Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

Resuming cyber security cooperation between China and the United States won’t be easy

October 19, 2014


China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talk over tea during a day of meetings in Boston, Massachusetts October 18, 2014.      REUTERS/Brian Snyder

China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talk over tea during a day of meetings in Boston, Massachusetts October 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

(Reuters) – Resuming cyber security cooperation between China and the United States would be difficult because of “mistaken U.S. practices”, China’s top diplomat told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Cyber security is an irritant to bilateral ties. On Wednesday the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said hackers it believed were backed by the Chinese government had launched more attacks on U.S. companies, a charge China rejected as unfounded.

In May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking American firms, prompting China to shut down a bilateral working group on cyber security.

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Yang Jiechi, a state councillor overseeing foreign affairs, told Kerry in Boston the United States “should take positive action to create necessary conditions for bilateral cyber security dialogue and cooperation to resume”, according to a statement seen on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website on Sunday.

“Due to mistaken U.S. practices, it is difficult at this juncture to resume Sino-U.S. cyber security dialogue and cooperation,” Yang was quoted as saying. The statement did not elaborate.

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has said the U.S. National Security Agency hacked into official network infrastructure at universities in China and Hong Kong.

China, repeatedly accused by the United States of hacking, has used Snowden’s allegations as ammunition to point the finger at Washington for hypocrisy.

(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; editing by Andrew Roche)


Edward Snowden Film Likely To Embarrass Obama Administration

October 11, 2014

Citizen Four is the shocking doc about Edward Snowden made by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Just screened tonight was the two hour film will be released by the Weinstein Company this month. It doesn’t paint the Obama administration in a very good light as Snowden explains how the government has violated privacy rights on a massive scale.

Also the filmmakers clearly inducate that all roads lead to POTUS, a fairly serious accusation. There may be serious repercussions.

Then there’s the Hollywoodization of Snowden. The detail of how and why Snowden went about this is pretty surprising considering how the 29 year old former NSA employee says he wants his own privacy and not to be a celebrity. It’s instructive to see his evolution from eyeglass wearing nerd to contact lenses and moussed up hair sporting hero of his own thriller. It’s all very Tom Cruise. Even the beautiful girlfriend sets up housekeeping with him in Moscow. Nevertheless as the details of the NSA’s programs are revealed Snowden says, “This isn’t science fiction. It’s really happening.”.




At the end of the Laura Poitras doc, the famed informant registers shock over another who outranks him

By Seth Abramovitch, Chris O’Falt

The Hollywood Reporter

A second National Security Agency whistleblower exists within the ranks of government intelligence.

That bombshell comes toward the end of Citizenfour, a new documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras about NSA informant Edward Snowden that had its world premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival.

In the key scene, journalist Glenn Greenwald visits Snowden at a hotel room in Moscow. Fearing they are being taped, Greenwald communicates with Snowden via pen and paper.

While some of the exchanges are blurred for the camera, it becomes clear that Greenwald wants to convey that another government whistleblower — higher in rank than Snowden — has come forward.

The revelation clearly shocks Snowden, whose mouth drops open when he reads the details of the informant’s leak.

Also revealed by Greenwald is the fact that 1.2 million Americans are currently on a government watch-list. Among them is Poitras herself.

And the surprises don’t end there. Near the end of the film, which received a rousing standing ovation, it is revealed that Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s dancer girlfriend of 10 years, has been living with Snowden in Moscow.

When Poitras went to Moscow in July to show Snowden an early cut of the film, she shot footage of the two cooking dinner together, which appears in the final cut.

Snowden fled to Russia after the U.S. government revoked his passport and put pressure on other governments not to grant him asylum.

After spending 39 days in a Moscow airport, Snowden was granted a one-year asylum from President Vladimir Putin. He is now in the country on a three-year residency permit.

Poitras took the stage at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall following the screening, flanked by Greenwald, with whom she partnered on a pair of explosive stories in The Guardian and Washington Post about Snowden’s surveillance disclosures in June 2014.

Also joining them was Jeremy Scahill, their partner on the website The Intercept, and Snowden’s father and stepmother. Snowden’s father thanked Poitras for having made Citizenfour, which he deemed a “wonderful piece of work.”

Poitras kept her comments following the screening to a minimum, and thanked her crew and Snowden. Instead it was Greenwald and Scahill who did most of the talking, with Scahill at one point describing Poitras as “the most bad-ass director alive, period.”

