Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Technology shares down as investors worry about growth in U.S., global economy — investors retreat from risk

February 6, 2016

By Maureen Farrell, Aaron Kuriloff and Don Clark

A sharp dive in technology shares underscored investor worries about uneven U.S. economic growth, as the latest lackluster corporate outlook, this time from LinkedIn Corp., fueled a rush out of stocks.

In the most jarring example of investor unease, LinkedIn’s shares tumbled 44% on Friday following a disappointing earnings forecast. A weak reading on jobs growth added to the woes, helping to push down the Dow Jones Industrial Average 211.61 points, or 1.3%, to 16204.97.

But those firms all slumped at least 3% Friday, after LinkedIn and another smaller technology firm, data-analysis software maker Tableau Software Inc., posted softer-than-expected growth projections for 2016.

Tableau’s shares plummeted 49%, and other tech companies dropped as well, including a 5.8% decline in Twitter Inc.

Analysts said the scale of the selling highlights the vulnerability of the technology sector at a time when the U.S. economy is expanding in fits and starts, corporate earnings are under pressure, and investors are concerned that global economic problems will spill over to the U.S.

While the prospects of firms such as Facebook and Google aren’t directly affected by poor results at smaller tech firms in different fields, all the companies have been trading at high valuations, a factor that makes them vulnerable to selling for essentially any reason. And if any of tech’s highflying companies falter, analysts said, other stocks likely will be even more vulnerable.

“It’s the realization that the world is slowing,” said Michael Antonelli, an equity sales trader at brokerage Robert W. Baird & Co.

He said poor earnings at LinkedIn and Tableau, together with high earnings multiples and fears of slowing U.S. growth, are causing investors to retreat from risk, for fear that earnings growth will decline in coming months.

LinkedIn, an online professional network, late Thursday projected revenue this year would increase roughly 22%, down from 35% in 2015, and far below analysts’ expectations.

Chief Executive Officer Jeff Weiner said Thursday that LinkedIn continues to make inroads with large corporate clients. The company added more than 3,000 new corporate accounts in the fourth quarter. Analysts said LinkedIn earned nearly $4,000 a month from each corporate customer in the fourth quarter, roughly flat with the year before.

“There has been increasing demand, in terms of large-scale multinational enterprises. And again, it’s going to take time to continue to roll out the product, and ensure that companies are ready to fully embrace social selling. It’s a new practice, and we’re looking forward to continuing to educate the marketplace on that front,” he said.

The concerns were accentuated by comments late Thursday from data-analysis software maker Tableau Software. Tableau said it expects revenue this year of $830 million to $850 million, down from its previous projection of $845 million to $865 million.

“We saw some softness in spending, especially in North America,” Tableau CEO Thomas Walker told analysts. “We did see our customers continue to expand their use of Tableau in the organizations, but not at the same cadence we’d historically experienced.”

Tableau’s comments helped spark an exodus by investors from other business-software makers.

Salesforce Inc., a maker of customer-relationship software with annual revenue exceeding $6 billion, fell 13%. Smaller firms were hit harder: Splunk Inc. fell 23%; New Relic Inc., 22%, Hortonworks Inc., 17%; Workday Inc., 16%; and NetSuite Inc., 14%.

Atlassian Corp., which makes software used to run corporate technology services, made more upbeat comments along with its first quarterly results as a public company on Thursday. Quarterly revenue rose 45% from a year earlier and the company said it added 2,600 customers. But its stock also was pummeled Friday, falling 16%.

Analysts questioned whether Tableau’s comments should be considered a sign of trouble ahead for others in the sector.

“We are not seeing across-the-board macro-related weakness in the software sector,” said Karl Keirstead, a Deutsche Bank analyst, in a research note. He said greater competition in the company’s markets and internal issues with its sales force may be to blame.

Others said they believe the largest tech firms remain solid investments, given their dominance of their respective markets. While stock markets have been declining and volatile this year, they will rebound at some point, and these firms’ prospects likely will make them winning investments over time.

