Archive for December, 2016

Philippine President Duterte: Every Filipino Should Assist Fight Against Illegal Drugs, Crime and Corruption

December 31, 2016

President Duterte welcomed the New Year by asking the people to be the government’s partners in the fight against illegal drugs, crime and corruption. PPD/Ace Morandante


MANILA, Philippines – Faced with the challenge to improve the lives of Filipinos amidst human rights concerns over his bloody war on drugs, President Duterte yesterday underscored the need to improve peace and order to push the country’s development.

Duterte welcomed the New Year by asking the people to be the government’s partners in the fight against illegal drugs, crime and corruption.

Duterte, in his New Year’s message, urged everyone to welcome 2017 with renewed determination and a reinvigorated spirit for the country to surmount the challenges ahead.

The President batted for his administration’s goals amid the concern of human rights groups over his campaign against illegal drugs that has claimed thousands of lives, including those of innocent children.

He had asked for forgiveness for the “unintentional” deaths in the war on drugs.

But the Commission on Human Rights said Duterte’s apology was not enough and the government should hold those responsible for the killings accountable.

“The achievement of these goals will reclaim order and safety in our communities and will enable us to restore the people’s trust in government and in our people’s capacity to serve,” said Duterte.

“My warmest greetings to the Filipino people, here in the Philippines and across the globe, as we celebrate the New Year,” Duterte said. “Indeed, there is no greater happiness than spending time with our loved ones during the holiday season.”

“I hope that we will all enjoy the time of the year by demonstrating love, solidarity, understanding, happiness and optimism toward our personal ambitions and national aspirations,” he added.

The President said that while others might forget the events of the past year, those in government would always remember them.

“Soon, we will be pre-occupied with our daily grind and usual day-to-day activities. Many will forget the events of the past year. But we, in government, will remember because it is our duty to evaluate our work and make sure that its gains redound to the common good,” he said.

Duterte arrived in Davao City Friday night after visiting the victims of an explosion during a fiesta celebration in Hilongos, Leyte.

The President celebrated New Year’s Eve at his home in Davao City with his family.

Concern for OFWs

In his first New Year message as president, Duterte talked about his dream of providing better lives for the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have decided to leave their families to earn a living.

Duterte expressed hope that no Filipino would leave for abroad to work.

“Let us work together to enliven our business environment — by attracting more investments and creating more job opportunities for the people – so that in the near future, working abroad would only be an option for our kababayans and not a necessity,” he said.

Palace hopes for better 2017

With the President given leeway in his P3.35-trillion budget for change, a Malacañang official expressed hope that the lives of Filipinos would improve this year.

“As the President walked the extra mile for peace, he made the country’s economic growth the fastest among emerging Asian economies and lowered unemployment rate to its lowest level in more than a decade,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.

In television interviews on Thursday, Duterte said the economy has grown ny up to seven percent of the GDP.

Although he and his economic managers noted a slight dip in the numbers, Duterte said he expects more public spending to happen this year.

Andanar noted how the Duterte administration unveiled a budget to usher in the “golden age of infrastructure and bring forth the promise of real change in the country.”

“The President hit the ground running in the first six months and we expect much more will be done in the succeeding months and years,” Andanar said in a statement.

The Palace official said Duterte’s passion to serve would continue to benefit the Filipinos.

Andanar also said the President’s efforts to unify the people by striking peace agreements with the Moro groups and the communist rebels have started to pay off.

Andanar said the nation has witnessed drastic changes in public governance characterized by courageous and compassionate leadership since Duterte assumed the presidency on June 30.

Duterte launched an unprecedented anti-drug war that saw the surrender of more than a million drug addicts, and charted a new course in international relations with his pursuit of an independent foreign policy.

The President has started moving strongly and swiftly toward regional economic rebalancing for closer integration. The Philippines has forged closer ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and Russia.

To restore faith in government, Andanar noted how Duterte moved the bureaucracy to effectively implement programs that benefit the poorest.

“Basic services, formerly broken or unavailable, are working. More passengers are being served by the railway system while driver’s license cards are ready for pick up. Free education, hospitalization and medicine as well as irrigation are within the grasp of the marginalized and the poor,” Andanar said.

PNP seeks public support

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa called on the people yesterday to continue supporting the PNP’s campaign against drugs and crime.

“Let us learn from the lessons of the past year to strengthen the unity of the people and police,” Dela Rosa said in his New Year’s message.

