Posts Tagged ‘fake news’

Man Convicted in Germany in Aside to Famous ‘Fake News’ Case

June 20, 2017

BERLIN — A 24-year-old man has been convicted of sexual abuse of a child in Berlin in a case Chancellor Angela Merkel cited as an example of Russia attempting to manipulate German public opinion through fake news reports.

When a 13-year-old girl of Russian origin known as “Lisa” went missing in the German capital in 2016, Russian state media and the foreign minister claimed she was abducted and raped by asylum-seekers and German authorities were covering up the case.

Police later determined the girl made up the kidnapping and had run away.

But while investigating the case, authorities found she did have sex in 2015 with 24-year-old Ismet S.

Berlin’s district court convicted him Tuesday of having sex with a minor and handed him a suspended sentence of 21 months.

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Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet

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June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

“In regions where the…

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Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet

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Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/19/russia-target-us-led-coalition-warplanes-over-syria

Russia halts US aviation cooperation over downing of Syrian jet

June 19, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© Omar haj kadour, AFP | A Syrian army jet fires rockets over the village of Rahbet Khattab in Hama province on March 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-19

The Russian defence ministry said Monday that it was halting aviation cooperation with the United States after the US downed a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, a move one Russian official described as a clear “act of aggression”.

The Russian defence ministry said it was halting cooperation with Washington within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria, effective immediately. It also accused the United States of not using the proper communication channels before shooting down the Syrian army jet.

“The command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace,” the ministry said, adding that Moscow “ends cooperation with the American side from June 19”.

Moreover, any coalition aircraft flying to the west of the Euphrates will be treated as targets, the defence ministry said.

“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground.”

URGENT: Russian military halts Syria sky incident prevention interactions with US as of June 19 – Moscow https://on.rt.com/8f9g pic.twitter.com/w27zQsyy5y

RT

@RT_comCoalition’s airborne objects in Russian Air Force’s Syria missions areas to be tracked as targets – Moscow https://on.rt.com/8f9g  pic.twitter.com/PHqYQjI6Yo

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Russia previously suspended the memorandum of understanding on air safety in April to protest against US airstrikes launched in response to a suspected chemical attack.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, on Monday firmly condemned the United States for shooting down the Syrian plane, calling it an “act of aggression”.

“This strike has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law,” Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow on Monday, the TASS news agency reported. “What is this if not an act of aggression?”

Ryabkov said the Kremlin had also warned the United States not to use force against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.

A Syrian jet plane

The incident marked the first time an American fighter jet had taken down a Syrian warplane, which Washington accused of attacking US-backed fighters.

The tensions come as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to evict the Islamic State (IS) group from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

>> Read more: MSF says 10,000 Syrians flee Raqqa as battle for the city nears

The Syrian jet was shot down after regime forces engaged fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance battling IS jihadists with US support, in an area close to Raqqa. The American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian SU-22 around 7pm as it “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” south of the town of Tabqa, the coalition said in a statement.

It said that several hours earlier, regime forces had attacked the SDF in another town near Tabqa, wounding several and driving the SDF from the town.

The coalition said the Syrian warplane had been shot down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces”.

Syria’s army disputed the account, saying its plane was hit while “conducting a mission against the terrorist Islamic State group”.

It warned of “the grave consequences of this flagrant aggression”.

International imbroglio

The SDF entered Raqqa for the first time earlier this month and now holds four neighbourhoods in the east and west of the city.

In a further escalation of military action in Syria, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it launched a series of missiles into Syria on Sunday in revenge for deadly attacks on its capital that were claimed by the Islamic State group. It said the missiles were “in retaliation” for a June 7 attack on the parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that killed 17 people.

Assad has focused his forces further east, to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, which is largely under IS group control and where government forces are besieged in part of the provincial capital.

Outside of coalition operations, US forces have only once directly targeted the regime – when Washington launched air strikes against an airbase it said was the launchpad for an alleged chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in April.

The Kremlin denounced those US strikes as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

Syria’s war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but has since spiralled into a complex and bloody conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and become a proxy war for regional powers as well as ensnaring the United States and Russia.