Before the screening, Poitras told The Hollywood Reporter that she will never forget the moment when Snowden — who was so young Greenwald initially doubted his authenticity — said he was willing to go on the record with his allegations.

“One of the most intense moments was when Snowden told us his identity would not remain anonymous, and I knew that somebody was really, really putting their life on the line,” Poitras said.

A demonstrator holds a photograph of Edward Snowden

A demonstrator holds a sign with a photograph of Edward Snowden during 4 July celebrations in 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/REUTERS
From The Guardian
Lindsay Mills, girlfriend of Edward SnowdenLindsay Mills, the girlfriend of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in Hawaii. Photograph: Splash/Luis Silos III

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

The two-hour long documentary, Citizenfour, shows Mills living in Russia with Snowden.

When the Guardian met Snowden in Moscow in July, Snowden suggested the relationship was more complex than the view constantly recycled in the media of a woman abandoned and hinted that the two were not in fact estranged.

Citizenfour offers a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden. Poitras filmed him at the Mira hotel in Hong Kong last year during interviews with journalists that resulted in a series of stories in the Guardian about the extent of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies as well as the internet and telecom companies. The revelations started a worldwide debate about the balance between surveillance and privacy.

Poitras captures the tension in his room at the Mira – where then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and I interviewed him – and in his final minutes at the hotel before he fled after being tipped off that hordes of media were about to arrive. She also filmed at the Guardian in London ahead of publication of one of the most explosive of the stories arising from Snowden’s revelations, and in Moscow, where Snowden is now in exile.

Snowden has been reluctant to talk about his personal life, preferring the media focus to be on wider debate about surveillance rather than him. But Poitras’s portrayal is both personal and sympathetic.

In his first comment about the documentary, which Poitras had shown to him in advance, Snowden told the Guardian: “I hope people won’t see this as a story about heroism. It’s actually a story about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.”

Snowden was working as an NSA contractor in Hawaii where Mills joined him. A dancer, she posted many details and photographs about herself and him on the web.

She was still in Hawaii when news broke from Hong Kong that he was the whistleblower. Days earlier, authorities, suspicious about his prolonged absence from work, had visited their home.

On her blog, subtitled, ‘Adventures of a world-travelling, pole-dancing superhero,’ she wrote that she felt “sick, exhausted and carrying the weight of the world”. Shortly afterwards, she took the blog down.

The two appear to have been together since at least 2009, living part of the time near Baltimore before moving to Hawaii in 2012.

China’s Nobel Prize winner in 2010 Liu Xiaobo still unable to collect prize from Chinese prison

October 11, 2014

Peace Price Still Not Delivered: As Malala Yousafzai wins this year’s award, human rights groups call for 2010 winner Liu Xiaobo not to be forgotten as he remains locked in a Chinese jail serving an 11-year sentence  

The empty chair with a diploma and medal that should have been awarded to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo  stands in Oslo City Hall

The empty chair with a diploma and medal that should have been awarded to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo stands in Oslo City Hall Photo: 2010 AFP

Four years after Chinese university professor Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work campaigning for democratic rights in China – he has still not been able to collect his prize in person.

Leading human rights groups called on Friday for Liu, 58, not to be forgotten as he remains locked in a Chinese jail serving an 11-year sentence for circulating his ‘Charter 08’ petition that called for greater democratic rights in China.

His wife, Liu Xia, who has never committed a crime, remains under house arrest in Beijing and was admitted to hospital earlier this year.

While expressing “delight” at the awards for Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, leading human rights groups who have campaigned for Liu’s release said that the plight of the 2010 laureate must not be forgotten.

“We cannot forget that another Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo remains imprisoned four years on since being awarded his Prize,” Kate Allen, the UK director of Amnesty International told The Telegraph, “Amnesty continues to campaign tirelessly for Liu Xiaobo’s release.”

Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch added: “While it is marvellous to see the efforts around education and freeing children from slavery being honoured, that is tempered by some extent knowing that Liu Xiaobo still has five years to go in prison for doing nothing more than speaking his mind,”

Liu was a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations that left several hundred dead after China’s ruling Communist Party sent in tanks to crush the protests. He was represented by an empty chair at the awards ceremony in Oslo in 2010.

The decision to award him the prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” infuriated Beijing who immediately froze diplomatic ties with Norway in retaliation.

This week a US report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China warned that China’s human rights record has worsened in key areas over the past year and that limits on free speech and assembly are growing.

