Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

Latest FBI Emails Shows Fawning Over Comey, Mocking Lawmakers, Apparent Hatred for Donald Trump

February 7, 2018

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The day in July 2016 that FBI Director James Comey defended to Congress the bureau’s decision in the Hillary Clinton email probe, two FBI officials traded admiring texts about his verbal dexterity — and mocking jibes at the lawmakers questioning him.

Congress, wrote FBI lawyer Lisa Page in one text, is “utterly worthless.” ″Less than worthless,” replied Peter Strzok, a seasoned FBI counterintelligence agent assigned to that investigation. “Utterly contemptible.”

The officials’ assessment of Comey, facing hours of questions about his decision not to seek charges against Clinton for her use of a private email server, was unmistakably flattering.

“God he is SO good,” Strzok said. “I know,” Page responded. “Brilliant public speaker. And brilliant distillation of fact.”

That exchange is included among 384 pages of text messages between Page and Strzok provided by the Justice Department to Congress and reviewed by The Associated Press. The texts, part of an inspector general investigation into the handling of the Clinton email probe, are most notable for derogatory messages about President Donald Trump — the discovery of which led to Strzok’s reassignment from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. But they also include wide-ranging and unguarded discussion about a variety of current events and public figures, including Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and an encryption court fight with Apple, as well as candid assessments of their colleagues and their FBI careers and futures.

Among the thousands of texts, the dialogue about Comey is especially striking because it further calls into question White House characterizations of an FBI in “tatters,” where “countless” agents complained about their director before his removal. Employee surveys released last year show FBI employees consistently gave Comey high marks. And emails published this week by the Lawfare blog show FBI field office leaders using words like “profound sadness” and “hard to understand” in spreading the news about Comey’s May 9 termination, one of the events now under investigation by Mueller for possible obstruction of justice.

The texts proved an explosive development when revealed in December, giving rise to Republican allegations of bias in the FBI and the Justice Department and leading Trump to make an extraordinary allegation of “treason” against Strzok that the agent’s lawyer dismissed as “beyond reckless.” Strzok was removed from Mueller’s group in July after Mueller learned of the texts. Page, who’d also been detailed to that team, left that assignment before the messages were discovered.

James Comey, Robert Mueller and Peter Strzok

Since then, amid attacks on the bureau, Director Christopher Wray has defended the FBI as home to “tens and thousands of brave men and women.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, has been more muted in his support, saying criticism can be appropriate and that political bias “in either direction” must be eliminated.

There’s no question both Strzok and Page were stridently opposed to Trump’s candidacy and the prospect of a Trump administration, using words like “idiot,” ″loathsome,” ″menace” and “disaster” to describe him. In one text four days before the election, Page told Strzok that the “American presidential election, and thus, the state of the world, actually hangs in the balance.” They frequently texted each other news stories about Russian election meddling, denigrated Trump associate Roger Stone and, in one profanity-laced message, Strzok cursed out the “cheating (expletive) Russians.”

But the texts, which encompass a two-year period beginning around the start of the Clinton email investigation in 2015, cover far more ground than Trump.

They underscore how the Clinton inquiry, well before the launch of the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, caused anxiety and tension within the FBI and Justice Department as witness interviews, strategic decisions and even public statements were picked apart internally and in the news media in the months preceding the election.

Strzok was distressed, for instance, that former President Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch aboard her plane in the investigation’s final stages. Lynch subsequently announced that she would accept the FBI’s recommendations, setting the stage for Comey’s announcement that the FBI would not seek charges.

“All the airport tarmac articles finally burst out. Took a little bit. Not a big deal, just ASTOUNDINGLY bad optic. And doesn’t help what the D is trying to do,” he texted in an apparent reference to the FBI director.

Weeks before that, Strzok confided to Page that Justice Department lawyers were concerned by the late discovery of classified marking notations along some paragraphs in State Department emails.

“No one noticed. And while minor, it cuts against, ’I never send or received anything marked classified,” he wrote. “Because they’re worried, holy cow, if the FBI missed this, what else was missed?”