“In the short run, there’s a valuation question, but it seems to me that strategically, the growth path for these companies isn’t over,” said David Kotok, chief investment officer at Sarasota, Fla., money manager Cumberland Advisors.

Even after Friday’s selling, Amazon traded at a 402 times its earnings over the past 12 months. Netflix traded at 296 times, Facebook traded at 81 times and Alphabet at 31 times. The S&P 500 average is 21.4, according to Birinyi Associates.

But others said the selling pointed to a confluence of concerns about the U.S. economic outlook, with its negative implications for corporate earnings, and high valuations that analysts said have essentially meant investors were assuming that firms would keep expanding faster than they are now expected to do.

According to Bespoke Investment Group, the 50 stocks with the highest price/earnings ratios in the S&P 500 averaged a decline of 3.1% as of midday Friday.

“Investors appear to be much less willing to pay up for growth today than they were yesterday,” Bespoke said in a research note. “This looks like a case of “valuations don’t matter…until they do.”

Deepa Seetharaman contributed to this article.

Write to Maureen Farrell at, Aaron Kuriloff at and Don Clark at
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Propaganda, Cyber and “Social Media” — Iraq seeks to take Islamic State offline

February 4, 2016

World | Thu Feb 4, 2016 5:15am EST

A 3D plastic representation of the Twitter and Youtube logo is seen in front of a displayed ISIS flag in this photo illustration in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 3, 2016.

Iraq is trying to persuade satellite firms to halt Internet services in areas under Islamic State’s rule, seeking to deal a major blow to the group’s potent propaganda machine which relies heavily on social media to inspire its followers to wage jihad.

Social media apps like Twitter and Telegram are scrambling to limit Islamic State’s cyber-activities. So far that has proven to be a cat-and-mouse-game, with the group re-emerging through other accounts with videos showing beheadings and extolling the virtues of living in a caliphate.

For Iraq then, the key is to stop the militant group from accessing the web at all – a feat, which if achieved, could sever a significant part of a propaganda campaign that has inspired deadly attacks in the West.

Mobile networks are largely inoperable in the Islamic State-held swathes of Iraq, areas which also have little fixed-line broadband infrastructure. Militants instead use satellite dishes to connect to the web, or illicit microwave dishes that hook them into broadband networks in government-held areas, three telecoms industry sources told Reuters.

There are many challenges for the Iraqi authorities: within the satellite Internet industry, no one assumes responsibility for identifying and vetting end users, the territory under Islamic State’s often shifts, and a complex web of middlemen makes it tough to pinpoint who is selling militants Internet capacity.

The group has control over or operates in parts of western Iraq and northern and central Syria which have a population of up to 5 million people, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, most of them in Iraq.

To connect to the web via a satellite, all that is required is a V-sat terminal – a small dish receiver and a modem – and an Internet subscription.

Islamic State uses “the V-sat system to access the Internet in areas it controls,” an Iraqi communications ministry official told Reuters. “What’s still difficult for us is controlling V-sat receivers which connect directly to satellites providing Internet services that cover Iraq.”

In the IS-held northern city of Mosul, V-sat units can be bought for about $2,000-$3,000 at a sprawling electronics market near the university.

The official said Iraq was in talks with satellite companies covering Iraq to halt Internet services to IS-controlled areas, adding that he had received “positive signals” from them, but “the process is complicated and needs more time and procedures.”

Abu Dhabi state-owned Yahsat, both a satellite owner and provider of end-user connectivity through its consumer broadband brand YahClick, is the only company so far to cooperate with the ministry’s request, the official said.

Highlighting the complicated task, Reuters traced an IP address of an Islamic State fighter in Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in Syria, which showed he was accessing the Internet using YahClick.

Yahsat would not directly comment on whether Islamic State had used its services, but said it complied with all laws and regulations. It has no official presence in Syria.

The company, among the biggest providers of satellite Internet in Iraq, relies on local agents to sell YahClick; three are listed on its website for Iraq, but other companies also sell the brand there.