Interfax reported that Ryabkov and the US under secretary of state, Thomas Shannon, would meet in St Petersburg on June 23 to discuss persistent tensions in bilateral ties.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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The Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber was shot down by an American F18 Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces north of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The US, which has special forces troops in the area, had earlier sent a warning to the Syrian military to stop targeting the forces and called on Russia to rein in its ally, but they were ignored.

Russia, which intervened militarily to back the Syrian regime in 2015,on Monday condemned the US action, saying it flouted international law.

“It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, adding it was a “dangerous escalation”.

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Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “It is hard for me to choose any other words but these: if you [the US] can’t help you should at least not interfere. As your ‘efforts’ once again do nothing but help the militants.

“You are fighting the wrong party: it is not the Syrian army that perpetrates terror attacks in European capital cities.”

See the whole report:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/18/us-forces-shoot-syrian-jet-first-time-move-described-self-defence/

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Russian diplomat: U.S. downing of Syrian warplane is ‘support of terrorists’: TASS

June 19, 2017

Image may contain: airplane

Moscow sees the downing of a Syrian government warplane by the United States as an “act of aggression and support of terrorists”, TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Monday.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)

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The truth is, the U.S. has communicated with Russia and Syria many times not to fly in a threatening manner in certain areas. The consequences of Syria’s Russian-supported actions are clear. Russia’s answer is more fake news and propaganda. Peace and Freedom Editor

Macron, Putin Hold Talks Amid Strained U.S.-European Ties

May 29, 2017

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The talks at Versailles are the French president’s first with the Russian leader since winning election earlier this month

Alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves upon his arrival at the Versailles Palace on Monday.

Alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves upon his arrival at the Versailles Palace on Monday. PHOTO: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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VERSAILLES, France—French President Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Vladimir Putin of Russia strained Monday to turn the page on allegations of Russian interference in France’s elections well as their differences over Syria, with the French leader describing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime as a “red line.”

The newly elected French leader was hosting Mr. Putin at the Palace of Versailles to mark 300 years of Franco-Russian diplomacy that began under Russian Czar Peter the Great.

Heightened tensions with Moscow loomed over the meeting as Mr. Macron and other European leaders have begun to weigh a geopolitical landscape defined by increasingly fragile trans-Atlantic relations. Last week U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t reaffirm the principle of mutual defense at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to which the U.S. and 27 other nations belong. That prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say this weekend it was time to “really take our fate into our own hands.’’

“It was an extremely frank, direct conversation,” Mr. Macron said in a joint news conference with Mr. Putin after their talks.

Any fissures in the NATO alliance provide Mr. Putin with an opening to drive a lasting wedge between the U.S. and its allies on a range of foreign policy fronts. Europe has often strained to show unity on defense and foreign policy, a struggle that risks being exacerbated without full-throated security assurances from the U.S. and with the looming departure of the U.K. from the European Union.

On Monday, Mr. Macron stood firm on the European Union’s sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea as well as France’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whom the West has accused of carrying out chemical attacks against his own people.

“There is a very clear red line on our side,” Mr. Macron said. “The use of chemical weapons by anyone—so any use of chemical weapons—will meet with retaliation and an immediate response.”

Mr. Macron also said reopening France’s embassy in Damascus was “not my priority.”

Mr. Putin said attacks on the Assad regime would only strengthen militant groups like Islamic State.

“It is impossible to combat the terrorist threat by destroying the statehood of countries that already suffer from internal problems,” Mr. Putin said.

The Macron-Putin meeting was also closely watched for signs of personal animus between the two leaders. Mr. Putin irked Mr. Macron’s presidential campaign by hosting his rival, National Front leader Marine Le Pen, during a visit to Russia.

“If Ms. Le pen asked to meet, why should we turn her down?” Mr. Putin said as Mr. Macron looked on.

The Russian leader also dismissed allegations the Macron campaign made that Kremlin-backed hackers and media outlets interfered in France’s presidential election. Mr. Macron’s party En Marche said in February its website was targeted by thousands of hacking attempts and that Kremlin controlled outlets spread defamatory rumors about the candidate in an attempt to destabilize the campaign. In the final hours of official campaigning, Mr. Macron’s party said it was hacked when thousands of emails and documents purportedly from the campaign were leaked on the internet.

