Category Archives: WikiLeaks diplomatic cables

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: Headed for Iceland’s top post?


A 2011 self-portrait by Birgitta Jónsdóttir

A 2011 self-portrait by Birgitta Jónsdóttir

esnl‘s long been partial to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Iceland’s poet, artist, Internet activist, publisher, hacker, and best-known science fiction fan.

She came to international prominence as a Wikileaks activist at a time when half the world’s cops and spooks wanted to shut the site down, and her activism led her into the national legislature as a member of the Pirate Party, a movement she helped found.

The anger spurring her move into the political arena came from the national government’s capitulation of the banksters who had brought the country to near-ruin.

But now she stands on the brink of yet another major change.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir could become the nation’s next prime minister.

From a 28 January post from the Reykjavik Grapevine:

The Pirate Party is currently polling at 42%, remaining the top party in the country for the past year now. Support for the party exceeds that of both parties in the ruling coalition combined.

These results come from a new poll conducted by Stöð 2 and Fréttablaðið, where the Pirates have polled at over 30% for the past 12 months.

At the same time, support for the Independence Party is now at 23.2%, which is a record low for the party for this poll. Their partners in the ruling coalition, the Progressive Party, are currently slightly above 10%. This puts support for the Pirates alone almost 10% greater than that of both parties in the coalition.

So what would this remarkable activist do in office?

From a 22 January Backchannel profile:

Stubbornly, Birgitta follows the Pirate Party guidelines: horizontal leadership, power rotation, liquid democracy. She votes in Parliament according to the majority will collected on the Píratar web platform. Birgitta is a captain with no title or privileges. Yet she leads.

With only three parliamentarians, Pirates have surged into first place for the next legislative elections. (With 38 percent of voter intention, they are ahead of both traditional parties combined.) “People are really fed up,” she comments. Birgitta could become prime minister. She rolls her big eyes and says, “That is my worst nightmare.”

Birgitta isn’t a rebel but a hacker. Complaining and pointing fingers is a waste of time. She has a goal, a plan: Birgitta wants democracy to work again. Being in charge is the price to pay. Yet she imposes her conditions: She wants her hands free. If in power, Birgitta’s action plan is clear: apply the new constitution; implement IMMI to make Iceland a safe haven for freedom of expression and data; hold a proper debate on joining the European Union, followed by a referendum; conduct a six-month policy assessment of every ministry; and turn the recommendation into a government plan. After that, Birgitta would step down to force new elections to have this plan supported across the board. A true pirate, she would leave her seat as soon as she is done. Power destroys souls. It has worn her out already.

So what does she believe?

From Julian Correa, a video of a talk she gave on freedom of information [and much more] at the November 2014 CopyCamp, a Warsaw gathering on copyright law:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir

And here’s an interview from We Are Change Rotterdam:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: “We have to help the system to collapse”

Program notes:

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a politician (poetician) and an activist member of the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, formerly representing the Citizens’ Movement and The Movement, but now representing the Pirate Party. We Are Change Rotterdam got a chance to talk to her about revolution, Icelandic politics, the new Icelandic constitution and much more. Utrecht, 2014

We suspect life is about to get very interesting in Iceland.

Her blog is here, she also posts on Facebook and on Twitter.

Julian Assange gets ol’ Palestinian treatment


You know, the one in which a few small powers reject the overwhelming votes in their favor from a vast majority of the world’s nations.

First, from the Los Angeles Times:

‘How sweet it is,’ WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange declares after U.N. panel backs his freedom

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Friday he felt vindicated by the findings of a United Nations panel that ruled he should be allowed to walk free.

And the inevitable, via Deutsche Welle:

Assange stays put as Britain, Sweden reject UN decision

The British and Swedish authorities have rejected a UN panel’s findings and say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will still face arrest if he exits Ecuador’s embassy. He’s not budging, reports Samira Shackle from London

UPDATE: From The Real News Network, an interview [transcript] on Britain’s response with Assange’s own attorney:

UK Rejects UN Ruling that Assange Detention Is Illegal

Program notes:

After the UN finds Assange to be arbitrarily detained, Assange attorney Carey Shenkman explains how the UK is undermining the authority of the UN while simultaneously relying on it to release detained UK citizens

BBC News covers Old Blighty umbrage:

Julian Assange decision by UN panel ridiculous, says Hammond

The UK foreign secretary has branded as “ridiculous” a UN panel’s ruling that Julian Assange be allowed to go free, as the Wikileaks founder demanded the decision be respected.