“Anybody can become a reseller. It’s very informal and wholesalers probably want to keep it that way,” said the second industry source, who like the others declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly.


Satellites owners such as Britain’s Avanti, France’s Eutelsat and Yahsat cover most of the Middle East.

These sell capacity to other companies, such as Abu Dhabi’s Wafa Technical Systems and Britain’s Bentley Walker, which then use this capacity to sell services and equipment to businesses and consumers. Like Yahsat, these firms rely on in-country partners to distribute and sell their products.

“In common with all satellite operators, Avanti does not maintain identity or accurate location detail on end user customers,” a company spokesman said, adding the firm complied with all laws and regulations where it operates.

V-sat units, which are potentially portable, transmit their location and so should be traceable. But no one in the industry seems willing to take on the responsibility to vet users.

Wafa and rival Bentley Walker, who buy satellite capacity and sell V-sat units, say they are unaware of who is ultimately using their services.

Wafa, which has about 2,500 V-sat units in Iraq, said in online adverts it could deliver to any Iraqi city including Mosul. “The re-sellers are the people who know the clients and where the end users are located,” said Kamal Arjundas, assistant director at the company.

Customers of Bentley Walker can still use its services even if the V-sat unit is in an area beyond state control, said sales manager Neil Denyer. As of July last year, the firm said its service covered over 1,500 sites in northern Iraq.

The company says it is Europe’s largest re-seller of satellite Internet equipment. It sells its own FreedomSat brand and those of other companies such as YahClick.

Denyer declined to identify the company’s Iraqi partners, citing political and commercial concerns, and later did not respond when asked whether Islamic State could be using his company’s products and services.

Wafa’s Arjundas also declined to identify its Iraqi partners and did not respond when asked about the militant group.


Even if Iraq cuts off Islamic State from satellite Internet, the group can remain online through illegal networks set up by businessmen in towns such as Kirkuk, Arbil and Duhok.

These entrepreneurs buy data capacity from fixed broadband providers, passing through many middlemen first. They connect this to microwave dishes, which have a range of about 40 kilometers to eventually reach end users in IS-controlled areas, said the three industry sources.

“It’s two hops via microwave dishes to Mosul,” said the third industry source.

“Their activities have very little chance of being detected. If you can buy a certain amount of capacity for $100 in Arbil and sell it on for $500, it’s good business.”

Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that rules over an autonomous area of northern Iraq have banned the sale of Internet capacity that could end up in Islamic State hands, but it is hard to enforce.

There are many microwave dishes pointing in all directions in Iraq. The vast networks that mostly provide Internet connectivity to civilian homes and businesses make it difficult to establish who is using them.

“If you close one (of the businesses) down, they reappear under another disguise in a matter of days. They’re very difficult to identify,” said the first industry source.

“It would take enormous resources, knowledge and competency which Baghdad or the KRG don’t have,” said the third source.

A moral quandary is whether IS-held areas should be denied Internet access thereby cutting off civilians living there, said Rafaello Pantucci, of Britain’s Royal United Services Institute think-tank. Some have used the Internet to relate the abuses they have suffered.

“Would cutting off such communications have a major impact in disrupting and degrading Islamic State’s operations, or would it mostly just make the lives of people living under Islamic State even more difficult?”

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin in Baghdad and Eric Auchard; Editing by William Maclean, Yara Bayoumy and Pravin Char)

French, British schools remain on terrorism alert after ‘threats’

January 28, 2016


More than 20 schools in France, Italy and Britain were placed on alert Thursday after receiving threatening phone calls, following a wave of hoax bomb scares earlier this week. AFP photo

PARIS (AFP) – More than 20 schools in France, Italy and Britain were placed on alert Thursday after receiving threatening phone calls, following a wave of hoax bomb scares earlier this week.French education authorities said there were “no bomb alerts but threats” at five of the most prestigious schools in Paris, without giving further details.

The schools were placed under police surveillance.

A French high school in Rome was evacuated as was a trilingual creche, after similar threats, according to letters sent to parents.

Meanwhile in Britain, police said they were probing threats at 14 schools in central England believed to be “false and malicious.”

