Category Archives: Organized crime

InSecurityWatch: War, politics, hacks, terror. . .


And much more.

We begin the the latest round of the Great Game from the Washington Post:

Top U.S. intelligence official backs arming Ukraine forces against Russia

The top U.S. intelligence official said Thursday that he supports arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists, as the Obama administration continues deliberations about whether to deepen involvement in a conflict pitting the West against Russian President Vladi-mir Putin.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said providing weapons to Ukraine would likely trigger a “negative reaction” from the Russian government, which Western officials are hoping will ensure that separatists stick to a European-brokered cease-fire that took effect this month.

“It could potentially further remove the very thin fig leaf of their position that they have not been involved in Ukraine,” Clapper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that Russia could respond by sending more sophisticated weapons to separatist areas.

From RT, asserting a naval presence:

Russia secures military deal to use Cyprus’ ports despite EU concerns

Russian navy ships will keep having access to stop off at Cyprus’ ports in Mediterranean as the two countries have agreed to prolong the pre-existing deal on military cooperation.

The agreement, which applies to Russian vessels involved in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts, was signed by President Vladimir Putin and his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, in Moscow.

The signing came aimed heightened tensions and sanctions between Russia and the EU over the military conflict in Ukraine.

President Putin, however, stressed that the agreement, as well as Russia-Cypriot ”friendly ties aren’t aimed against anyone.”

From Agence France-Presse, how to keep them from droning on:

BLOG Drones

From Nextgov, what could possibly go wrong?:

CIA’s New Big Data Hub Will be Hosted in the Cloud

The CIA is preparing to take the next step in its quest to shake up the status quo of siloed agencies within the intelligence community.

CIA Chief Information Officer Doug Wolfe confirmed Wednesday the intelligence agency will start using Cloudera’s Enterprise Data Hub platform by April, a move he expects “to extend the innovation and push the envelope on a whole range of different solutions” for all 17 IC agencies.

The enterprise data hub, also known as a “data lake,” would presumably provide standardized data sets compiled by intelligence analysts across various agencies to decision-makers among many other features found in the company’s widely used open source big data platform.

From SINA English, a Chinese wall:

Some foreign tech brands removed from China government purchase list

CHINA has dropped some of the world’s leading technology brands from its approved state purchase lists, while approving thousands more locally made products.

Chief casualty is US network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc, which in 2012 counted 60 products on the Central Government Procurement Center’s list, but by late 2014 had none, according to a Reuters analysis of official data.

Apple Inc has also been dropped over the period, along with Intel Corp’s security software firm McAfee and network and server software firm Citrix Systems.

An official at the procurement agency said there were many reasons why local makers might be preferred, including sheer weight of numbers and the fact that domestic security technology firms offered more product guarantees than overseas rivals.

From the Guardian, absence of evidence asserted:

No evidence of NSA and GCHQ Sim card hack, says allegedly compromised firm

  • Gemalto, the world’s largest Sim card manufacturer, denies claims intelligence services hacked into its servers and stole the keys to billions of mobile phones

The firm allegedly hacked by the NSA and GCHQ has stated that it cannot find any evidence that the US and UK security services breached and stole the encryption keys billions of Sim cards.

The alleged hack was revealed by documents from the NSA files provided by Edward Snowden, which detailed attacks on Gemalto – the world’s largest Sim card manufacturer – which allegedly saw them steal encryption keys that allowed them to secretly monitor voice calls and data from billions of mobile phones around the world.

But after an investigation, the Dutch security company, which supplies Sim cards to all of the major UK mobile phone networks and 450 operators globally, has said that no evidence of a theft of Sim card security details has been found.

From the Intercept, the sound of one hand clapping:

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

After the brief investigation, Gemalto now says that the NSA and GCHQ operations in 2010-2011 would not allow the intelligence agencies to spy on 3G and 4G networks, and that theft would have been rare after 2010, when it deployed a “secure transfer system.” The company also said the spy agency hacks only affected “the outer parts of our networks — our office networks — which are in contact with the outside world.”

Security experts and cryptography specialists immediately challenged Gemalto’s claim to have done a “thorough” investigation into the state-sponsored attack in just six days, saying the company was greatly underestimating the abilities of the NSA and GCHQ to penetrate its systems without leaving detectable traces.

“Gemalto learned about this five-year-old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Target tally totaled, via SecurityWeek:

Target Data Breach Tally Hits $162 Million in Net Costs

The cost of the Target breach keeps on climbing.

According to the firm’s latest earnings report, the net expense of the breach stands at $162 million.

The actual total has now reached a gross expense of $191 million. That amount was partially offset by a $46 million insurance receivable in 2014. In 2013, the company’s gross expense related to the breach was $61 million, which was offset by a $44 million insurance payment. That brings the net expense of the breach for the retail giant to $162 million.

According to the Ponemon Institute’s ninth annual global study on data breach costs released last year, the average total price tag of a breach was $145 for every record stolen or lost – an increase of nine percent compared to the cost noted in the previous report. The study focused on 314 companies across 10 countries. All the companies that participated in the 2014 study had experienced a data breach ranging from a low of 2,400 compromised records to a high of slightly more than 100,000. The most expensive data breaches occurred in the U.S. and Germany, and cost $201 and $195 per compromised record, respectively.

From Threatpost, Anthem for more bad news:

Up to 18.8 Million Non-Anthem Customers Affected in Breach

In addition to roughly 80 million Anthem customers, nearly 20 million more individuals who aren’t customers of the health insurer could ultimately wind up implicated in this month’s massive data breach.

