Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

Russia plans state controls in case of internet crisis

September 22, 2014

From the BBC

Internet cafe in Yekaterinburg

Internet cafe in Yekaterinburg: Russians rely on many foreign servers and website hosts

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Russia is making plans to ensure state control over the country’s internet traffic in a national emergency, Russian media report.

War or an Arab Spring-style uprising would class as such an emergency.

Plans for boosting cyber security are reported to be under discussion in Russia’s Security Council. They include a back-up in case Russia is cut off from the internet, Vedomosti news says.

Russia currently relies heavily on foreign hosting of websites.

When asked about the special meeting a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said US and European actions recently “have been marked by a fair degree of unpredictability, and we have to be ready for anything”.

Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict now target many senior Russian officials, as well as Russia’s oil industry, arms manufacturers and state banks.

Western leaders accuse Russia of destabilising Ukraine by supplying soldiers and heavy weapons to separatist forces there.

Russia’s Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said that “recently Russia has come up against the one-sided language of sanctions.

“In these conditions we are working on scenarios in which our respected partners suddenly decide to cut us off from the internet.”

In January 2011 the Egyptian state blocked internet traffic inside the country after opposition groups organised protests through social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

Infrastructure changes

Experts interviewed by Vedomosti said a Russian federal body such as Rossvyaz, in charge of communications, could take over as administrator of internet domains.

Rossvyaz would then have direct control over the country’s domains such as those ending in .ru or .rf and service providers in Russia’s regions would be subordinate to it.

It is not clear how tighter state control over the web infrastructure in Russia would affect relations with US-based Icann, the organisation that governs internet domains internationally.

Mr Nikiforov said his ministry had held exercises with the defence ministry and FSB intelligence service to prepare for a scenario in which Russia was deprived of internet connections.

Keir Giles, a London-based expert on Russian cyber security, says the FSB has been given new internet surveillance powers since American whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the scale of secret US monitoring of internet traffic.

According to the news website, the Russian authorities are also considering bundling the country’s internet connections into big nodes which can be monitored more easily.

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Yahoo threatened with $250,000 daily fine over access to data

September 12, 2014


A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files


A secret and scrappy court battle that Yahoo launched to resist the NSA’s PRISM spy program came to an end in 2008 because the Feds threatened the internet giant with a massive $250,000 a day fine if it didn’t comply.

The detail of the threat became public today after 1,500 pages worth of documents were unsealed in the case, revealing new information about the aggressive battle the Feds fought to force the company to bow to its demands. The information was first reported by the Washington Post following a blog post published by Yahoo’s general counsel disclosing that the documents had been unsealed and revealing for the first time the government’s threat of a fine.

Yahoo fought to unseal the case documents to provide better transparency about the government’s data collection programs and the FISA Court’s controversial history in approving nearly every data request the government makes.

The company disputed the initial order in 2007 because it deemed the bulk demand for email metadata to be unconstitutionally broad, but it lost that fight both in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and during appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Court of Review. It was among the first of nine internet companies to fall to the government’s demands for customer data and was a crucial win for the Feds since they were allowed to wield the ruling as part of their demand to other companies to comply.

Each of the internet companies fell in line with the program at separate times in the wake of that ruling.

“The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts,” Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell wrote in a post published after the unsealing. “At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”

The unsealing of FISA Court documents is extremely rare but, as Bell noted, it was “an important win for transparency, and [we] hope that these records help promote informed discussion about the relationship between privacy, due process, and intelligence gathering.”

The documents were posted online today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Bell noted that “[d]espite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team.”

The American Civil Liberties Union praised Yahoo for pushing back on the government’s unreasonable surveillance.

“Yahoo should be lauded for standing up to sweeping government demands for its customers’ private data,” Patrick Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU said in a statement.”But today’s [document] release only underscores the need for basic structural reforms to bring transparency to the NSA’s surveillance activities.”

The government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it did not immediately comply with a secret court order. Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yahoo’s secret battle, and the PRISM program, came to light only last year after documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the data-collection program. Yahoo, Google, Apple and other companies were harshly criticized for complying with the program and seemingly putting up no resistance to it. But shortly after the program was exposed, Yahoo’s dogged battle with the Feds to resist its inclusion in the program came to light only after another document leaked by Snowden exposed the company’s legal fight against the FISA Court order.

Yahoo fought back on Fourth Amendment grounds, insisting that such a request required a probable-cause warrant and that the surveillance request was too broad and unreasonable and, therefore, violated the Constitution.

Yahoo also felt that warrantless requests placed discretion for data collection “entirely in the hands of the Executive Branch without prior judicial involvement” thereby ceding to the government “overly broad power that invites abuse” and possible errors that would result in scooping up data of U.S. citizens as well.