He was also flummoxed at one point by what he said was the “worst news” — that a computer specialist had used wiping software to delete email messages, making it, he said, potentially “much harder” to recover what they needed.

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The latest batch of emails came from Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin. Credit R. Umar Abbasi

The texts also make clear that FBI leadership knew weeks before Comey alerted Congress that a trove of emails relevant to the Clinton investigation had been found on a laptop belonging to former Rep. Anthony Weiner. It remains unclear why the FBI waited a month before revealing the discovery of new emails and before obtaining a warrant to scour them. On Sept. 28, 2016, one month before the news became public, Strzok told Page that he’d been summoned to the deputy director’s office because “hundreds of thousands of emails” had been turned over by Weiner’s attorney to prosecutors as part of a sexting investigation, with a “ton of material” believed to be from Weiner’s wife.

“This,” Strzok wrote, “will never end.”

But for a time, it did seem to have ended. Comey closed out the case July 5, 2016, and two days later, faced hours of questioning from a House committee. The two officials watched, and though Strzok lamented that he was a “control freak” and that some answers were imprecise, they also texted admiringly of his performance — even his joked that he had to use the bathroom for the last half-hour.

“I did get a chuckle out of D’s gotta pee joke…,” Strzok said.

“Everyone did,” Page replied. “That’s why he’s as good at this as he is.”

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Protests in Iran fanned by exiled journalist, messaging app

December 31, 2017

The Telegram app closed a channel run by Roohallah Zam after Iranian authorities complained that it was inciting violence, just hours before the government shut down the app entirely on Sunday. (AP)
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DUBAI: As protests over Iran’s faltering economy rapidly spread across the country, a channel on a mobile messaging app run by an exiled journalist helped fan the passions of some of those who took to the street.
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The Telegram app closed a channel run by Roohallah Zam after Iranian authorities complained that it was inciting violence, just hours before the government shut down the app entirely on Sunday. Zam, who denies the allegations, meanwhile launched new channels to spread messages about upcoming protests and share videos from demonstrations.
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What happens next could influence the future course of the largest protests Iran has seen since 2009.
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It’s hard to overstate the power of Telegram in Iran. Of its 80 million people, an estimated 40 million use the free app created by Russian national Pavel Durov. Its clients share videos and photos, subscribing to groups where everyone from politicians to poets broadcast to fellow users.
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While authorities ban social media websites like Facebook and Twitter and censor others, Telegram users can say nearly anything. In the last presidential election, the app played a big role in motivating turnout and spreading political screeds.
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Telegram touts itself as being highly encrypted and allows users to set their messages to “self-destruct” after a certain period, making it a favorite among activists and others concerned about their privacy. That too has made it a worry of Iranian authorities.
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Zam has used the app to share news and information published by his AmadNews website. Posts included times and locations for protests, as well as videos of demonstrators shouting inflammatory chants, including those targeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.
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Officials have meanwhile targeted Telegram in recent remarks, with prosecutors going as far as filing criminal charges against Durov.
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On Saturday, Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Mohammed Javad Azari Jahromi wrote to Durov on Twitter, complaining AmadNews was “encouraging hateful conduct, use (of) Molotov cocktails, armed uprising and social unrest.”
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Durov responded by saying Telegram suspended the account.
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“A Telegram channel (Amadnews) started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police and got suspended due to our ‘no calls for violence’ rule. Be careful — there are lines one shouldn’t cross.” Durov tweeted.
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Zam, who has said he fled Iran after being falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services, denied inciting violence on Telegram.
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Telegram’s decision drew criticism from free Internet advocates and Iranians. Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed US government surveillance programs in 2013, said Telegram should instead be working on how to make the service accessible after a potential government ban.
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“Telegram will face increasing pressure over time to collaborate with the Iranian government’s demands for this or that,” Snowden wrote on Twitter.
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He added: “You can’t keep an independent, destabilizing service from being blocked in authoritarian regimes, you can only delay it.”
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Those words proved prophetic Sunday, as Durov himself wrote on Twitter that Iran blocked the app “for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down … peacefully protesting channels.” Iranian state television later quoted an anonymous official as saying the app would be temporarily limited as a safety measure.
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It also marks a setback for Zam, the son of cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, who once served in a government policy position in the early 1980s. The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July in which he said he wouldn’t support his son over AmadNews’ reporting and messages on its Telegram channel.
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“I found that you crossed the red line,” the cleric wrote, referring to comments the channel circulated about Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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“Our red line is the supreme leader, but you passed the red line.”
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Zam did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday from The Associated Press, though he published a video late on Saturday on the channel being blocked.
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“Unfortunately the Amadnews was blocked,” Zam said in a message to his followers. A new channel “will continue its work as hard as before and with the help of God, we will become millions again.”
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At least 1.7 million people have viewed the first message on the new channel, according to Telegram. It called for protests on Sunday at sites across Iran before the government ordered the app shut down.