The company disclosed yesterday that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million Blue Cross Blue Shield customers’ records may have been storoed in the database that was hacked. Anthem is part of a network of independent BCBS plans, and the latest batch of affected customers may have used their BCBS insurance in states such as Texas or Florida where the company runs partnerships.

It’s the first time the company has disclosed information regarding the breach as it relates to data other than its own since the compromise was announced on Feb. 5.

From SecurityWeek, ad-hacking your wireless:

Researchers Spot Aggressive Android Adware on Google Play

Highly aggressive adware has been found hidden in ten Android applications hosted on Google Play, Bitdefender reported.

Adware is highly common on both desktop PCs and smartphones. However, the threats discovered by the security firm stand out not just because they are aggressive, but also because they employ clever tricks to stay hidden on the infected device.

Once installed, the apps redirect victims to a webpage, hosted at mobilsitelerim.com/anasayfa, which serves ads designed to trick users into installing other pieces of adware disguised as system or performace updates, or get them to sign up for premium services. The displayed ads differ depending on the user’s location, Bitdefender said.

“Although they’re not malicious per se, by broadcasting sensitive user information to third parties, they resemble aggressive adware found on desktop PCs. The resulting barrage of pop-ups, redirects and ads irks users and seriously damages both the user experience and the performance of Android devices,” Bitdefender security researcher Liviu Arsene explained in a blog post.

And from Threatpost, an enduring threat:

Ransomware Looming As Major Long-Term Threat

On May 30, 2014, law enforcement officials from the FBI and Europol seized a series of servers that were being used to help operate the GameOver Zeus botnet, an especially pernicious and troublesome piece of malware. The authorities also began an international manhunt for a Russian man they said was connected to operating the botnet, but the most significant piece of the operation was a side effect: the disruption of the infrastructure used to distribute the CryptoLocker ransomware.

The takedown was the result of months of investigation by law enforcement and security researchers, many of whom were collaborating as part of a working group that had come together to dig into CryptoLocker’s inner workings. The cadre of researchers included reverse engineers, mathematicians and botnet experts, and the group quickly discovered that the gang behind CryptoLocker, which emerged in 2013, knew what it was doing. Not only was the crew piggybacking on the GameOver Zeus infections to reach a broader audience, but it also was using a sophisticated domain-generation algorithm to generate fresh command-and-control domains quickly. That kept the CryptoLocker crew ahead of researchers and law enforcement for a time.

“The interesting thing is all the opsec involved in this. The architecture thought out with this was really clear. The people working on this really sat down and architected and then engineered something,” said Lance James of Deloitte & Touche, who spoke about the takedown effort at Black Hat last year. “It took a lot more people on our side to hit it harder.”

After the jump, Austria enacts an Islamic crackdown, on to the ISIS front, first with a spooky assessment, crowdsourcing an anti-ISIS army, and a ‘Jihadi John’ profile from Old Blighty its spooky origins, Yemeni Arab Spring activists see their hopes dim, a Boko Haram bombing body count, bomb-sniffing pachyderms deployed, on to Pakistan and an American blogger slain, thence to North Korea and Japanese sanctions threatened, Washington deploys its top airborne spycraft to the South China Sea, Japan’s already considerable military power, and Shinzo Abe engineers more overseas naval deployments, and eases more legal restrictions. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, violence, politics, laws


We begin with an image, via Sailor Lunita, of family members with images of their missing students in a protest in Mexico today, held as part of the global day of action on behalf of the missing students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa who were disappeared on 26 September 2016:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, marking an anniversary:

Mexico Protests Mark 5 Months Since 43 Students Disappeared

  • The forced disappearances have brought to light the deeply entrenched state violence and corruption in Mexico.

Families and supporters of the 43 forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students continue their fight to find their loved ones in demonstrations Thursday, marking exactly five months since they went missing.

The families called for a national day of action on Feb. 26 to pressure the Mexican government to be more transparent about the details of the case and to put more resources into locating the students. Mass protests are scheduled in Mexico City to begin at 4 p.m. local time.

Tensions have grown in the country since the students went missing, which has become the highest profile example of the entrenched corruption within Mexico’s government.

So far, Iguala’s mayor and his wife, which is where the students went missing, have both been arrested for their involvement in the disappearances and allegedly ordering local police to arrest them and hand them over to a local drug gang called United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos).

From AJ+, anger over a protester’s death:

Anger Continues In Guerrero Mexico After Protester Is Killed

A 65-year-old man has died after sustaining injuries at a protest in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, demanding better pay. The region has seen near-daily protests ever since 43 students disappeared five months ago.

From teleSUR, more revelations:

Mexico: Photos Shed Light on Military Role in Ayotzinapa 43

  • New photographs suggest the military knew more about the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa 43 than previously thought.

Mexico’s military released previously unseen photographs of students who survived a massacre in Guerrero state Wednesday that have sparked renewed controversy over the case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa teachers training college students.

Published in Mexican newspaper Milenio, the photos allegedly show 25 students that survived the initial shoot out in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26, 2014.

From teleSUR again, more protests planned:

Mexican Teachers Union Preparing for Civil Disobedience

  • Angered at the violent repression unleashed by police against teachers, unions in Mexico have put their members on maximum alert.

A teachers’ union in Mexico announced Thursday that it will escalate its tactics, declaring itself on maximum alert and preparing its members for civil disobedience and rebellion.

The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) issued its warning in response to the violent repression against teachers by federal police in Acapulco earlier this week.