“They say Russian hackers may have interfered,” Mr. Putin said, referring to the Macron campaign. “Dear colleagues, how can you comment on such things?”

The remarks belied initial attempts by both leaders to play down the alleged interference. Mr. Macron he did not discuss the issue with Mr. Putin behind closed doors because he wanted to be “pragmatic.”

That resolve wavered when a Russian journalist asked Mr. Macron why his campaign banned Russia Today and Sputnik from its headquarters.

“Russia Today and Sputnik did not behave like press organizations or journalists, they behaved like organization of influence, of propaganda, and false propaganda,” he said.

Write to Stacy Meichtry at stacy.meichtry@wsj.com and William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/macron-putin-hold-talks-amid-strained-u-s-european-ties-1496062884?mod=e2tw&tesla=y

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Facebook slams proposed German ‘anti-hate speech’ social media law

May 29, 2017

If German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has his way, platforms like Facebook will face fines for hosting illegal content. In a rare direct statement, Facebook says it should not be tasked with “state responsibilities.”

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Facebook isn’t happy about a draft law, currently in committee in the Bundestag, that would impose fines on social media platforms if they fail to delete hate speech and other sorts of illegal expression. The German weekly business newspaper Wirtschaftswoche published excerpts from a German-language statement to be released on Monday in which the social media giant went on the attack.

Read: What happens to your Facebook account after you die?

“The legislative state cannot pass on its own shortcomings and responsibilities to private companies,” the statement read. “Preventing and combating hate speech and fake news is a public task that the state cannot avoid.”

Theoretically, if the draft legislation becomes law, Facebook could face fines of up to 50 million euros ($56 million) – too much, says the company.

“The amount of the fines is not commensurate to the behavior that would be sanctioned,” the statement read. Facebook also warned against Germany “going it alone nationally” and called for a European solution to the problem of hate speech.

It is rare for Facebook, which often speaks in Germany through PR representatives, to issue direct statements. The Justice Ministry under Maas has promised to get the anti-hate-speech law through the Bundestag before the end of this legislative period in June. But it’s proving quite controversial.

Deletions and lawsuits

Critics object that the law will lead to perfectly legal expressions of free speech being banned on social media platforms. They fear that companies like Facebook will err on the side of restrictions rather than risk fines. One such critic is the photo-journalist and blogger Markus Hibbeler.

Hibbeler was given a one-week ban on Facebook for a post critical of Islam. It was his second ban in a matter of weeks for what he says were primarily criticisms of cultural hypocrisy and defenses of freedom of speech.

Germany to force Facebook, Twitter to delete hate speech

EU fines Facebook over ‘misleading’ WhatsApp takeover

“I once reported a post by a Salafist with instructions how to carry out an attack using a truck, and even that wasn’t deleted for violating community standards,” Hibbeler told DW. “But a call for freedom of expression and criticism does violate those rules. That can’t be. It’s a double standard.”

Hibbeler didn’t pull any punches with his original post, writing, for instance, “We shouldn’t shield Muslims, and certainly not Islam, which has never been through an enlightenment or reformation, from criticism and constantly protect them.” But the post doesn’t defame Muslims as a blanket group, and Hibbeler explicitly distances himself in it from racism.

Hibbeler engaged a lawyer and threatened to sue Facebook if he wasn’t reinstated and the deleted post restored to his page. On Monday, Facebook officially apologized and said that the post had been restored.

Screenshot Facebook Account Markus Hibbeler (Facebook/M. Hibbeler)Hibbeler only received a formula mail from Facebook

Overworked, under-trained monitors?

Facebook attributed the deletion to an employee’s “mistake,” and the case illustrates the potential pitfalls of self-monitoring. Hibbeler never received any substantial explanation from the social media platform about precisely why he was banned, but he suspects it has something to do with an overworked moderator.

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“They have people sitting there who get a lot of reported posts that they have to read through,” Hibbeler says. “And of course a post like mine that got more than 3000 likes has a lot of fans but also some enemies who say ‘We’ll show that guy.’ I imagine that the post was reported a lot, and that a Facebook employee just skimmed through rather than reading it.”