Critics of the prize noted that the Nobel Committee, which is independent of the Norwegian government, had this year shied away from more politically difficult choices, such as Edward Snowden, who leaked US surveillance secrets or Russia’s opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.


Photo: Chinese people wear face masks with “No to Kunming PX,” paraxylene, written, chant slogans as they hold protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province Saturday, May 4, 2013. After word spread about an environmental protest that was planned for Saturday in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, drugstores and printing shops were ordered to report anyone making certain purchases. Microbloggers say government fliers urged people not to demonstrate, and schools were told to stay open to keep students on campus. Meanwhile, hundreds of people – many wearing mouth masks – gathered in Kunming to protest a planned refinery project in the area. The demonstrators demanded information transparency and that public health be safeguarded. (AP Photo)

Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli died after falling critically ill in police detention in China

Officials in eastern China must abandon plans to demolish churches and crosses and stop their

Parishioners line up outside the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou hoping to save it from demolition by the Chinese Communist government Photo: Tom
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on her way to deliver a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Beijing's No 1 detention centre

Outside Beijing’s No 1 detention centre. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Xi Jinping

Former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s extended family has controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion, the New York Times reported, citing corporate and regulatory records and unidentified people familiar with the family’s investments.

China angered after FBI head says Chinese hacking costs billions

October 9, 2014

BEIJING Thu Oct 9, 2014 4:29am EDT

FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on ''Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation'' on Capitol Hill in Washington May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on ”Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” on Capitol Hill in Washington May 21, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

(Reuters) – China accused the United States on Thursday of faking facts, after the head of the FBI said that Chinese hacking likely cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars every year.

Charges over hacking and internet spying have increased tension between the two countries. In May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies, prompting China to suspend a Sino-U.S. working group on cyber issues. China has denied wrongdoing.

Speaking on CBS’ 60 Minutes program on Sunday, FBI Director James Comey said Chinese hackers were targeting big U.S. companies, and that some of them probably did not even know they had been hacked.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about Comey’s remarks at a daily news briefing, said China banned hacking and “firmly strikes” against such criminal activity.

“We express strong dissatisfaction with the United States’ unjustified fabrication of facts in an attempt to smear China’s name and demand that the U.S.-side cease this type of action,” Hong said.

“We also demand that the U.S. side cease its large-scale systematic internet attacks on other countries. The United States tries to divert attention by crying wolf. This won’t succeed.”

Many in China view the United States as being hypocritical following revelations about its own extensive spying by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Comey said Chinese hackers were seeking to obtain all sorts of information, including company negotiation tactics.

“I liken them a bit to a drunk burglar. They’re kicking in the front door, knocking over the vase, while they’re walking out with your television set. They’re just prolific,” Comey said.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Hong Kong As Thursday Begins: Pan-democrats vow to impeach chief executive; Occupy organizers may not participate with students in meeting with government on Friday

October 8, 2014

Hong As Thursday Begins: Pan-democrats vow to impeach chief executive; Occupy organizers may not participate with students in meeting with government on Friday

Good evening and welcome to our continuing coverage of the Occupy movement.

An Australian newspaper has published a report questioning an alleged undisclosed payment of HK$49.9 million from an Australian firm that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying received but failed to disclose upon assuming office. The Age report said Leung’s office responded by saying he did not have to disclose the payment. 

Large crowds have gathered at the main protest site in Admiralty after a quiet day as Friday’s talks between Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and students approach.

Stay tuned for all the breaking news.

Hong Kong Protesters gather on Harcourt Road on Wednesday night, October 8, 2014. Photo by K. Y. Cheng for the South China Morning Post


Hong Kong Protesters gather at Admiralty on Wednesday night, October 8, 2014. Photo by David Wong for the South China Morning Post

10.30pm Admiralty: On Harcourt Road, hundreds of residents gather, either sitting on the ground or standing near the stage, to listen to a speech by Ed Chin, a core member of Occupy Central’s finance group. Chin thanks foreign journalists for covering the sit-ins. He reiterates that his group of bankers and stock brokers worry about “unjust” capital flowing from the mainland into Hong Kong, and that civic liberties in the city are diminishing.

10.15pm Admiralty: Pan-democratic lawmakers vow to impeach Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying over the HK$50 million he received from a Australian firm that he failed to declare prior to becoming chief executive. Labour Party councillor Cyd Ho said: “Apart from his duties as chief executive, Leung was also serving the needs of another company. This is a serious of conflict of interest.” She says she hoped that pro-government lawmakers would not protect Leung.