Mexico News Daily covers a law we suspect, given the vote, to be yet another instance of impotent window dressing:

Anti-corruption plan approved by deputies

  • Legislation to establish the national system will now move on to the Senate

A National Anti-Corruption System was approved today by the Chamber of Deputies after ironing out a number of differences that have stalled its passage.

It was approved by 409 of the 500 deputies.

The legislation establishes a system to coordinate efforts to implement policies to prevent and deter corruption and to promote integrity, and strengthen the Public Administration Secretary to allow it to audit, investigate and apply sanctions against crimes of corruption.

Finally, another image, this time from Insurrection News, with and image from today’s protest in Mexico City, bearing a message we suspect is true, tranlsating as “Justice will come when the blood of the bourgeois begins to run.”:

BLOG Ayotz 2

MexicoWatch: Pope, protests, violence, arrests


We begin with an ongoing search, via AJ+:

Searching Every Inch Of Mexico For The Missing

Program notes:

In Mexico, people aren’t searching just for the kidnapped Ayotzinapa students. Mario Vergara shows AJ+ how the Committee of Families of Victims of Enforced Disappearances of Iguala is scouring the region for family and friends – like his brother Tomas, who was last seen in 2012. The UN estimates that more than 23,000 have gone missing in recent years. From video journalists Alba Tobella, Sara Pedrola and Pepe Jiménez in Mexico.

Borderland Beat covers a notable arrest:

Iguala mayor finally charged in the disappearance of normalistas; if justice was served in another case the students would be alive

  • Infamous former Iguala mayor, José Luis Abarca, has finally been indicted for crimes connected to the case of the missing normalistas.

Mayor Abarca is charged in the murder of activist Arturo Hernández -witnesses testify Abarca shot and killed  Hernández, and now is charged  in the disappearance of 43 normalistas

BB reporter Chivis has long contended that the case of the normalistas against the former Iguala mayor and his wife was worrisome, lacking strong evidence.  She hoped that the case of Mayor Abarca killing a social activist,  Arturo Hernández Cardona, in front of witnesses, would go forth, as it was the easier of the two cases to successfully prosecute.

And that perhaps the winning of a conviction in the Hernández case would lend credence to the normalistas case, and fearful witnesses would then come forward.

From the Associated Press, a violent protest:

In Mexico, protesters drive bus into police lines

Protesters drove a bus into police lines in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, injuring at least seven officers, according to Mexican federal officials.

The Interior Department said that five protesters also were injured in the confrontation Tuesday evening, which came after thousands of protesters had tried to block entrances to the Acapulco airport, prompting police to ferry tourists to the terminal in trucks.

When police tried to open the entrance roads, a protester drove a bus into them. The department said some protesters had been detained, but did not give a precise number.

The estimated 4,500 demonstrators belong to two radical unions protesting the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 students. Those students were detained by police in the city of Iguala in the same state. The city police turned them over to a drug gang, which apparently killed them and incinerated their remains.

Followed by lethal violence, via teleSUR:

Mexican Teacher Killed After Police Attack Protestors

  • The victim was an active participant in protests in the Mexican state of Guerrero and was known for leading chants during marches.

On Wednesday, an official with the government of the Mexican state of Guerrero confirmed the death of a teacher after police violently attacked a protest by teachers.

The victim has been identified as Claudio Castillo Peña, a retired 65 year-old teacher. According to the secretary of civil protection, Castillo died as a result of head trauma.

“Comrade Caludio Castillo Peña died as a result of blows at the hands of the Federal Police, a comrade who had poliomyelitis, who as a result could not defend himself nor run due to his physical condition and his age,” said a statement posted online by the teachers’ union.

A later development, via Fox News Latino:

Most jailed teachers freed after deadly clash with police in Mexico port city

Authorities have released the vast majority of the more than 100 teachers arrested after clashes with police in the southern Mexican port city of Acapulco, an incident that left one protester dead, union officials said Wednesday.

A member of the State Coordinator of Education Workers of Guerrero, or CETEG, told Radio Formula that 65-year-old retired teacher Claudio Castillo Peña died as a result of Tuesday night’s crackdown on the protest.

“He lost his life at 4:00 a.m. (Wednesday) due to the blows he received,” said Manuel Salvador Rosas, who added that Castillo Peña was one of the detained protesters who were taken to hospitals in Acapulco, a Pacific port located in the southern state of Guerrero.

From VICE News, analysis:

Fatal Protest in Acapulco Shows Tensions Remain High in Troubled Guerrero, Mexico

The clashes showed that tensions have far from subsided in the state since a group of 43 rural teaching students were abducted by police and turned over to a drug gang in the city of Iguala last September.

Tuesday’s demonstration was called because teachers said they wanted federal officials to guarantee that wages would not be delivered late, as occurred in January, according to La Jornada Guerrero.

Members of CETEG have clashed with authorities at demonstrations across the state in recent months. In December, the teachers union set fire to several police vehicles in the state capital of Chilpancingo, leaving more that half a dozen people injured, including one police officer.

And from neomexicanismos, an image:

BLOG Ayotz gun

The Los Angeles Times covers a papal apology:

Vatican apologizes to Mexico over pope’s comment on drug trafficking

The Vatican is issuing a mea culpa in a spat with Mexico over critical remarks by Pope Francis on the “terror” engulfing the Latin American country.

In a private email to a friend, Francis had warned against the “Mexicanization” of their native Argentina, a reference to the dominance of drug-trafficking and violence.