The request for data initially came under the Protect America Act, legislation passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that allowed the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to authorize “the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States” for periods of up to one year, if the acquisition met five criteria. The Protect America Act sunset in February 2008, but was incorporated into the FISA Amendments Act in July that year.

Under the law, the government has to ensure that reasonable procedures are in place to ensure that the targeted person is reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. and that a significant purpose of the collection is to obtain foreign intelligence. In its request to Yahoo, the government apparently proposed additional measures it planned to use to ensure that its data collection was reasonable.

But Yahoo felt the procedures and measures the government proposed to undertake were insufficient and refused to comply with the data request. The government then asked the FISA Court to compel Yahoo to comply, which it did.

Yahoo applied to appeal the decision and requested a stay in the data collection pending the appeal. But the FISA Court refused the stay, and beginning in March 2008, Yahoo was forced to comply with the request for data in the meantime “under threat of civil contempt.”

Five months later, in August 2008, the FISA Court of Review found that the data request, undertaken for national security reasons, qualified for an exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment and upheld the original court’s order to comply.

As for Yahoo’s concern that the request was too broad and opened the possibility for potential abuse, the judges wrote that the company had “presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse in the circumstances of the instant case” and called Yahoo’s concerns “little more than a lament about the risk that government officials will not operate in good faith.”

To support their ruling, the judges wrote that the government “assures us that it does not maintain a database of incidentally collected information from non-targeted United States persons, and there is no evidence to the contrary.”

A year’s worth of Snowden revelations, however, have now shown this to have been a misguided statement on the part of the judges.


The New York Times

NEW YORK — The federal government was so determined to collect the Internet communications of Yahoo customers in 2008 that it threatened the company with fines of $250,000 per day if it did not immediately comply with a secret court order to turn over the data.

The threat — which was made public Thursday as part of about 1,500 pages of previously classified documents that were unsealed by a court — sheds a rare spotlight on the fight between Internet companies and the government over the ground rules for the secret surveillance of Americans and foreigners following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, companies that receive data requests are prohibited from talking about the substance of the interactions or even acknowledging they occurred.

Yahoo’s 2008 challenge to the warrantless surveillance law and an appeals court’s rejection of that challenge were first reported by The New York Times last year, shortly after Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor,

Read the rest:


U.S., China Complete Two Days of “Substantive Talks” But “Don’t get your hopes up.”

July 10, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with China's President Xi Jinping (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014.    REUTERS-Jim Bourg

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with China’s President Xi Jinping (R) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014.

BEIJING Thu Jul 10, 2014

(Reuters) – China and the United States agreed on Thursday to boost military ties and counter-terrorism cooperation during high-level annual talks in Beijing, but there was little immediate sign of progress on thorny cyber-security or maritime issues.

The two-day talks, led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for the United States and Vice Premier Wang Yang and top diplomat Yang Jiechi for China, were never expected to achieve great breakthroughs.

The Strategic and Economic Dialogue, now in its fifth year, is more about managing an increasingly complex and at times testy relationship.

After discussions on topics ranging from the value of China’s currency to North Korea, Yang said the two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism, law enforcement and military-to-military relations.

He gave few details.

On two of the most sensitive issues – maritime disputes and cyber-spying – Yang largely restated Beijing’s position on both.

“The Chinese side will continue to steadfastly protect its territorial and maritime rights” in the South and East China Seas, Yang told reporters as the talks wrapped up.

“China urged the U.S. side to adopt an objective and impartial stance and abide by its promise to not take sides and play a constructive role in safeguarding regional peace and stability.”

Washington insists it has not taken sides but has criticized China’s behavior in the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping territorial claims with China.

Beijing, however, views the United States as encouraging Vietnam and the Philippines to be more assertive in the dispute, and of backing its security ally Japan in the separate spat over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the Philippines on Thursday for extending by one year a drilling permit for London-listed Forum Energy Plc for a natural gas project in the disputed Reed Bank area of the South China Sea.

“Any foreign companies carrying out development of oil or gas in China’s territorial waters without obtaining permission from China are breaking the law,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily briefing.



On Internet security, Kerry told reporters that discussions were frank, and both sides agreed it was important to keep talking.

It was unclear if any progress was made in resuming the activities of a cyber working group that Beijing suspended in May after the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking.

“The loss of intellectual property through cyber has a chilling effect on innovation and investment. Incidents of cyber theft have harmed our businesses and threatened our nation’s competitiveness,” Kerry said.

Chinese hackers broke into the computer networks of the United States government agency that keeps the personal information of all federal employees in March, the New York Times reported this week, citing senior U.S. officials.