And the response, via the Guardian:

Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after detention finding

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond dismisses panel’s finding as ‘ridiculous’ but WikiLeaks founder hails ‘sweet victory’

Anonymous voices our own sentiments, and much more graphically:

BLOG Anon

U.N. to back Assange in embassy blockade


From Reuters:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subject to ‘arbitrary detention’ during the 3-1/2 years he has spent in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid a rape investigation in Sweden, a U.N. panel will rule on Friday.

Assange, who enraged the United States by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, appealed to the panel saying he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador.

The former computer hacker denies allegations of a 2010 rape in Sweden, saying the charge is a ploy that would eventually take him to the United States where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is still open.

UPDATE: From RT’s Ruptly TV:

Switzerland: UN decision on Assange ‘indirectly but still legally’ binding

Program notes:

Christophe Peschoux, a United Nations human rights official, said on Thursday in Geneva that a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention decision on the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would be “indirectly but still legally” binding on authorities.

Assange is currently being pursued by Swedish authorities over rapes he allegedly committed in the country in 2010, which he has always denied. Since 2012, fearing extradition by Britain, he has sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The UN panel releases its findings tomorrow, which are expected to conclude Assange is being “arbitrarily detained” in the UK. Swedish prosecutors claim the decision would have “no formal impact” on its ongoing investigation.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spooks, hacks, Hong Kong


First, via the Independent, the usual suspects, faring well:

With US-led air strikes on Isis intensifying, it’s a good time to be a shareholder in the merchants of death

  • Last month American warships fired $65.8m worth of Tomahawk missiles within just 24 hours of each other

So who is winning the war? Isis? Us? The Kurds (remember them?) The Syrians? The Iraqis? Do we even remember the war? Not at all. We must tell the truth. So let us now praise famous weapons and the manufacturers that begat them.

Share prices are soaring in America for those who produce the coalition bombs and missiles and drones and aircraft participating in this latest war which – for all who are involved (except for the recipients of the bombs and missiles and those they are fighting) – is Hollywood from start to finish.

Shares in Lockheed Martin – maker of the “All for One and One for All” Hellfire missiles – are up 9.3 per cent in the past three months. Raytheon – which has a big Israeli arm – has gone up 3.8 per cent. Northrop Grumman shares swooped up the same 3.8 per cent. And General Dynamics shares have risen 4.3 per cent. Lockheed Martin – which really does steal Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers quotation on its publicity material – makes the rockets carried by the Reaper drones, famous for destroying wedding parties over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by Iraqi aircraft.

And don’t be downhearted. The profits go on soaring. When the Americans decided to extend their bombing into Syria in September – to attack President Assad’s enemies scarcely a year after they first proposed to bomb President Assad himself – Raytheon was awarded a $251m (£156m) contract to supply the US navy with more Tomahawk cruise missiles. Agence France-Presse, which does the job that Reuters used to do when it was a real news agency, informed us that on 23 September, American warships fired 47 Tomahawk missiles. Each one costs about $1.4m. And if we spent as promiscuously on Ebola cures, believe me, there would be no more Ebola.

From United Press International, a very important source of insecurity right here in the U.S.A.:

Stop and frisk causes anxiety in young men, study claims

  • Stop and frisk has been a common practice in New York for well over a decade

A new study suggests the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk practice may be leading to elevated levels of anxiety among young men in the city, especially young black men.

The policy allows police to stop pedestrians and search them for drugs or weapons.

“Although 80% of respondents reported being stopped 10 times or fewer, more than 5% of respondents reported being stopped more than 25 times, and 1% of respondents reported more than 100 stops,” says the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday.

The study found that people who are stopped frequently report high levels of stress and anxiety when roaming the city, while those who are not stopped frequently do not feel those emotions. The study found black respondents were both more likely to feel those emotions and more likely to have been stopped regularly. The study involved 1,200 men ages 18 to 26, and it was conducted over a six month period.

On to the spooky world, first with BuzzFeed News:

Exclusive: Key NSA Official Has Another Business At Her Home

Powerful National Security Agency official registered “electronics” business at her home before her husband set up intelligence business there, BuzzFeed News finds. Her company owns a plane and a condo.

On a quiet street in Ellicott City, Maryland, a blue-grey two-story clapboard house, set back from the road, is shaded by two sycamores and a towering maple. It’s the unassuming home of one of the National Security Agency’s most powerful officials, Teresa H. Shea.

In September, BuzzFeed News disclosed a potential conflict of interest involving Shea, the director of Signals Intelligence. Called SIGINT in espionage jargon, it refers to all electronic eavesdropping and interception, including the controversial domestic surveillance program that collects information about Americans’ phone use.

As BuzzFeed News reported, there’s a private SIGINT consulting and contracting business based at Shea’s home in that quiet neighborhood. Shea’s husband, a business executive in the small but profitable SIGINT industry, is the resident agent for the firm, Telic Networks.