The friend, Gustavo Vera, an activist in Buenos Aires, published the pope’s email on his foundation’s website, touching off anger within the Mexican government. The Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to the Vatican, asking for an explanation and expressing “sadness and concern,” Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said.

“The pope did not mean to hurt the feelings of the Mexican people, nor did he intend to minimize the efforts of the Mexican government” in the fight against drug trafficking, papal spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters in Rome.

Fox News Latino covers the acceptance:

Mexico: Any differences with pope now “completely settled”

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said Wednesday that any differences with the Vatican were now “completely settled,” after Pope Francis had warned in a private letter of the risk of the “Mexicanization” of Argentina, and he added that the invitation for the pontiff to visit Mexico “remains open.”

In a meeting with reporters, Mexico’s top diplomat said that after the pope made reference to the increase in drug trafficking in his native Argentina, any “difference that there could have been” with the Holy See had been “completely settled” through dialogue.

“Mexico’s relationship with the Vatican … (and) with the pope is a relationship of great importance, … fond and close, as the Vatican said” on Tuesday, he noted.

From teleSUR English, organizing:

Mexican youth mobilize in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

The Inter-University Assembly, which includes more than 90 institutions of higher learning throughout Mexico, has been a very useful tool for students to express their outrage over cases such as the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. The assembly has been an organizing center for mobilizing youth and is currently a key player in the protests demanding the return of the Ayotzinapa students.

MexicoWatch: Protests, artists, and politicians


We begin with the protests, first from teleSUR English:

Mexicans call for another global action day in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

Social organizations, relatives of the missing students and general supporters are using social media to call for a massive protest to continue demanding answers from the government about the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa. The march will take place this Thursday, five months to-the-day since the disappearance of the teaching students.

Here’s a poster for one of the events, from the Asamblea Popular de Houston:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, a dubious presidential legacy in the making:

Violence on the Rise in Mexico Under Peña Nieto

  • Over 130,000 kidnapping cases took place in Mexico in 2013, while 173 have been executed in two weeks.

Violent crimes, including kidnappings and executions, have increased exponentially under President Enrique Peña Nieto according to Mexican newspaper Reforma Tuesday.

The new statistics show one kidnapping was reported every five hours in January 2015 alone. The recent spike has seen kidnappings increase 7.2 percent compared to December 2014, while over 170 executions took place in the last two weeks.

“In the first month of 2015, 163 kidnappings have been reported, which is 7.2 percent more than December 2014,” said the anti-kidnapping coordinator, Renato Sales Heredia.

From Mexico News Daily, a reasonable move:

PRD rejects candidate: her husband’s in jail

  • The ex-mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas was arrested on suspicion of criminal links

The national council of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has the edge on its state-level officials in Michoacán when it comes to recognizing bad optics.

On Friday, the party’s state council approved the list of proportional representation candidates for the federal Chamber of Deputies. No. 2 on the list was Nalleli Pedraza Huerta, whose husband, Arquímedes Oseguera, is a former mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas.

He became a former mayor after he was jailed last April on suspicion of kidnapping and extortion and for having links to organized crime. One piece of evidence is a video showing Oseguera at the side of Servando Gómez, “La Tuta,” leader of the Caballeros Templarios cartel.

And from the Washington Post, politics by other means:

Mexican party turns to lottery to pick candidates

Mexican political parties are desperate to convince voters their candidates aren’t tied to drug gangs, violence or corruption. But one party has gone to extreme lengths to pick candidates in an open, transparent way: It held a lottery.

The National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, had some 3,000 vetted hopefuls put their names in a drum on Sunday, and the names of more than 100 candidates for the June 7 congressional races were pulled out at random. Many have little previous experience in political office.

“We have decided to break the mold, and break with the corrupt way politics has always been done in our country,” said Morena leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “The candidacies going to be decided by a lottery.”

Reuters covers a complaint:

Mexico complains about remarks attributed to pope over drug image

Mexico said on Monday it would send a letter to the Vatican to complain about remarks attributed to Pope Francis about the risk of Argentina suffering a criminal “Mexicanization” due to the spread of drug gangs there.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said his government had expressed concern that the country was being “stigmatized” as a land of drug traffickers in an email attributed to Francis published in Argentina over the weekend.

“We had a meeting with the (papal) nuncio and we will indeed send a note, and what worries us is that the drug trafficking challenge is a shared challenge. It’s a challenge that Mexico is undertaking massive efforts on,” Meade said in Mexico City.

While Mexico News Daily looks at the other side of the rhetorical coin:

Poppy cultivation grows with demand

  • It’s a lucrative crop for rural farmers in Guerrero and other states

The only publicly available statistic that gives some indication of opium poppy production in Mexico is that which reveals how many hectares of poppies were discovered and destroyed.

And in 2014 that figure was up 46% over the previous year for a total of 21,425 hectares. In terms of worldwide cultivation, that’s 7% of the total, well behind No. 1 producer Afghanistan with 70%, but still in third place behind Myanmar with 57,800 hectares.

Colombia was at one time the biggest producer in Latin America (although it never came close to Afghanistan’s output) but that changed in 2005 when its production began to drop. A year later, the area under cultivation in Mexico began to climb, rising from 3,300 to 5,000 hectares between 2005 and 2006.

Via Borderland Beat, another awards ceremony, another opportunity to call out for justice:

BLOG Ayotz 2

And from teleSUR, the response:

Mexico Ruling Party on Defensive over Inarritu’s Oscar Comments

  • The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI responded sharply to the critical comments made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at Sunday’s Oscar awards ceremony.