Hibbeler’s surmise tallies with an investigation published late last year by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung about the working conditions of the 600 monitors Facebook employs in Berlin. According to the report, monitors are required to evaluate around 2000 posts a day, some involving extreme violence, pornography or other potentially traumatizing content. They are paid slightly above the minimum wage and are only given minimal training, the newspaper reported.

If that is the case, it would hardly be surprising if mistakes were made in the evaluation of posts.

Infografik Percentage of social media hate speech deleted after user reportsFacebook has struggle to control hate speech

Private versus state responsibility

Whether Facebook is capable of the sort of monitoring the Justice Ministry’s draft law requires is one question. Another is whether a private company should be given that sort of responsibility in the first place.

“The problem with the law,” Hibbeler says, “is that a social network like facebook is de facto a mirror of opinions and debates in this country. So when it’s forced to perform a public legal task and told to delete posts within a week or pay millions in fines, a private company like Facebook will delete posts that shouldn’t be deleted in cases of doubt. That’s what I’d do if I owned a social media network.”

Hibbeler says that he wouldn’t have a problem with the legislation “if it affected the right people” but fears that as things stand, it would function as a “censorship law.”

Read: France fines Facebook over targeted advertising

http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-slams-proposed-german-anti-hate-speech-social-media-law/a-39021094

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Daniel J Levitan

North Korea ‘disrespects’ China with latest missile test: Trump says — (FAKE NEWS ALERT: Putting words in the mouth of others won’t help — Trump has to solve the N. Korea dilemma without China)

May 29, 2017

AFP

© KCNA via KNS/AFP | North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (centre) oversaw the test of a new anti-aircraft missile system on May 28, 2017

WASHINGTON (AFP) – 

President Donald Trump on Monday called North Korea’s latest missile test a slap in the face for its main ally China, which the US leader praised for trying to rein in the regime.

“North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile… but China is trying hard!” Trump said in a tweet.

North Korea launched its 12th ballistic missile test this year on Monday, this one falling provocatively close to Japan.

South Korea’s military said the Scud-type missile travelled for 280 miles (450 kilometers), and Japan said it was estimated to have fallen into its exclusive economic zone, extending 200 nautical miles from the coast.

The test was carried out in defiance of UN sanctions warnings, amid fears that Pyongyang may conduct another nuclear test.

Trump declared at the G7 summit last week that the “big problem” of North Korea “will be solved” and has previously warned that no option is off the table.

But so far Washington has opted for sanctions and diplomatic pressure, looking to China, the North’s closest ally, to step up economic pressure on Pyongyang.

In an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday before the latest launch, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.”

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Trump has to solve the North Korea dilemma without China

If China is really helping the U.S. with the “North Korea problem) the results of that effort are not obvious to anyone.

At this stage it seems much more likely that Donand Trump and his team were wrong to trust in China.

After the Mar-a-Lago summit, donand Trump, H.R. McMaster and others were POSITIVE that Xi Jinping would pressure North Korea to stop its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing.

Since then, Kim Jong-un has not reflected any fear of anyone. He has continued to laucnh a ballistic missile in what seems like every few days.

Meanwhile, China says they have stopped buying coal from North Korea — but it seems there’s proof that Russia is making up for any coal deficit in China.

Add to that, China has threatened the Philippines with war in the South China Sea and Chinese pilots have conducted at least two intercepts of U.S. aircraft that the U.S. called unprofessional and dangerous.

If this is China’s help, just think what deteriorated relations might look like.

President Trump deferred on his idea to brand China as a currency manipulator and China has further solidified its illegal hold on the South China Sea.

One might say, at this point, the claim that China is helping the U.S. with North Korea is “Fake News.”

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

Image result for Photos, Beijing, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Xi Jinping

Duterte taken prisoner by China: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony in Beijing, China, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. AP

The U.S. Air Force's WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

The U.S. Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

An SU-30 fighter jet

An SU-30 fighter jet CREDIT: EPA

 (This is more about show than real action)

At the end of the UN Security Council meeting in New York on April 28, 2017, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi brushed aside Tillerson’s comments, saying that “the key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side”.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers remarks outside the Security Council at United Nations headquarters, Friday, April 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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We at Peace and Freedom have learned to take Mr. Wang at his word. We seldom like what he says …. but he is most often speaking the truth as he knows it.
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US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on April, 6, 2017

Trump Takes Aim at White House Leaks

May 28, 2017

Tweets are first time president has weighed in on reports over Kushner, Russia

Mr. Trump is discussing major changes in the White House, including having lawyers vet his tweets and shaking up his top staff.