“At this stage there is nothing to suggest there is any credible threat to any of the schools,” said Detective Inspector Colin Mattinson of the West Midlands police, the force that covers the city of Birmingham.

British media said four schools in London had been evacuated, although this was not confirmed.

The threats come two days after six Paris schools and 14 in Britain were evacuated following hoax bomb threats.

Those threats were claimed by a Twitter account calling itself the Evacuation Squad, with a profile picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The account featured previous messages in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We are six individuals based internationally,” reads the profile blurb, advertising its services to call in bomb threats.

The account has since been suspended.

Both France and Britain are on high alert after again being threatened by the latest Islamic State group propaganda video, released on Monday showing the jihadists who attacked Paris in November.

The IS group’s French-language magazine Dar-al-Islam called in its November edition for its followers to kill teachers in the French education system, describing them as “enemies of Allah”.


Bahrain questions opposition chief over tweets

January 24, 2016


Bahraini protesters hold portraits of Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, during a demonstration against his arrest, in the village of Diraz on October 9, 2015. AFP

DUBAI (AFP) – Bahrain’s prosecutor said Sunday he would not press new charges against Sheikh Ali Salman, the jailed leader of the main Shiite opposition bloc, in connection with messages posted on Twitter.

The prosecutor general summoned Salman from prison, where he is serving a sentence for inciting disobedience, for questioning about “violations” posted on his Twitter account, the official BNA news agency reported.

It later said that Salman denied any wrongdoing and that the prosecutor decided not to press charges and ordered him returned to prison to serve the rest of his sentence.

The prosecution also ordered an investigation into who was behind the tweets which, according to BNA,”incited” against the government  and called for demonstrations.

Salman’s Al-Wefaq bloc earlier denounced the summoning of its chief by the prosecution, saying it “violates the Bahraini constitution and national law, as well as international covenants related to freedom of opinion and expression”.

The opposition chief was sentenced on June 16 to four years in jail after being convicted of inciting disobedience and hatred.

An appeals court is reviewing that conviction, but the prosecution is demanding the annulment of his acquittal on the more serious charge of plotting to overthrow the regime and seeking a tougher sentence.

A ruling on the appeal is expected on March 30.

Al-Wefaq renewed earlier calls for its leader to be released “immediately”.

The group once held the most seats in parliament, but its 18 MPs walked out in 2011 in protest at violence against demonstrators during pro-democracy rallies.

Bahrain’s Sunni authorities crushed Shiite-led protests a month after they erupted on February 14, 2011.

The gap has since been growing between the Sunni authorities and their mainly Shiite opponents.

Tiny but strategic Shiite-majority but Sunni-ruled Bahrain is across the Gulf from Shiite Iran and home to the US Fifth Fleet.

Last October 31, construction work also began in Bahrain on Britain’s first permanent military base in the Middle East since 1971.

White House Raises Encryption Threat in Silicon Valley Summit

January 8, 2016

By Jenna McLaughlin

Top Obama administration officials are holding a summit meeting on counterterrorism on Friday in Silicon Valley with top tech executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook. The White House delegation includes Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “The goal here is to find additional ways to work together to make it even harder for terrorists or criminals to find refuge in cyberspace,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.

The highly controversial topic of encryption is very much on the agenda, according to excerpts from a White House briefing distributed to participants of the summit, obtained by The Intercept. Read the excerpts below.

In addition to using technology to recruit and radicalize, terrorists are using technology to mobilize supporters to attack and to plan, move money for, coordinate, and execute attacks. The roles played by terrorist leaders and attack plotters in this activity vary, ranging from providing general direction to small groups to undertake attacks of their own design wherever they are located to offering repeated and specific guidance on how to execute attacks. To avoid law enforcement and the intelligence community detecting their activities, terrorists are using encrypted forms of communications at various stages of attack plotting and execution. We expect terrorists will continue to use technology to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize attacks, including using encrypted communications where law enforcement cannot obtain the content of the communication even with court authorization. We would be happy to provide classified briefings in which we could share additional information.