In response to critical comments made on Sunday night at the Oscar awards ceremony by Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI published a sharp congratulations on Monday morning on its Twitter feed. Later, the country’s PRI president Enrique Pena Nieto responded to the acclaimed director’s message.

When accepting the Oscar trophy for best film for the highly acclaimed Birdman, Inarritu told the crowd, “I want to dedicate this award to my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico … I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve.”

The response given by the PRI party, which returned to power in 2012 with Pena Nieto after a 12 year hiatus from a 71 year long stint, was, “Rather than just deserving it, it’s a fact that we’re building a better government, Congratulations #GonzalezInarritu.”

And one more image to close, via Camilo José Villa:

BLOG Ayotz 3

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, hacks, spooks, war, ISIS


And more. . .

We begin with the first of a series of stories prompted by a major cache of secret cables handed over to the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit:

Mossad contradicted Netanyahu on Iran nuclear programme

Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after PM sounded alarm at UN in 2012

Less than a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its “plans to build a nuclear weapon”, Israel’s intelligence service believed that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”.

A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012 that laid out a “bottom line” assessment of Iran’s nuclear work.

It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Another Al Jazeera story:

Israeli cable reveals S Africa missile theft cover-up

  • Leaked Mossad cable shows Israel obtained stolen missile plans, and South Africa asked for their return

Next, the first of two headlines about the cables from the Guardian:

Spy cables: MI6 intervened to halt South African firm’s deal with Iranian client

  • Furnace maker was ‘advised most strongly’ to end contract with company suspected of being involved in weapons manufacturing

The next Guardian headline:

CIA attempted to contact Hamas despite official US ban, spy cables reveal

  • Leaked files show US ‘desperate to make inroads’ into Gaza as well as Barack Obama’s alleged threat to Palestinians over statehood

While the Daily Dot points out a non-deletion:

Al Jazeera error puts North Korean spy’s life on the line

Newly leaked documents show the British government attempting to recruit a North Korean spy—but journalists have failed to properly redact the cables, potentially putting the life of the North Korean and his family in grave jeopardy.

Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news organization, published on Monday a leaked cable from the British Secret Intelligence Service outlining in great detail its attempt to bring a North Korean asset into a “long term clandestine relationship in return for payment.”

The four-page document was published with dozens of redactions, including the exact name of the North Korean individual in question.

However, the journalists left in key information. Dates and specific locations relating to where the North Korean individual met with British spies remains readable, vastly narrowing down the suspects North Korean authorities will no doubt be looking for.

Finally, a video summary for Al Jazeera America’s AJ+:

The Spy Cables – 4 Things We Learned From Leaked Documents

Program notes:

The Spy Cables are the largest release of intelligence documents since Edward Snowden’s and have been obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit. They show us how spies spy on one another and also occasionally help each other spy on mutual enemies. South Africa’s spy agency and MI6 have worked together to shift a North Korean spy’s allegiance. Also, find out who South Korea considers a dangerous individual – the answer might surprise you.

Here’s the masterpage for the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit leak cache stories.

From the New York Times, playing politics to the heights of absurdity:

Concerns Mount as Homeland Security Shutdown Looks Likely

The notion that Congress might actually shut down the Department of Homeland Security as part of a broader fight over President Obama’s immigration policies seemed laughable just a few weeks ago.

Literally.

A top Republican staff member laughed when asked if Republicans, who are usually security-minded, were prepared to shut down the agency in a political battle over Mr. Obama’s recent executive actions.

But now, with just days remaining until funding for the Homeland Security agency runs out on Friday, a shutdown of the department is looking increasingly likely.

And from CNN, the usually unmentioned:

DHS intelligence report warns of domestic right-wing terror threat

  • They’re carrying out sporadic terror attacks on police, have threatened attacks on government buildings and reject government authority.

A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.?

The Homeland Security report, produced in coordination with the FBI, counts 24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010.

Network World covers a demand:

NSA director wants gov’t access to encrypted communications

It probably comes as no surprise that the director of the U.S. National Security Agency wants access to encrypted data on computers and other devices.

The U.S. should be able to craft a policy that allows the NSA and law enforcement agencies to read encrypted data when they need to, NSA director Michael Rogers said during an appearance at a cybersecurity policy event Monday.

Asked if the U.S. government should have backdoors to encrypted devices, Rogers said the U.S. government needs to develop a “framework.”

From Nextgov, a prognostication desideratum:

Spy Research Agency Is Building Psychic Machines to Predict Hacks

Imagine if IBM’s Watson — the “Jeopardy!” champion supercomputer — could answer not only trivia questions and forecast the weather, but also predict data breaches days before they occur.

That is the ambitious, long-term goal of a contest being held by the U.S. intelligence community.

Academics and industry scientists are teaming up to build software that can analyze publicly available data and a specific organization’s network activity to find patterns suggesting the likelihood of an imminent hack.

The dream of the future: A White House supercomputer spitting out forecasts on the probability that, say, China will try to intercept situation room video that day, or that Russia will eavesdrop on Secretary of State John Kerry’s phone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

From the New York Times, documenting:

Document Reveals Growth of Cyberwarfare Between the U.S. and Iran

The document, which was written in April 2013 for Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the National Security Agency, described how Iranian officials had discovered new evidence the year before that the United States was preparing computer surveillance or cyberattacks on their networks.

