political aims, Cui said.

Abe coalition partners raise a warning, via the Japan News:

Komeito: Govt must listen to concerns on Yasukuni

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi referred to worldwide concerns over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine late last year.

Abe’s visit to the Tokyo shrine on Dec. 26 drew concern or stern rebukes from not only South Korea and China but also the United States, Russia and the European Union, Yamaguchi said in a street speech on Thursday. The shrine, which honors Class-A World War II criminals along with the war dead, is regarded as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism in other Asian countries.

The Japanese government must listen humbly and sincerely to these voices and show Japan’s stance of contributing to global peace and stability, Yamaguchi said.

Jiji Press goes head to head:

Japanese, U.S. Defense Chiefs Hold Talks over Phone

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held talks over the phone Saturday night, conversations that were once canceled late last month.

The phone talks were initially scheduled for Dec. 27 but canceled at the request of the United States.

The cancellation came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s controversial war-related Yasukuni shrine on Dec. 26, triggering protests from China and South Korea. Some Japanese Defense Ministry officials believed that the cancellation was caused by the shrine visit.

Sanctioned intimidation from Deutsche Welle:

Neo-Nazis get press cards to intimidate media

Neo-Nazis in Germany are increasingly using press cards to get access to media pools where they take pictures of journalists and other people and intimidate those who are fighting right-wing extremism.

Police usually ensure that neo-Nazis and counter-protesters keep their distance during demonstrations. Right-wing extremists, however, increasingly manage to overcome these barricades, but instead of applying force, they simply show their press badge. This card allows them to get up close with their enemies and journalists reporting on the event. Neo-Nazis videotape them and take pictures, and then threaten them.

Press card abuse has grown steadily over the past year, journalist Felix M. Steiner told DW. Steiner writes for Watchblog Publikative.org, the German public broadcaster NDR and Zeit Online’s Störungsmelder, a blog on Nazi activity, among others. Steiner mainly reports on right-wing extremism.

Bloomberg does the datatropic:

Human Behavior Trove Lures Economists to U.S. Tech Titans

Wooing this year’s best graduate students in economics will be familiar faces from Harvard, Princeton and other U.S. universities seeking assistant professors — and EBay Inc. (EBAY)’s not yet three-year-old economic research team.

The American Economic Association’s annual meeting kicks off today and EBay won’t be the only technology company aiming to tap more brainpower at what doubles as the discipline’s premier job fair. In the past few years, Google Inc. (GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) have amassed teams of in-house economists to make sense of the oceans of data they’re collecting.

RT covers a loss of historical intelligence:

Thousands of books, manuscripts torched in fire at historic Lebanese library

Firefighters struggled to subdue the flames as the decades-old Al-Saeh library went up in smoke on Friday in the Serail neighborhood of Tripoli. Despite firefighters’ best efforts, little of the trove of historic books and manuscripts was recovered from the wreckage.

“Two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there,” a security source told Agence France Press, referring to the items destroyed. The source added that the blaze was started after a manuscript insulting the Prophet Mohammed was found hidden in the pages of one of the library books.

Our final headline from Boing Boing describes an unspeakable scientific environmental disaster:

Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives

Back in 2012, when Canada’s Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.

Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives’ war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.

An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger’s 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age.

Chris Ware: “All Together Now”


His New Yorker cover provides a perfect encapsulation of an encapsulating society:

BLOG Fragments

Headlines of the day I: Spies, drones, bellicosity


We begin today’s tour of the black realm with a look, up in the sky! from CBC:

U.S. drone testing sites to be developed in 6 states

Test sites will work on how to introduce drones to U.S. skies

Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the unmanned aircraft’s march into U.S. skies. The agency said Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia as states that will host research sites.

The Independent adds another draconian Orwellian touch to life in Old Blighty:

MoD tightens security at American spy bases linked to drone strikes

‘Draconian’ laws would help the US cover up illegal activities

The Ministry of Defence is set to introduce “draconian” new powers to tighten security and limit access to US airbases in Britain implicated in mass surveillance and drone strikes, The Independent can reveal.

The measures, which include powers to arrest for offences ranging from taking photographs to failing to clean up dog mess, would be put in place through a little-known project to overhaul the by-laws surrounding military facilities across the country.

Among the sites where the new rules are set to be imposed are two US Air Force bases used as key communication hubs for clandestine eavesdropping.

And the really big story the latest Snowden leaks bombshell, first from Spiegel:

Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit

The NSA’s TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency’s top secret weapon. It maintains its own covert network, infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by those it is targeting.

An internal description of TAO’s responsibilities makes clear that aggressive attacks are an explicit part of the unit’s tasks. In other words, the NSA’s hackers have been given a government mandate for their work. During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries — nearly everywhere in the world. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.

Indeed, TAO specialists have directly accessed the protected networks of democratically elected leaders of countries. They infiltrated networks of European telecommunications companies and gained access to and read mails sent over Blackberry’s BES email servers, which until then were believed to be securely encrypted. Achieving this last goal required a “sustained TAO operation,” one document states.

This TAO unit is born of the Internet — created in 1997, a time when not even 2 percent of the world’s population had Internet access and no one had yet thought of Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. From the time the first TAO employees moved into offices at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, the unit was housed in a separate wing, set apart from the rest of the agency. Their task was clear from the beginning — to work around the clock to find ways to hack into global communications traffic.

More from The Guardian:

NSA ‘hacking unit’ infiltrates computers around the world – report

  • NSA: Tailored Access Operations a ‘unique national asset’
  • Former NSA chief calls Edward Snowden a ‘traitor’

A top-secret National Security Agency hacking unit infiltrates computers around the world and breaks into the toughest data targets, according to internal documents quoted in a magazine report on Sunday.

Details of how the division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO), steals data and inserts invisible “back door” spying devices into computer systems were published by the German magazine Der Spiegel.

The magazine portrayed TAO as an elite team of hackers specialising in gaining undetected access to intelligence targets that have proved the toughest to penetrate through other spying techniques, and described its overall mission as “getting the ungettable”. The report quoted an official saying that the unit’s operations have obtained “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen”.

Here’s one of the NSA slides revealed by Spiegel, revealing both the name of a TAO program and the peculiar attutudes of cybersnoopers:

ACHTUNG SPERRFRIST 30.12.2013 Quantum-Biga #01 Foxacid

The Verge takes its own focus:

NSA reportedly intercepting laptops purchased online to install spy malware

According to a new report from Der Spiegel based on internal NSA documents, the signals intelligence agency’s elite hacking unit (TAO) is able to conduct sophisticated wiretaps in ways that make Hollywood fantasy look more like reality. The report indicates that the NSA, in collaboration with the CIA and FBI, routinely and secretly intercepts shipping deliveries for laptops or other computer accessories in order to implant bugs before they reach their destinations. According to Der Spiegel, the NSA’s TAO group is able to divert shipping deliveries to its own “secret workshops” in a method called interdiction, where agents load malware onto the electronics or install malicious hardware that can give US intelligence agencies remote access.

While the report does not indicate the scope of the program, or who the NSA is targeting with such wiretaps, it’s a unique look at the agency’s collaborative efforts with the broader intelligence community to gain hard access to communications equipment. One of the products the NSA appears to use to compromise target electronics is codenamed COTTONMOUTH, and has been available since 2009; it’s a USB “hardware implant” that secretly provides the NSA with remote access to the compromised machine.

And the Verge finds still another focus:

The NSA’s elite hackers can hijack your Wi-Fi from 8 miles away

Attendees at the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg this weekend got a surprising rundown of the NSA’s surveillance capabilities, courtesy of security researcher Jacob Appelbaum. Appelbaum, who co-wrote the Der Spiegel article that first revealed the NSA catalog, went into further detail onstage, describing several individual devices in the catalog and their intended purposes.

Alongside pre-packaged exploits that allowed control over iOS devices and any phone communicating through GSM, Appelbaum detailed a device that targets computers through packet injection, seeding exploits from up to 8 miles away. He even speculated the exploits could be delivered by drone, although he conceded that in most cases, an unmarked van would likely be more practical.

The Daily Dot has another focus:

NSA has top-secret catalog of ‘keys’ into world’s security architecture

Around the world, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies depend on the computer security architecture made by companies like Cisco, Juniper, and Huawei to protect their most valuable secrets. But for years the vast majority of these systems have been compromised.

A 2008 document obtained by German newspaper Der Spiegel reveals the National Security Agency has been able to slip into the majority of systems made by the major players in the computer security industry, thanks to an entire catalog of resilient and hard-to-detect backdoors, some of which are capable of burrowing as deep as a computer’s motherboard.

The Daily Dot has another focus:

NSA has top-secret catalog of ‘keys’ into world’s security architecture

Around the world, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies depend on the computer security architecture made by companies like Cisco, Juniper, and Huawei to protect their most valuable secrets. But for years the vast majority of these systems have been compromised.

A 2008 document obtained by German newspaper Der Spiegel reveals the National Security Agency has been able to slip into the majority of systems made by the major players in the computer security industry, thanks to an entire catalog of resilient and hard-to-detect backdoors, some of which are capable of burrowing as deep as a computer’s motherboard.

While PandoDaily gets philosophical:

Snowden’s biggest revelation: We don’t know what power is anymore, nor do we care

That the US and Britain spy on our allies (and on each other) is not in and of itself a shocking revelation, but this is more important than mere novelty. What matters most about the Snowden leaks is what will come of them, and what we’ll do with them, if anything. There is no guarantee that leaks lead to positive change, nothing inherently transformative about leaking, not without a larger political movement – what Joe Costello would call “a politics” — pushing it. And right now, the only thing close to a politics around leaking is libertarianism, the worst of all political worlds.

Even with a politics, there’s no guarantee leaks end up making things better without a long fight. The last time frightening NSA spying programs (SHAMROCK, MINARET) were leaked in the 1970s, the political reforms that followed turned out to be far worse than what we had before: namely the secret FISA courts. The FISA courts were supposed to provide judicial check on the NSA, but instead turned into a nightmarish secret court that not only rubber stamps nearly every surveillance warrant the NSA asks for, but worse, has been used to restrict Americans’ constitutional rights.