Yang said China wanted cooperation on cyber issues on the basis of mutual respect and trust.

“China believes cyber-space should not become a tool to harm other countries’ interests. China hopes the U.S. side can create the conditions to carry out U.S.-China dialogue and cooperation on the Internet,” he said.

China sees the United States as being hypocritical on the subject following revelations about Washington’s own spying by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Kerry also repeated his earlier message that Washington wanted a strong, prosperous and stable China.

“And we mean what we say when we emphasize that there’s no U.S. strategy to try to push back against or be in conflict with China,” he told Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Dean Yates)

Experts that participated in the Beijing talks told Peace and Freedom, “Don’t get your hopes up. Nothing will change.”


Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Yang Jiechi, a state councilor who deals with foreign policy, on Wednesday in Beijing. Credit Pool photo by Jim Bourg 

This conversation between the U.S. and China has been ongoing — with little progress.  Above: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi exchange views on the South China Sea at a news conference in Beijing Sept. 5, 2012. Photo: AP/Feng Li, Pool


 (Forbes, Commentary)

Photo: Chinese and Vietnamese ships keep watch on each other in the South China Sea



David and Goliath ? A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)

china's marine disputes, the philippines, east sea disputes

China says about 90% of the South China Sea is Sovereign Chinese property. Fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations that have been working these waters for centuries question the logic. Then there is the small matter of international law.


On May 1, 2014, China moved its biggest China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) oil rig HD-981 into position in what Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. China deployed some 80 ships to guard the rig, leading to several tense encounters between Chinese and Vietnamese ships.  Several Vietnamese maritime law enforcement officers were injured when China used water cannons on the smaller Vietnamese ships to chase them away.

(L-R) A Chinese steel boat sails close to a Vietnamese wooden boat in the latter's water off Da Nang. China has sent numerous boats to guard an illegal oil rig it placed in Vietnamese waters from May and to attack any local fishing or coast guard boats th
A Chinese steel boat (left) sails close to a Vietnamese wooden boat in the latter’s water off Da Nang. China has sent numerous boats to guard an illegal oil rig it placed in Vietnamese waters on May 1, 2014 – and to attack any local fishing or coast guard boats

A Chinese ship rams and collides with a Vietnamese vessel in contested waters of the South China Sea. Photo: AFP photograb


Vietnam, Chinese illegal acts, tensions

This undated handout photo shows the alleged reclamation by China on what is internationally recognised as the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea, otherwise known as the Mabini Reef by the Philippines and Chigua Reef by China. Now the Philippines have found China doing similar reclamation efforts on other South China Sea reefs.

‘EARTHMOVING ACTIVITIES’ A backhoe attached to a Chinese vessel is apparently scooping up some filling materials in a reclamation project while at the same time harvesting endangered species, giant clams. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.



U.S. may act to keep Chinese hackers out of Defcon hacker event

May 24, 2014


A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

DENVER Sat May 24, 2014

(Reuters) – U.S. officials are considering using visa restrictions to prevent Chinese hackers from attending the popular Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas, as part of a broad effort to curb Chinese cyber espionage, a senior administration official said on Saturday.

The official said the U.S. government could use such visa restrictions and other measures to maintain pressure on China after the United States this week charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into U.S. nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets.

China has denied the charges, saying the U.S. grand jury indictment was “made up” and would damage trust between the two nations.

U.S. officials are weighing a range of options if China doesn’t begin to acknowledge and curb its corporate cyber espionage, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“We’ve tried to have a constructive dialogue. The State Department and the Defense Department have traveled to China to share evidence of hacking by the (People’s Liberation Army), but those types of interchanges have not sparked a lot of progress or reciprocity,” said the official.

Monday’s indictment was the first criminal hacking charge that the United States has filed against specific foreign officials, and follows a steady increase in public criticism and private confrontation, including at a summit last year between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Federal prosecutors said the suspects targeted companies including Alcoa Inc, Allegheny Technologies Inc, United States Steel Corp, Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse Electric Co, the U.S. subsidiary of SolarWorld AG, and a steel workers’ union.

The Wall Street Journal reported late on Friday that U.S. options could include releasing additional evidence about how the hackers conducted their alleged operations, and imposing other business and financial restrictions on those indicted or people or organizations associated with them.

Some FBI officials also advocated working with companies under cyber siege to feed bad information to hackers, which could complicate and slow Chinese cyber espionage efforts, according to the Journal.

The Defcon hacking convention, which every year draws more than 15,000 hackers, researchers, corporate security experts and others to Las Vegas, last year asked U.S. officials to stay away after former contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of extensive surveillance by the National Security Agency.

This year’s event is scheduled for August 7 -10.