In addition, James Shea also works for a major SIGINT contracting firm, DRS Signal Solutions Inc., which appears to do SIGINT business with the NSA.

Now there’s a new wrinkle, which the NSA has also declined to discuss: Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot.

More from the Wire:

The NSA’s Moonlighting Problem

  • A former NSA head has recruited one of his underlings for his lucrative cybersecurity firm—but that underling still works for the agency

In Washington, the revolving door between government service and more lucrative ventures is common, if not expected. However, having one foot in each has raised questions for the National Security Agency, which has launched an internal review of one senior official who was recruited by former NSA director Keith Alexander to work for his new—and very lucrative—cybersecurity private venture.

Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s Chief Technological Officer, is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week for Alexander’s firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, Inc., according to Reuters, which broke the story on the deal. Although the arrangement was apparently approved by NSA managers and does not appear to break any laws on its face, it does raise questions about ethics and the dividing line between business and one of the most secretive agencies in government.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters, “This matter is under internal review. While NSA does not comment on specific employees, NSA takes seriously ethics laws and regulations at all levels of the organization.”

But one of the chief antagonists is in trouble, via The Hill:

Top NSA critic could lose seat

Critics of the government’s spy agencies are worried that Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race could end the public career of one of their best allies in Congress.

Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-Colo.) possible defeat would leave a void in the Senate and on the powerful Intelligence Committee, civil liberties and anti-secrecy advocates fear.
“I do think it would be a significant loss for the movement,” said Laura Murphy, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office.

“What Udall has is the institutional memory, and the relationships in the civil liberties community, in the Democratic Party and in the tech industry so that we don’t have to start over again with someone new,” she added, while noting that her concern would be the same if Republican civil liberties advocates were also at risk of losing their seats.

From RT, a reminder that you don’t have to be paranoid to feel they’re out to get you:

Assange fears Ecuador embassy in London bugged

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder have filed eavesdropping claims to the Swedish court, as Julian Assange, who has been stuck in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over two years, fears he is being bugged.

In a submission presented to the Swedish Court of Appeal on Friday, Assange’s lawyers claim that he “is most likely under auditory surveillance,” the Daily Mail reports.

The defense also urged the Swedish side to hand over text messages, sent by one of Assange’s accusers, which they believe could serve as evidence that there was no ground for the arrest warrant. Assange says they reveal the woman’s ambiguity over his arrest and even her opposition to the case, based on sexual assault allegations.

The lawyers also believe that to “break the deadlock,” the 43-year-old Australian should be questioned at the embassy in Knightsbridge, where he is staying, rather than go to Sweden, which he believes could lead to his extradition to the US.

Next up, from TheLocal.se, the Swedish enigma continues:

Mystery deepens over reported Russian sub

Mystery deepened on Sunday over a Swedish military operation triggered by “foreign underwater activity” off the coast of Stockholm, amid an unconfirmed report of a hunt for a damaged Russian submarine.

Late on Saturday, Swedish armed forces stepped up an operation — involving more than 200 men, stealth ships, minesweepers and helicopters — in an area about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the Swedish capital.

The operation was initiated on Friday after the armed forces said they had been informed of a “man made object” in the water.

Officials denied they were “submarine hunting,” calling the mobilization — one of the biggest, barring purely training exercises, since the Cold War — an “intelligence operation”.

More from United Press International:

Sweden puts troops on alert after detecting possible foreign threat

  • Swedish media reported transmissions on an emergency frequency coming from waters of the Stockholm Archipelago to a reciever in Kaliningrad, Russia

Erik Lagersten, spokesman for the Swedish Armed Forces, could not confirm or deny speculations about the threat, including whether it was a missing foreign submarine.

“We are now trying to verify the information we received yesterday, which in our assessment comes from trustworthy sources, and see whether it has any substance or not,” Jesper Tengroth, press officer for the Swedish military, told Swedish media on Saturday.

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that the National Defence Radio Establishment detected emergency radio transmissions coming from the area to a reciever in Kaliningrad, Russia.

The Intercept debunks:

The FBI Director’s Evidence Against Encryption Is Pathetic

FBI Director James Comey gave a speech Thursday about how cell-phone encryption could lead law enforcement to a “very dark place” where it “misses out” on crucial evidence to nail criminals. To make his case, he cited four real-life examples — examples that would be laughable if they weren’t so tragic.

In the three cases The Intercept was able to examine, cell-phone evidence had nothing to do with the identification or capture of the culprits, and encryption would not remotely have been a factor.

In the most dramatic case that Comey invoked — the death of a 2-year-old Los Angeles girl — not only was cellphone data a non-issue, but records show the girl’s death could actually have been avoided had government agencies involved in overseeing her and her parents acted on the extensive record they already had before them.