A Year in Trump-Russia Hysteria

December 30, 2017

What the country can learn from ‘Z’ and ‘Seven Days in May.’

Image result for Trump with Putin, photos

Not all writers on the left succumbed to Trump-Russia panic in 2017. January saw Masha Gessen in the New York Review of Books dissecting the “muddled thinking” behind the U.S. intelligence community’s published analysis of Russia’s role in the election.

Glenn Greenwald, hand-holder of Edward Snowden, has spent the year cataloging at TheIntercept.com the “extraordinarily numerous, consequential, and reckless stories that have been published—and then corrected, rescinded, and retracted” by the mainstream media.

 

Distinguished Rutgers historian Jackson Lears, in a year-end essay in the London Review of Books, laments his Democratic Party’s intoxication with Trump-Russia conspiracies. The episode, he writes, is “like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anticommunist hysteria during the early 1950s.”

Few and far between are lapses into sanity by sources Americans actually read. Ms. Gessen herself points to a rare example in the New York Times last March, on the subject of Trump-Russia contacts:

“There have been courtesy calls, policy discussions and business contacts, though nothing has emerged publicly indicating anything more sinister. . . . Former diplomats and Russia specialists say it would have been absurd and contrary to American interests for the Trump team to avoid meetings with Russians, either during or since the campaign.”

In contrast, the Washington Post spent 6,700 words last week puzzling over President Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge Russia’s meddling without ever noticing that a calculated, orchestrated (and documented) Democratic strategy to paint him as a Russian mole might play a role.

In another revealing misjudgment the Post, by way of examining the Kremlin’s propaganda machinations in the U.S., this week accused the Obama administration of a “misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.”

It takes 0.03 seconds of reflection to recognize that Moscow’s troll postings, email hacks and Facebook ads amounted to nothing. Only the gleeful willingness of U.S. elites to use Russia as a club on each other has had any real impact, which even the Obama administration showed some reticence to invite.

Our system can survive Russian trolls. It’s the sliminess of our contestants for power that is always and ever the threat, as the framers of the Constitution understood. The danger to study is not what comes out of Russia, but what goes on inside of Russia—the takeover of its domestic politics by security officials, the siloviki. The totality of Russian meddling in U.S. politics did not have one-millionth the impact of the Steele dossier, via the Democratic Party and FBI’s attempt to secrete its Russian-spawned innuendo into the nation’s bloodstream, or the FBI’s intrusion into the Hillary Clinton email matter, using secret Russian “intelligence” (according to the Washington Post, no less) as a pretext.

Yes, one could wish President Trump would stay as far away as possible from these matters, trusting others to investigate and clean up.

A useful reference is the 1962 novel “Seven Days in May,” written in the backwash of Richard Neustadt’s theory of a presidential power limited to persuasion. In the book (though not the movie) a fictional president wrestles with how his vast unpopularity with the American people not only invites the securocrat conspiracies that beset his administration. It limits, as his closest advisers fail to grasp, his ability to fight back openly, by firing those whom he suspects.