Mr. Trump is discussing major changes in the White House, including having lawyers vet his tweets and shaking up his top staff. PHOTO:JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

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Updated May 28, 2017 11:34 a.m. ET

President Trump on Sunday morning released a flurry of online posts taking aim at White House leaks that have kept the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with Russia in the news.

His remarks were the first time he had weighed in since reports surfaced that his top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had considered setting up a secret communications line with Russia during the presidential transition to discuss the country’s military operations in Syria and other issues.

“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” Mr. Trump, who just returned from his first foreign trip, said on Twitter. “Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names….it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”

Mr. Trump is discussing major changes in the White House, including having lawyers vet his tweets and shaking up his top staff, as he grapples with the fallout from probes into his campaign’s dealings with Russia, according to several senior administration officials and outside advisers.

Russia has denied interfering in the U.S. election.

The president’s demand for scrutiny into the leaks, while calling them “fake news,” has been a staple of what has been conflicting responses by the White House to a damaging series of news reports about his campaign’s ties to Russia. The Trump administration has denied any collusion with Russia.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said, “I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared” in reference to reports that Mr. Kushner discussed setting up secret communications with Russia.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told NBC News regarding the allegations regarding Mr. Kushner: “I will tell you that my dashboard warning light was clearly on, and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community—very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians.”

Mr. Kelly was also asked about British Prime Minister Theresa May’s complaints that the U.S. was the source of intelligence leaks after the suicide bombing in Manchester that left 22 people dead and injured dozens more.

“It’s borderline, if not over the line of treason” to leak highly classified information from foreign intelligence, Mr. Kelly said. “I think it’s darn close to treason.”

Some Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, are calling for a review of Mr. Kushner’s security clearance. “You have to ask, who are they hiding the conversations from?” he said in an interview with ABC News.

But both Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), meantime, expressed skepticism about the Kushner disclosure.

A Washington Post article last week said that Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak reported to Moscow that Mr. Kushner wanted to make use of Russian diplomatic facilities to open back-channel communications.

Jamie Gorelick, a lawyer for Mr. Kushner, previously said in a statement about Mr. Kushner’s meetings with Russians: “Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Asked by Fox News if Mr. Kushner should lose his security clearance, Mr. Durbin said, “Of course not. This a rumor at this point.” He added that he was confident that the newly appointed special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, would get to the bottom of what happened.

Mr. Graham, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said, “I don’t trust this story as far as I can throw it.”

“I think it makes no sense the Russian ambassador would report back to Moscow on a channel that he most likely knows we’re monitoring,” Mr. Graham said. “The whole story line is suspicious.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of Mr. Trump’s most outspoken surrogates outside of the White House, said the president’s trip to the Middle East and Europe and his domestic agenda should take center stage.

“They were disciplined. They were strategic,” Mr. Gingrich said of the trip on Fox News. “I hope they’ll come home focused on jobs, health, infrastructure…and shove to one side of all of this garbage.”

Write to Beth Reinhard at beth.reinhard@wsj.com and Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com

 

UK Foreign Minister Says Russia May Try to Interfere in Election

May 13, 2017

LONDON — There is a “realistic possibility” Russia might try to interfere in Britain’s national election next month, according to Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary.

In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper published on Saturday, the Conservative politician also said Russian president Vladimir Putin would “rejoice” if Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party won the June 8 election.

Referring to Putin, Johnson said: “Clearly we think that is what he did in America, it’s blatantly obvious that’s what he did in France [where incoming president Emmanuel Macron’s emails were hacked], in the western Balkans he is up to all sorts of sordid enterprises, so we have to be vigilant.”

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (AP — File Photo)

He said Putin wanted “to undermine faith in democracy altogether and to discredit the whole democratic process.”

On Friday, Britain’s health system was subjected to a major cyber attack.

Johnson also told The Telegraph that rather than Britain having to pay a divorce bill for leaving the European Union, the EU could end up having to pay Britain because it had contributed to so many EU assets.