In another case, of a Lousiana sex offender who enticed and then killed a 12-year-old boy, the big break had nothing to do with a phone: The murderer left behind his keys and a trail of muddy footprints, and was stopped nearby after his car ran out of gas.

And in the case of a Sacramento hit-and-run that killed a man and his girlfriend’s four dogs, the driver was arrested in a traffic stop because his car was smashed up, and immediately confessed to involvement in the incident.

The Guardian covers an accusation:

United States accused of misleading British minister over treatment of Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo Bay

  • Charity claims British resident cleared for release is being beaten by guards before force-feeding

The US government has been accused of misleading a British minister over the brutal treatment endured by the last British resident being held inside Guantánamo Bay.

Testimony from detainees has described increasingly violent “forcible cell extraction” (FCE) tactics, in which an inmate is forced out of his cell by armed guards, usually before being taken to the force-feeding chair.

Earlier this month a federal judge, Gladys Kessler, heard how methods used by the US military to feed inmates against their will present long-term health risks and that lubricating their feeding tubes with olive oil can cause chronic inflammatory pneumonia.

However, attempts by the British government to establish if Shaker Aamer, whose family are in south London, has been mistreated appear to have been dismissed. The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, revealed in a letter dated 7 October: “We made inquiries with US government officials, who assured us that the report of an incident, relayed to you by another detainee, is not accurate.”

From PCWorld, gone phishin’:

Dropbox used for convincing phishing attack

Dropbox’s file storage service was used for a tricky phishing attack, although the service was quick to shut down it down, according to Symantec.

The security vendor said it detected a batch of phishing emails advising recipients that they’ve been sent a large file and included a link to Dropbox-hosted page.

“The email claims the document can be viewed by clicking on the link included in the message,” wrote Nick Johnston of Symantec in a blog post. “However, the link opens a fake Dropbox login page, hosted on Dropbox itself.”

By hosting the fake login page on Dropbox, the scammers gain some benefits over hosting it on a random, strange-looking domain name. The phishing page is contained within Dropbox’s user content domain, similar to shared photos or files, Johnston wrote

And the Guardian covers an admission:

Whisper chief executive answers privacy revelations: ‘We’re not infallible’

  • Michael Heyward releases statement on Guardian reports
  • Does not dispute accuracy of reporting
  • Says: ‘Reasonable people can disagree about online anonymity’

The chief executive of the “anonymous” social media app Whisper broke his silence late on Saturday, saying he welcomed the debate sparked by Guardian US revelations about his company’s tracking of users and declaring “we realise that we’re not infallible”.

Michael Heyward’s statement was his first public response to a series of articles published in the Guardian which revealed how Whisper monitors the whereabouts of users of an app he has in the past described as “the safest place on the internet”.

Whisper hosts 2.6 million messages a day posted through its app, which promises users a place to “anonymously share your thoughts and secrets” and has billed itself as a platform for whistleblowers.

After the jump, the latest on the search for those missing Mexican college students, an on-the-air killing of a Mexican activist, a crime activist slain, and a maverick cop murdered, the two Koreas exchange fire, on to Hong Kong and a protester condemnation, a mediator talks fairness, fear of a violent minority, and claims of foreign influence, Beijing/Washington cybertalks stalled, a shifting submarine balance, a Chinese wound is poked and a military response follows, a major provocation by China, plus a major threat for China’s mistresses. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, Assange, Taps, Zones


Straight to it, first with the unsurprising from Defense One:

Congress Is Not Canceling the Pentagon-to-Police Weapons Program Anytime Soon

Rep. John Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, and two of his Democratic colleagues are asking committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to convene hearings on the militarization of police forces. And Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia said Thursday he will introduce a bill that would limit the kinds of military equipment local police forces can acquire.

Libertarian-leaning Republicans are joining the chorus as well. Republican Sen. Rand Paul penned a piece for Time protesting the “cartoonish imbalance between the equipment some police departments possess and the constituents they serve,” and Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan spoke out against police militarization via Twitter as well.

The response from congressional Republican leadership, however, has been measured or nonexistent, suggesting the issue is unlikely to make the agenda when Congress returns from recess in September. And even if it does, the program that connects police forces to military equipment has well-placed defenders in Congress.

TPM Livewire covers a First Amendment crackdown:

Three More Journalists Detained In Ferguson

Relations between police in Ferguson, Mo. and members of the media covering protests against law enforcement there broke down again Sunday night.

Echoing the arrests of the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery earlier this week, three reporters said they were briefly handcuffed and detained by police. Other reporters said officers threatened them with mace, while one radio reporter caught an officer’s threat to shoot him on tape.