It detailed how the United States and Britain had worked together to contain the damage from “Iran’s discovery of computer network exploitation tools” — the building blocks of cyberweapons. That was more than two years after the Stuxnet worm attack by the United States and Israel severely damaged the computer networks at Tehran’s nuclear enrichment plant.

And from the Washington Post, they want in on the action:

CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

CIA Director John O. Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, what else to expect?:

Rejection of NSA whistleblower’s retaliation claim draws criticism

Thomas Drake became a symbol of the dangers whistleblowers face when they help journalists and Congress investigate wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. He claims he was subjected to a decade of retaliation by the National Security Agency that culminated in his being charged with espionage.

But when the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office opened an inquiry into the former senior NSA official’s allegations of retaliation in 2012, it looked at only two of the 10 years detailed in his account, according to a recently released Pentagon summary of the probe, before finding no evidence of retaliation. That finding ended Drake’s four-year effort to return to government service.

Whistleblower advocates say Drake’s experience, spelled out in a document McClatchy obtained this month through the Freedom of Information Act, underscores the problem that intelligence and defense workers face in bringing malfeasance to the surface. The agencies that are supposed to crack down on retaliation are not up to the task, especially when the alleged wrongdoing involves classified information, they charge.

From the Independent, debunking the justification for the new state security regime Down Under:

Tony Abbott admits there were 18 warning calls before Sydney attack

A national security hotline received 18 calls about “self-styled” cleric Man Haron Monis just days before he took 18 people hostage at a café in Sydney, a report into the siege has revealed.

The calls between 9 and 12 December last year all concerned material on his Facebook page.

Just three days later he was shot dead by police after a 17-hour siege which left two hostages dead along with Monis himself.

It was later revealed that the Iranian-born attacker, who had long been known to security services, was out on bail at the time of the attack.

And from VICE News, a failure to communicate North of the Border:

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Refused to Tell Us How Much It Spent on an Unconstitutional Snooping Campaign

“We neither confirm nor deny that the records you requested exist. We are, however, advising you, as required by paragraph 10(1)(b) of the Act, that such records, if they existed, could reasonably be expected to be exempted.”

Translation: We’re not telling.

In January, VICE filed an Access to Information (ATI) request, asking for a slew of financial reports from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The specific documents we’re after are invoices for thousands, if not millions of payments made from various law enforcement bodies to Canada’s telecommunications companies.

For a decade, up until a surprise 2014 Supreme Court ruling, Canada’s investigators made informal requests to the country’s cellphone and internet providers for their customers’ personal information. They never had to go to a judge to make those requests. As an incentive, police paid nominal amounts of money per request—$1.50 here, $10 there—that they wouldn’t normally pay for requests authorized by a warrant.

After the jump, when your cell phone battery gives you away, more adware snooping enablement malfunctions, a bankster’s secrecy apologia, corporate espionage in the Indian oil biz, Obama’s promised Border Patrol reforms unfulfilled, Russian accusations of Western dominance aspirations, the Hitler-posing Pegida xenophobe reclaims his role, on to the Mideastern battlefield and a French carrier dispatched, signs that ISIS has deep roots, and the movement’s new English language schools, the emerging narrative on Libya, an embargo-busting Russian missile offering to Iran, the ISIS threat to Pakistan, a school assassination plotter nabbed, Myanmar captures rebel army bases, Japan’s Shnzo Abe makes a provocative insular move and South Korea responds, Japan plans more military attache deployments abroad, and a crown prince issue historical advice. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: An anniversary, allegations, & art


From teleSUR English, an anniversary nears:

5 months since Ayotzinapa students forcibly disappeared

Program notes:

Family members and activistis continue to demand the return of the 43 Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared last September 26. Instead of helping the families, the entire political system has affected their lives for the worse, says lawyer Vidulfo Rosales.

Mexico News Daily covers a curious story:

‘Journalists on payroll of Coahuila criminals’

  • Fake videos meant to discredit elite police unit, says government official

Some journalists in Coahuila are being paid by organized crime gangs, and the state’s government secretary says he has a list to prove it.

Victor Zamora says some reporters and media outlets are being paid by criminals to broadcast videos designed to discredit the efforts of a tactical police unit known as GATE.

The latest such video shows what appears to be members of that unit and soldiers engaged in executing civilians in a pickup truck. Several shots are fired but none of the officials appears worried about getting hit as they are seen milling around the truck.

But all the videos showing GATE officers have been analyzed and found to be fake, said Zamora, adding that there was a campaign under way by Los Zetas and their followers against tactical police units in Coahuila.

From Mexico News Daily, a textbook case:

Union’s textbooks replace official ones

  • Michoacán’s dissident teachers reject ‘neoliberal model’ and its school texts

Textbooks supplied by the federal Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) are being removed from schools in Michoacán and replaced by books produced and printed by the teachers’ union.

About 150,000 students in preschool, primary and secondary levels will be provided with texts that do not teach “a neoliberal model,” says Section 18 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE.

The SEP said last year it had distributed 97% of the books required by state schools, but all are to be discarded, said the union, which warned last year that its teachers would not use them.

The new books are accompanied by a letter from the union to parents: “The education project of neoliberal governments is not designed to respond to the needs and interests of the vast majority of the country. To achieve its purpose workers who have attained higher levels of study are not required, and intelligent human beings with a transforming spirit are needed even less.”

And to close, a graphic from graficamazatl:

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.

 

InSecurityWatch: Crimes, hacks, terror, war


And so much more. . .