If you don’t see the same lesson seeping through the Trump administration, you aren’t paying attention.

What will 2018 bring? Though the media resist the knowledge, it becomes clearer than ever that there is a direct connection between the FBI’s Clinton email investigation and its Trump-Russia investigation. The same personnel were involved. You don’t have to believe in a conspiracy exactly, or overinterpret the anti-Trump text messages of the FBI’s Peter Strzok, to understand that the same spirit also animated both: It was necessary and inevitable that Hillary should win, and necessary and inevitable that Trump should lose.

Then came Mr. Trump’s improbable victory. Suddenly their pre-election activities would be subjected to a scrutiny they didn’t anticipate. That’s when Obama intelligence officials began sprinkling deniable innuendo about the Trump campaign in the media. And before you decide this is OK as long as it happens to a president you dislike, think how you’ll feel when the same tactics are used against a president you like.

Which brings us to a final fictional citation. The 1969 movie “Z,” about a failed Greek military plot, ends memorably with a sequence of beribboned officials called before a Mueller-like prosecutor to hear their indictments. With just the right softening, absurdist note, the prosecutor directs them to a back door to the street so they can avoid the waiting photographers, but the door is locked.

That scene probably won’t be replayed in 2018 for the benefit of America’s meddling securocrats, but perhaps it should.

Appeared in the December 30, 2017, print edition.

U.S. lawmakers want to restrict internet surveillance on Americans

October 5, 2017

By Dustin Volz

Reuters

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.

The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Thursday, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the U.S. government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on Dec. 31.

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Senior U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.

The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Thursday, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the U.S. government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on Dec. 31.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

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Germany Committee Investigating U.S. Spy Efforts in Germany Submits Report — Without Consensus

June 28, 2017

Report is critical of both the US and German governments

A German investigative committee has presented its findings to the Bundestag on US spying on Germany – and Germany’s spying on its allies. The report is more than 1800 pages long but contains little consensus.

Patrick Sensburg handing the report to Norbert Lammert

More than three years work went into the report presented by investigative committee chairman Patrick Sensburg to the Bundestag on Wednesday, but in the end no one is happy with it.

The multi-party parliamentary investigation was sparked by the 2013 revelation by former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden that US intelligence services had kept allies under surveillance, even going so far  as to eavesdrop on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

“It’s not okay for friends to spy on one another,” Merkel said in her most famous statement when the affair broke.

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But investigators soon found out that Germany’s foreign intelligence service the BND had cooperated with the NSA and also kept tabs on its allies, for instance, by using so-called selectors – search terms for dragnet surveillance. The investigation was soon expanded to include the question of whether the US had piloted drones used in combat from its bases in Germany – an accusation that was never proven, although the report finds  that the German government often “looked the other way.

The committee’s report contains a head-spinning plethora of minutiae about everything from the technical specifications or capabilities of drones to various national and international intelligence operations. But it rarely reaches clear conclusions about what, if anything, was done wrong by whom. That was – as the report admits – down to fighting between political parties.

Angela Merkel testifying before the committeeMerkel testified before the committee in February

“Unfortunately, despite the common conviction of all parliamentary groups about the necessity of the investigation when it began, there were substantial disagreements between the governing and opposition groups about the methodology and goals of the committee’s work,” the report reads.

The report is being published by the governing coalition of the conservative CDU-CSU and Social Democrats alone, after a row last week about a 450-page dissent written by the opposition Left Party and the Greens. The chairman of the committee refused to publish that document, claiming it revealed classified information, whereupon the Left and Greens refused to sign off on the final version of the report as a whole and were removed from the committee.

A massive document of dissent

Although the report is critical of both the US and German governments on a number of topics, on the underlying question of whether the US essentially betrayed Germany’s trust, it reaches many “surprisingly positive” conclusions.

For example, one such passage reads: “The committee is of the opinion that despite all the difference concerning NSA spying in the past there is relatively large agreement about the rigor and establishment of intelligence service oversight by the parliaments in Germany and the US.”