10.00pm Admiralty: Hong Kong’s first “Legislative Council meeting-in-residence” takes place with 12 pan-democratic lawmakers – who were blocked by 41 pro-establishment lawmakers from having a normal Legco meeting today – taking to the stage at the Occupy rally in Admiralty to express their discontent with the government.

Civic Party’s Alan Leong Kah-kit says he plans to ask the government who gave the order to fire tear gas at peaceful protesters on the night of September 28. Leong says he will also find out how pro-establishment lawmakers managed to suspend today’s Legco session. Leong says he suspect they did this because they had “received messages that Beijing wants to fire” Leung Chun-ying, citing the curiously-timed breaking news today about Leung’s HK$50 million “secret deal” with an Australian company.

Image: Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying By Dale de la Rey for AFP

Another Civic Party legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching says the police’s arrest of student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the use of tear gas and “collusion with triads” had pushed the Occupy movement to its current scale. She adds that when Legco resumed, pro-democratic legislators would start the impeachment process against Leung.

The Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung says the Occupy protesters had been very civilised. “The SAR government did not solve the air pollution problem in over a decade, but [Occupy protesters] solved it in just two days,” said Cheung. “Hong Kong people’s level of civilisation deserves a better government.”

View image on Twitter

9.45pm: The Hong Kong Bar Association, which last week criticised the police firing tear gas on protesters on September 28 as being “excessive”, said in a statement that civil disobedience did not constitute any defence to a criminal charge. “Even on a sympathetic view of civil disobedience, it is essential for participants to respect the rights and freedoms of other people who do not necessarily agree with their views and not to cause excessive damage or inconvenience,” the statement said.

9.30pm Mong Kok: The crowd size is now about 600 in Mong Kok. Protesters have set up a “Woman’s support area” where different speakers share stories and offer words of encouragement to female protesters on the front line.

“Many people perceive women in Hong Kong as only knowing how to go to work, go shopping or complaining about their boyfriends not making enough money,” said one speaker. “This movement has shown everyone that women are attentive to politics and contribute to the fight.”

One man, who claimed to be a martial arts practitioner, taught a group of women self-defence tactics to counter an attack or sexual assault. He taught them to pull their arm away from a wrist grab and how to “punch the target in the nose”. “I saw the situation getting very dangerous and I felt I had to teach them some easy and practical self defence tactics,” the man, who declined to be named, said.

9.00pm Causeway Bay: An English class being held at the Yee Wo Street finishes for the day. Popsy Gu, 22, a  private English tutor and year four finance student at the University of Hong Kong, volunteered to teach English classes for free.

“People in Hong Kong learn English in such an inefficient manner … The syllabuses are bad and we start learning grammar without knowing how to use English. We mostly learn it from school textbooks,” she says.

Gu spent about an hour, with an engaged crowd of some 50 people, pointing out common mistakes and explaining the meaning of words and expressions used by the English-language media covering the protests, like “umbrella revolution yet to unfold”, “insurgency” and “legitimacy.”

Gu’s motivation is simple: “I wanted to help with something I know.” She has also been running a blog  about the Occupy movement in Mong Kok.

Meanwhile, public forums continue at Hennessy Road, on the problems of the private housing market in Hong Kong and the relationship between public spaces and the democracy movement.

8.30pm Mong Kok: A large sign reading “against Occupy Central” and “against blocking of traffic” is hung over an arch right beside the main Occupy Mong Kok protest ground drawing curious glances from passers-by and demonstrators.

Protesters cheekily taped a mock FAQ on it teaching people how to respond to criticisms from Occupy opponents using famous gaffes and non-statements from government officials.

Photo: Ernest Kao

“You’re blocking roads and causing long queues for public transport,” one query read. The answer read “You can wait for another train” – a reference to commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung’s advice to Hongkongers in response to concerns over the flood of mainland tourists on the city’s transport infrastructure.

“I saw on TV news reports that a protester had been swearing at police officers, I thought this was a peaceful protest?” one question read.

The answer: “I have no comment on individual cases,” the answer read, a snub at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s June 2013 interview with Bloomberg in which he gave the exact same answer seven times when asked about the extent of US cyber hacking activity in Hong Kong, exposed in light of the Edward Snowden saga.