Away from NSA and off to Moscow with the Buenos Aires Herald:

Russia calls for unity in fight against ‘terrorists’

Russia has likened two deadly suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd to attacks by militants in the United States, Syria and other countries and called for international solidarity in the fight against “terrorists.”

“We will not retreat and will continue our consistent fight against an insidious enemy that can only be defeated together,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

From BuzzFeed, the latest and possibly terminal entry in a long series:

Administration Won’t Comment On Israeli Report About Imprisoned Spy

An Israeli TV report says Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to offer to release Jonathan Pollard. The White House and State Department refuse to comment.

The White House and State Department on Friday refused to confirm or deny an Israeli report that Secretary of State John Kerry was offering the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in return for Israel freeing Arab Israeli prisoners as part of its next round of Palestinian prisoner releases.

Pollard was convicted in 1987 of stealing classified information and passing it on to the Israeli government while working as an intelligence analyst. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 and his eventual release has become a cause in Israeli politics, with 106 members of the Knesset signing a letter to Obama this week calling for Pollard to be freed from prison.

After the jump, tensions heat up n Asia with Afghan gloom, Pakistani violence, moves and countermoves in the China sea, more blowback from the Japanese prime minister’s visit to a war shrine housing remains of war criminals, hardening of the Japanese security state, corporate intel, and much more. . . Continue reading

Snowden’s revelations as seen by an ex-spook


While former British army intelligence officer Michael Smith initially seemingly categorizes Edward Snowden as a traitor, when questioned by RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze he acknowledges Snowden wasn’t a traitor. Rather, he says, he’s naive.

Their conversation ranges beyond Snowden’s revelations and their import, examining the larger issues of intelligence, law, and governance.

From RT:

‘Snowden showed us world sleepwalks into Orwellian horror’ – ex-intelligence officer

Program notes:

The art of espionage has changed — the internet has given the surveillance agencies unprecedented capabilities to snoop at anyone, anywhere. On the other side are the whistleblowers, to whom World Web has given the chance to see what is really going on behind the closed doors of Big Brother. Who is right? Is wrongdoing justified for the sake of security? Today we put these questions to the former intelligence officer, Michael Smith.

Mediastan: Chelsea Manning’s leaks hit the road


A feature-length documentary directed by director Johannes Wahlstrom, on the search for media to help publicize the diplomatic cables downloaded by Chelsea Manning to the immense anger of the White House, State Department, and so many others.

Via RT:

Mediastan: WikiLeaks ‘Road Movie’

From the accompanying RT story:

In “Mediastan,” produced by Julian Assange, Rebecca O’Brien and Lauren Dark, a group of underground journalists test the impact of the leaked documents as they travel through Central Asia in search of local media outlets willing to publish Cablegate files. Their journey follows the ancient Silk Road traversing Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and US-occupied Afghanistan.

>snip<

The third part of the film moves from Central Asia to Britain and the US, with new cables being shown to The Guardian and The New York Times.

Julian Assange talks to The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, about how the newspaper censored US cables about rich kleptocrats and western oil companies. In New York, the NYT’s editor, Bill Keller, reveals his newspaper’s daily telephone calls with the US government.

“Mediastan is not so much a physical place as it is a state of mind among many of the journalists and editors who form our perceptions of the world,” Wahlstrom said.

The film is a challenge to Hollywood’s ‘Fifth Estate’ which was condemned by WikiLeaks as a “propaganda attack.”However, Wahlstrom accepted that the film’s “flop” had actually worked in WikiLeaks’ favor.

“The success of Mediastan, on the other hand, has a lot to do with the Hollywood story, since we have been able to use their marketing to our advantage,” Wahlstrom said.

The journey was not an easy one, he adds. “Throughout our journey we were tailed, or at least we thought we were being tailed, by various state agents. But it seemed as though they didn’t consider us a serious threat since they had other ways of controling their own media if we were to hand them the documents,” he said.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, liars, hacks, ruses


Just one heckuva lot happening today, with yet more Snowden bombshells and lots of blowback.

From The Guardian, the headline-grabber:

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief

  • Unicef and Médecins du Monde were on surveillance list
  • Targets went well beyond potential criminals and terrorists
  • Revelations could cause embarrassment at EU summit

British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU’s competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top secret documents reveal.

The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.

More from Spiegel:

Friendly Fire: How GCHQ Monitors Germany, Israel and the EU

Documents from the archive of whistleblower and former NSA worker Edward Snowden show that Britain’s GCHQ signals intelligence agency has targeted European, German and Israeli politicians for surveillance.

The documents SPIEGEL was able to examine do not indicate how intensively and during which periods of time the individual targets were actually monitored. However, the example of an African politician shows that even during a surveillance test run, the British intercepted and stored his mobile phone text messages in their entirety.

And from the New York Times:

N.S.A. Dragnet Included Allies, Aid Groups and Business Elite

Secret documents reveal more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent years, including the office of an Israeli prime minister, heads of international aid organizations, foreign energy companies and a European Union official involved in antitrust battles with American technology businesses.

While the names of some political and diplomatic leaders have previously emerged as targets, the newly disclosed intelligence documents provide a much fuller portrait of the spies’ sweeping interests in more than 60 countries.

And from El País:

US spied on European Commission vice president, internal sources claim

NSA reported to have monitored Joaquín Almunia’s phone calls at the start of Europe’s financial crisis

The US National Security Agency (NSA) tapped the cellphone of European Commission Vice President Joaquín Almunia between 2008 and 2009, when the Spaniard served as commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, EC sources have told EL PAÍS.

The former leader of the Spanish Socialist Party is the first high-level EC official known to have been a target of the NSA’s spying activities. Sources said that the 65-year-old Almunia has been made aware that his phone was tapped.

And blowback from EUobserver:

EU: US spying on Almunia ‘unacceptable if true’

A European Commission spokeswoman said on Friday that, “if proven true,” it is “unacceptable” that the UK and US spied on EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia. The revelations, published Friday by The Guardian, are the latest in a series of leaks by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

And the usual huckin’ ‘n’ jivin’, from PCWorld:

NSA defends foreign surveillance after new reports of targets

An NSA spokeswoman defended the NSA’s surveillance programs, without commenting specifically on the report.

“We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” she said in an email. “The United States collects foreign intelligence just as many other governments do.”

The NSA collects information to understand other countries’ policies and to “monitor anomalous economic activities,” she said. Those efforts “are critical to providing policy-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security.”

Meanwhile, Techdirt smells a rat in the official White House review:

Report Suggests NSA Engaged In Financial Manipulation, Changing Money In Bank Accounts

from the that-would-be-big dept

Matt Blaze has been pointing out that when you read the new White House intelligence task force report and its recommendations on how to reform the NSA and the wider intelligence community, that there may be hints to other excesses not yet revealed by the Snowden documents. Trevor Timm may have spotted a big one.

And here’s a screengrab of the section in question, notably the second point:

BLOG NSA reco

Global blowback to earlier revelations from MercoPress:

Brazil and Germany, with UN support hit back at US cyber spying

UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution aimed at protecting the right to privacy of internet users. The resolution was introduced by Brazil and Germany after allegations that the US had been eavesdropping on foreign leaders, including Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Germany’s Angela Merkel.

The two powerful ladies, Angela and Dilma are furious about US NSA spying into their countries and even their personal mobiles The two powerful ladies, Angela and Dilma are furious about US NSA spying into their countries and even their personal mobiles

The claims stem from leaks by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden.

General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but they can carry significant moral and political weight. The resolution calls for all countries to guarantee privacy rights to users of the internet and other forms of electronic communications.

Snowden gets Nordic conformation, via TheLocal.no:

Norway data helps target US drones: spy chief

Data collected by Norway’s intelligence services in Afghanistan is used by US and Nato forces to target controversial drone attacks, the organisation’s head has revealed.

Lieutenant General Kjell Grandhagen told Aftenposten newspaper that the data Norway’s E-Service handed over to the US’s National Security Agency was “part of an overall information base used for operations”.

“Such operations may include the use of drones or other legal weapons platforms,” he confirmed.

And yet another revelation, this time from Reuters:

Exclusive: Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer

As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a “back door” in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.

We love the headline Metafilter gave to the story:

RSA Paid by the NSA to screw the USA

And here’s TechCrunch’s headline, which says it all:

NSA Reportedly Paid A Security Firm Millions To Ship Deliberately Flawed Encryption Technology

In a related development, Ars Technica headlines dismissively:

Critics: NSA agent co-chairing key crypto standards body should be removed

There’s an elephant in the room at the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Security experts are calling for the removal of a National Security Agency employee who co-chairs an influential cryptography panel, which advises a host of groups that forge widely used standards for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Kevin Igoe, who in a 2011 e-mail announcing his appointment was listed as a senior cryptographer with the NSA’s Commercial Solutions Center, is one of two co-chairs of the IETF’s Crypto Forum Research Group (CFRG). The CFRG provides cryptographic guidance to IETF working groups that develop standards for a variety of crucial technologies that run and help secure the Internet. The transport layer security (TLS) protocol that underpins Web encryption and standards for secure shell (SSH) connections used to securely access servers are two examples. Igoe has been CFRG co-chair for about two years, along with David A. McGrew of Cisco Systems.

Igoe’s leadership had largely gone unnoticed until reports surfaced in September that exposed the role NSA agents have played in “deliberately weakening the international encryption standards adopted by developers.”

Meanwhile, Barry O spins away in the year’s last Wbite House presser. From Bloomberg:

Obama Says Surveillance Program Changes Coming in January

President Barack Obama said he will act in January on the recommendations of an advisory panel suggesting changes to government surveillance programs.

“What we’re doing now is evaluating all of the recommendations that have been made,” Obama said at a news conference today. “I’m going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January.”

He’ll decide which recommendations “make sense” and which need further work, Obama said at a White House news conference, his final planned for 2013.