Ten to 12 Chinese citizens were unexpectedly denied visas last week to attend a space and cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation in Colorado this week, according to the conference organizers.

Speakers at the conference included James Clapper, the director of U.S. national intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence agencies and military officials.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said visa applications were confidential, but cautioned against drawing connections between the visa denials and the Chinese indictments.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Stephen Powell and David Evans)

Former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon Speaks on U.S. National Security Challenges

May 15, 2014


Tom Donilon, former National Security Advisor to President Obama, outlined a series of national security challenges and economic opportunities facing the United States this morning at GovSec and FOSE at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. GovSec is the Government Security Conference and Expo, which also features TREXPO, the Law Enforcement Expo. FOSE is the most comprehensive government IT event serving as at the intersection of people, technology and knowledge.

“tremendously damaging to our bilateral relations with other countries, such as Russia and Brazil.”

Donilon, who served as National Security Advisor from January 2009 to June 2013, addressed a wide range of national security topics, including:

  • Crisis in the Ukraine – Donilon said, “the post-war order is at stake” in Ukraine and that balance of power is a very real concept to President Putin. Donilon believes that the United States has an obligation to its NATO allies and noted that allies, who share a border with Ukraine, particularly Poland, have serious security concerns. He also stated that the Ukrainian crisis is prompting European countries to reconsider their energy dependence on Russia and to explore ways to build out their own energy infrastructure.
  • Cyber Security – Donilon said threats are becoming “more sophisticated and pervasive” as people and companies increasingly conduct their lives and business online. He encouraged the audience to practice good “cyber hygiene” by taking responsibility for their property online. Donilon also warned that cyber-enabled economic theft, such as theft of intellectual property by nations or groups, is becoming a critical threat, with China serving a principle home base for these threats. “You can’t have a $500 billion economic relationship without addressing that threat,” Donilon said of the U.S.-China relationship.
  • War on Terror Donilon noted several successes in the war on terror, including homeland defense and disaster resiliency. He also cited the government’s aggressive efforts to dismantle terrorist networks, stating that the core of Al Qaida – the network responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001 – has been “dramatically weakened and put on the road to defeat.” However, Donilon warned that threats continue to evolve, ranging from Al Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula and threats in Africa to the large number of Jihadi fighters gathering in Syria.
  • Edward Snowden’s National Security Revelations Donilon acknowledged that Edward Snowden’s leaks of classified documents were “tremendously damaging to our bilateral relations with other countries, such as Russia and Brazil.” He also expressed concern for the impact the revelations would have on U.S. technology companies, which need to establish trust with foreign governments in order to expand business overseas.
  • Asia “Pivot” Donilon said the Obama Administration determined in its first term that the U.S. was substantially underinvested in Asia and needed to rebalance. The Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, currently under negotiation, is the U.S.’s most important economic priority in the region, he noted. He also said that the U.S.-China relationship is defined both by areas of partnership and competition. The relationship is anchored by a $500 billion in economic ties and that both countries must work cooperatively within that framework.


Kenneth Corbin (CIO (US)) on 15 May, 2014

Donilon, speaking at the annual FOSE government IT conference, warned that continued “cyber-enabled economic theft” on the part of the Chinese imperils the half a trillion-dollar economic relationship between the two superpowers.

“That needs to be a principal discussion between the United States and China,” Donilon said. “You can’t really have a $500 billion relationship — economic relationship — and have this kind of theft going on. And the rules of the road need to change with respect to that.”

U.S. Digital Systems in Grave Danger

In assessing the cybersecurity environment, Donilon, who served as President Obama’s top security aide until June 2013, starts with the basic premise that the intrusions into critical digital systems are grave, and that they are growing more intense and varied in origin.

[Related: White House Warns China to Crack Down on Cyberattacks]

“The principal dynamic is that the threats become more sophisticated and pervasive. As the world [leaves] more of its business life, personal life and its security online there are obviously increasing threats and increased responsibilities for the government, for companies, other organizations and individuals to act in a way to protect these networks,” he said.

“On the landscape,” he added, “I think it’s important to separate it out by the threat.”

Snowden Represent Another Type of Threat

In addition to groups that aim to infiltrate corporate networks to swipe trade secrets and intellectual property, Donilon points to garden-variety criminals engaging in fraud, lone-wolf and activist hackers, and rogue insiders such as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as among the various threat vectors.

Taken together, the cyber threats amount to a public-policy challenge of the first order, one that demands greater cooperation among business and government, according to Donilon.

“I think that’s the dynamic that we’re going to be faced with. There’s going to be more sources, more sophisticated, which means you need to have a multi-dimensional approach,” he said.