The opposition Left Party and Greens see the situation entirely differently. In a section that was included in the official report, the two parties make a series of extremely critical recommendations, including subjecting German intelligence services to increased external and parliamentary oversight, strengthening IT security and ending what they call “a secret war in, from and with Germany.”

“Germany and facilities located in Germany are not permitted to play any role in drone warfare that violates international law,” the opposition parties write. “The German government must immediately and forcefully insist that all actions of this sort cease and must monitor it.”

“Unprecedented, unparliamentary behavior”

The opposition also criticizes the fact that Snowden, who currently lives in asylum in Russia, was never able to testify in front of the committee because the German government refused to guarantee him safe conduct. In a TV interview on Wednesday morning ahead of the Bundestag debate, Green parliamentarian Konstantin von Notz called Snowden’s absence “a damning indictment.”

The Left Party and the Greens say they are evaluating whether to legally challenge what Notz called the governing coalition’s “unprecedented un-parliamentary behavior.”

The committee only succeeded in “scraping free” a part of the “surveillance infrastructure,” Notz complained to the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Konstantin von Notz Opposition committee members like Notz heavily criticized the findings

Members of the governing parties disagree with that assessment and accuse the opposition trying to create a scandal in an election year.

“There are no indications that Germans were spied upon en masse,” conservative committee chairman Sensburg that newspaper.

The Social Democrats’ lead figureb on the committee Christian Flisek accused the opposition of a “complete refusal” to cooperate. But he also aimed a barb at conservatives and Merkel.

“There was a system of the very top of the Chancellery of not wanting to know anything,” Flisek told dpa news agency.

The verbal jousting over the NSA investigative committee report will continue as the Bundestag debates it on Wedsnesday evening.

http://www.dw.com/en/nsa-spying-scandal-committee-presents-controversial-final-report/a-39453668

Japan passes controversial anti-terror law despite protests

June 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Kyoko HASEGAWA | Protesters demonstrate against a controversial anti-terror bill near parliament in Tokyo. Rights groups say it is so broad it could be abused to allow wiretapping of innocent citizens and threaten privacy and freedom of expression

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan passed a controversial anti-terror law Thursday that critics warned would stomp on privacy rights and lead to over-the-top police surveillance.

Thousands protested outside the legislature after a full night of debate by sleepy parliamentarians and unsuccessful efforts by Japan’s weak opposition to block the law’s passage.

The government said the law, which criminalises the planning of serious offenses, is necessary to prevent terrorism ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

It doesn’t give police new powers, but critics say the legislation could be abused to allow wiretapping of innocent citizens and threaten privacy and freedom of expression guarantees in the constitution.

Terrorism “won’t disappear because of this law,” said 29-year-old demonstrator Yohei Sakano outside parliament.

“It’s mostly designed to crack down on citizens’ movements, not terrorism.”

Retired government worker Toshiaki Noguchi added: “We’re turning into a society of censorship.”

US surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden and Joseph Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, have both criticised the law, and polls show the public is divided on its merits.

The bill’s passage overcame a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet and a censure bid aimed at Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda.

Tokyo insists the law — which calls for a prison term of up to five years for planning serious crimes — is a prerequisite for implementing a UN treaty against transnational organised crime which Japan signed in 2000.

“We will uphold the law in an appropriate and effective way to protect people’s lives,” Abe told reporters after the legislation passed.

“Three years ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, we hope to cooperate with the international community to prevent terror,” he added.

– ‘Forced vote’ –

The bill was revised several times over the years as earlier versions met with fierce resistance and never made it through parliament.

The latest version reduced the number of targeted crimes to around 270 offences and narrowed the definition of terrorist and criminal organisations. Earlier versions encompassed more than 600 crimes, many unrelated to terrorism or crime syndicates.

The opposition has warned that petty crimes could fall under the scope of the law, and mocked Japan’s justice minister when he earlier conceded that, hypothetically, mushroom hunting could be targeted if the fungi were stolen to raise money to fund terrorism.