8.15pm: Kindergarten classes in Wan Chai and Central and Western districts will resume tomorrow, the Education Bureau announces. Principal Assistant Secretary for Education Sophia Wong says during a press conference that, as primary and secondary school classes have resumed with fewer late-for-school cases, the bureau decided to allow kindergarten classes to resume, also.

7.50pm: Occupy Central organisers say they have no immediate plans to form an alliance with the Federation of Students, dropping a strong hint that Friday’s dialogue with the government would likely involve students only, not Occupy campaigners.

The students are preparing for the dialogue while Occupy provides them with opinion and lines up social groups in managing the occupied sites, says Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy organiser. “As of now, such a mode of cooperation is mutually acceptable to both sides,” Chan says.

“The students have considerable capability to handle the dialogue,” Chan says. “The HKFS is also willing to listen to Occupy’s views. The cooperation between [us] is very close.”

He also rebuffs Cardinal Joseph Zen’s call against a continued occupation, saying there should be no retreat “before the dialogue yields any result”.

The Federation of Students’ Lester Shum says the group is yet to agree whether the five representatives at the dialogue would include any non-members of the federation. Chan only says that the Occupy side is “very happy to provide assistance” given the scholarly background of its main organisers.

(Front left) Lester Shum, Founders of Occupy Central movement Chan Kin-man and Eason Chung meet the media at protest site in Admiralty. Photo: David Wong for the South China Morning Post

7.40pm: Guitar teacher Bernard Yim, 34, is jamming with other musicians at the protest site in Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay.

“I’ve been coming to here, Admiralty and Mong Kok every day, and today, because of the autumn weather, instead of practicing guitar at home, I decided to practice outside,” he says.

Yim says he has few expectations of the negotiations between government officials and students.

“Those who have been coming out hold a strong belief that we should remain here,” he says.

Guitar teacher Bernard Yim plays at the protest site in Causeway Bay. Photo: Raquel Carvalho

7.25pm: Photos just in of the crowd near government headquarters at Admiralty tonight …

Protesters gather near government headquarters in Admiralty on Wednesday evening. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

7.15pm: Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong is distributing leaflets with other members of the student activist group outside Wan Chai MTR station to explain why roads have to be blocked to fight for genuine universal suffrage.

“Sorry about the [disturbances] in recent days,” says Wong as he hands outs leaflets to pedestrians.

Some reply saying “We support you” or “Keep it going” when they receive the leaflets.

But there are also passersby who refuse to take them.

The leaflets seek to answer 16 questions that the public might have about the civil disobedience action.

Joshua Wong distributes fliers. Photo: South China Morning Post.

7pm: Kindergartens in Wan Chai and Central and Western districts will resume classes tomorrow, says Principal Assistant Secretary of the Education Bureau Sophia Wong.

She says the bureau made the decision because kindergartens had made preparations such as diverting road traffic for picking up students and making arrangements with parents and “nanny buses”. Assistant Commissioner for Transport Albert Su says he expects traffic congestion to be more serious tomorrow because all the nanny buses and other vehicles for kindergarten children would return to the roads.

“We are very, very concerned about the traffic condition tomorrow,” says Su. “It’s possible that a very serious situation will occur.”

Su again appealed for the protesters to remove barriers blocking the city’s major roads. He adds that he respects the police’s decision to handle the situation through dialogue.

Central and Western District Officer Cheryl Chow says residents in Western District had to endure more difficulties to commute because there is no MTR connection in the area.

6.50pm: A group of some 20 North District residents has gathered outside Next Media boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying’s home in Kowloon, a few kilometres from the Mong Kok protest site.

The anti-Occupy protesters hold banners accusing Lai of colluding with foreign governments. “When good old America comes up with a plan, the fat guy pays for it,” one sign reads, referring to Lai. Deng Ren-ming, 65, says that although pro-democracy protests were taking place far from where he and fellow protesters live, those who work in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island still feel the impact.

“The thing is we don’t know when it will end,” he says. “We also want to support those, for example, who live in Mong Kok and are affected.”

Asked why the group chose Lai’s house to stage the protest, he says: “It’s all written on the banners.”

“Whether it is as what the banners suggest, Lai should come out and explain,” he says.

The group leaves after half an hour when police arrive at the scene.

Anti-Occupy protesters target Jimmy Lai’s house. Photo: Chris Lau

The group accused Lai of colluding with foreign governments. Photo: Chris Lau


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

Related Stories

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.

More on This Story

Related Stories

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)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 897 other followers