Provisions to facilitate the sharing of information about emerging threats have been a hallmark of several of the bills addressing cybersecurity that have been introduced in Congress, but have not yet passed.

[Related: New report says cyberspying group linked to China's army]

Donilon acknowledged that businesses, generally, have been improving their security posture, though those efforts have been uneven. And while the lines of communication have opened in recent years, many firms are still reluctant to share threat information with federal authorities or others in the private sector, in part out of fear of the potential legal repercussions.

“I think we are making some progress in that, but a lot more progress needs to be made, especially in terms of having best practices used more evenly across the landscape, and in terms of information sharing both among companies and other entities that run critical infrastructure and between the public and private sector, which I think is very important,” he said.

China a Clear and Present Cyber-Danger

Donilon’s focus on China recalls a speech he gave last March calling on that nation’s government to crack down on “cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale.” That address came shortly after the release of a high-profile report from the security firm Mandiant, which detailed a widespread hacking operation undertaken by China’s army alleged to have compromised 141 companies dating to 2006.

[Related: Secret TPP Intellectual Property Agreement Misses Deadline]

Donilon’s renewed call for tougher prohibitions on hacking in China comes as the Obama administration has signaled its intentions to “pivot” toward Asia, reorienting economic, diplomatic and other policy areas toward the East. The United States is currently in advanced negotiations on expanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade agreement that would include a dozen nations — though, notably, not China, at least for now — and bring its provisions to bear on roughly 40 percent of global trade.

It is Donilon’s hope that U.S. officials will elevate cybersecurity as a priority in trade talks and their broader diplomatic efforts. At the same time, he is realistic that as important as information sharing and stronger international partnerships may be, there is no combination of policy remedies that will resolve the cybersecurity challenge.

“I think we need to have much more private-public cooperation, and we need to have an international effort to try to set some sort of norms here,” Donilon said. “But at the end of the day, we’re going to have adversaries that are going to have increasingly sophisticated approaches to attacking our systems. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”

Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for Follow Kenneth on Twitter @kecorb. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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Middle East Peace: I was against the release of the spy before I was for it

April 2, 2014

John Kerry and Washington’s decades-long fight over releasing Israel’s controversial spy.

By Shane Harris and John Hudson


In January 1999, a bipartisan group of senators sent a strongly worded letter to President Bill Clinton urging him not to commute the prison sentence of Jonathan Pollard, who was then in the 12th year of a life sentence for spying for Israel. Freeing Pollard, the lawmakers said, would “imply a condonation of spying against the United States by an ally,” would overlook the “enormity” of Pollard’s offenses and the damage he had caused to national security, and would undermine the United States’ ability to share secrets with foreign governments. Among the 60 signatories of the letter was John Kerry, then a senator from Massachusetts. Fifteen years later, Kerry is singing a very different tune.

Now, as the secretary of state, Kerry has supported using Pollard’s potential release as a bargaining chip in the Obama administration’s attempts to salvage the flailing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The outcome of those talks was in doubt Tuesday as President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority opted to press for statehood through the United Nations, a move that Israel has long said would as a deal-breaker. A planned meeting between Kerry and Abbas was canceled as a result. Abbas said he’d made the move because Israel hadn’t released a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners. The Obama administration had envisioned potentially releasing Pollard — who is seen as a national hero by many Israelis — to help persuade Jerusalem to let those Palestinian prisoners go.

Kerry wasn’t alone in opposing Pollard’s release in 1999, when the issue was similarly under consideration as a possible sweetener for Israel during its on-again, off-again talks with the Palestinians. Kerry’s allies at the time included then-Sen. Chuck Hagel, now the secretary of defense, as well as Dianne Feinstein, the current chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Mitch McConnell, the current Senate minority leader; John McCain, a former Republican nominee for president; and Patrick Leahy, now the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kerry and Hagel in particular now find themselves in the awkward position of serving in an administration that is considering letting Pollard go, exactly the outcome they once railed against. A spokesperson for Hagel said, “The secretary will keep private his counsel for the president.” A spokesperson for Kerry wouldn’t discuss details of any negotiations. Neither Hagel’s nor Kerry’s spokesperson addressed the positions they’d taken in 1999. White House spokesperson Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama, who has the sole authority to commute Pollard’s sentence or grant him a pardon, “has not made a decision” on the question.

The signatories largely had strong pro-Israel voting records, but their contempt for Pollard crossed party lines and was striking in its ferocity. “Any grant of clemency would now be viewed as an acquiescence to external political pressures and a vindication of Pollard’s specious claims of unfairness and victimization…. This would send the wrong signal to employees within the Intelligence Community. It is an inviolable principle that those entrusted with America’s secrets must protect them, without exception, irrespective of their own personal views or sympathies.”