“They are going to try to bleed this country white with their bill,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported the EU might seek an upfront payment in 2019 of up to 100 billion euros ($109 billion). That sum was immediately rejected by British ministers.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter)

Russian Hacking: Mission Accomplished — More division and turmoil surrounds US politics — Now US cyber defense is getting better (Because it has to)

May 10, 2017
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By Peter Grier and  Jack Detsch

May 9, 2017
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Sally Yates and James Clapper. AP Photo

Russia meddled in a US election in the past. Will the US be able to stop Moscow when it tries to repeat that action in the future?

That important question has been a subtext in a number of big Russia-related congressional hearings in recent days. FBI Director James Comey, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have all testified before Senate committees in May.

Necessarily much of this public time has been spent talking about FBI investigations, the nature of ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s Russian communications, and other specifics. But at some point these current and former officials have all stopped and said that it’s important to remember the foundational problem of the hacking scandal that’s shaken American politics.

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“The transcendent issue here is the Russian interference in our election process, and what that means to the erosion of the fundamental fabric of our democracy,” former DNI Clapper told the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8. “And that to me is a huge deal. And they’re going to continue to do it. And why not? It proved successful.”

Russia’s success in sowing discord perhaps makes it harder for the US to focus on and fight the cyber intrusion that officials say stole Democratic Party emails and planted false news stories about the election. The purpose of this operation was to amplify division and turmoil in US politics. Well, mission accomplished.

As US politics is riven by partisanship like never before, and Washington fights over investigations into Russia’s connections with the Trump campaign, it seems as if the nation can’t wrap up the forensic analysis related to 2016 and unify against the threat to the 2018, and beyond.

“If we need to be focused on preventing this in the future, when are we going to get to the point where we get to do that?” says Chris Edelson, an associate professor of government at American University who specializes in presidential national security power.

The bad news is that the various probes into Russia’s attempt to manipulate the US system seem likely to stretch on for months. In the House, the Intelligence Committee investigation seems completely stalled by partisan bickering. In the Senate, a counterpart effort is plodding along, methodically. Meanwhile, the FBI is conducting its own investigation in secret.

The good news is that paralysis at the top doesn’t immobilize the entire US government. In spite of the suspected Russian influence campaign that used hacks, leaks, and fake news to undermine faith in the US political process and harm Hillary Clinton’s electability, the US has a growing menu of options to respond to digital attacks targeting the polls.

ACTIVE DEFENSE

One main approach might be called active defense. This might mean fusing intelligence, cyberdefense, sanctions, diplomacy, and other policy tools together to respond to foreign hackers.

“You may not want to respond through cyber means if you have greater pressure and leverage in other areas,” says Frank Cilluffo, director of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at the George Washington University and a top homeland security adviser in George W. Bush’s White House.

After all, other nations might have great cyber capabilities, but the US is a superpower that maintains unique political, military, and economic advantages. That’s helped  in the past.

In 2015, The Washington Post reported that the US used the threat of sanctions against China before working out a deal curbing economic cyberespionage. The US had identified Beijing as the leading suspect in breaches of Office of Personnel Management databases containing 22 million government records.

In response to Russia’s 2016 election meddling, the Obama administration expelled 35 diplomats from the US, designated voting systems as critical infrastructure, and offered strong hints of covert retaliation.

“There are periods in history when new technologies make conflict offense-friendly, when it’s easier to cause harm than prevent harm,” says Nathaniel Gleicher, a former director for cybersecurity policy on the National Security Council in the Obama administration and head of cybersecurity at Illumio. “If you look throughout history, we don’t correct this imbalance by focusing more on offense – we correct it by developing a new kind of defense.”

But to actively defend against digital attacks, some lawmakers argue, there are structural problems that need to be solved, too.

The military’s top offensive hacking unit, US Cyber Command, still remains subordinate to US Strategic Command, and its leader also heads up the National Security Agency, giving it less independent authority than other US agencies with cybersecurity authorities.

Though the last Obama-era defense budget sought to give Cyber Command more independent authority, it’s not yet clear that the Trump administration will honor that pledge. Some cyber experts would like to see greater leverage to respond.