More from The Guardian:

Obama concedes NSA bulk collection of phone data may be unnecessary

  • President: ‘There may be a better way of skinning the cat’
  • ‘Potential abuse’ of collected data cited as concern

President Barack Obama speaks President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the White House. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has conceded that mass collection of private data by the US government may be unnecessary and said there were different ways of “skinning the cat”, which could allow intelligence agencies to keep the country safe without compromising privacy.

In an apparent endorsement of a recommendation by a review panel to shift responsibility for the bulk collection of telephone records away from the National Security Agency and on to the phone companies, the president said change was necessary to restore public confidence.

“In light of the disclosures, it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular programme may have, may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse,” Obama told an end-of-year White House press conference. “If it that’s the case, there may be a better way of skinning the cat.”

Still more from The Guardian:

Obama: Snowden leaks caused ‘unnecessary damage’

Obama said he could not comment specifically on possible amnesty because Snowden was ‘under indictment’

Barack Obama has declined to be drawn into a debate about possible amnesty for Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose revelations about the NSA have sparked intense internal deliberation about changing US surveillance activities.

In a press conference at the White House, the president distinguished between Snowden’s leaks and the debate those leaks prompted, which he said was “an important conversation we needed to have”, but left open the question of whether he should still be prosecuted.

“The way in which these disclosures happened has been damaging to the United States and damaging to our intelligence capabilities,” he said. “I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage. As important and as necessary as this debate has been, it’s important to keep in mind this has done unnecessary damage.”

Let’s hear it for the little guy! From The Wire:

Report: The NSA Misses a Lot of Phone Call Records, Especially from Smaller Carriers

After the jump, Danish spy scandals, calling out the National Guard as cyber warriors, the latest saber-rattling in Asia, massive corporate data thefts, Turkish turmoil, and much more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, hacks, hawks


Our daily walk on the dark side begins with a question answered from The Verge:

Will Obama’s legacy be stained by technology scandals?

A broken website and an agency bent on breaking the internet sum up the president’s second term

The Hindu raises another question:

International law only for weaker states?

The harsh truth is that the U.S. interprets the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations restrictively at home but liberally overseas so as to shield even the spies and contractors it sends

On the face of it, there is nothing in common between China’s declaration on November 23 this year of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) extending to territories it does not control and America’s arrest, strip search and handcuffing of a New York-based Indian woman diplomat on December 12 for allegedly underpaying a domestic help she had brought with her from India. In truth, these actions epitomise the unilateralist approach of these powers.

The Guardian cites Tory conviction:

White House report on NSA ‘has not changed David Cameron’s view’

PM’s spokesman refuses to comment on review commissioned by Barack Obama that calls for big changes to surveillance

David Cameron’s view on the powers of the UK intelligence agencies remains unchanged, his official spokesman has said, after a White House report recommended sweeping changes to the way US security services operate to stop widespread surveillance of American citizens.

Salon headlines optimistically:

White House advisers vindicate Snowden

WH advisory committee urges reform, vindicates whistle-blowing and suggests shift in national security ideology

First things first, now that the White House advisory committee’s report on National Security Agency surveillance is out: If it were not already abundantly evident, this report should serve as a 300-page vindication of Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing. Like a federal court ruling earlier this week that found the NSA’s mass collection of telephonic metadata to violate Fourth Amendment privacy protections, the advisory report urges against the mass collection of U.S. citizens’ call data.

In what many would and should see as a coup de grâce for the case against Snowden, the report goes as far as to state (although buried in fine print, as Politico noted) that the dragnet data collections, sanctioned by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, have not been “essential” in preventing terror attacks and (footnoted): “The section 215 telephony meta-data program has made only a modest contribution to the nation’s security … and there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome would have been different without the section 215 telephony meta-data program.”

The Guardian notes absence:

The NSA review panel didn’t answer the real question: was any of this legal?

President Obama’s NSA review is cast as a set of ‘policy recommendations’ as if this is all just a political debate

President Obama’s NSA review panel makes it clear that many of the things NSA has been doing are bad from a policy perspective. But the real question we should be asking is: are they legal?

The Associated Press observes:

Brazil: Waiting for more details on NSA changes

Brazil’s foreign minister says the Brazilian government is eager to hear from the U.S. government about proposed changes to U.S. surveillance programs.

Luiz Figueiredo said Thursday that Brazil is “following with interest” the action in the U.S. over the National Security Agency’s espionage program, of which Brazil and its president were targets.

The Copenhagen Post allies:

Snowden leak confirms Denmark spying deal with US

Leaked document from NSA lists Denmark as one of nine European countries that collaborates with the ‘5-Eyes’

A newly-leaked document from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden confirms Denmark’s formal agreement to work with the US surveillance agency NSA.

The document was revealed by Swedish television channel SVT as part of a documentary on Sweden’s participation in spying operations. Nine European countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – are listed in the document as “Third Party partners” to the Five Eyes nations (the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

The McClatchy Washington Bureau probes:

Congressmen seek investigation into Clapper’s false testimony on NSA

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should face consequences for lying to Congress, say members of the House Judiciary Committee.

Seven of the panel’s members, including USA Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., say the veteran intelligence official lied under oath to Congress, and are calling for an investigation in to Clapper’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in March of 2013. The group sent a letter to the Justice Department today requesting the investigation.

Clapper was asked if the NSA had been collecting “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” to which he replied, “No, sir.

RIA Novosti admires:

Putin Envies Obama’s Ability to Spy on the World

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he envied US President Barack Obama’s ability to spy on the rest of the world.

Putin, a former KGB agent, noted an absence of consequences for the US leader following the exposure of massive electronic spying programs conducted by the National Security Agency.

“I envy [Obama]. Because he can do this, and nothing will happen to him because of it,” Putin said.

More from Europe Online:

Putin defends US global surveillance as aimed at fighting terrorism

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday defended the United States, arguing that its mass surveillance programme was aimed at preventing terrorism.

“You must listen to the whole communications system, it is practically impossible to spy just on one person,” said the former KGB spy, and that it was difficult to limit intelligence work to individual terrorism suspects.

In his annual press conference, the Russian leader argued that the criticism leveled at the US for their eavesdropping programme was not entirely justified.

Nextgov pares:

Congress Lops $35 Million Off Funding for NSA Supercomputer Center

Deep inside legislation authorizing 2014 Pentagon activities is a line item that reduces construction spending for a National Security Agency data mining facility near Baltimore. The Obama administration had requested $431 million for the third phase of development of the 28-acre server estate.

A report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act — expected to clear Congress as early as Thursday night  — caps expenses at $396 million. The vague explanation states that military officials said they won’t be able to expend the full amount asked for in fiscal 2014.

Business Insider, armed and dangerous:

Report: Fired Nuke General Allegedly Associated With ‘Suspect’ Women And Drank Heavily In Russia

Fired US nuke general allegedly engaged in alcohol-fueled ‘inappropriate behavior’ in Russia

Air Force general who was fired from command of U.S. land-based nuclear missile forces had engaged in “inappropriate behavior” while on official business in Russia last summer, including heavy drinking, rudeness to his hosts and associating with “suspect” women, according to an investigation report released Thursday.

The events that led to the dismissal took place while Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was in Russia in July as head of a U.S. government delegation to a nuclear security training exercise. At the time, he was commander of the 20th Air Force, responsible for all 450 of the Air Force’s Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles stationed in five U.S. states.

Network World IDs:

Gotcha! FBI launches new biometric systems to nail criminals

Palm prints, iris images and mug shots join fingerprints in the FBI’s database, helping to identify the bad guys.

Nearly 80 years after it began collecting fingerprints on index cards as a way to identify criminals, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is moving to a new system that improves the accuracy and performance of its existing setup while adding more biometrics.

By adding palm print, face and iris image search capabilities, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) hopes to improve the accuracy of identity searches, make it easier to positively identify and track criminals as they move through the criminal justice system and provide a wider range of tools for crime scene investigators.

The Independent sees no evil:

MI6 agents told to ignore abuse of US detainees in Afghanistan, Gibson report finds

MI6 agents in Afghanistan were told they were not obliged to intervene if they witnessed suspected terrorists being harmed by their American captors, an official inquiry into allegations Britain was complicit in torture has disclosed.

It also concluded that UK operatives “may have become inappropriately” involved in some cases of rendition of captives who were believed to be al-Qa’ida fighters.

Sir Peter Gibson’s investigation listed 27 areas he believed needed further inquiry, including whether the Government should have done more to obtain the release of UK nationals locked up at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

France appeals, from Spiegel:

Taking Responsibility: France Seeks Help for Africa Intervention

Despite its financial troubles, France remains committed to an expensive military intervention in the Central African Republic. Now the country is looking to its European partners, chiefly Germany, to support the operation.

Reuters bolsters:

Amid austerity, EU agrees to boost defense cooperation

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to cooperate more closely on making falling defense budgets go further, while President Francois Hollande failed to win any promise of EU help to pay for French military operations in Africa.

Austerity-hit EU countries have slashed spending in response to the financial crisis, scaling back on ships, tanks and fighter jets and undermining Europe’s military strength, much to the concern of the United States, its most important ally.

EU leaders, discussing defense at a summit for the first time in five years, called on member states to work together to spread the cost of developing expensive military kit.

On to Asia, where the regional boundary disputes and executions seem to have slowed, starting with this from Want China Times:

Beijing backs six-party talks to appease Moscow: Duowei

China is again throwing its weight behind the six-party talks on the North Korea nuclear issue as a means to appease Russia, reports Duowei News, an outlet run by overseas Chinese.

Following last week’s execution of Jang Sung-taek, the uncle-in-law of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un, China has been scrambling to come up with a strategy to deal with the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula by actively seeking out the assistance of Russia, according to Duowei.

Jiji Press looks askance:

Fewer Americans Favor Security Treaty with Japan: Survey

Fewer U.S. citizens supported the Japan-U.S. security treaty this year than the previous year, a survey by the Japanese Foreign Ministry revealed Thursday.

In the survey, 67 pct of U.S. citizens said the treaty should be maintained, down 22 percentage points, while 9 pct answered they do not think so, up 2 points. The percentage of those who said they are not sure came to 24 pct, up 20 points.