Pollard has long maintained that he gave Israel classified intelligence in order to help the country protect itself from surprise attacks by other countries in the Middle East. But intelligence officials have dismissed those claims and said Pollard also tried to sell classified information to at least four other governments. A former U.S. intelligence official who was involved in the government’s damage assessment of Pollard’s spying said in an interview he was motivated largely by money to pay for an alleged cocaine habit.

“It was all about money, and he put most of it up his nose. He was known in Washington as the ‘candy man’ for God’s sake,” the former official said. “He’s reinvented himself as someone else, and a large number of Israelis have fallen for it and a large number of Americans and stupid politicians have fallen for it.”

Pollard is seen very differently in Israel, where every prime minister since the time of his arrest in 1985 has called for his release. In the late 1990s, the presidents of 55 major American Jewish organizations jointly called for Pollard to be set free. And for decades, there’ve been mass protests in both Israel and the United States calling on a succession of American presidents to free Pollard, both on humanitarian grounds and, his supporters say, because he gave information to a close U.S. ally and was unjustly accused of betraying the United States. Many of those protests are organized by Pollard’s wife, whom he married while in prison and who remains one of his staunchest defenders.

The potential release of Pollard in 1999 wasn’t the first time Clinton had considered letting Israel’s most notorious spy go free. Clinton had previously denied Pollard’s request for commutation, citing “his lack of remorse” and “the continuing threat to national security that he pose[s].” The former intelligence official said that the government feared if Pollard were ever released, he would continue to spy for Israel or other governments. Clinton ultimately declined to commute Pollard’s sentence in 1999, under pressure from lawmakers and his own director of central intelligence, George Tenet, who said he’d resign if Pollard were released.

For his part, Pollard on Tuesday passed up on the opportunity to apply for parole — he would be eligible for early release in 2015 — and appears insistent on being granted commutation.

Some of the signatories to the 1999 letter have since changed their minds. Joe Lieberman, then a Democratic senator from Connecticut, said in a statement Tuesday that Pollard “has served a very long time in jail and paid a heavy price for his crimes. Based on that fact, and my understanding that Pollard’s health is apparently bad, I believe there is justification for his release from prison at this time.” McCain has likewise softened his stance; he said in 2011 that he also supports releasing Pollard.

A person familiar with Kerry, speaking on backgound, disputed the relevance of the letter that the secretary signed. “We’re not going to speculate on a 15-year-old letter signed by 60 United States senators back with Y2K was a front-page story and George Clooney was just a doctor on ‘E.R.’ … Kerry’s focus is on how we can make progress in the peace process today,” this person said.

But the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees, along with lawmakers from both parties, roundly opposed releasing Pollard in various remarks to journalists on Tuesday. Feinstein, who’d been among the 60 signatories on the 1999 letter, told reporters, “It’s hard for me to see how [freeing Pollard] would jump-start” the rocky peace talks. “It’s one thing after an agreement. It’s totally another thing before an agreement.”

Pollard was working as a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy when he was arrested in 1985. He supplied Israel with a huge cache of classified Defense Department documents, including a 10-volume manual that spelled out how the National Security Agency intercepted Soviet communications, as well as technical details of military spy satellites. Retired Adm. Thomas Brooks, the former director of naval intelligence and Pollard’s onetime boss, said in an interview that the amount of highly classified material the confessed spy disclosed “is exceeded only by Edward Snowden,” the former NSA contractor who gave millions of pages of classified documents about eavesdropping systems to journalists.

This article has been updated to include comments from a person familiar with Kerry.




China’s Huawei Objects To Cyberspying from NSA

March 23, 2014

File photo shows a cleaner wiping the glass door of a Huawei office in Wuhan

BERLIN (Reuters) – Chinese telecom and internet company Huawei defended is independence on Sunday and said it would condemn any infiltration of its servers by the U.S. National Security Agency if reports of such activities by the NSA were true.

The New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel reported this weekend, citing documents leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden, that the NSA had obtained sensitive data and monitored Huawei executives’ communications.

“If the actions in the report are true, Huawei condemns such activities that invaded and infiltrated into our internal corporate network and monitored our communications,” Huawei’s global cyber security officer, John Suffolk, told Reuters.

“Corporate networks are under constant probe and attack from different sources – such is the status quo in today’s digital age,” said Suffolk, defending Huawei’s independence and security record, saying it was very successful in 145 countries.

The New York Times said one goal of the NSA operation, code-named “Shotgiant”, was to uncover any connections between Huawei and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. But it also sought to exploit Huawei’s technology and conduct surveillance through computer and telephone networks Huawei sold to other nations.