Despite the challenges faced by the PNP last year, Dela Rosa is confident there will be more accomplishments for the police force in 2017.

He believes Filipinos can surpass the challenges that may come this year.

“Let’s all welcome the New Year with hope,” he said. – With Edith Regalado, Emmanuel Tupas


PM Najib says Malaysia’s economic plan on track despite challenging 2016 — “The Government is committed to building a more prosperous and equitable Malaysia.”

December 31, 2016


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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the country’s economic plan was working, as evidenced by independent assessments carried out by the world’s top economic experts. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has reminded all Malaysians that despite a challenging 2016, the Government is committed to building a more prosperous and equitable Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Najib said the country’s economic plan was working, as evidenced by independent assessments carried out by the world’s top economic experts, and urged everyone not to fall for smear campaigns carried out by certain groups for their own political gains.

“Assessments such as these are independent and conducted by the world’s top experts. They reflect the true picture of Malaysia – contrary to the smear campaigns of those who have been trying to commit economic sabotage against their own country just for their own selfish political objectives,” Najib said in a New Year’s message on his blog on Saturday (Dec 31).

He said Malaysians should be proud of the growth the country was achieving, highlighting the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report which concluded that “despite headwinds, the Malaysian economy continues to perform well”.

The IMF report also praised Malaysia for making “significant progress toward achieving high-income status”, and Najib said this is the economic reality of Malaysia instead of the false stories being propagated.

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High speed rail

“Fake news and the proliferation of false stories has become a worldwide phenomenon, and is a grave problem in our country as well,” he said.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that the IMF’s assessment may seem remote to Malaysians who are struggling to afford a decent life, adding that this was why Budget 2017 would pay greater attention to the needs of the Bottom 40 and Middle 40.

He said that the large-scale infrastructure projects planned for Malaysia, such as Bandar Malaysia, Tun Razak Exchange, the East Coast Rail Link, the High Speed Rail, and the Pan Borneo Highway would ensure long-term sustainability.

“The Pan Borneo Highway, for instance, will not only connect Serundong in Sabah to Semantan in Sarawak, it will also help re-energise numerous towns along the way.

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Pan-Borneo Highway. Pic Sam, Flickr

“I am determined to see this project through as I know the sheer number of communities, many of whom I have visited, that will benefit from it,” said the Prime Minister.

Najib said Malaysia would also continue playing a leading role on the international stage, and bringing attention to global issues such as the Rohingya and Palestinian plight.

“At home and abroad, we continue to be at the forefront of the fight against extremism and radicalisation.

“We suffered our first ISIS-linked attack in June, and only the tireless dedication of our brave police and armed services have prevented there being more,” he said.

He also paid tribute to the unforgettable performances of Team Malaysia at the Olympics and Paralympics Games in Brazil.

“While all of our athletes are worthy of mention, to have won our first two gold medals was a truly historic achievement, and one which swelled the hearts of all Malaysians,” he said, adding that the coming together of all Malaysians in support of the national team was a true reflection of 1Malaysia.

“A nation confident in ourselves, celebrating our diversity, proud of our successes, and always looking to ensure that all our brothers and sisters are fully part of this great journey that Malaysia is on.

“I ask all Malaysians to be united in this spirit, and I wish you a happy, safe and prosperous New Year,” he added.


China considering strong measures to contain Taiwan

December 31, 2016


Sat Dec 31, 2016 | 4:53am EST

By Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim | BEIJING

China’s military has become alarmed by what it sees as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s support of Taiwan and is considering strong measures to prevent the island from moving toward independence, sources with ties to senior military officers said.

Three sources said one possibility being considered was conducting war games near the self-ruled island that China considers as a breakaway province. Another was a series of economic measures to cripple Taiwan.

It was not clear whether any decisions had been taken, but the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Taiwan issue had become a hot topic within the upper echelons of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in recent weeks.

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Trump, due to take office on Jan 20, angered Beijing this month by speaking to Taiwan’s president by telephone, breaking decades of precedent and casting doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy. Beijing fears this could embolden supporters of independence in Taiwan.

“If Trump challenges ‘one China’ after becoming president, this would cross our red line,” said another source, who has ties to China’s leadership.

China’s defense ministry declined to comment. An official at the ministry’s news department said China’s position was clearly laid out in the 2005 Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force against Taiwan in the event China judges it to have seceded.

Asked about any possible aggressive moves from China, Taiwan

defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-shi said: “We are fully

prepared, and plan for the worst while preparing for the best.”