Three journalists — Neil Munshi of the Financial Times, Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated and Rob Crilly of the Telegraph — tweeted that they were briefly detained and handcuffed by Missouri highway police Capt. Ron Johnson. Munshi emphasized that the three of them were held by police but were not arrested.

From the Guardian, the harsh reality of Hope™ and Change™:

James Risen calls Obama ‘greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation’

  • Journalist refuses to reveal source of story about CIA operation
  • President’s support for press freedom called ‘hypocritical’

The New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jail over his refusal to reveal a source and testify against a former CIA agent accused of leaking secrets, has called President Barack Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation”.

Speaking to his colleague Maureen Dowd, Risen accused the president of aggressively pursuing journalists, including himself, who report sensitive stories that reflect poorly on the US government.

Risen faces jail over his reporting of a botched intelligence operation that ended up spilling nuclear secrets to Iran. The Justice Department has long been seeking to force him to testify and name the confidential source of the account, which is contained in his 2006 book State of War.

From Techdirt, more of that good ol’ Hope™ and Change™:

Government’s Response To Snowden? Strip 100,000 Potential Whistleblowers Of Their Security Clearances

  • from the surface-issues-neutralized.-underlying-causes-unaddressed. dept

Snowden just re-upped for three years in picturesque Russia, a land best known for not being a US military prison. Not exactly ideal, but under the circumstances, not entirely terrible. The government knows where Snowden is (more or less) and many officials have a pretty good idea what they’d like to do to him if he returns, but the NSA is still largely operating on speculation when it comes to what documents Snowden took.

But they do have someone looking into this. The government has tried to assess the damage posed by Snowden’s leaks, but so far all it has come up with is vague proclamations that the released have caused grave and exceptional damage to US security and an even vaguer CIA report claiming that a bunch of documents Snowden theoretically has in his possession might severely harm the US if a) they are released and b) they exist.

The Associated Press complains of buggery:

Turkey calls German ambassador over spying claims

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry says the German ambassador has been summoned for talks over reports that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency had eavesdropped on conversations between officials in the U.S. and Turkey, both NATO allies.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday that the agency, known by its German acronym BND, had listened to calls made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton. It also cited a confidential 2009 BND document listing Turkey as a target for German intelligence gathering.

A Foreign Ministry official said Monday the ambassador was summoned to “discuss” the report.

Peter J. Espina of China’s state-published Global Times offered his take on a certain irony of German “unintentional” eavesdropping on calls by John Kerr and Hillary Clinton:

BLOG Spooky

More from Der Spiegel:

Targeting Turkey: How Germany Spies on Its Friends

For years, the BND has intercepted satellite telephone conversations from its listening station in Bad Aibling in Bavaria in order to obtain knowledge of the Islamist terrorist scene. But intelligence sources now say that US office holders have also fallen into the BND’s crosshairs while making satellite telephone calls from airplanes. Sources described it as a kind of unintentional “by-catch”.

That’s how Clinton got caught in the BND’s net in 2012. The former secretary of state had telephoned with former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. At the time, he was serving as the joint UN-Arab League special envoy for the Syrian crisis. Annan had just left the latest negotiations in Syria and wanted to provide Clinton with an update.

Following protocol, staff at BND headquarters prepared a several-page-long transcript of the conversation and passed it along to senior agency officials. They in turn ordered that the transcript be destroyed. Sources say that the document was not forwarded to Merkel’s Chancellery.

But the person tasked with destroying the transcript was Markus R., an employee in the agency’s Areas of Operations/Foreign Relations department, who also turns out to be the same man recently accused of serving as an agent for the Americans.

And still more from Deutsche Welle:

German surveillance upsets Turkish trust

Germany’s surveillance of Turkey has damaged the trust between the two nations, Turkish experts say. An apology would be appropriate, they argue – but they don’t really expect one.

It took two days before the Turkish government reacted to the news that Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country’s foreign intelligence agency, had allegedly been spying on Turkey for years.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara summoned Germany’s ambassador Eberhard Pohl, making it clear that the surveillance is unacceptable and must stop.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu called Germany’s behaviour “inexcusable.” There were principles of interaction that must always be considered, he said, adding the German government owed Turkey an explanation. Davutoglu, favored to take over the post of premier after new President Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes office, said he would discuss the issue with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the phone.

From Techdirt, why are we not surprised?:

From The Unsealed ‘Jewel v. NSA’ Transcript: The DOJ Has Nothing But Contempt For American Citizens

  • from the and-[local]-god-help-you-if-you’re-a-foreign-citizen dept

With some of the proceedings unsealed in the EFF’s long-running Jewel vs. NSA lawsuit, more details can finally be exposed. Not that what’s already been exposed hasn’t been damning enough. Over the past several months, the DOJ has run interference for the NSA, traveling from courtroom to courtroom, destroying and saving (or at least pretending to…) collected data amongst a flurry of contradictory orders.