If ordered by the U.S. president, the NSA also planned to unleash offensive cyber operations, the newspaper said.

The paper said the NSA gained access to servers in Huawei’s sealed headquarters in Shenzhen and got information about the workings of the giant routers and complex digital switches the company says connect a third of the world’s people.

Der Spiegel said the NSA copied a list of more than 1,400 clients and internal training documents for engineers. It said the agency was pursuing a digital offensive against the Chinese political leadership, naming former prime minister Hu Jintao and the Chinese trade and foreign ministries as targets.

“If we can determine the company’s plans and intentions,” an analyst wrote in a 2010 document cited by the Times, “we hope that this will lead us back to the plans and intentions” of the Chinese government.

The Times noted that U.S. officials see Huawei as a security threat and have blocked the company from making business deals in the United States, worried it would furnish equipment with “back doors” that could enable China’s military or Chinese-backed hackers to swipe corporate and government secrets.

“We certainly don’t build ‘back doors’,” Huawei security chief Suffolk said. Suffolk, who is British, said the company never handed over its source codes to governments either.

“I can’t say what American firms do. We have never been asked to hand over any data to a government or authority or to facilitate access to our technology,” he said. “And we wouldn’t do this either. Our position on this point is very clear.”

U.S. officials deny the NSA spies on foreign companies to give U.S. firms a competitive edge, though they acknowledge that in the course of assessing the economic prospects or stability of other countries, U.S. agencies might collect data on firms.

The Times and Der Spiegel articles were published just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Europe and will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself reportedly a target of surveillance by the NSA, like some German companies.

Former NSA chief Michael Hayden – who ran the agency from 1999-2005 and then ran the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until 2009 – told Der Spiegel in a separate interview that the United States had underestimated the reaction of the chancellor and the German population to revelations of mass surveillance.

Hayden said he was not prepared to apologize for U.S. intelligence agencies having had another nation under surveillance. “But I am ready to apologize for having us having made a good friend look bad,” he said. “Shame on us, it was our mistake.”

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Additional reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Writing by Stephen Brown. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats

February 27, 2014

By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats and stored still images of them, including sexually explicit ones, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 provided to the newspaper by the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, revealed that the surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, saved one image every five minutes from randomly selected Yahoo Inc webcam chats and stored them on agency databases.

Optic Nerve, which began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, was intended to test automated facial recognition, monitor GCHQ’s targets and uncover new ones, the Guardian said. It said that under British law, there are no restrictions preventing images of U.S. citizens being accessed by British intelligence.

GCHQ collected images from the webcam chats of more than 1.8 million users globally in a six-month period in 2008 alone, the newspaper reported.

“It is a long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters,” a GCHQ representative said on Thursday.

In another sign of the widespread information-sharing between U.S. and British spy agencies which has riled public and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, the webcam information was fed into the NSA’s search tool and all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts, the paper said.

It was not clear, however, whether the NSA had access to the actual database of Yahoo webcam images, the Guardian reported.

Yahoo said it had no knowledge the interceptions.

“We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity. This (Guardian) report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable,” company spokeswoman Suzanne Philion said in an emailed statement.

Snowden, now in Russia after fleeing the United States, made world headlines last summer when he provided details of NSA surveillance programs to the Guardian and the Washington Post.

For decades, the NSA and GCHQ have shared intelligence under an arrangement known as the UKUSA agreement. They also collaborate with eavesdropping agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand in what is known as the “Five Eyes” alliance.

Under Optic Nerve, GCHQ tried to limit its staff’s ability to see the webcam images, but they could still see the images of people with similar usernames to intelligence targets, the Guardian said.

GCHQ also implemented restrictions on the collection of sexually explicit images, but its software was not always able to distinguish between these and other images.

“Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it (GCHQ) noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography,” the newspaper said.

The spy agency eventually excluded images in which the software had not detected any faces from search results to prevent staff from accessing explicit images, it added.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Catherine Evans and Grant McCool)

British spies employed 'dirty tricks' including honey traps' in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers

Britain’s GCHQ

Kerry’s Asian Trip and the Build-Up to War with China

February 19, 2014


China to help push N. Korea back to nuclear talks: Kerry
US  Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on February 14, 2014 (AFP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Peter Symonds

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Beijing last Friday was the latest move in the Obama administration’s provocative “pivot to Asia,” the purpose of which is to undermine Chinese influence and build up US military forces and alliances in preparation for war. Having deliberately inflamed dangerous flashpoints in Asia over the past four years, the US is seeking to press home its advantage, regardless of the consequences.