But even the slimmed-down legislation gives police and investigators too much leeway, some said.

“What comes next will probably be legislation allowing police to wiretap and eavesdrop on telephone and every day conversations,” said Setsu Kobayashi, a constitutional expert and professor emeritus at Keio University.

Japanese police have relatively limited access to wiretapping.

“The law makes it possible for authorities to investigate even before a crime has been committed,” said Hisako Tsuruta, 63, at a protest outside parliament Thursday afternoon.

“The activities of civil society and labour groups could come under surveillance.”

The opposition chastised Abe for trying to push the law through quickly, as he faces mounting criticism over allegations that he gave friends special consideration in a couple of unrelated business deals.

“This is an ultimate form of forced vote — it shut down sensible debate,” Renho, head of the leading opposition Democratic Party who goes by one name, told reporters.

Some Japanese media have likened the bill to the World War II-era “public order maintenance law” under which ordinary people were arrested for political offences, exercising labour rights and anti-war activities.

by Kyoko HASEGAWA

Snowden lashes out at Hong Kong for rejecting refugees who helped him evade authorities in 2013

May 18, 2017

AFP

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden hit back at the Hong Kong government for rejecting the protection bids of a group of refugees who sheltered him while he was hiding out in the city

HONG KONG (AFP) – Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden hit back at the Hong Kong government Thursday for rejecting the protection bids of a group of refugees who sheltered him while he was hiding out in the city.

The impoverished Philippine and Sri Lankan refugees helped the former National Security Agency contractor evade authorities in 2013 by hiding him in their cramped homes after he initiated one of the largest data leaks in US history.

They have spent years hoping the Hong Kong government would recognise their cases and save them from being sent back to their home countries where they say they were persecuted.

But the family of four, a mother and her daughter and a single man saw their protection claims rejected Monday by the city’s immigration authorities, which said there were “no substantial grounds” for believing they would be at risk if they went home.

They now face deportation.

“These are good people that were driven from their homes by torture, rape, abuse, blackmail and war, circumstances that are really difficult for us to imagine,” Snowden said in a video released Thursday.

“Now what they’re facing is a transparent injustice from the very people that they asked to protect them,” he said.

“Someone in the Hong Kong government has decided that they want to make these families disappear immediately, no matter the cost,” Snowden added in the video in which he spoke against a plain white background.

He has been living in exile in Russia since the summer of 2013. Russia’s immigration service in January extended Snowden’s residency permit to 2020.

After leaving his initial Hong Kong hotel bolthole for fear of being discovered, he went underground, fed and looked after by the refugees for around two weeks.

Their stories only emerged late last year.

The refugees’ lawyer, Robert Tibbo has called the decision by Hong Kong authorities “completely unreasonable”, and said he had less than two weeks to submit appeals before the families were deported.

He said there was a risk his clients could be detained and their children placed in government custody.

Hong Kong is not a signatory to the UN’s refugee convention and does not grant asylum.

However, it is bound by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and considers claims for protection based on those grounds.

One of the refugees, Vanessa Rodel from the Philippines, who lives in Hong Kong with her five-year-old daughter, broke down over the news of the decision.

Another of the refugees, Ajith Pushpakumara from Sri Lanka, told AFP the government had “taken his whole life”.

Lawyers for the Snowden refugees have separately lodged an asylum petition with the Canadian government and are calling for to be expedited.

The video of Snowden can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5InlEgqHOE

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Global pushback curbs cyberattacks but disruption goes on

May 15, 2017

AFP

The world’s biggest ransomware attack levelled off in Europe on Monday thanks to a pushback by cyber security officials after causing havoc in 150 countries, as Microsoft urged governments to heed the “wake-up call”.

The cross-border police agency Europol said the situation was “stable”, easing fears that attacks that struck computers in British hospital wards, European car factories and Russian banks would spread further at the start of the working week.

“The number of victims appears not to have gone up and so far the situation seems stable in Europe, which is a success,” senior spokesman for Europol, Jan Op Gen Oorth, told AFP.