People’s Daily abjures:

Japan should wake up from its dream to become a military power

No country with a normal development strategy will be willing to tolerate Japan’s attempt to become a military power. Japan denies its history and challenges the post-war international order.

China Daily’s Li Feng looks at another border dispute, pitting Russia and Canada, poles not apart:

Embark on North Pole claim

Embark on North Pole claim

The Guardian covers self-financing security:

China’s sex workers face paying for their incarceration

Beijing may have abolished ‘re-education through labour’ camps, but rights groups say parallel ‘custody and education’ system remains

She was held for months without charge or trial, forced to labour seven days a week without wages, and made to pay for her incarceration. Pan Li is one of hundreds of thousands who have been held at their own expense in China’s little known detention system for female sex workers and their clients. “It’s supposed to be about the good management of people. Actually, it just makes money from prostitutes,” she said.

Beijing has heralded this year’s decision to abolish re-education through labour (RTL) camps, long condemned for lack of judicial oversight. But human rights groups say it is partial progress at best, given the persistence of similar measures allowing imprisonment without trial.

Thousands of people are still thought to be held in a parallel system known as “custody and education”, overseen by public security officials rather than judges. Unlike prisoners, or RTL inmates, the detainees must pay living costs and take compulsory tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

And Reuters detects conspiracy:

Hunting for U.S. arms technology, China enlists a legion of amateurs

Beijing “floods the zone with buyers” for smuggled American military gear, leading to a 50 percent spike in arms trafficking cases since 2010, Reuters has found.

In its quest to bypass embargoes and obtain the latest U.S. military technology, China isn’t only relying on a cadre of carefully trained spies. It’s also enlisting a growing army of amateurs.

Their orders come indirectly from the Chinese government and take the form of shopping lists that are laundered through companies with ties to Beijing.

From The Guardian, Orwell enabled:

Google reveals sharp rise in requests for removal of political content

  • Annual transparency report has Turkey with most requests
  • United States asked search giant to remove almost 4,000 items

Google revealed a sharp rise in requests from governments asking for political content to be removed from the web in its latest transparency report published on Thursday.

From January to June the search giant received 3,846 government requests to remove content from its services – a 68% increase over the second half of 2012.

The New York Times covers Black Friday shopper insecurity:

Target Says Data for 40 Million Shoppers Was Stolen

Target confirmed Thursday morning that it was investigating a security breach involving stolen credit card and debit card information for 40 million of its retail customers.

In a statement, Target said that criminals gained access to its customer information on Nov. 27 — the day before Thanksgiving and just ahead of one of the busiest shopping days of the year — and maintained access through Dec. 15.

Target said that criminals had stolen customer names, credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates and three-digit security codes for 40 million customers who had shopped at its stores. The company noted that online customers were not affected by the breach, which appeared to have been isolated to the point-of-sale systems in Target’s retail stores.

SecurityWeek takes stock of security:

Global Stock Exchanges Form Cyber Security Committee

New Cyber Security Committee Will Identify and Share Global Information Security Best Practices in the Protection of Market Infrastructures

The World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), a 62-member trade association for operators of regulated financial exchanges, has launched a new cyber security committee designed to help members from the exchange industry protect against cyber threats targeting the global capital markets.

According to the WFW, the Cyber Security Working Group will bring together representatives from a number of exchanges and clearinghouses across the globe, to collaborate on best practices in cybersecurity.

PCWorld looks at securing your phone:

Proposed California law would mandate smartphone kill switch

Kill-switch technology that can render a lost or stolen smartphone useless would become mandatory in California under a new bill that will be proposed to the state legislature in January.

The bill will be introduced by Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat representing San Francisco and neighboring towns, and George Gascón, the district attorney for San Francisco. Gascón has been spearheading a push by major law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. for more to be done to prevent smartphone theft.

For our final item, a sound betrayal from Threatpost:

Researchers Find Way to Extract 4096-Bit RSA Key via Sound

A trio of scientists have verified that results they first presented nearly 10 years ago are in fact valid, proving that they can extract a 4096-bit RSA key from a laptop using an acoustic side-channel attack that enables them to record the noise coming from the laptop during decryption, using a smartphone placed nearby. The attack, laid out in a new paper, can be used to reveal a large RSA key in less than an hour.

In one of the cleverer bits of research seen in recent years, three scientists from Israel improved on some preliminary results they presented in 2004 that revealed the different sound patterns that different RSA keys generate. Back then, they couldn’t figure out a method for extracting the keys from a machine, but that has now changed.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, zones, more


A long walk on the dark side today, with major developments afoot.

First, the day’s major breaking news story from the New York Times:

Obama Panel Recommends New Limits on N.S.A. Spying

A panel of presidential advisers who reviewed the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices urged President Obama on Wednesday to end the government’s systematic collection of logs of all Americans’ phone calls, and to keep those in private hands, “for queries and data mining” only by court order.

More from Reuters:

White House review panel proposes curbs on some NSA programs

A White House-appointed panel on Wednesday proposed curbs on some key National Security Agency surveillance operations, recommending limits on a program to collect records of billions of telephone calls and new tests before Washington spies on foreign leaders.

Among the panel’s proposals, made in the wake of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the most contentious may be its recommendation that the eavesdropping agency halt collection of the phone call records, known as “metadata.”

Instead, it said, those records should be held by telecommunications providers or a private third party. In a further limitation, the U.S. government would need an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to search the data.

Still more from The Guardian:

Obama review panel: strip NSA of power to collect telephone data records

  • Government ‘should be banned from undermining encryption’
  • Recommends major telecoms companies hold data on NSA’s behalf
  • Forty-six recommendations in 300-page report released early

The Guardian has posted the full report here.

But California’s plutocratic senator hedges her bets, via Al Jazeera America:

Senate intel chair says NSA surveillance sweeps not ‘indispensable’

Dianne Feinstein’s comments come as tech firms call on Obama to ‘move aggressively’ on privacy reform

An influential senator who has doggedly backed the National Security Agency’s mass collection of private data indicated Tuesday that the program was not “indispensable,” but disagreed with the federal judge who said the program may be unconstitutional.

“I’m not saying it’s indispensable, but I am saying it is important,” Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC.

From Deutsche Welle, celebration:

Vindicating Snowden, US judge rules NSA violates privacy, ACLU says

A US federal judge has ruled that the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone data violated a fundamental principle of the US Constitution. It’s a groundbreaking decision, says ACLU attorney Patrick Toomey.

Carlos Latuff offers his take on the issue of the day, with a cinematic twist:

BLOG Latuff

From RT, an evocation of spooky days past:

NSA methods reminiscent of those used in USSR under Stalin – Lavrov

Russia’s Foreign Minister has compared the way NSA obtains permission for its surveillance with the way Soviet people received sentences in Stalin-era courts.

Sergey Lavrov said the judicial entities which gave permission for NSA surveillance reminded him of “troikas,” or extrajudicial bodies that existed in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge of 1937-38. They consisted of only three people who passed sentences very quickly, based on very scanty evidence.

Fox News quotes a latter-day Stalinist [or so he sounds]:

Ex-CIA director: Snowden should be ‘hanged’ if convicted for treason

Former CIA Director James Woolsey had harsh words Tuesday for anyone thinking about giving Edward Snowden amnesty, and argued the NSA leaker should be “hanged” if he’s ever tried and convicted of treason.

Woolsey, along with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton, spoke Tuesday in Washington in an interview with Fox News. “I think giving him amnesty is idiotic,” Woolsey said. “He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead.”

Another major event came today in New York reported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

One Small Step for Privacy, One Giant Leap Against Surveillance

Today, the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a UN privacy resolution entitled “The right to privacy in the digital age.”  The resolution, which was introduced by Brazil and Germany and sponsored by more than 50 member states, is aimed at upholding the right to privacy for everyone at a time when the United States and the United Kingdom have been conducting sweeping mass surveillance on billions of innocent individuals around the world from domestic soil.

The resolution reaffirms a core principle of international human rights law: Individuals should not be denied human  rights simply because they live in another country from the one that is surveilling them.  We hope the resolution will make it harder for the US and its Five Eyes allies to justify their mass surveillance activities by claiming that their human rights obligations stop at their own borders.

Fox News covers a plea:

President of Brazilian Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee urges asylum for Snowden

The president of the Brazilian Senate’s Foreign Relations and Defense Committee says the country should grant political asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

An aide to Senator Ricardo Ferraco says Wednesday the senator wants to meet with Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo to “request that Snowden be given asylum.” The aide did not give further details and declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak to the press.

And Techdirt makes us gag:

Hayden Says They Did Surveillance In A ‘Madisonian’ Way

from the floundering-father? dept

By now you probably know the name Michael Hayden. Former NSA and CIA Director Hayden now seems to focus all his time on pimping the security state to the American public. He steadfastly claims that all negative impact and lawlessness on the part of the spy agencies is fiction, and that state secrets and your privacy are ironically equal. He also enjoys the occasional wistful guffaw at the notion of assassinating Edward Snowden. When it comes to dealing honestly about the spying state of our nation, he’s the kind of man you could fit into briefcase if you gave him an enema.

The Guardian covers other spooks, other problems:

Senators clash with Justice Department lawyer over CIA intelligence memos

CIA nominee Caroline Krass angers intelligence committee by claiming legal opinions on torture are beyond its scope

Asked directly and repeatedly if the Senate panel was entitled to the memos, which several senators claimed were crucial for performing their oversight functions, Krass replied: “I do not think so, as a general matter.”

More from CNN:

Senator’s questions about CIA program may hold up nomination

A new congressional fight is brewing over the Central Intelligence Agency’s controversial use of harsh interrogations almost decade ago.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, is threatening to block the nomination of President Barack Obama’s choice for CIA general counsel unless the agency provides an internal report that he says bolsters findings made by a congressional investigation of the interrogation program.

The Senate Intelligence Committee produced a 6,300-page report on the program, which used methods such as waterboarding on prisoners held by the CIA in the years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Washington Post covers a spook who wasn’t:

EPA official, who pretended to work for CIA, sentenced to 32 months

A former high-level official at the Environmental Protection Agency, who pretended to work for the CIA to avoid the office, said he was motivated by a sense of excitement and the rush of getting away with something.