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sacred and inviolable territory and is deeply suspicious of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island’s independence. Tsai, who took power this year, says she wants to maintain peace with China, but China is unconvinced.

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Chinese warships

Tsai said on Saturday that Taiwan will be “calm” when facing issues to do with China, but uncertainties next year will test the self-ruled island and its national security team.

Beijing has also been angered by a trip planned by Tsai in January to Latin America in which she will transit through Houston and San Francisco. China has urged the United States to block the stopovers.

Chinese officials have blamed Taiwan for creating trouble rather than Trump, and many of them believe he will be more accommodating to China once in office.

“We’re ready. If Taiwan wants to make trouble so can we. Let’s hit them hard,” said an official in Beijing who meets regularly with China’s most senior military officers, including those who work directly with President Xi Jinping.

“We can hold exercises close to Taiwan, and show them the damage we could cause. Taiwan will have to give in then,” the official added, citing a recent conversation with one of the military officers.


The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it’s unclear if the United States would send troops in the event of war between China and Taiwan.

Washington also acknowledges Beijing’s position that there is only one China and Taiwan is its territory.

A retired senior officer who maintains contacts with the PLA told Reuters that China probably wouldn’t need to fire any missiles to bring Taiwan to its knees. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, and Taiwan runs a huge trade surplus with China, worth $27 billion in 2015.

“We can just cut them off economically. No more direct flights, no more trade. Nothing. Taiwan would not last long,” the officer said. “There would be no need for war.”

In addition, any Western economic blockade of China put in place in the event of war with Taiwan would also be damaging to China, already dealing with a slowing economy.

A U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chinese actions had been more provocative in the past month, since Trump won the U.S. election and made comments about Taiwan.

This month, a Chinese naval flotilla headed by its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, took part in drills that took it around Taiwan.

Chinese air force jets have performed similar drills in recent weeks, flying close to the island, though China has officially called the air force and naval exercises routine.

China also scored a diplomatic victory when tiny Sao Tome and Principe switched recognition to Beijing from Taiwan.

(Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in Taipei and David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Italy to seek to track down and deport migrants with no right to stay

December 31, 2016


Sat Dec 31, 2016 | 10:58am EST

By Steve Scherer | ROME

Italy will seek to deport more migrants who have no right to be in the country and will open new detention centers to hold them before their expulsion, according to a written directive and a ministry source.

Police chief Franco Gabrielli sent a two-page directive to stations across the country on Friday ordering them to increase efforts to identify and deport migrants a week after Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri was shot dead near Milan.

The directive, seen by Reuters, says police should take “extraordinary action” before the “growing migratory pressure in an international context marked by instability and threats” to “control and remove irregular foreigners.”

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 Italy National Police Chief Franco Gabrielli

Interior Minister Marco Minniti plans to open several new detention centers that hold migrants prior to their expulsion, a ministry source said, in line with repeated requests by European Union partners.

The tougher migrant stance, which several Italian papers ran on their front pages on Saturday, is the first major policy change made by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s government since it took power in mid-December, and comes on the heels of a record year of boat migrant arrivals.

It also comes less than a month after the Berlin truck attack by Amri that killed 12, including an Italian woman.

The Tunisian Amri came to Italy by boat in 2011. Italy later tried without success to deport him back to Tunisia. He was then released from a detention center and ordered to leave the country in 2015.

Gentiloni’s predecessor, Matteo Renzi, agreed to set up “hotspots” to identify and fingerprint migrants who arrived on Italian shores, but he refused to build large detention centers to hold migrants who did not qualify refugee status.

Only four pre-deportation detention centers with about 360 beds are now functioning. The Interior Ministry is aiming to open up about 16 more with at least 1,000 more spots, the source said. That would still accommodate only a fraction of migrants without permits of stay estimated to be living in Italy.

Of the more than 27,000 expulsion orders handed out in Italy in 2015, fewer than 5,000 were deported, according to Eurostat figures.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also called for greater efforts to deport those who do not qualify for international protection, but the process is slow and expensive, and it requires bilateral agreements with the countries of origin.

Italy currently has bilateral agreements with only a handful of African countries.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Stephen Powell)

China’s CCTV launches global ‘soft power’ media network to extend influence — Beijing is worried it is not connecting with Millennials

December 31, 2016

SHANGHAI: China Central Television (CCTV), Beijing’s largest and most important TV network, said it will launch a new global media platform at the stroke of New Year’s Day to help re-brand China overseas.