“It seems that a lot of internet security guys over the weekend did their homework and ran the security software updates,” he said.

The indiscriminate attack was unleashed Friday, striking hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide by exploiting known vulnerabilities in older Microsoft computer operating systems.

– Like stealing missiles –

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post Sunday that it was in fact the NSA that developed the code being used in the attack.

He warned governments against stockpiling such vulnerabilities and said instead they should report them to manufacturers — not sell, store or exploit them, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen,” Smith wrote.

“The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake up call.”

AFP / Jonathan JACOBSEN, Valentina BRESCHIThe ‘Wannacry’ ransomware attack

US package delivery giant FedEx, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica and Germany’s Deutsche Bahn rail network were among those hit in the attacks, which demanded money to allow users to unblock their computers.

In China, “hundreds of thousands” of computers were affected, including petrol stations, cash machines and universities, according to Qihoo 360, one of China’s largest providers of antivirus software.

French carmaker Renault said its Douai plant, one of its biggest sites in France employing 5,500 people, would be shut on Monday as systems were upgraded.

Europol executive director Rob Wainwright told Britain’s ITV television on Sunday that the attack had been “unprecedented”.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

– ‘Ooops’ message, $300 ransom –

The attack blocks computers and puts up images on victims’ screens demanding payment of $300 (275 euros) in the virtual currency Bitcoin, saying: “Ooops, your files have been encrypted!”

AFP/File / Peter PARKSThe attack blocks computers and puts up images on victims’ screens demanding payment of $300 (275 euros) in the virtual currency Bitcoin, saying: “Ooops, your files have been encrypted!”

Payment is demanded within three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received within seven days the locked files will be deleted, according to the screen message.

Bitcoin, the world’s most-used virtual currency, allows anonymous transactions via heavily encrypted codes.

Experts and governments alike warn against ceding to the demands and Wainwright said few victims so far had been paying up.

Security firm Digital Shadows said on Sunday that transactions totalling $32,000 had taken place through Bitcoin addresses used by the ransomware.

The culprits used a digital code believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency — and subsequently leaked as part of a document dump, according to researchers at the Moscow-based computer security firm Kaspersky Lab.

A hacking group called Shadow Brokers released the malware in April, claiming to have discovered the flaw from the NSA, Kaspersky said.

AFP/File / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDSEuropol says more than 200,000 computers around the world were affected over the weekend in what it describes as “an unprecedented attack” 

The attack is unique, according to Europol, because it combines ransomware with a worm function, meaning once one machine is infected, the entire internal network is scanned and other vulnerable machines are infected.

The attack therefore spread faster than previous, smaller-scale ransomware attacks.

– Banks, trains and automobiles –

Anti-virus experts Symantec said the majority of organisations affected were in Europe.

Europol said few banks in Europe had been affected, having learned through the “painful experience of being the number one target of cyber crime” the value of having the latest cyber security in place.

Russia said its banking system was among the victims of the attacks, along with the railway system, although it added that no problems were detected.

French carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at sites in France, Slovenia and Romania, while FedEx said it was “implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible”.

Dozens of hospitals in Britain’s National Health Service were affected and several still had to cancel appointments on Monday, as doctors warned of delays as they cannot access medical records.

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Putin Blames U.S. for WannaCry Computer Virus

May 15, 2017

.Putin, NHS hack

Putin blamed the US for creating tools to exploit Microsoft flaw and denies Russian involvement in the hack

By Max Seddon
FT (Financial Times)

Russian president Vladimir Putin says US intelligence services are to blame for the WannaCry virus that affected tens of thousands of computers worldwide last week.

Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Mr Putin said:

“Microsoft said it directly: the initial source of this virus is the United States security agencies, Russia’s got absolutely nothing to do with it. Given that, it’s strange to hear anything else.”

Russia was the country most affected by the attack, which hit its interior ministry, mobile provider MegaFon, Sberbank, as well as a number of other ministries and state-run firms.