Key Questions: We are interested in exploring all options with you for how to deal with the growing threat of terrorists and other malicious actors using technology, including encrypted technology, to threaten our national security and public safety. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address this problem and that each of you has very different products and services that work in different ways. Are there high-level principles we could agree on for working through these problems together? And are there technologies that could make it harder for terrorists to use the internet to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize? Or easier for us to find them when they do? What are the potential downsides or unintended consequences we should be aware of when considering these kinds of technology-based approaches to counter terrorism?


A number of organizations in the government, as well as some in private industry and academia, have researched techniques to detect and measure radicalization. Some have suggested that a measurement of level of radicalization could provide insights to measure levels of radicalization to violence. While it is unclear whether radicalization is measureable or could be measured, such a measurement would be extremely useful to help shape and target counter-messaging and efforts focused on countering violent extremism. This type of approach requires consideration of First Amendment protections and privacy and civil liberties concerns, additional front-end research on specific drivers of radicalization and themes among violent extremist populations, careful design of intervention tools, dedicated technical expertise, and the ability to iteratively improve the tools based on experience in deploying them. Industry certainly has a lot of expertise in measuring resonance in order to see how effective and broad a messaging campaign reaches an audience. A partnership to determine if resonance can be measured for both ISIL and counter-ISIL content in order to guide and improve and more effectively counter the ISIL narrative could be beneficial.


The United States recognizes the need to empower credible non-governmental voices that would speak out against ISIL and terrorism more broadly both overseas and at home. However, there is a shortage of compelling credible alternative content; and this content is often not as effectively produced or distributed as pro-ISIL content and lacks the sensational quality that can capture the media’s attention. Content creation is made difficult by ISIL’s brutal rule and near total control of communications infrastructure in its territory in Iraq and Syria, which can make it dangerous for citizens to speak out or provide video or images. Further, many of the leading and credible voices that might counter ISIL lack the content-generation and social media prowess that would be required to counter ISIL online. There is also a need for more credible positive messaging and content that provides alternatives to young people concerned about many of the grievances ISIL highlights.

In parallel with ongoing U.S. Government efforts, we invite the private sector to consider ways to increase the availability alternative content. Beyond the tech sector, we have heard from other private sector actors, including advertising executives, who are interested in helping develop and amplify compelling counter-ISIL content; and we hope there are opportunities to bring together the best in tech, media, and marketing to work with credible non-government voices to address this shared challenge.



Can social media help fight terrorists? The feds think so.

The federal government will make a show of force in Silicon Valley on Friday. A bevy of top government officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, plan to meet with top Valley companies including Facebook fb , Twitter twtr , and Apple aapl to discuss how social media platforms can help combat terrorists.

The summit calls to mind the saying about what happens when an unstoppable force (the tech industry) meets an immovable object (the United States government). Law-enforcement, national security, and intelligence officials are increasingly annoyed with tech concerns for not doing their part in what once was called the “war on terror.” Social-media platforms have become prime distribution channels for propaganda and recruitment for organizations like the Islamic State. The feds think Silicon Valley should do more; the tech companies are fearful of being seen as collaborating with Washington in a post-Snowden environment.

Students of history might take note that it’s rare to beat the U.S. government, which knows a thing or two about defending its turf. Still, several issues are at play. Social media is one. Another that may present common ground is the government’s desire to tap the Valley’s expertise in developing terrorism-fighting technology.

SIGN UP: This essay originated in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter about the business of technology. Get yourfree subscription here.

Reuters reported Thursday that encryption is not on the agenda for Friday’s meeting. If so, it could be that Washington understands an intramural quarrel is brewing over encryption and the use of customer data. The battle lines there find Apple and Microsoft msft , privacy purists who make their money selling hardware to consumers and software to businesses, respectively, on one side. On the other are Google goog and Amazon AMZN 0.81% , whose businesses are built on mining their customers’ data in the name of serving them up valuable information.