We begin with the most fundamental sort of domestic InSecurity, via the Oakland Tribune:

Criminalization of homeless expensive, inhumane and ineffective, UC law team says

When homelessness increased nationwide in the early 1980s, California cities responded with ever more laws that unfairly punished the poor and failed to improve the problem, according to a critical UC Berkeley report released Thursday.

Over the past 30 years, cities statewide “have been engaged in a race to the bottom by increasing criminalization, hoping to drive homeless people away and make them someone else’s problem,” the study says.

The 53-page report, authored by the UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, says the rising number of anti-homeless laws has been costly for taxpayers and brought more hardship than help to the state’s most vulnerable residents.

From TheLocal.fr, sounding the intolerance alarm across the Atlantic:

‘France must combat rising racism urgently’

A damning report from the Council of Europe has concluded that the French public are becoming more racist and more intolerant towards minorities, including Muslims and Jews and that there was an urgent need to combat it.

France has “issues” with intolerance, racism, and respect for the human rights of migrants, according to a new report by the Council of Europe, an independent body which aims to improve cooperation between European countries.

The Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, based his findings on a visit in September last year – long before the Charlie Hebdo attacks that left the nation traumatized.

From TheLocal.at, a case of Austrian mistaken identity:

Suspect ‘Isis’ house turns out to be drug den

Armed police were called to a council flat on Vienna’s Margaretengürtel on Wednesday after a bailiff reported having seen an Isis-like flag with Arabic writing in the apartment.

The bailiff had entered the apartment because the tenants had not paid a mobile phone bill – but he quickly retreated and called the police when he saw what he thought was an Isis-flag in the hallway.

When armed police and sniffer dogs entered the empty apartment they found that rather than harbouring suspected extremists it appeared to be an amateur drugs lab, where the tenants may have been trying to manufacture crystal meth.

A report in the Heute tabloid said that police found Isis-flags, swords and machines guns in the apartment, but Vienna police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger said this was nonsense and that there was no evidence that the tenants had been radicalized or had anything to do with Isis. The flag with Arabic script was religious rather than Islamist, he said.

From Network World, hacking the world:

NSA, UK’s GCHQ reportedly hacked encryption of SIM card maker

U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have reportedly hacked into the computer network of giant SIM card maker Gemalto and taken smartphone encryption keys potentially used by customers of hundreds of mobile phone carriers worldwide.

The Gemalto hack, by the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), allowed the two spy agencies to monitor a large portion of the world’s mobile phone voice and data traffic, according to a story in The Intercept.

The hack was detailed in a 2010 GCHQ document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the story said.

From the Guardian, a petition for British spooky disclosure:

Thousands sign petition to discover if GCHQ spied on them

  • Privacy International campaign comes after tribunal rules that sharing between US and UK of intercepted communications was unlawful

More than 6,000 people in 24 hours have signed up to a campaign to discover if Britain’s communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, has illegally spied on them.

Privacy International launched the campaign in the wake of a court ruling this month that said regulations governing the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk breached human rights law for seven years until last December.

Privacy International says the decision by the investigatory powers tribunal allows anyone in the world to ask GCHQ if the US unlawfully shared their individual records with Britain. “Did GCHQ illegally spy on you?Have you ever made a phone call, sent an email, or, you know, used the internet? Of course you have,” says the campaign.

Homeland Security News Wire covers the universalized panopticon:

Sensor network

  • Wireless sensors transform real-time monitoring infrastructure

Small wireless computing devices, ranging from the size of a matchbox to the size of a dime, are going to change the way Florida monitors its water quality, sea level rise, hurricanes, agriculture, aquaculture, and even its aging senior population. The types of sensing devices developed by computer scientist Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., who recently joined Florida Atlantic University, can collect information about the surrounding environment and transmit that information to cloud-based computing systems that store, analyze and present that information to educators, researchers and decision-makers. Deployable at massive scales, the technology represents a paradigm shift in how our world is observed and managed.

“This is a thrilling time to join Florida Atlantic University,” said Hallstrom. “The university is on an amazing trajectory, driven by capabilities and opportunities that span every college, at every campus. There is incredible capacity to build interdisciplinary teams here, teams that are going to have a fundamental impact on the state and the nation.”

An FAU release reports that Hallstrom, a professor in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as director of the Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering at FAU (ISENSE@FAU). ISENSE will serve as an interdisciplinary research hub, drawing talent from both within and outside FAU to tackle grand challenge problems head-on through novel hardware, software and ideas.

From El País, automotive panopticon disclosure in Spain:

Spanish highway agency to reveal locations of all speed cameras

  • Motorists to be given early warning of upcoming traffic controls, both fixed and mobile

Drivers on Spanish roads will soon know the location of all speed cameras and speed traps and receive early warnings of their presence, the head of Spain’s DGT national highway agency announced on Wednesday.

“Our 2014 figures consolidate us as one of the safest countries in terms of moving around,” said DGT director general María Segui during a congressional appearance.

But the announcement follows news that the decline in road deaths appears to have bottomed out after a decade of sharp drops: 1,131 people died in traffic accidents last year compared with 1,134 in 2013.

From Nextgov, a cell for your cell?:

Justice, DHS Quarantine Smartphones Returning from Abroad

Officials at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security typically expect employees’ smartphones will be bugged when they travel overseas. So, they are experimenting with various ways to neutralize foreign spy gear.

For years, the FBI has warned government and corporate executives not to use hotel Wi-Fi connections, because of reports that foreign travelers were unknowingly downloading spyware.