John C. Beale, a former EPA senior policy advisor, explained his motivations for the first time in a federal courtroom Wednesday before he was sentenced to more than 2 ½ years in prison for stealing nearly $900,000 in taxpayer funds.

With knickers twisted from EUobserver:

EU angst on US snooping is helping China to steal secrets, congressman says

The EU debate on US-led mass surveillance is helping China to rob Western companies, the head of the US congress’ intelligence oversight committee has said.

“Because of this confusion and of this muddling of the debate, it has allowed the Chinese to absolutely steal us blind when it comes to intellectual property for European and American companies,” Republican congressman Mike Rogers told MEPs and press in Brussels on Tuesday (17 December).

SecurityWeek competes:

NSA Seeks Best Cybersecurity Research Papers in New Competition

NSA Announces 2013 “Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper” Competition

Despite being under fire for its highly controversial global surveillance programs, the National Security Agency (NSA) is calling upon the public to submit papers to help it make discoveries to support its intelligence initiatives.

The NSA announced on Monday that it is seeking nominations for its 2013 Annual Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper Competition, and is looking for scientific papers that were published between October 1, 2012, and December 31, 2013, that show an outstanding contribution to cybersecurity science.

From CNN drones a-comin’?:

Senate confirms Jeh Johnson to lead homeland security

The Senate broke another Republican filibuster on Monday in confirming former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson to head the Homeland Security Department.

The vote to approve Johnson, a key architect of President Barack Obama’s anti-terrorism policies that have included stepped up drone use in terrorist hotspots, was 78-16

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers the barely credible:

Egypt’s Morsi to stand trial for “espionage”

Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi and ex-aides will stand trial for “espionage” that helped a “terrorist” campaign involving the Palestinian militant group Hamas and jihadists, the prosecution said Wednesday.

If found guilty, they could face the death penalty.

German measures from TheLocal.de:

Parliament creates ‘internet committee’

Germany’s new government has confirmed it will set up a parliamentary committee for internet matters – six months after Chancellor Angela Merkel described the internet as “virgin territory”.

The idea was first put forward in November 2012, but took until now to materialize, and “internet and digital agenda” took centre stage in the Bundestag when it was announced on Tuesday.

From The Guardian, unaccountably:

Spy chiefs should not be accountable to parliament, says ex-GCHQ chief

Sir David Omand expresses view in debate on surveillance featuring Guardian editor and Wikipedia founder

After the jump, the Asian zonal crises continue, corporate spies, MSM hacks, and much, much more. . . Continue reading

Greenwald: NSA seeks to end personal privacy


Why? Because once we forget about it, their job will be so much easier.

From RT, Greenwald’s testimony to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs:

‘NSA’s goal is elimination of privacy worldwide’ – Greenwald to EU

From the accompanying RT story:

The NSA’s ultimate goal is to destroy individual privacy worldwide, working with its UK sidekick GCHQ, journalist Glenn Greenwald warned an EU inquiry, adding that they were far ahead of their rivals in their “ability to destroy privacy.”

Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist renowned for publishing Edward Snowden’s leaks, criticized EU governments’ muted response to the revelations about the NSA’s mass espionage. Most governments reacted with “apathy and indifference” to reports that ordinary citizens were being spied upon, Greenwald said, pointing out that EU politicians only took action when they discovered that they themselves were being targeted.

“I think western governments have inculcated people to accept that privacy does not really have much value,” said Greenwald, adding it was “to get populations accustomed to violations of their privacy.”

Greenwald testified before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs via a video link, contributing to an inquiry into the NSA’s surveillance on EU citizens.

Read the rest.

Chart of the day: World Press Freedom Index


From Reporters without Borders. Go here for a much larger version:

Web

Mark Fiore: Drones come to Techopolis!


Corporations! Drones! What a Brave New World!

From Mark Fiore:

Drones come to Techopolis!

Program notes:

Between the driverless car, internet balloons and Amazon’s delivery drones, it seemed like high time to take a closer look at the technology industry in a cartoon. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the internet and technology — it’s how I’ve made my living for the past twelve years or so — but I definitely have some luddite-induced skepticism in my bones. (More at http://www.markfiore.com)

Richard D. Wolff: Economics and the media


Here’s a look at the peculiar role of news media in shaping public economic perspectives in the form of a conversation between Media Channel’s Danny Schechter and Richard D. Wolff an economist of impeccable credentials who has been deeply involved with the Occupy movement.

One especially telling point Wolff highlights is the recent spate of media acquisitions by banksters. But the overall focus is on the role played by the mainstream media as enablers of a system that works against the interests of the overwhelming number of media consumers.

From Media Channel:

Prof. Richard D. Wolff on Economics in Media and the Economy I

Program notes:

Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University joins us to discuss the narrow coverage of economics in media, our fictional economic recovery, Occupy Wall St., and the structural problems that perpetuate a vast disparity of wealth.

Prof. Richard D. Wolff on Economics in Media and the Economy, 2

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, zones, threats


Once again, we missed a day, leaving us with a lot of catching up on the latest development in the world of the dark arts, corporate snooping, and military posturing.

Most notable [and after the jump], rapid escalation of the Asian security crisis and the latest in corporate cyber-stalking.

We begin with a headline from Reuters:

Man arrested for suspected plot to blow up Kansas airport

Authorities have arrested a man suspected of plotting to blow up the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas, in a suicide attack with a carload of explosives, officials said Friday.

Terry Loewen, a 58-year-old aviation technician from Wichita, intended to die a martyr in the bombing, U.S. District Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom said at a news conference.

Authorities said Loewen was believed to have been motivated, at least partly, by religious beliefs. Officials said Loewen had made statements prior to the attempted attack that he was resolved to commit an act of violent “jihad” on behalf of al Qaeda against the United States.

Now, on to the latest twist in the one story that has been capturing global headlines for months. From News Corp Australia:

US spy ‘open to cutting deal with Snowden’

A NATIONAL Security Agency official has said in an interview he would be open to cutting an amnesty deal with US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if the fugitive agreed to stop divulging secret documents.

Rick Ledgett, who heads the NSA’s task force investigating the damage from the Snowden leaks, told CBS television’s 60 Minutes program that some but not all of his colleagues share his view.

And from The Guardian, vanishing hopes for reform:

NSA review to leave spying programs largely unchanged, reports say

  • Panel to propose bulk surveillance continue – with some curbs
  • Adviser calls apparent decision to leave core intact ‘shameful’

More from Wired:

White House Task Force Urges Curb on NSA’s Bulk Data Collection

A presidential task force charged with determining what reforms are needed for the NSA and its surveillance activities has recommended the agency be led by a civilian commander, instead of a military one, and that bulk phone records the NSA wants to collect be retained by phone companies or held by a third party, rather than being stored by the NSA.

The task force also recommended restrictions on when and how the NSA can search the data, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it recommended separating the code-making division of the NSA, which develops and promotes codes, from the NSA division that breaks electronic security codes. Documents recently leaked by Edward Snowden described a decade-long effort by the NSA to crack different types of encryption and other security mechanisms in order to provide access to protected data for surveillance, a task at odds with the NSA’s traditional role in helping to develop public algorithms.

Still more from Ars Technica:

Obama panel says NSA phone spying records should be held by third party

Intelligence officials likely to oppose restrictions on surveillance.

Reuters has the response from The Most Transparent Administration in History™:

White House says plans no split of NSA, Cyber Command

The Obama administration on Friday said it will keep one person in charge of both the National Security Agency spy agency and the military’s Cyber Command, despite growing calls for splitting the roles in the wake of revelations about the vast U.S. electronic surveillance operations.

The White House had considered splitting up the two agencies, possibly giving the NSA a civilian leader for the first time in its 61-year history to dampen controversy over its programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.

Dogs and ponies, via The Verge:

NSA officials go on tour to heal agency image amid surveillance scandal

The National Security Agency has endured six months of criticism from media outlets since Edward Snowden released documents disclosing the agency’s massive global surveillance apparatus. With its back against the wall, NSA head Keith Alexander and Snowden task force head Richard Ledgett are speaking directly to the press as a means of getting ahead of the story, with the hope of painting themselves — and Snowden himself — in a new light.

Another Snowden link, via Ars Technica:

Archaic but widely used crypto cipher allows NSA to decode most cell calls

Snowden docs make it official: The NSA can crack 30-year-old A5/1 crypto.

The National Security Agency can easily defeat the world’s most widely used cellphone encryption, a capability that means the agency can decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves each day, according to published report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Bloomberg Businessweek has the latest form of blowback:

IBM Shareholder Sues the Company Over NSA Cooperation

Spying is not good for business. That’s been the message from many U.S. tech companies and industry groups in recent months following revelations last summer that several companies were cooperating with the National Security Agency over its Prism surveillance program. The industry says it stands to lose tens of billions of dollars as customers in other countries turn to homegrown technology instead.

Now one such company, IBM (IBM), is facing a lawsuit over its cooperation with the NSA. IBM was sued yesterday by a shareholder claiming it violated federal securities laws in seeking to hide losses that stemmed from disclosures of its relationship with the NSA.

While Business Insider has yet another disappointment from the land of Hope™ and Change™:

AP Photojournalist Blasts Obama’s Press Restrictions As ‘Orwellian Image Control’

A photojournalist for the Associated Press is pulling no punches in a scathing opinion piece published today in The New York Times, referring to the restrictions on press photographers covering the president as “draconian” and calling official photo releases “propaganda.”

The article written by Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for the Associated Press, is titled “Obama’s Orwellian Image Control.”

Lyon takes issue with the release of pictures from official White House photographers as an “idealized portrayal of events” that could not be considered journalism. He also doesn’t mince words in his conclusion, calling these photos “propaganda.”

And the latest embarrassment for the folks at Langley from The Guardian:

CIA veterans say Robert Levinson affair may damage intra-agency co-operation

  • AP: former FBI agent missing in Iran was working with CIA
  • Relations between analysts and operatives likely to be strained

An unauthorized CIA spy operation initiated by agency analysts didn’t just lead to an American being seized in Iran. It may have damaged ties between intelligence analysts and operations specialists, according to CIA veterans.