The new multilingual media cluster will have six TV channels, a video newsletter agency and a new media agency and will see the original CCTV News channel renamed as China Global Television Network, the network said on its website on Friday night.

China has been extending its global influence with “soft power” tactics such as launching new English language media and auditioning international public relations firms to tailor its branding strategy.

President Xi Jinping said in February state media must tell China’s story to the world better and become internationally influential, adding that onshore portals must follow the party line and promote “positive propaganda as the main theme”.

(Reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Eric Meijer)

BEIJING — The two-minute cartoon opens with a folksy jingle and a smiling bobblehead of President Xi Jinping, dimpled and cherubic. Then it cuts to a colorful montage praising his government for improving the lives of ordinary Chinese with what might seem like a mundane policy: regulations allowing taxis to be summoned online.

With vivid animation and quirky sound effects, the video does not feel like propaganda. But its creators, a team of 15 people hired by the state-run media, spent months obsessing over the details, down to the shape of Mr. Xi’s grin. Their mission: to promote Mr. Xi and the ruling Communist Party in a voice that resonates with China’s digitally savvy millennials.

深改组1000天 第一集:如果不能网约车 出行将怎样 | CCTV Video by CCTV

“There isn’t any dry language or political jargon,” said Ma Changbo, 35, a former journalist who is the chief executive of the multimedia studio behind the clip, which was published online by China Central Television, the state broadcaster. “People can relate to it.”

Decades after Mao Zedong declared the pen as important to political power as the gun, the party still churns out old-school propaganda — colorful posters with wooden slogans, mawkish movies with patriotic themes, meticulously censored newspapers written in dry, impenetrable language. The evening news is as rigid as ever, almost always opening with Mr. Xi and often featuring the reading of long party communiqués.

But Mr. Xi is demanding that the propaganda apparatus step up its game.

His administration has castigated propaganda officials as ineffective, too slow to assert control over the internet and lacking in their commitment to Marxist values. He is pushing them to master the tools of digital media, resist foreign influences in popular culture and target younger audiences, a demographic that some in the party worry it may be losing.


Members of CD Rev in the recording studio in Chengdu. Li Yijie, 22, the group’s lyricist, second from right, said CD Rev saw itself as filling a void where traditional propaganda efforts had fallen short. “Chinese patriotic education has failed — it’s stiff and awkward,” he said. “I think we need to take the responsibility to make it better.” CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

The Fable of Edward Snowden

December 31, 2016

As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.

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Updated Dec. 30, 2016 10:21 p.m. ET

Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.

Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.

This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.

This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.

This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.

To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.

These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.

At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.

Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.

The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”

The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014.

It was not the quantity of Mr. Snowden’s theft but the quality that was most telling. Mr. Snowden’s theft put documents at risk that could reveal the NSA’s Level 3 tool kit—a reference to documents containing the NSA’s most-important sources and methods. Since the agency was created in 1952, Russia and other adversary nations had been trying to penetrate its Level-3 secrets without great success.

Yet it was precisely these secrets that Mr. Snowden changed jobs to steal. In an interview in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on June 15, 2013, he said he sought to work on a Booz Allen contract at the CIA, even at a cut in pay, because it gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world.

He evidently succeeded. In a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair, Richard Ledgett, the NSA executive who headed the damage-assessment team, described one lengthy document taken by Mr. Snowden that, if it fell into the wrong hands, would provide a “road map” to what targets abroad the NSA was, and was not, covering. It contained the requests made by the 17 U.S. services in the so-called Intelligence Community for NSA interceptions abroad.

On June 23, less than two weeks after Mr. Snowden released the video that helped present his narrative, he left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow, where he received protection by the Russian government. In much of the media coverage that followed, the ultimate destination of these stolen secrets was fogged over—if not totally obscured from the public—by the unverified claims that Mr. Snowden was spoon feeding to handpicked journalists.

In his narrative, Mr. Snowden always claims that he was a conscientious “whistleblower” who turned over all the stolen NSA material to journalists in Hong Kong. He has insisted he had no intention of defecting to Russia but was on his way to Latin America when he was trapped in Russia by the U.S. government in an attempt to demonize him.