When DHS personnel travel, “we understand you go there, you go to Ukraine, you come back, there’s a good chance that the BlackBerry or any other device, Androids, iOS, whatever, is probably owned. We get that,” said Vincent Sritapan, a cybersecurity division program manager at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.

To contain the damage, Homeland Security limits what employees can see on their mobile device overseas, and “when it comes back, it’s usually quarantined,” he added.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, lost in translation:

Documents leaked through free online translation service

Documents, including customers’ information of a megabank, have been posted on the Internet without owners’ knowledge after they were translated through a free online translation service, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

There are at least 30 cases of e-mail leaks in which the senders of the information were identified. They include e-mails between a ministry’s official and a major home appliance maker’s employee as well as e-mails from an automobile manufacturer to the company’s affiliate in Indonesia.

This online translation service is not that of major website operators such as Google, Yahoo and Excite. However, about 60 languages, including those spoken in Southeast Asian countries, are translated through the service.

From BBC News, hacked in the factory:

Lenovo taken to task over ‘malicious’ adware

Computer maker Lenovo has been forced to remove hidden adware that it was shipping on its laptops and PCs after users expressed anger.

The adware – dubbed Superfish – was potentially compromising their security, said experts.

The hidden software was also injecting adverts on to browsers using techniques more akin to malware, they added.

Lenovo faces questions about why and for how long it was pre-installed on machines – and what data was collected.

A hacking conviction via Network World:

Swedish man pleads guilty to peddling Blackshades malware

A Swedish man pleaded guilty Wednesday to peddling one of the most prevalent spying programs called Blackshades that was widely used by the criminal underground.

Alex Yucel, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing malicious software. He could face a maximum of 10 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said. He is expected to be sentenced on May 22.

BlackShades, a remote access trojan, was marketed by its developers as a program for legitimate computer monitoring but was mostly used for stealing payment card data, recording a computer’s keystrokes and secretly controlling webcams. It was sold for between US$40 to $100.

A corporate snooping limitation: in Germany, via Deutsche Welle:

In ‘sick-leave secretary’ ruling, federal court limits spying on employees

  • A secretary on sick-leave for two months who was spied on has won a suit against her employer in Germany’s highest labor court. The ruling defines when detectives can be used to monitor employees.

Only under very limited circumstances can German companies spy on their workers, said judges of the Federal Court of Labor on Thursday, in a case that weighed a complaint by a secretary who claimed she had been unlawfully spied on.

“Only when an employer’s suspicions of a breach of duty are concrete and based on fact can a detective be used to monitor an employee,” the judges in Erfurt said on Thursday.

Specifically, the judges said that the secretary – who had been on sick leave – at a small metal parts plant in the western German city of Münster had been unlawfully spied on; her boss, they said, hadn’t possessed concrete justification for hiring a private detective to determine the veracity of her claims.

From the TheLocal.no, a Norse alarm:

Norway hunts suspected suicide bomber

Norway’s intelligence services have put out an international alert warning about a female Norwegian Islamic militant suspected of planning a suicide attack in Europe.

According to Sweden’s Göteborgs Tidning newspaper, Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) has put out an “orange notice”  warning that the woman, who has they believe has received weapons training in Syria, is now back in Europe.

According to the newspaper, the agency had received a tip-off from friends of the woman, who said that she may have had weapons training in Syria, and could be planning a suicide attack.

The woman has not been seen by her relatives for more than two months and there are fears that she may have crossed the border into Sweden. Swedish police and security services have been asked to keep an eye out for the potential terror suspect and to pass on any relevant information to authorities in Norway.

Danish announces a $150 million in new anti-terror security measures, via TheLocal.dk:

Denmark announces new anti-terror initiatives

The Danish government will spend nearly one billion kroner over the next four years to better defend the nation against terror, the prime minister announced Thursday.

In the aftermath of the twin shootings over the weekend that shocked the nation, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Thursday presented a new 12-point plan to combat terror.

“Our security level is high. Preparedness is high. But we are also challenged. Militant Islamists are constantly developing new ways of challenging our security,” the PM said at a press conference where she was joined by her ministers of justice, defence and the interior.

The plan will enable the intelligence services to better monitor Danes travelling abroad to fight with Isis, while also targeting the radicalisation of prisoners in jails.

And from Deutsche Welle, a comforting embrace:

Norwegian Muslims show solidarity with Jewish shooting victims

  • Norwegian Muslims are planning to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in the country’s capital, Oslo. Deadly shootings targeting free speech and the Jewish community in Copenhagen last week sparked the idea.

Young Muslims in Norway announced an event to a show of solidarity with Jews across Europe, as well as with their neighbors in Denmark: building a peace ring around a synagogue.

On a Facebook invitation for the event, to be held on Saturday, organizers say “Muslims want to show that we strongly reject any type of anti-Semitism and that we are here to support them.”

By Thursday, around 1,500 people had accepted the invitation.

The head of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK he welcomed the idea, and hoped lots of people would turn up.

After the jump, Turkey alarms NATO with a possible Chinese missile deal, Washington reveals an Iraqi military move, Western doubts over more military involvement in Libya, Washington sets parmenters, and a pro-ISIS militia seizes a university, Boko Haram loses ground to Chad troops in Nigeria, Washington promises anti-Boko Haram forces intel and hardware, Afghan Taliban seek Pakistani talks and Pakistan sends signals, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outline legal plans for military support abroad, more questions overs Abe’s WWII apology, and Japanese banks get government data to shut out Yakuza, Abe says gay marriage barred by constitution, and a curious case of corporeal intelligence. . . Continue reading