The very notion of a powerful delegation of federal political appointees descending on Silicon Valley must be jarring for an industry built on leave-us-alone libertarian political ideals. Technology types at times come off as woefully ignorant of how much they benefit from the largesse and firm hand of the U.S. government. Representatives of their government undoubtedly plan to remind them on Friday.




Microsoft to warn email users of suspected hacking by governments

December 31, 2015


Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it will begin warning users of its consumer services including email when the company suspects that a government has been trying to hack into their accounts.

The policy change comes nine days after Reuters asked the company why it had decided not tell victims of a hacking campaign, discovered in 2011, that had targeted international leaders of China’s Tibetan and Uighur minorities in particular.

According to two former employees of Microsoft, the company’s own experts had concluded several years ago that Chinese authorities had been behind the campaign but the company did not pass on that information to users of its Hotmail service, which is now called

In its statement, Microsoft said neither it nor the U.S. government could pinpoint the sources of the hacking attacks and that they didn’t come from a single country.

The policy shift at the world’s largest software company follows similar moves since October by Internet giants Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and most recently Yahoo Inc.

Google Inc pioneered the practice in 2012 and said it now alerts tens of thousands of users every few months.

For two years, Microsoft has offered alerts about potential security breaches without specifying the likely suspect.

In a statement to Reuters, Microsoft said: “As the threat landscape has evolved our approach has too, and we’ll now go beyond notification and guidance to specify if we reasonably believe the attacker is ‘state-sponsored’.”

In a blog post published late Wednesday, Microsoft said: “We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be ‘state-sponsored’ because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others. (here)

The Hotmail attacks targeted diplomats, media workers, human rights lawyers, and others in sensitive positions inside China, according to the former employees.

Microsoft had told the targets to reset their passwords but did not tell them that they had been hacked. Five victims interviewed by Reuters said they had not taken the password reset as an indication of hacking.

Online free-speech activists and security experts have long called for more direct warnings, saying that they prompt behavioral changes from email users.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Martin Howell and Richard Pullin)

China gives itself right to mount anti-terror ops abroad

December 28, 2015


china antiterror law approved sesay intv_00024828

Beijing (AFP) – China has legalised overseas counter-terror operations by its military, details of a controversial new law showed, as it tries to tie violence linked to mainly Muslim Xinjiang into global concerns about extremism.

Under the counter-terrorism legislation passed at the weekend Beijing “may send personnel outside the border to carry out anti-terror activities” when the “relevant country” agrees, according to the text published by the official Xinhua news agency.

The measure applies to the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Armed Police and employees of the country’s public security organs, Xinhua said.

In recent years the People’s Republic has increasingly moved away from Deng Xiaoping’s dictum of “keeping a low profile” in foreign and military affairs.

It is expanding the reach of its armed forces far around the world, seeking to build a “blue water” navy capable of operating in distant seas and commissioning its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2012.

In November Beijing announced it would build a logistics hub in the African nation of Djibouti to support its units on United Nations and anti-piracy missions in the region.

China is a top contributor of peacekeepers to the continent and has helped patrol the waters off the lawless Somali coast.

Beijing has long proclaimed its belief in non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, but two years ago a top public security official said it had considered a drone strike against a drug lord in Myanmar linked to the murders of 13 Chinese sailors.

The new legislation could apply to similar actions in the face of situations such as the November murder of a Chinese citizen by the Islamic State group.

The law establishes a co-ordinating body to “direct national counter-terrorism work”, the text published overnight read.

Within China, the government has tightened social controls both online and on the ground, and the counter-terrorism bill could further reduce space for dissent.

Critics say the new rules give authorities wide scope for interpretation over what is harmful to state security.

The law is “terrible news for peaceful govt critics, the rule of law, ISPs (Internet service providers), businesses and many others in China”, Sophie Richardson, China director for overseas campaign group Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

The measure compels companies to cooperate with requests from the government to hand over data or communications related to terror investigations, fining or jailing anyone who does not comply.

But provisions in earlier drafts that would have obliged them to install “back doors” in products or turn over encryption keys to Beijing — over which US President Barack Obama raised concerns — did not appear in the final version.