In Beijing, Kerry sought to lay down the law to the Chinese leadership across a range of sensitive issues. On the volatile Korean Peninsula, he insisted that China use “every tool at its disposal”—including crippling economic sanctions—to force its ally North Korea to bend to US demands on denuclearisation. In relation to the fraught situation in the East China and South China Seas, he called on Beijing to adopt “a calmer, more rule-of law based, less confrontational regime”—implicitly blaming China for the tensions that the US has deliberately stirred up.

For good measure, Kerry also pressed the Chinese leaders to support the US-led regime-change operation in Syria and toe the US line on Iran in the UN, and expressed concerns about “human rights” in China—“especially with respect to the Tibetan and the Uighur areas.” This last reference was calculated to play on justifiable Chinese fears that the US will exploit separatist movements in these areas of China to fracture the country.

Kerry dressed up Washington’s provocative demands in the language of “peace”, “democracy” and “security.” The US intervention in longstanding maritime disputes between China and its neighbours takes place under the banner of “freedom of navigation.” The standard US refrain is that Beijing must abide by the present rules-based global order—that is, one dominated by US imperialism, where the “rules” are set in Washington. All of this is put into circulation by an utterly submissive media without a word of criticism.

The US, however, operates around the world with complete lawlessness and reckless disregard for the rules it lectures others on. President Obama, following on from President Bush, has arrogated to the US the right to wage “pre-emptive” wars—that is, wars of aggression to further Washington’s global interests and ambitions. The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was followed by the wars in Iraq and Libya as well as countless provocations, sanctions and military threats against a string of countries, including Iran and North Korea. Waging a war of aggression is a fundamental breach of international law and was the criminal charge underpinning the Nuremburg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II.

The criminals in the White House treat “human rights”, along with international norms and laws, with complete contempt. Under the bogus “war on terror”, the US pursues a program of murder and assassination by drone strikes without restriction, including against American citizens. Rendition, torture and indefinite detention without trial continue. Within the United States, basic constitutional rights are flouted. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has exposed the National Security Agency’s vast spying operations on the entire American population and people around the world, as well as US cyber warfare and hacking programs against nominal friends and foes alike.

What would the US response be to similar actions by China or any other country? What would happen if foreign warships routinely patrolled waters just off the US coast under the guise of “freedom of navigation”, or a rival established a military base—let alone a string of bases and alliances—anywhere in Latin America, or criticised US abuses of “human rights”, or supported Cuban claims to Guantanamo Bay? To ask the question is to answer it. Any one of these acts would elicit a belligerent response, including the threat of war.

The Obama administration’s actions over the past four years have transformed the whole Indo-Pacific region into a highly unstable powder keg.

* By encouraging Japan and the Philippines, in particular, to press their claims, the US has transformed long-running and largely low-key maritime disputes in the East China and South China Seas into major international flash points. The US signalled its intention, just prior to Kerry’s trip, to wind up tensions in the South China Sea even further by throwing off its pose of “neutrality” in the territorial issues and lining up openly against China.

* On the Korean Peninsula, the Obama administration has refused to take part in any international talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs unless Pyongyang meets all US demands. The US has recklessly courted disaster on more than one occasion by reacting to any incident with a massive show of force. Last March/April, in response to North Korea’s bellicose but empty rhetoric, the Pentagon sent nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers, as well as warships, to South Korea, and announced a major upgrade of its anti-missile systems in North East Asia.

* The Obama administration has upgraded the US military posture throughout the region, with plans to shift 60 percent of all naval and air assets to the Indo-Pacific by 2020. The US has strengthened alliances, particularly with Japan and Australia, is restructuring or establishing basing arrangements in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and the Philippines, and is boosting strategic ties with virtually every country in the region. US think tanks closely connected to the military establishment publicly discuss plans, preparations and strategies for war with China.

Far from being a force for “peace” and “security”, US imperialism is the most destabilising factor in world politics today. Five years after the 2008–09 global financial meltdown, the US is seeking to overcome its continuing economic crisis by foisting new burdens onto the working class at home and its rivals abroad. The Obama administration is exploiting American military superiority to ensure continued US hegemony in Asia, which has become the globe’s chief cheap-labour hub, with China at the centre. Its “rules-based” global order seeks to reduce China to the status of a subservient semi-colony.

In opposing the US drive to war against China, no support can be given to the Chinese leadership, which is deeply hostile to the working class and seeks above all to strike a deal with Washington. The Chinese Communist Party has greatly weakened any ability to resist US aggression through the dismantling of nationalised property relations and the integration of China in global capitalism as a vast cheap labour platform over the past three decades. The CCP is above all organically hostile to any independent mobilisation of the Chinese and international working class, the only social force capable of ending the danger of a catastrophic war through the abolition of its root cause—the bankrupt profit system and its outmoded nation-state system.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.


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