For example, in October 2014, he told the editor of the Nation, “I’m in exile. My government revoked my passport intentionally to leave me exiled” and “chose to keep me in Russia.” According to Mr. Snowden, the U.S. government accomplished this entrapment by suspending his passport while he was in midair after he departed Hong Kong on June 23, thus forcing him into the hands of President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

None of this is true. The State Department invalidated Mr. Snowden’s passport while he was still in Hong Kong, not after he left for Moscow on June 23. The “Consul General-Hong Kong confirmed that Hong Kong authorities were notified that Mr. Snowden’s passport was revoked June 22,” according to the State Department’s senior watch officer, as reported by ABC news on June 23, 2013.

Mr. Snowden could not have been unaware of the government’s pursuit of him, since the criminal complaint against him, which was filed June 14, had been headline news in Hong Kong. That the U.S. acted against him while he was still in Hong Kong is of great importance to the timeline because it points to the direct involvement of Aeroflot, an airline which the Russian government effectively controls. Aeroflot bypassed its normal procedures to allow Mr. Snowden to board the Moscow flight—even though he had neither a valid passport nor a Russian visa, as his newly assigned lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said at a press conference in Russia on July 12, 2013.

By falsely claiming his passport was invalidated after the plane departed Hong Kong—instead of before he left—Mr. Snowden hoped to conceal this extraordinary waiver. The Russian government further revealed its helping hand, judging by a report in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper when, on arrival, Mr. Snowden was taken off the plane by a security team in a “special operation.”

Nor was it any kind of accident. Vladimir Putin personally authorized this assistance after Mr. Snowden met with Russian officials in Hong Kong, as Mr. Putin admitted in a televised press conference on Sept. 2, 2013.

To provide a smokescreen for Mr. Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong, WikiLeaks (an organization that the Obama administration asserted to be a tool of Russian intelligence after the hacking of Democratic Party leaders’ email in 2016) booked a dozen or more diversionary flight reservations to other destinations for Mr. Snowden.

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange also dispatched Sarah Harrison, his deputy at WikiLeaks, to fly to Hong Kong to pay Mr. Snowden’s expenses and escort him to Moscow. In short, Mr. Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was neither accidental nor the work of the U.S. government.

Mr. Snowden’s own narrative asserts that he came to Russia not only empty-handed but without access to any of the stolen material. He wrote in Vanity Fair in 2014 that he had destroyed all of it before arriving in Moscow—the very data that he went to such lengths to steal a few weeks earlier in Hawaii.

As it turns out, this claim is also untrue. It is belied by two Kremlin insiders who were in a position to know what Mr. Snowden actually brought with him to Moscow. One of them, Frants Klintsevich, was the first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee of the Duma (Russia’s parliament) at the time of Mr. Snowden’s defection. “Let’s be frank,” Mr. Klintsevich said in a taped interview with NPR in June 2016, “Mr. Snowden did share intelligence. This is what security services do.”

The other insider was Anatoly Kucherena, a well-connected Moscow lawyer and Mr. Putin’s friend. Mr. Kucherena served as the intermediary between Mr. Snowden and Russian authorities. On Sept. 23, 2013, Mr. Kucherena gave a long interview to Sophie Shevardnadze, a journalist for Russia Today television.

When Ms. Shevardnadze directly asked him if Mr. Snowden had given all the documents he had taken from the NSA to journalists in Hong Kong, Mr. Kucherena said Mr. Snowden had only given “some” of the NSA’s documents in his possession to journalists in Hong Kong. “So he [Mr. Snowden] does have some materials that haven’t been made public yet?” Ms. Shevardnadze asked. “Certainly,” Mr. Kucherena answered.

This disclosure filled in a crucial piece of the puzzle. It explained why NSA documents that Mr. Snowden had copied, but had not given to the journalists in Hong Kong—such as the embarrassing revelation about the NSA targeting the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel—continued to surface after Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow, along with NSA documents released via WikiLeaks.

As this was a critical discrepancy in Mr. Snowden’s narrative, I went to Moscow in October 2015 to see Mr. Kucherena. During our conversation, Mr. Kucherena confirmed that his interview with Ms. Shevardnadze was accurate, and that Mr. Snowden had brought secret material with him to Moscow.