Not that it ultimately mattered. The NSA just kept destroying relevant evidence, claiming the system was too complex to do anything with but allow to run its course. Evidence would be destroyed at the 5-year limit, no matter what preservation orders were issued. The NSA, of course, has a vested interest in destroying evidence that its 215 and 702 programs collect the data and communications of Americans. Thanks to Snowden’s leaks, it can no longer pretend it doesn’t. But despite this, the DOJ still claims Section 702 targets only foreigners and American suspects located outside of the US.

The mock concern about compliance with court orders was a hustle. The DOJ wants as much evidence that might be useful to plaintiffs gone as swiftly as possible. Thanks to the unsealing of Jewel court documents, the EFF can now relate that the DOJ’s efforts went much further than simply letting aged-off collections expire. It also actively tried to change the historical record of the Jewel case, as Mike covered here recently.

Al Jazeera English announces a move:

Julian Assange ‘to leave’ Ecuador embassy

  • WikiLeaks founder says he will leave Ecuador’s embassy in London “soon”, but gives no further details.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he plans to leave Ecuador’s embassy in London “soon”, having spent the last two years avoiding extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.

Assange told reporters during a news conference on Monday that he would be “leaving the embassy soon” but not for reasons “reported by the Murdoch press”, without elaborating further.

“I am leaving the embassy soon… but perhaps not for the reasons that Murdoch press and Sky news are saying at the moment,” he said.

And a video report from RT:

‘Important changes coming’ – Assange’s friend

Program note:

After spending more than two years trapped in a tiny embassy room, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has made a sudden announcement that he will leave the embassy ‘soon’. For more perspective on what Assange had to say, and why he said it RT talks to someone who knows him personally – Gavin Macfadyen, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism.

A video of Assange’s full statement is here.

But the London Telegraph promptly threw a bucket of cold water:

Home Office shoots down Julian Assange’s claim about extradition law change

  • Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, says he plans to leave the Ecuador embassy in London after spending two years there

Mr Assange and his legal advisers appeared to have made an embarrassing error by misunderstanding a basic aspect of the new legislation.

The Home Office quickly undermined his key claim by confirming the changes would not apply in the case of Mr Assange, who has been a wanted man in Sweden since 2010, because they are not retrospective.

Mr Assange, 43, is alleged to have raped a woman known as SW, then aged 26, and committed other sexual offences against AA, a 31-year-old woman.

From the Register, the Rupester crows:

Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA

  • Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter and labelled Google worse than the NSA.

Here’s The Dirty Digger’s missive:

Rupert Murdoch     @rupertmurdoch

NSA privacy invasion bad, but nothing compared to Google.
10:15 AM – 17 Aug 2014

Murdoch and Google have history, with the former accusing the latter of stealing his newspapers’ content (yet never putting in place a robots.txt file that would prevent search engines crawling it). Uncle Rupert has also criticised Google as enabling the theft of films by indexing torrent sites.

Reuters covers a hack:

Community Health says data stolen in cyber attack from China

Community Health Systems Inc (CYH.N), one of the biggest U.S. hospital groups, said on Monday it was the victim of a cyber attack from China, resulting in the theft of Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to 4.5 million patients.

Security experts said the hacking group, known as “APT 18,” may have links to the Chinese government.

“APT 18″ typically targets companies in the aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, technology, financial services and healthcare industry, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc’s (FEYE.O) Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

From TechWeekEurope, cyberwarfare:

Syrian Malware Is On The Rise, Warns Kaspersky

  • As the civil war in Syria enters its fourth year, cyber warfare shows no sign of abating

The number of cyber attacks against Internet users in Syria is growing, with organised groups relying on increasingly sophisticated strains of malware to target media agencies, activists and dissidents, warns Russian security vendor Kaspersky Labs.

According to a report by Kaspersky’s Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT), groups from both sides of the civil war are using advanced social engineering techniques, modifying legitimate apps and obfuscating their code in order to infect target machines with Remote Access Tools (RATs) such as the ‘Dark Comet’.

The company says people should be extra careful when they access online material that relates to the conflict.

From PetaPixel, delinquency of a [data] miner:

Tumblr Will Soon Scan Your Photos for Clues About What Brands You Use

Tumblr users post approximately 130 million photos every day. And starting this week, they will begin to sort through every single one of them for various brands and items, with the help of Ditto Labs.