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“There was no significant damage for us or for our institutions – whether it’s banking, healthcare, or anything else. But in general it’s worrying, there’s nothing good about it, it’s concerning,” Mr Putin said.

President Putin repeated Russia’s calls to sign a legal memorandum with the US on cybersecurity, which was rejected by Barack Obama’s White House last year.

“Genies let out of bottles like these, especially if they’ve been created by the secret services, can then harm even their own authors and creators. We need to discuss this issue without delay at a serious political level and develop a defense system against events like this.”

https://www.ft.com/content/d68972f4-b993-3709-9f21-166f4d798a78

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“The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call,” In a statement, Microsoft president Brad Smith said. “Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

Microsoft released a patch over the weekend for the Eternal Blue vulnerability that defends against it even with older versions of Windows.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/05/15/nhs-cyber-attack-latest-authorities-warn-day-chaos-ransomware/

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Edward Snowden says NSA should have prevented cyber attack

May 15, 2017

The malicious software was developed by the National Security Council and funded by American taxpayers before being leaked

By Chloe Farand
The Independent

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Edward Snowden said the NSA had been warned it attack tools could be used to target western softwares

Edward Snowden has blamed the National Security Agency for not preventing a cyber attack which infiltrated the computer systems of organisations in 74 countries around the world.

In a tweet, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower said: “Despite warnings, @NSAGov built dangerous attack tools that could target Western software. Today we see the cost.”

Dozens of hospital trusts across the UK have been hit by a huge cyber attack, believed to be the biggest of its kind ever recorded, which plunged the NHS into chaos.

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The malicious software, which locked up computers and held users’ files for ransom, is believed to have been stolen from the NSA and leaked.

Reports say the ransomware is taking advantage of EternalBlue, an exploit used by NSA spies to secretly break into Windows machines.

According to the New York Times, a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers” began to post software tools that came from the US government’s stockpile of hacking weapons last summer.

The malware, called Wanna Detector, is also believed to have been leaked in WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 release earlier this year.

If NSA builds a weapon to attack Windows XP—which Microsoft refuses to patches—and it falls into enemy hands, should NSA write a patch? https://twitter.com/AlexanderAbdo/status/863115958101172226 

Mr Snowden said the US Congress should be asking the NSA if it is aware of any vulnerabilities of the software that could be exploited.

“If @NSAGov had privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they *found* it, not when they lost it, this may not have happened,” he tweeted.

The whistleblower pointed the finger of blame at the NSA and said that if it had disclosed system vulnerabilities, “hospitals would have had years – not months – to prepare”.

The Times reported this was the first time a cyber weapon developed by the NSA, which was funded by American taxpayers, had been stolen and unleashed against patients, hospitals, businesses and governments.

The US never acknowledged the cyber weapons posted by “Shadow Brokers” belonged to the NSA but it was reportedly confirmed by former intelligence officials.

Mr Snowden said the NSA had been warned of the dangers of building these cyber weapons but now the attack will raise questions over countries’ intelligence services’ ability to prevent the tools from being stolen and turned against them.

Hackers seemingly took advantage of the fact hospitals had not updated their IT systems.

Dr Krishna Chinthapalli, a doctor who predicted a cyber attack on the NHS in an article published just two days ago, has said hackers had been targeting hospitals for a couple of years.

His article, ‘The hackers holding hospitals to ransom’, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Wednesday, described NHS organisations as the “ideal victims” of cyber attacks, and said dozens of smaller hacks had happened in the past.

Earlier this week, the BMJ said up to 90 per cent of NHS computers still ran Windows XP and previous reports found public health organisations were using an outdated version of Microsoft Windows that was not equipped with security updates.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said teams were working “round the clock” to restore hospital computer systems. The cost of the cyber attack is not yet known.

The attack has been reported in 74 countries, including Ukraine, India, Taiwan, Japan and Spain, with Russia believed to have been hit the hardest.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nhs-cyber-attack-edward-snowden-accuses-nsa-not-preventing-ransomware-a7733941.html