Mr. Snowden’s narrative also includes the assertion that he was neither debriefed by nor even met with any Russian government official after he arrived in Moscow. This part of the narrative runs counter to findings of U.S. intelligence. According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report, Mr. Snowden, since he arrived in Moscow, “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services.” This finding is consistent with Russian debriefing practices, as described by the ex-KGB officers with whom I spoke in Moscow

Mr. Snowden also publicly claimed in Moscow in December 2013 to have secrets in his head, including “access to every target, every active operation. Full lists of them.” Could Mr. Snowden’s Russian hosts ignore such an opportunity after Mr. Putin had authorized his exfiltration to Moscow? Mr. Snowden, with no exit options, was in the palm of their hands. Under such circumstances, as Mr. Klintsevich pointed out in his June NPR interview: “If there’s a possibility to get information, they [the Russian intelligence services] will get it.”

The transfer of state secrets from Mr. Snowden to Russia did not occur in a vacuum. The intelligence war did not end with the termination of the Cold War; it shifted to cyberspace. Even if Russia could not match the NSA’s state-of-the-art sensors, computers and productive partnerships with the cipher services of Britain, Israel, Germany and other allies, it could nullify the U.S. agency’s edge by obtaining its sources and methods from even a single contractor with access to Level 3 documents.

Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets—the provider of secret data is considered an “espionage source.” By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden.

Mr. Epstein’s book, “How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft,” will be published by Knopf in January.



Foxconn to invest $8 bn in China LCD plant

December 31, 2016


© AFP/File | Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, will spend the vast sum on an industrial complex in the sprawling southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, state media says
BEIJING (AFP) – Taiwan tech-giant Foxconn plans to build an $8.8-billion factory in China, state media said Saturday, amid reports its billionaire boss is cooling off on future US investments.

Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, will spend the vast sum on an industrial complex in the sprawling southern city of Guangzhou.

The factory will make large-screen liquid crystal displays (LCD), the firm said at an event in the Chinese city on Friday. It will be operational by 2019.

“We have in China a government that knows how to be efficient and supports new technology,” said Foxconn president Terry Gou in an interview with China?s 21st Century Business.

“As to whether we’ll invest in the US in the future I’ve no idea. As a matter of fact, the new administration isn’t in office and its new policies aren’t in place,” Gou added.

Foxconn employs around a million workers at its factories across China and has operations in more than 10 countries.

In the US, it has a plant in Virginia for packaging and engineering which employs over 400 people.

Earlier this month Foxconn confirmed it was in talks over a new US investment, while Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank shares soared after President-elect Donald Trump unveiled a $50 billion deal with the two firms.

Trump announced the agreement — which he said would bring 50,000 jobs — in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.

Gou said he would only divulge details after discussions with relevant US authorities, but made no mention of it during the factory announcement Friday.

The Guangzhou plant will be jointly run by Foxconn and Japan electronics firm Sharp, which Foxconn has a 66 percent stake in.

Japan Eyes Trilateral Talks With China, South Korea in February

December 31, 2016

TOKYO — Japan has approached China and South Korea about holding a trilateral summit in Tokyo in February aimed at deepening cooperation on such issues as a free trade deal, the environment and counter-terrorism, Kyodo news agency reported on Saturday.

Disagreements over North Korea and historical issues have long dogged relations between the three Asian powers, though they have held several such trilateral meetings since 2008, most recently in Seoul in 2015.

South Korea is enthusiastic about participating in the proposed Tokyo summit while China has yet to clarify its position, Kyodo said, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

China is unlikely to announce its decision before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s policy on Asia becomes more clear, Kyodo said.

If the summit does go ahead, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, in lieu of recently-impeached President Park Geun-hye, are expected to meet around February 10, Kyodo added.

Japan and South Korea said earlier this month they would impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but China has expressed its opposition to such measures.

Beijing also opposes a decision by South Korea and the United States to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system to counter missile threats from North Korea.

China and South Korea have both been angered by the Japanese defense minister’s decision on Thursday to visit a controversial shrine to Japan’s war dead. Beijing and Seoul see the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo as a symbol of Japan’s militarism and a reminder of its wartime atrocities.

Japan had originally intended to host the trilateral summit this year, but it postponed the plan due to political uncertainty in South Korea. Tokyo proposed the meeting to Seoul in mid-December following Park’s impeachment, Kyodo said.

(Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Cyber: How Long Has Putin’s Russia and China Played the Obama Administration for Fools? — “From Day 1.”

December 31, 2016


A look back at the cyber war….

President Barack Obama announced the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, a prisoner swap and the $1.7 billion settlement with Iran in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Jan. 17.

How long has Putin and Russia played the Obama Administration for fools?

That is the operative question resulting from all the discussion of hacking, cyber intrusions and the like.