Beijing has tightened social controls as it seeks to silence critics of its policies in Xinjiang, particularly those who say violence by ethnic minority Uighurs is a reaction to government discrimination and to controls over their culture and religion.

Last week a court imposed a three-year suspended prison sentence on civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, for offences including having “incited ethnic hatred” between Uighurs and the Han majority.

The accusation related to posts on his social media account suggesting Beijing was partly to blame for inter-ethnic violence.

Days later Beijing declined to renew the visa of French journalist Ursula Gauthier after she refused to apologise for writing an article expressing similar sentiments.

Hillary on Syria, Russia, Islamic State: We are “where we need to be” followed immediately by “strategy.” — REALLY?

December 20, 2015


By Daniel Malloy
Atlanta Journal Constitution

Democratic president candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debate at Saint Anselm College December 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — In the age of Twitter, the spin room happens during the debate, and a Hillary Clinton line Saturday night about the Islamic State picked up immediate attention.

During one of ABC’s strange mid-debate breaks, George Stephanopoulos and company brought the line up, too. How could Clinton be so flip about the self-proclaimed caliphate as it sparks mayhem from Syria to San Bernardino?

Here’s the full context of what Clinton said, parrying Sanders’ proposal to fight ISIS now and worry about Syria President Bashar al-Assad later:

Clinton: “I think it’s fair to say, Assad has killed, by last count, about 250,000 Syrians. The reason we are in the mess we’re in, that ISIS has the territory it has, is because of Assad.

“I advocated arming the moderate opposition back in the day when I was still secretary of state, because I worried we would end up exactly where we are now.

“And so, when we look at these complex problems, I wish it could be either/or. I wish we could say yes, let’s go destroy ISIS and let’s let Assad continue to destroy Syria, which creates more terrorists, more extremists by the minute.

“No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS, which is a danger to us as well as the region.

Sanders, interrupting: “Secretary.”

Clinton, resuming: “And we finally have a U.N. Security Council Resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria.

So Clinton’s comment about “where we need to be” is followed immediately by “strategy,” not about implementing it on the battlefield. Then she mentions this week’s Security Council resolution.

chief John Podesta called criticism of the remark “totally out of context,” saying:

“She wasn’t saying that about ISIS. She was saying that specifically about the U.N. Security Council resolution that passed yesterday to get on a political track to get a political resolution to get Assad out of the government and to move forward with a solution.”

The Sanders campaign was not eager to harp on it, but did not come rushing to Clinton’s defense either. When we asked about the remark, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver replied: “People have to make their own judgment about that.”

The Republicans, though, see an opportunity. As soon as the debate ended, a quote from Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus landed in reporters’ inboxes, saying in part:

“Clinton’s assertion that we are ‘where we need to be’ on ISIS in the wake of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks shows a complete disconnect with reality and is completely out-of-touch with the American people.”

Expect Republicans not to drop this one, and to see it in a lot more places, stripped of context. It could one day join the pantheon with Clinton’s famous remark about Benghazi, in discussing the motivations of the killers: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”


Fox News

Hillary Clinton speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Hillary Clinton speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Hillary Clinton claimed during Saturday’s Democratic debate that the U.S. is “where we need to be” in the fight against the Islamic State, a comment that drew ridicule from Republicans and seemed to take some of the steam out of an earlier slam against Donald Trump.

The Democratic presidential front-runner addressed the anti-ISIS strategy after taking heat from primary rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley for backing “regime change” in places like Libya and Syria. She countered that these are “complex problems” and said:

“We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS which is a danger to us as well as the region, and we finally have a U.N. Security Council resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria.”

Republicans seized on the comments, with the Republican National Committee circulating a clip of the moment and Jeb Bush tweeting: “No @HillaryClinton – We are not ‘where we need to be’ in fight against ISIS.”

Clinton’s campaign stood by the comments after
the debate ended, arguing that the U.N. resolution is a positive step.