More media embarrassment from Gawker:

ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson

ABC News and The New York Times have known since 2007 that Robert Levinson, the ex-FBI agent who was kidnapped in Iran, was not, as the U.S. government and his family claimed, an independent businessman: He was working for the CIA. The Times’ report today discloses this timeline; ABC News’ report does not—but a source at the network confirmed to Gawker that ABC reporters discovered the CIA connection in 2007 as well. At the request of the government and Levinson’s family, however, both outlets repeatedly stated, without any caveats, that Levinson was on a “business trip” when he was captured. A review of their coverage indicates that ABC News did so at least 7 times, and the Times at least 3 times.

The Christian Science Monitor has more lies:

Levinson, Iran, the CIA, and lies

The US government has been lying for years about Robert Levinson, a man kidnapped in Iran after being sent there as part of a rogue CIA operation. Some media have been playing along.

While the AP reports that Levinson’s handlers were CIA employees, they all appear to have been analysts, rather than employees expert in gathering intelligence themselves and running assets in the field. The AP says the employees running Levinson as their own private collection agent weren’t authorized to do so, and that three analysts were quietly sacked in 2007 for their involvement and a further seven admonished.

BBC News offers the latest White House spin control:

White House: Robert Levinson not a government employee

The AP agency says the White House is choosing its words carefully – that Bob Levinson was not an “employee” but a “contractor”

The White House has said the ex-FBI agent believed to have been held in Iran for the last seven years was not working for the US government at the time of his disappearance.

White House spokesman Jay Carney spoke the day after the Associated Press news agency reported Mr Levinson was on an unauthorised mission for the CIA.

And more embarrassment via the London Daily Mail:

CIA star and ‘quirky’ office analyst who introduced her friend to the agency before he was sent on ‘rogue’ mission that led to disappearance

  • Anne Jablonski was forced to quit the CIA following the investigation into Levinson’s kidnapping
  • She is now working in the private sector and teaches yoga
  • She also blogs about finding inner peace and making her own cat food for her pets

BBC News has another imbroglio-in-the-making, this time for spooks across the pond:

Iran claims to have captured MI6 spy

Iran says it has captured a spy working for British intelligence agency MI6 in the south-eastern city of Kerman.

The head of Kerman’s revolutionary court said the alleged spy had admitted being in contact with four British intelligence officers 11 times, both inside and outside the country.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, California’s plutocratic senator pronounces:

Feinstein: vote soon on releasing parts of secret CIA detention report

The Senate Intelligence Committee will soon vote on releasing parts of a report that alleges that the CIA misled lawmakers and U.S. officials about the value of the information produced by the agency’s post-9/11 secret detention and harsh interrogation program, the panel chairwoman said.

But that doesn’t mean the public will get to see the excerpts any time soon.

The 300-page executive summary, findings and conclusions will still have to go through a process to determine which parts can be made public and which will be blacked out. The review – which will involve the White House and CIA – could take weeks or months, said a congressional aide, who requested anonymity.

McClatchy Washington Bureau again, this time with word of another report on another, much older Langley cockup:

Lawsuit seeks to unlock CIA’s secret history of Bay of Pigs invasion

The Obama administration on Thursday fought to keep secret a CIA account of the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle.

Half a century after the failed invasion of Cuba, and three decades after a CIA historian completed his draft study, an administration lawyer told a top appellate court that the time still isn’t right to make the document public.

And the Washington Times lends a covert hand:

Leon Panetta named as source of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scriptwriter’s information

A Freedom of Information request filed by government watchdog Judicial Watch revealed that former CIA Director Leon E. Panetta was the source who gave up secret information to the scriptwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Hollywood movie about the raid on Osama bin Laden.

Judicial Watch said in an email that Mr. Panetta revealed the classified information during an awards ceremony on June 24, 2011, to mark the administration’s assault on Osama bin Laden. Mr. Panetta was giving a speech at the ceremony, during which he concluded: “You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.”

Next, a trip noth of the border with some unsurprising story about Canada’s NSA counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment Canada, via CBC News:

CSEC watchdog muzzled, defanged

The wish and ‘a prayer’ of keeping tabs on CSEC

The revelation that a little-known Canadian intelligence operation has been electronically spying on trading partners and other nations around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, has critics wondering who’s keeping an eye on our spies.

The answer is a watchdog, mostly muzzled and defanged, whose reports to Parliament are first censored by the intelligence agency he is watching, then cleared by the minister politically responsible for any problems in the first place.

And from Reuters, some dronish blowback:

In Yemen, al Qaeda gains sympathy amid U.S. drone strikes

Despite the toll taken on militants, residents in various parts of Yemen told Reuters they worry that the drone program is counter-productive. In the capital Sanaa, Abdulrazzaq al-Jamal, a journalist who has interviewed several members of AQAP, acknowledged the group has taken some hits from the drones, but said the strikes have also brought it followers.

“The drones have limited their movements but it makes their ideology more attractive to people. When a Yemeni is killed, it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s al Qaeda,” said Jamal, who was wearing the dagger common among Yemeni men.

Off to Sweden for a helping hand via TheLocal.se:

US spies asked Sweden for translation help

Leaked documents from the US have shown that the NSA asked Sweden for translation help on their “high-priority” material that involved the Swedish language.

The request came in the form of an internal message at the US National Security Agency (NSA), which asked Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Svenska Försvarets Radioanstalt – FRA) for translation help in the fight against terrorism.

From The Guardian, gag us with a spoon:

Calling for abolition of monarchy is still illegal, UK justice ministry admits

Department wrongly announced that section of law threatening people with life imprisonment had been repealed

The Treason Felony Act 1848 has been the subject of repeated legal confusion this century. It was the subject of a high court challenge by the Guardian in 2003. This week, in a footnote to a list of new offences, the MoJ said the powers in section 3 of the Act had finally been swept away in a belated, legislative pruning of unwanted laws.

From EUobserver, legal blowback in the works?:

France’s new surveillance law under fire

A new law in France, which expands surveillance monitoring powers, without judicial review, to government agencies like tax and finance authorities, may be challenged in the Constitutional Court, reports Reuters. Pro-right groups, tech companies Google and Microsoft, want the constitutional watchdog to review the law adopted earlier this week.

Moscow next, with suppressive thoughts about another perceived security threat. From The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin defends anti-gay laws as bastion of global conservatism

President says Russia stands on international stage in defence of traditional values against ‘fruitless so-called tolerance’

After the jump, the Asian security crises continue, with heads rolling, internet purging, ships nearly colliding, secrecy law protests, alliance plays, drones a-buildin’, and legal bribes; corporate cyberstalking, civil servant muzzling, and more. . . Continue reading

Obama’s suppression: A First Amendment fail?


We met Gary Pruitt in 1984 in our next-to-last year reporting for the Sacramento Bee when he was hired as counsel for the parent McClatchy Company.

By April 2012 when he took on the job of CEO of the Associated Press — one of America’s oldest and largest cooperatives — Pruitt had risen to the role of
Chairman and CEO of McClatchy.

Thirteen months after he took the helm of AP, Pruitt found himself in the eye of a major legal storm triggered by Obama administrations relentless and ruthless war on whistleblowers, a vendetta that has landed more news sources behind bars than were imprisoned by all previous administrations in American history combined.

What triggered the AP furor was the receipt letter from the Department of Justice revealing that the federal government had collected two months of phone records for 21 phone lines, including the office and private numbers of reporters and editors as well as the main office lines of AP headquarters in New York City and for news bureaus in New York City, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Connecticut, and at the House of Representatives.

The feds were eager to bust the sources for a leak about a successful CIA sting  operation targeting Al Qaeda Arabanian Peninsula operatives.

Revelations of the records seizures had an ominous chilling effect on sources, which we suspect was a major intention of the notoriously paranoid Obama White House — the same one that had promuised us The Most Transparent Administration in History™.

Here, from University of California TV is a just-released video of Pruitt’s 30 October appearance before an audience at Berkeley’s Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy:

The Free Press vs. National Security: A False Choice? with Gary Pruitt

Program notes:

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt argues that a free and independent press is fundamental to a functioning democracy. It differentiates democracy from dictatorship; separates a free society from tyranny. Governments who try to set up a situation where citizens think they must choose between a free press and security are making a mistake that will ultimately weaken, not strengthen them. It’s not a real choice. It’s a false choice. Recorded on 10/30/2013. Series: “Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.”

Here’s an excerpt of the letter Pruitt wrote Attorney General Eric Holder on learning of the subpeonas via USA TODAY:

There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.

That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling.

The sheer volume of records obtained, most of which can have no plausible connection to any ongoing investigation, indicates, at a minimum, that this effort did not comply with 28 C.F.R. §50.10 and should therefore never have been undertaken in the first place. The regulations require that, in all cases and without exception, a subpoena for a reporter’s telephone toll records must be “as narrowly drawn as possible.” This plainly did not happen.

We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.

The ensuing media storm brought about a rare unanimity of opinion across the normally divided ranks of mainstream media.

One outcome, as Pruitt discusses in his talk, was the formulation of new Justice Department guidelines governing evidence collection from the media — the only business activity singled out for protection by the Constitution. The new guidelines, announced in July, are available online here [PDF].

In his talk, Pruitt suggests that one intent of the Obama administration in seizing the records was the intimidation of leakers. We are convinced that the intimidation was not simply a side effect of the government’s action, but rather its primary purpose.

And combined with the revelations of Edward Snowden, the combined impact is a new form of repression that is chillingly effective, ensuring that even tif that tree falls in the forest and someone hears, no one will dare spread the word.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, claims, threats


The news from the world of spies, hackers, escalators, and trackers just keeps coming, and at an ever-increasing pace.

We begin with the latest whistleblower crackdown, via the Japan Daily Press:

Japan’s Marine SDF to punish whistleblower in seaman’s suicide case

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) officer who made a big effort to make sure that all the information related to a seaman’s suicide while serving in the MSDF is now facing the possibility of military punishment for his troubles.