The vas majority of the news and commentary concerning the state of hacking and cyber war seems determined to blame Russia, China, Iran and others. But what about the responsibility to defend ourselves?

Who in the U.S. has been minding the store?

The world’s most expensive intelligence apparatus, the CIA, NSA, FBI and all the rest included, owes us some detailed accounting.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her mobile phone at United Nations, March 12, 2012. AP photo

But even before that, some very simple questions need to be asked and answered.

Is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a home server still seen as inconsequential? Or did she breach U.S. national security? Did her lax security for classified intelligence tell China and Russia to go after everybody in the U.S.

Retired U.S. intelligence officials told Peace and Freedom that is exactly what they suspect.

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Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to reset US-Russian relations in March 2009. AP photo

Knowing Hillary Clinton’s email history, why didn’t her campaign manager John Podesta insist upon secure email for her campaign?

What all this talk about America’s cyber security vulnerability should spark is a wide-spread accounting and immediate actions to secure outr cyber networks going forward — after an eight year period of widespread vulnerability and often uncorrected.

Peace and Freedom

Tom Kellermann, who was a member of The Center for Strategic & International Studies Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, gives the Obama administration a C+ for its cybersecurity efforts. The Commission was formed to advise the 44th president on the creation and maintenance of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

“You can’t give him anything better than a C+,” says Kellermann. “Have things gotten worse? Yes. Do you feel comfortable calling the U.S. government if you need help in cyber as an individual or corporation? No.” The FBI will come investigate, Kellermann says, but investigate what? What happened last night? “Can they stop what is happening to you now from happening in the future? No.”

If the police are called to investigate a physical crime, not only will they investigate the crime but may institute a way for preventing that crime from happening to you again, he notes. “That doesn’t happen in cyber.”

Read more:

Cybersecurity in the Obama Era

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks at the Center for American Progress’ 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron


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Democratic National Committee Hacking, Donald Trump, and CrowdStrike Backstory — Defensive Measure Not In Place to Stop Hacking, Cyberspying — Obama Administration pattern of reckless disregard for hackers?

December 31, 2016

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The headquarters of the Democratic National Committee is seen in Washington, U.S. June 14, 2016. Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to all opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the committee and security researchers said on Tuesday. Credit: REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By | Senior Staff Writer
June 15, 2016


A hacker claiming responsibility for the DNC hack that made headlines earlier this week has slammed the security company responsible for the incident response, and leaked several documents compromised during the incident – including a 235-page opposition memo on Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that hackers – believed to be Russian – compromised the Democratic National Committee network and walked off with opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

CrowdStrike, the security firm that was brought in to do incident response, suggested espionage as the likely motive. In fact, later that day, CrowdStrike published reports on two different “APT” groups in Russia, giving them the names Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.

Overall, the Washington Post story actually read more like a promotion for CrowdStrike’s incident response offerings than actual security news.

But the fact is, someone targeted the DNC directly and that is news worth watching. At the same time, many experts felt it was a stretch to hype the incident as some sort of massive international conspiracy.

The hacker claiming responsibility for the DNC attack (using the alias Guccifer 2.0) mocked CrowdStrike’s assessment that he was a sophisticated hacker group, noting that he was pleased the company “appreciated my skills so highly. But in fact, it was easy, very easy.”

“Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers. Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?”

As proof, he published the full opposition report on Donald Trump, which describes the GOP presidential candidate having “no core.”

The 235-page memo is essentially a timeline and collection of comments and speeches given by Trump, as well as an overview of his political stance and mindset.

A 2-page memo to the DNC was included in the cache of posted files, which outlines the suggested positioning and public message strategy around the national election and the match-up between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In response to DNC comments that no financial information was accessed during the attack, several donor lists were also published on Wednesday by the hacker, showing millions in financial contributions from Hollywood elites, businesses, trade groups, and unions.

The hacker ended their disclosure with a notice that a bulk of the compromised documents, including memos marked confidential and secret – allegedly taken from Hillary Clinton’s personal email server – were delivered to WikiLeaks.

“The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to WikiLeaks. They will publish them soon. I guess CrowdStrike customers should think twice about company’s competence,” they wrote.

Salted Hash reached out to CrowdStrike for comment, but the company wasn’t able to respond before this article was published. It will be updated with additional details as they become available.


CrowdStrike didn’t respond to questions directly, but issued the statement below.

“CrowdStrike stands fully by its analysis and findings identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016. On June 15, 2016 a blog post to a WordPress site authored by an individual using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claiming credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee. This blog post presents documents alleged to have originated from the DNC.