The Yahoo-owned social media platform and Ditto are officially signing a deal this week that will help Tumblr take advantage of the unfathomable amount of images shared on its services every day. Specifically, the technology Ditto owns will allow Tumblr to analyze photos posted by users and draw out brand-related data.

This means, if someone shares an image with a pair of Beats headphones, Nike shoe, Starbucks drink or Canon camera, Ditto’s technology will be able to pinpoint the products, more effectively defining demographics for advertisers. However, accorfing to T.R. Newcomb, head of business development at Tumblr, “right now, we’re not planning to do anything ad-related.”

After the jump, a Chinese media crackdown and the latest on the Asian Game of Zones, including border crossings, peace feelers, a Japanese military woe and internal doubts, more allegations of Japanese ethnic intolerance, and more ghosts from World War II troubled the Asian present. . . Continue reading

Academic imperialism: Cal schools look East


The University of California at Berkeley, cash-strapped by a state government already overburdened by covering costs of local and county governments impoverished by Proposition 13, is looking abroad for cash.

It makes sense, of course. The increasingly wealthy elites of former Second World countries like China and Russia and the oil-enriched aristocratic an technocratic elites of the Mideast are eager to give their children appropriately elite educations.

So while Cal cuts enrolments of students from the state it was created to serve and replaces them with overseas students whose parents or states are able to pay the far higher enrolments charged non-Californians, it has taken the next step and established offshore campuses as well.

And why not? For the host country, there are the benefits of technology transfer coupled with the presitge of hosting academic names. And for cash-strapped American schools, there’s all that lovely money.

From the 3 April 2013 issue of the East Bay Express:

UC Berkeley Seeks China Gold

The university is working on a new research facility in Shanghai that promises to attract more money from foreign students who pay higher tuition.

This summer, Cal’s engineering department plans to complete a new research and teaching facility in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, one of China’s biggest research and development centers. The facility is to be predominately funded by the Chinese government, and while it initially will only offer a few courses, it could eventually grow into a degree-granting satellite campus of UC Berkeley.

A few other universities, including NYU, Harvard, and Georgetown also operate campuses overseas. However, if UC Berkeley follows through with this proposal, it will become one of only two US public universities operating a full-scale international campus. And while such a partnership would surely provide opportunities to UC Berkeley students and faculty, the biggest motivator seems to be money.

Two years earlier — when the center was in the planning stages — the New York Times reported, tellingly:

The public university, which is struggling under budget constraints imposed by the state of California, said the Shanghai center would cater to engineering graduate students and be financed over the next five years largely by the Shanghai government and companies operating here.

And the Shanghai campus isn’t the only link to Beijing, as China Daily reported two weeks ago:

West Point, Berkeley become must-stops for Chinese CEOs

UC Berkeley, Stanford University and the US Military Academy at West Point have become popular must-stops for Chinese CEOs and business executives enrolled in an overseas education program organized by China’s Shanghai Jiaotong University.

A group of 66 Chinese business executives in the program ended their 10-day tour of New York, Washington, Philadelphia and San Francisco on April 20. The tour that included meetings with key international financial institutions and government officials is part of a 12-month non-degree course at the university that also includes the UK.

On April 18, the Haas School of Business at the UC Berkeley campus hosted the Chinese executives.

“The Shanghai Jiaotong University Global CEO program provides our group of Chinese CEOs with advanced management training and face-to-face dialogue with key people in the US, which helps us understand and participate effectively in the globalized market,” said Jiang Zhaobai, chairman of Shanghai Pengxin Group, a leading Chinese conglomerate with interests in real estate, infrastructure construction.

Berkeley isn’t new at the foreign partnership game. Nor has the imperial expansion been entirely without complications, as in the case of the Graduate School of Management at Russia’s St. Petersburg University, a partnership between Cal’s Haas School of Business and the Russian school launched in 1993.

UC Berkeley plutocratic professor David J. Teece , who directs the Center for Global Strategy and Governance at Cal’s Haas School of Business, also chairs of the St. Petersburg business school’s International Academic Council. [He’s also vied with David Koch for pride of place among the top five contributors to a California Republican senatorial candidate.]

Let us quote from a WikiLeaks-ed 5 February 2001 CONFIDENTIAL/NOFORN cable from Ambassador William J. Burns in Moscow to the Secretary of State’s office:

2. (C) During the November 2006 inauguration of the newly-opened premises of the St. Petersburg State University School of Management, an American academic long associated with the school told CG about Vice Governor Yuri Molchanov’s “sinister” presence in their dealings.