The 46-year-old lieutenant commander in Japan’s MSDF had campaigned at length to show that there were instances of bullying against the MSDF seaman who committed suicide in 2004.

The Guardian names:

Writers dub UK leaders ‘America’s digital pit bull’ over surveillance

Prime minister David Cameron and the British government were labelled “America’s digital pit bull” on Tuesday at the launch of a campaign by writers against mass surveillance.

British author Priya Basil told a press conference in Berlin that the political reaction to the revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden had been “worse in the UK than in Germany”.

And yet another Snowden leak detonates, via CBC News:

Exclusive: Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA

CSEC conducted espionage activities for U.S. in 20 countries, according to top-secret briefing note

Sections of the document with the highest classification make it clear in some instances why American spymasters are particularly keen about enlisting their Canadian counterparts, the Communications Security Establishment Canada.

“CSEC shares with the NSA their unique geographic access to areas unavailable to the U.S,” the document says.

Sky News has corporate blowback:

US To Lose ‘$35bn A Year’ Over NSA Spying

A new study suggests that cloud computer users shifting data offshore from prying US spies will cost Silicon Valley $35bn a year.

In a report for the Washington DC-based Information Technology & Innovation Foundation think tank, senior analyst Daniel Castro said America’s “entire tech industry has been implicated and is now facing a global backlash”.

More from Ars Technica:

NSA leaks blamed for Cisco’s falling sales overseas

Chinese may see NSA revelations as a chance for payback for battle with Huawei.

In an earnings call Monday evening, Cisco Systems executives announced that the company had seen a 25 percent drop in sales growth for the most recent quarter, going from 13 percent growth in the quarter ending in April to a negative 12 percent rate. And company executives have placed at least part of the blame on the National Security Agency.

California’s militarily industrial-strength solon does the expected, via The Hill:

Patriot Act author: Feinstein’s bill ‘a joke’

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. doesn’t mince his words.

The Wisconsin Republican says the House and Senate Intelligence committees have become “cheerleaders” for the National Security Agency.

“Instead of putting the brakes on overreaches, they’ve been stepping on the gas,” he said of the committees, which are led by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

From The Verge, an excuse or a half-truth?:

NSA used location-tracking to tell agents if they were being tailed

On the heels of last week’s phone-tracking revelations, The Washington Post has released a 24-page NSA white paper offering further detail into how the program is managed and used. The program ingests 5 billion records each day into its Hadoop-managed database, but from there, the data can be used for nearly any purpose, from building out networks, ascertaining whether a target is foreign or domestic, or tracking the whereabouts of a known suspect.

One program described in the white paper worked to alert foreign agents if they were being tailed, sifting through the data for location records similar to the records of known agents. If a foreign national was seen in all the same locations as an American agent on a given day, the agency found it safe to assume someone was being tailed. Other uses involved identifying new suspects on the basis of shared movements with a person of interest, or locating phones as they cross international boundaries.

From the Associated Press, pressing the press:

NYT reporters sue Homeland Security in FOIA fight

Two reporters for The New York Times have sued the Department of Homeland Security after they were questioned at an airport as they headed to overseas assignments.

The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Writers Mac William Bishop and Christopher Chivers said in the lawsuit that employees of the department responsible for securing U.S. borders subjected them to questioning last May as they prepared to board an international flight.

The Copenhagen Post has an ouster after an expose in the media:

Morten Bødskov out as justice minister

Enhedslisten says it can no longer support Bødskov in light of PET mess

Morten Bødskov (S) has been forced to withdraw as justice minister after he lost the backing of far-left government support party Enhedslisten.

“The issue was fundamentally about being able to trust a minister who had lied to parliament,” Enhedslisten’s legal spokesperson Pernille Skipper told TV2 Nyheder. “Due to the seriousness of the case, Enhedslisten no longer trusts Bødskov as a minister.”

From The Progressive, a reminder:

Spymaster Wants to Outlaw Reporting on the NSA

Gen. Keith Alexander, chief spook at NSA and head of US Cyber Command, did reveal a chilling disrespect for our Constitutional right to both free speech and a free press.

In an October interview, he called for outlawing any reporting on his agency’s secret program of spying on every American: “I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents… giving them out as if these – you know it just doesn’t make any sense.” Then came his spooky punch line: “We ought to come up with a way of stopping it… It’s wrong to allow this to go on.”

From The Register, make that a collect call:

US cops blew more than $26m buying 1.1m cell phone files from telcos

And you thought your data plan was pricy

An investigation by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) into the monitoring of cellphones has found that US police paid telecommunications companies more than $26m to hand over location information, metadata, and sometimes the content of their customers’ messages to cops in the US last year.

The Guardian covers an assault on press freedoms Down Under:

Coalition accused of organising ‘assault on ABC’ over spying revelations

Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor says government is working with News Corp to bully the public broadcaster

Tony Abbott and his communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have told the national broadcaster it made an error of judgment by agreeing to partner with Guardian Australia to reveal Australia’s past attempts to spy on the Indonesian president. The story led to a serious rift in Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

The Guardian again, this time with another dose of Down Under spookage:

Australian police to adopt technology capable of collecting emails

Controversial new technology capable of collecting and storing emails and other information sent via computer in real time will be rolled out by the Australian Federal Police next year.

The agency plans to trial “deep packet inspection” (DPI) technology in February before a full rollout in April.

And they’re planning to do the same in France too, reports TheLocal.fr:

‘The world needs to know what France is up to’

After blasting the US in the wake of the NSA spying revelations, the last thing you would expect France to do is rush through a reform that opens the way for widespread surveillance of its citizens. A French digital rights group tells The Local why we should all be alarmed.

A new bill will be discussed in France’s Senate on Tuesday, containing an article that defenders of internet freedoms say should have everyone alarmed.

The Military Programming Law, already voted through by France’s National Assembly, would extend the government’s power to acquire internet users’ private data, as well as monitor email and telephone communications, without the need to be ratified in advance by a judge.

Or maybe they’re already doing it. From Ars Technica:

French agency caught minting SSL certificates impersonating Google

Unauthorized credentials for Google sites were accepted by many browsers.

The certificates were issued by an intermediate certificate authority linked to the Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information, the French cyberdefense agency better known as ANSSI. After Google brought the certificates to the attention of agency officials, the officials said the intermediate certificate was used in a commercial device on a private network to inspect encrypted traffic with the knowledge of end users, Google security engineer Adam Langley wrote in a blog post published over the weekend. Google updated its Chrome browser to reject all certificates signed by the intermediate authority and asked other browser makers to do the same. Firefox developer Mozilla and Microsoft, developer of Internet Explorer have followed suit. ANSSI later blamed the mistake on human error.

And more allegations of Chinese snoopage from The Guardian:

Chinese hackers ‘spied on five EU countries before G20 summit’

Computer security firm said attacks were aimed at uncovering US intentions towards Syria

Chinese hackers eavesdropped on the computers of five European foreign ministries before last September’s G20 summit, which was dominated by the Syrian crisis, according to research by computer security firm FireEye.

The Wire has a delightful detail:

Chinese Hackers Successfully Baited Foreign Diplomats with Nude Carla Bruni

Chinese hackers have accessed the servers of several foreign ministries Europe, using one of the oldest tricks in the book. Software company FireEye reported on Tuesday, that the breaches began in 2010 and may still be ongoing. Though FireEye did not call out specific nations, The New York Times identified Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Portugal as victims of the breach.

None of the countries listed responded to the Times’s request for comment, which makes sense, because whoever clicked on the malware links fell for a pretty embarrassing phish. In 2011, “The attackers sent their targets emails with a link that claimed to contain naked photos of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of former President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.”

The Chinese response from SINA English:

China rejects latest U.S. hacking accusations

“U.S. computer security firms have been keen on playing up the so-called cyber threat from China. But their so-called evidence is never solid but widely doubted by professionals,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.

“They are trying to gain attention with fake facts, which will neither be conducive to international cyber security cooperation nor the professional qualifications and reputation of the firms involved,” Hong said.

From the Los Angeles Times, a very serious allegation:

CIA’s anti-terrorism effort called ‘colossal flop’

CIA officers given ‘non-official cover,’ often posing as business executives, tried to collect intelligence on terrorists. The NOC program reportedly has had few successes.

And the latest claim game battle from The Guardian:

Canada to claim north pole as its own

UN submission will seek to redefine Canada’s continental shelf to capture more Arctic oil and gas resources

Channel NewsAsia Singapore has the response:

Putin orders military to boost Arctic presence

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military on Tuesday to step up its presence in the Arctic after Canada signalled its intention to claim the North Pole and surrounding waters.

RT covers the story from a Moscow perspective:

Polar Force: Putin orders Arctic military build-up in 2014

Program note:

Russia will create forces in the Arctic in 2014 to ensure military security and protect the country’s national interests in the region, which President Vladimir Putin has named among the government’s top priorities.

From South China Morning Post, curious Korean happenings:

North Korea issues photo of Kim Jong-un’s uncle being detained as execution rumours abound

High-profile former ally Jang Song-thaek is seized by guards at meeting in Pyongyang as young leader looks to squash dissent among ruling elite

And from Pakistan via the Express Tribune, a decision America should emulate:

‘Missing’ persons: Enforced disappearance unjustifiable, illegal, says SC

As he has been for the last six years, on the last day of his tenure Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will have made the headlines of every major newspaper in Pakistan – this time in regards to a case that deals with perhaps the single most controversial and heart-rending topic in the country.

After nearly eight years of a myriad of missing persons’ cases filed in the apex and high courts, a long-awaited judgment was passed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officially declaring prolonged and unannounced detention by security forces and intelligence outfits illegal.

And the latest in the developing clash in the China Sea from Want China Times:

Beijing angered after Japan diplomat calls China ‘militaristic’

China on Monday expressed strong dissatisfaction over remarks made by a Japanese diplomat who said China is “a militaristic country.”

Hidehisa Horinouchi, a minister at the Japanese embassy in Beijing, said if China criticized Japan for passing a secrecy law because this would cause militarism, then China had already become a militaristic country itself, according to media reports.