“Whether or not this posting is part of a Russian Intelligence disinformation campaign, we are exploring the documents’ authenticity and origin. Regardless, these claims do nothing to lessen our findings relating to the Russian government’s involvement, portions of which we have documented for the public and the greater security community.”


CrowdStrike says malware implant was used to track movements of artillery units, adding to suspicions Russia is involved

A Russian military truck about six miles from the Russia-Ukrainian border control point in Donetsk, in August 2014.

 A Russian military truck about six miles from the Russia-Ukrainian border control point in Donetsk, in August 2014. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

A new report suggests the same hacking group believed to have hacked the Democrats during the recent presidential election also targeted Ukrainian artillery units over a two-year period, that if confirmed would add to suspicions they are Russian state operatives.

The report, issued by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said a malware implant on Android devices was used to track the movements of Ukrainian artillery units and then target them. The hackers were able to access communications and geolocations of the devices, which meant the artillery could then be fired on and destroyed.

The report will further fuel concerns that Russia is deploying hacking and cyber-attacks as a tool of both war and foreign policy. The hack “extends Russian cyber-capabilities to the frontlines of the battlefield”, the report said.

Russia gave military and logistical backing to separatists fighting against Ukrainian forces in east Ukraine, in a war that broke out in spring 2014.

The application was designed for use with the D-30 122mm towed howitzer, a Soviet-made artillery weapon still in use today. The app reduced firing times from minutes to seconds, according to the Ukrainian officer who designed it. However, it appears that the Android app was infected with a Trojan.

CrowdStrike said open-source research suggested that during the two years of conflict, Ukrainian artillery forces lost 50% of all weaponry but over 80% of their D-30 howitzers. The higher than average loss suggests data gained from the hack was then used to target the artillery.

Research has shown that Russia shelled Ukraine from inside its own territory, as well as sending weapons and troops over the border. Officially, Russia denied any major role in the conflict.

The malware was a version of the type used in the hack of the Democratic National Committee, CrowdStrike believes, making it highly likely that Fancy Bear, a hacking group believed to be based in Russia, was the culprit. “The source code to this malware has not been observed in the public domain and appears to have been developed uniquely by Fancy Bear,” CrowdStrike said.

US intelligence officials believe Fancy Bear works on behalf of the GRU, the intelligence agency of Russia’s army. Before the attack on the DNC, the same group is believed to have interfered on behalf of Russian interests in Georgia (pdf)and other countries bordering Russia.

“This cannot be a hands-off group or a bunch of criminals. They need to be in close communication with the Russian military,” CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch told Reuters.

US officials believe Fancy Bear and other Russian hackers intervened in the election, with the aim of giving an advantage to Donald Trump. Both Fancy Bear and another supposedly Russian hacking group named Cozy Bear had hacked the DNC servers, according to analysts, without knowing about each other.

Vladimir Putin has dismissed the allegations as “hysteria”, while Trump himself has also rubbished the US intelligence assessment in recent days. But the new allegations, if proved, would make it harder to distance the activities of the hackers from the Russian state.

“CrowdStrike have been pretty reliable in the past, and their reports about the bears were independently verified,” said Andrei Soldatov, co-author of the Red Web, a recent book about the Russian internet. He said: “This doesn’t mean Fancy Bear is GRU: it could be, but not necessarily. But I think this new information means Fancy Bear is more incorporated into the Russian state than I might have thought before, and works with the military.”

However, Yaroslav Sherstyuk, the Ukrainian military officer who developed the app, wrote on Facebook that the report was “total nonsense”. He said he was personally in control of downloads of the app and that they were not compromised, suggesting the report itself might be a way to spread panic among Ukrainian military units.


How Russians Pay to Play in Other Countries

PRAGUE — For a brief moment, it seemed that the powerful adviser’s head might roll at the Castle. After he lost his long legal battle over a hefty state fine, the Czech president warned him to pay up or lose his post.

Then a guardian angel materialized from Moscow.

Lukoil, the largest private Russian oil company in an industry dependent on Kremlin approval, stepped in to pay the nearly $1.4 million fine owed to a Czech court.

The aide, Martin Nejedly, stayed on as economic adviser to the Czech president, Milos Zeman, and vice chairman of his party. Perhaps more important, he retained his office right next to the president’s in the Castle, the official palace that looms over the capital, Prague.