3. (C) The Haas School of Management at U.C. Berkeley has nurtured the development of a new St. Petersburg School of Management since 1993. In addition to academic exchanges and curriculum development, representatives of the Haas school led a unique fund-raising campaign which collected $6.5 million in private U.S. and Russian funds to entirely renovate a dilapidated building for classroom use. As steward of the funds, which included a whopping $1 million from U.S. citizen Arthur B. Schultz, the Haas School kept close tabs on all expenditures. At one point in the early 1990s, when lenders were sought to renovate the old building, Vice Governor Molchanov’s private construction firm placed a bid. As the only local bidder and as a close associate of the now Dean of the School of Management, Molchanov apparently expected to win the tender. He did not. This provoked an angry response in which he demanded compensation from the Haas School representatives for the costs of preparing his bid. While the Haas School did not comply with his demand, they did find a way to mollify the Vice Governor, who “was always present at all our discussions”, according to the American source. “He gave me the creeps.” Although the source did not describe any specific intimidation, it was clear that the Americans experienced some degree of fear – a not unreasonable reaction in 1990s Russia.

4. (C) Vice Governor Malchanov is widely rumored to be corrupt, enjoying a convenient intersection of interests between his construction company and his position in the city government. He played a very visible role in the School of Management inauguration alongside Governor Valentina Matviyenko and President Putin.

BURNS

Just what the school did to mollify Molchanov remains an open question. The only mention of him on the Russian university’s website is as one of seven judges in a 23 November 2000 student business plan competition. His name doesn’t appear in a search of UC Berkeley’s website.

What was most peculiar is that no mention of this fascinating story has appeared in the local news media after WikiLeaks put on line, with the notable help of Chelsea Manning. But then such is the plight of the impoverished, gutted, and pathetically understaffed American news media.

One has to wonder how many similar situations are confronted by other institutions, and by their staff members.

Perhaps these are just the moaning and musing of a stubborn old journalist who’s spent a great many years investigating corruption much closer to home. . .

The provocation for this rambling post follows, a pair of video reports from CCTV, like China Daily a Chinese state medium, reporting on similar deals by other American universities.

From CCTV:

USC President C.L. Max Nikias on Investment in China

Program notes:

China is also one of the biggest markets for U.S. universities. The number of Chinese students studying abroad is soaring, but the U.S. only attracts a fraction of them. Now American colleges are trying to change that: they already have the biggest number of satellite campuses and partnerships in China. The University of Southern California (USC) is one school investing time, money, and people towards this goal. CCTV’s Phillip Yin speaks to USC President C.L. Max Nikias about the university’s efforts in China.

Foreign Universities Setting up Shop in India

Program notes:

For years, India has been sending students away to learn the skills to build the economy back home. Now overseas universities are coming to India. CCTV’s Shweta Bajaj reports from New Delhi.

From RT, an extended talk with Julian Assange


An extended interview with the WIkiLeaks activist by RT Spanish’s Behind the News host Eva Golinger:

From the transcript:

EG: Well the head of MI5 has also just declared that Edward Snowden, his documents have placed national security in danger…

JA: Yeah, I mean just absurd. But also it’s a position by the UK which is clearly that they’re going after anyone who has had something to do with this matter, probably in order to show to the US that they feel their pain and that they are a part of the same club. And possibly in relation to GCHQ. So that’s a concern for us, what will happen to Sarah Harrison? But I think if we look at the bigger picture, OK, yes, there’s some development in the US and the UK, which is extremely serious. It’s obvious to everyone. The rule of law is gradually starting to collapse. The mechanisms of government are lifting off from the population, from the judicial system. The judicial processes are becoming more and more secret. Here, introduction of a secret court.

Even the Labour Party here, Ed Miliband from the Labour Party pushing legislation saying that soldiers should not be able to be criticized, adding them to hate speech legislation. This is a sort of proto-fascism. I mean, that’s a strong thing to say, but I think that’s a correct description. And the US – yes, that is making people extremely timid. It has made. The Guardian does good work here, but it has made the Guardian also very timid in its publications. It’s been holding a lot of stories back. It’s been extensively redacting, it has been holding documents back, same in the US.

From the point of view of WikiLeaks as a publisher, of course, we think that’s great, that we we’ll be the only player left in the field. From the point of view of Julian Assange as a free speech activist, I think that’s an abomination and extremely concerning. On the other hand, just because you can smell the gun powder in the air, you can smell the heat of the battle between those people, who are revealing information about the crimes of state, and war crimes and mass surveillance and so on. And those who are trying to suppress it. It doesn’t tell you which side is winning.

There’s a serious conflict going on between a growing national security system in the West and those people who are trying to expose what that system is doing. That’s for sure. Which one of these two groups is winning is not clear. We actually have some pretty important winds under our belt as well as saying many journalists are surveyed and prosecuted.

Read the rest.