From China Daily, harshly asserting:

Japan ‘betrays’ embargo on arms exports

Tokyo will introduce a policy later this month to loosen its embargo on weapons exports, a move analysts said is “a major betrayal” of Japan’s postwar pacifist Constitution.

The decision to replace the decades-long “three principles” on weapons exports is a component of hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s yearlong effort to help Japan reclaim the status of a major military power, observers said.

Jiji Press covers one Japanese response:

Japan, ASEAN to Call for Int’l Law Compliance in Oceans, Airspace

Japan and member countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations are expected to call for all countries to comply with international law in maritime zones and airspace at their three-day special summit meeting to be held in Tokyo from Friday.

With China in mind, Japan and 10 ASEAN member countries plan to highlight the importance of the rule of law in a medium- to long-term vision to be drawn up at the summit, informed sources said.

While Taiwan’s Want China Times offers another perspective:

US more concerned about N Korea than China’s ADIZ: Duowei

When the US vice president, Joe Biden, met with China’s president, Xi Jinping, on Dec. 4, neither leader made mention of Beijing’s new air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, reports Duowei News, an outlet run by overseas Chinese, even though the issue had dominated the buildup to Biden’s visit to Beijing.

A White House source told Duowei that the meeting ran over its scheduled time by an extra hour as Biden and Xi instead discussed the development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

South China Morning Post spots a tempest a-brewin’:

Japanese media in frenzy over possible conflict with China

With military tensions between Tokyo and Beijing at a new high over islands in the East China Sea and China’s unilateral declaration of an air defence zone, Japan’s tabloids are engaged in frenzied speculation over a looming conflict.

A diplomatic source quoted in the Sunday Mainichi news magazine expressed concern that Beijing might “accidentally on purpose” trigger an incident.

And from NHK WORLD, the latest on the fundamental plank of Japan’s rapidly developing national security machine:

Secrecy law to be promulgated Dec. 13th

The Japanese government will begin preparations this week to implement a controversial state secrets’ protection law that will take effect in about a year.

Cabinet ministers agreed on Tuesday to publish the official text of the law on Friday — exactly one week after the legislation cleared the Diet.

Jiji Press has the latest development:

LDP to Begin Talks on Body to Oversee State Secret Designation

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to start talks next week on setting up a parliament body to check the validity of state secret designation under the newly enacted confidentiality law.

Establishing the secrets designation oversight body is expected to ease public concerns that the law would limit people’s right to know by allowing bureaucrats to arbitrary designate secret information, sources familiar with the matter said.

From the Asahi Shimbun, a revelation of what’s business as usual on this side of the Pacific:

Defense industry firm conducted worker background checks for years

A decade before the new state secrets protection law was enacted, a major defense industry firm was already conducting invasive and detailed background checks of workers involved in the manufacturing of U.S. fighter jets and helicopters.

The screening was done in response to instructions from the Defense Ministry.

Off to another Asia country and a betrayal via Deutsche Welle:

US turns its back on Afghan interpreters

The Taliban views interpreters who served the US military as traitors. Thousands of translators now fear for their lives at home in Afghanistan, while they wait in vain for residence visas promised to them by the US.

[M]any locals contracted to work with the foreign troops have already been killed as a result. Their living colleagues have occasionally received chopped off body parts coupled with threatening letters.

Another Afghan story from Bloomberg story almost as reassuring:

Planes Parked in Weeds in Kabul After $486 Million Spent

Sixteen broken-down transport planes that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $486 million are languishing among the weeds, wooden cargo boxes and old tires at Kabul International Airport, waiting to be destroyed without ever being delivered to the Afghan Air Force.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan is investigating why the refurbished G222 turboprop aircraft from Finmeccanica SpA’s Alenia Aermacchi North America unit no longer can be flown after logging only 200 of 4,500 hours of U.S.-led training flights and missions required from January to September 2012 under a U.S Air Force contract because of persistent maintenance issues.

From South China Morning Post, repression:

Zhang Xuezhong, pro-democracy activist, sacked by university

Law lecturer Zhang Xuezhong fired after he wrote articles calling for elections and an end to Communist Party’s dominance in politics

Zhang Xuezhong, a lecturer at the law school of the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, said he received a verbal notice from the law school head that his contract would be terminated at the end of December.

TheLocal.se has blowback from earlier suppression:

Naked protesters mar Nobel awards ceremony

As VIP guests and Nobel laureates gathered in Stockholm for Tuesday’s Nobel Prize award ceremony, four naked protesters caused a scene in an effort to raise awareness about dissidents in China who are suffering under the Chinese regime.

The protesters bared all outside Stockholm’s Concert Hall in the early afternoon when the temperature was close to zero.

While International Business Times covers a badly kept secret:

9/11 Link To Saudi Arabia Is Topic Of 28 Redacted Pages In Government Report; Congressmen Push For Release

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any connection, and neither President George W. Bush nor President Obama has been forthcoming on this issue.

But earlier this year, Reps. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., were given access to the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (JICI) of 9/11 issued in late 2002, which have been thought to hold some answers about the Saudi connection to the attack.

“I was absolutely shocked by what I read,” Jones told International Business Times. “What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me. I cannot go into it any more than that. I had to sign an oath that what I read had to remain confidential. But the information I read disappointed me greatly.”

From The Guardian, repression in Egypt:

Egyptian boy arrested after teacher finds stationery with pro-Morsi symbol

Schoolboy detained after teacher discovers ruler and notebooks with Rabaa sign, a symbol of opposition to Morsi’s overthrow

Khaled Bakara, 15, was arrested last month after his teacher spotted a ruler on his desk bearing a symbol indicating his opposition to the overthrow of Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi, alleged Khaled’s lawyer, Amr Abdel Maqsoud.

And South China Morning Post has explicit instructions:

Beijing bans ‘sensitive topics’ during Mandela funeral coverage

Government orders Chinese media not to highlight the late leader’s democracy comments, the Dalai Lama or ties between Taiwan and South Africa

On to the world of drones, first with Want China Times:

Shanghai’s SF Express starts drone delivery trials

Drone delivery services are now up and running after SF Express, a Shanghai-based logistics company, recently commenced trial operations.

SF Express said drone delivery can save labor costs and improve delivery efficiency, as reported by the Beijing News. The company plans to use the unmanned aircraft delivery services across their networks across China, in remote areas in particular.

A proposal shot down — at least for now — from CNN:

Colorado town’s vote on drone ordinance postponed

Deer Trail — population 598 — was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow its residents to hunt for federal drones and shoot them down, but Mayor Frank Fields said Tuesday that the vote has been postponed while a district court decides whether the ordinance is legal.

From Wired, a hint of things to come:

Guilty Verdict in First Ever Cybercrime RICO Trial

A young Arizona identity thief is the first person in the U.S. to be found guilty of federal racketeering charges for facilitating his crimes over a website.

David Ray Camez, 22, was convicted by a Las Vegas jury Friday under the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act. The verdict followed a three-week trial pushed by local prosecutors and a Justice Department attorney who flew in from Washington for the case.

From the Financial Express, workplace cybernoia:

65 pct of global companies see personal mobile devices used at work as a threat

The survey finds nearly 18% (2% more than in 2012) of respondents said their companies had suffered confidential data leaks through mobile email clients, text messaging, and other channels available to smartphone and tablet owners.

From Firstpost, a giant spurned:

France snubs Google cultural institute launch amid privacy row

France’s culture minister has snubbed the launch of Google’s latest project, the Paris-based Cultural Institute Lab over a row about privacy. Aurelie Fillipetti, who was confirmed to come to the internet giant’s latest cultural venture opening Tuesday, canceled at the last minute.

“I don’t want to legitimize an operation that fails to address a number of outstanding questions we have with Google,” Fillipetti told Le Monde newspaper, referring to a spat between Google and European governments earlier this year over transparency in collecting personal data.

Cybercensor cops cosseting corporations in Old Blighty from TechWeekEurope:

The UK Government Is Already Censoring The Global Internet

The new intellectual property crime unit PIPCU uses threats, not due process, to get copyright-infringing domains off the Internet

Today, a special police unit can decide that a certain website needs to disappear from the Internet, and threaten its domain name registrar into revoking the address “until further notice”, without any legal basis whatsoever.

The name of the unit is PIPCU (Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit) and it has just reported on the success of Operation Creative – a three month long campaign that resulted in 40 websites accused of copyright infringement shutting down, or at least moving to a new Web address.

From The Nabe, censorship aborted:

Police Restore Access to Crime Reports

Last week, The Nabe reported that the city’s police precincts would no longer directly provide journalists with the forms detailing crime reports. On Monday, shortly after CUNY Graduate Graduate School of Journalism Dean Stephen B. Shepard sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly protesting the change in procedure, the Police Department announced access would be restored.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information John McCarthy, responding to Shepard’s letter within a half-hour of receiving it by email Monday night, said that journalists across the city will still be allowed to view the weekly crime reports in a timely manner – provided they make requests through his office.

A blast from the past from the Tico Times:

27 years later, CIA pilot tells of using secret Costa Rican airstrip to traffic guns, cocaine

They seemed like isolated events unfolding in the chaos of Central America in the 1980s. But now, the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together.

Former CIA contract pilot Robert “Tosh” Plumlee says he trafficked cocaine and weapons in and out of a secret airstrip in northern Costa Rica in the 1980s to arm the Nicaraguan Contras. The cocaine came from Colombia and was shipped to consumers in the U.S.

From The Independent, $3,050 a second:

$183,000 fine for man who joined Anonymous attack for ‘one minute’

The attack succeeded in taking a website operated by the controversial Koch Industries company offline for just 15 minutes

Authorities in the US have shown their intolerance for so-called ‘hacktivism’ by sentencing a 38-year-old Wisconsin man to two years’ probation and an $183,000 fine for joined an online attack for just a single minute. Eric J. Rosol participated in a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS) against the website for American multinational Koch Industries.

For our final item, the perfect cover from South China Morning Post:

Chinese scientists upbeat on development of invisibility cloak

One team has already made a cat ‘disappear’ with a device that has huge military potential

Headlines of the day I: Spies, laws, zones, drones


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.