ATTRIBUTION

Naming and shaming nation-state hackers that target American networks might be another aspect of defense against future electoral cyber offenses.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department often used that approach to deter Russian, Chinese, and Iranian cyberespionage.

In 2014, the Justice Department charged five hackers associated with China’s People’s Liberation Army for allegedly breaching US companies, for instance. Last year the Justice Department charged seven Iranian hackers allegedly tied to Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with breaking into the computer network of a small New York dam and attacking more than 40 US companies last year.

But digital defenders aren’t always up to speed on watching US networks. To better defend against national-level influence campaigns, US agencies need to have a clearer picture about what’s going on with their networks.

“They lack the rich picture of an orchestra leader bringing all of the pieces together,” says Frank Cilluffo of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. “The reality is technology far outpaces the ability to protect technology.”

This has led to cybersecurity experts doubting US law enforcement digital forensics in the past. Some were unconvinced by the FBI’s charge that North Korea was behind the devastating 2014 hack into the Sony Pictures network. Then Thomas Rid, a professor of security studies at King’s College London, found an encryption clue that backed up the FBI’s conclusion.

“We’re getting much better at attribution,” says Illumio’s Mr. Gleicher. “The challenge is that we have to agree as a community on what we accept – what is the proof we buy?”

After a last-minute hack of presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign emails before French voters went to the polls on Sunday, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers told the Senate Armed Services committee on Tuesday that the NSA tipped off French officials about malicious cyberactivity on their networks ahead of the vote.

While Admiral Rogers did not officially blame Russia, he said it appeared to be the handiwork of Russian hackers – suggesting that the US still possesses tremendous ability to track its digital adversaries as they break into and move through computer networks.

“We’re watching the Russians, we’re seeing them penetrate some of your infrastructure,” Mr. Rogers told the committee, recalling the warnings relayed to French officials.

DIPLOMACY

A third part of a national cyber defense might be diplomacy. Right now, the US-Russia relationship is at a “low point,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a press conference in Moscow last month.

But the Trump administration may have put its finger on a key aspect of deterring election hacks in the future: US-Russia diplomacy. Yet if recent history is any guide, diplomacy can have an impact on reducing digital attacks on American targets.

In 2015, the US and China signed a landmark deal to halt cyberespionage against each other’s corporations. Last summer, the cybersecurity firm FireEye reported that Chinese hacks aimed at stealing US intellectual property fell significantly after the agreement was inked.

“I just don’t think that there’s a serious effort to engage the Russians,” says Bruce McConnell, global vice president at the East-West Institute and a former deputy under secretary for cybersecurity in the Obama-era Department of Homeland Security. “It’s really a question [if] you want to work on the relationship and improve it, or whether you want to remain in a standoff, which we’re in right now.”

There’s already some precedent for US-Russia diplomacy in cyberspace.

On the international stage, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts, a 20-country bloc led by the US, Russia, and China, has developed a set of cybersecurity “norms” that encourage members to tamp down on foreign cyberattacks, respect sovereignty in cyberspace, and steer clear of attacks on critical infrastructure.

And it appears that efforts to build upon those rules could go even further. The latest version of the Tallinn Manual, a study convened by NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, aims to apply international law to digital attacks that occur when troops aren’t fighting each other on the battlefield.

“What we’re seeing in the DNC hack is that the Russians have figured out where that gray zone is and they’re operating in it,” says Exeter University professor Michael Schmitt, one of the authors of the new manual. “Now it’s up to states to clarify those gray areas.”

Part of clearing up some of the ambiguity when it comes to international conduct in cyberconflict will be defining a digital act of war. That’s something that a new Senate subcommittee, led by Sen. Mike Rounds (R) of South Dakota, plans to begin tackling later this year.

But the political situation in the US isn’t making it easier. In the movies, people are united by the appearance of a mutual adversary – the US and the USSR would come together to fight aliens, say. But that’s not happening in Washington, as President Trump continues to appear to question whether Russia was even behind the DNC hack.

Meanwhile, US spy agencies are becoming increasingly vigilant about foreign hackers aiming to sway the vote.

“What does this mean in terms of how we move ahead?” says Chris Edelson of American University.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2017/0509/Russian-hacking-the-real-threat-lies-ahead

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