But the claim is at odds with public skepticism about the current strategy for confronting ISIS, and marked an uneven moment for the candidate during an otherwise aggressive performance that saw her take on the Republican front-runner. Making an extraordinary claim early in the debate, Clinton alleged that ISIS is circulating videos of Trump’s comments about Islam to recruit more radical jihadists.

“He is becoming ISIS’ best recruiter,” Clinton said.

The Democratic front-runner did not offer evidence on the debate stage to back up her claim, but it was just one of several attacks from the former secretary of state against the Republican front-runner. While the three Democratic candidates sparred often over gun control and taxes and national security at the debate in New Hampshire, Clinton clearly endeavored to make the billionaire businessman her top target.

With the debate coming after Trump stirred controversy with his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack, Clinton argued his remarks about Muslims are fanning the flames abroad for radical Islam.

“Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people,” Clinton said. Of ISIS, she said, “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”

Vermont Sen. Sanders and former Maryland Gov. O’Malley also took shots at Trump, with the latter urging the country to ignore the “fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.”

Trump, who normally responds to his critics with lightning-fast speed on Twitter, has not yet fired back at Clinton over her ISIS claim. has reached out to the campaign for comment.

The debate, hosted by ABC News, is the third of the Democratic primary season. It comes at a time when Clinton seems to be cementing her lead over the slim field – though not in the debate host state of New Hampshire, where Sanders leads in some polls.

With Sanders – and O’Malley – trying once again to challenge Clinton’s dominance in the race, her two rivals criticized her foreign policy approach. Sanders blasted her vote in the Senate for the Iraq war, and accused her of being too fond overall of pursuing “regime change” abroad.

O’Malley was even tougher on that front, accusing Clinton of being “gleeful” when Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi was toppled and saying that in Syria, “We shouldn’t be the ones declaring that Assad must go.”

O’Malley also took a seeming shot at his rivals’ age when he prefaced his criticism by saying, “Can I offer a different generation’s perspective on this?”

The Democratic candidates also battled over gun control. O’Malley prompted the dispute by elbowing his way in and accusing his higher-polling rivals of being soft, or disingenuous, on the issue.

He blasted Sanders for voting against the landmark “Brady bill” and other measures, and added, “Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election season, it seems.”

After complaining about “flip-flopping,” both Sanders and Clinton interrupted him.

“Let’s calm down a little bit, Martin,” Sanders said. “Let’s tell the truth,” Clinton added.

Sanders argued that he showed “courage” by standing up to gun interests in his state of Vermont, by voting to ban assault weapons and other actions. Clinton said she applauds O’Malley’s pro-gun control record but, “I just wish he wouldn’t misrepresent mine.”

She continued to suggest Sanders has not embraced gun control as much as he could. Earlier, Clinton also suggested guns are not the answer to the mounting terror threat.

“Arming more people to do what, I think, is not the appropriate response to terrorism,” Clinton said.

She and Sanders also tussled over a range of other domestic policies, including the potential cost of Sanders’ many entitlement program proposals – which Clinton argued would lead to taxes on the middle class. She pledged there would be no such tax hikes on her watch.

And Clinton again confronted questions about her ties to corporate America and Wall Street. Asked if corporate America should love her, she quipped, “Everybody should.”

She then added, “I want to be the president for the struggling, the striving and the successful.”

Sanders put some space between them on that issue.

“They ain’t gonna like me,” he said.

O’Malley also brought up a controversial moment from the last debate, when Clinton invoked 9/11 to explain her ties to Wall Street. O’Malley said she “very shamefully” tried to downplay her relationship with the financial sector by doing so.

An issue that surprisingly did not spark major fireworks at the debate was the developing controversy over Sanders’ staff improperly accessing Clinton voter files on a Democratic National Committee database.

At the very beginning of the debate, Sanders publicly apologized to Clinton for the episode — even as he continued to blast the DNC for what he described as its heavy-handed punishment imposed against his campaign.

“I apologize,” Sanders said. He added, “I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run.”

With the apology, Sanders seemed to de-escalate the tensions between the two candidates over the issue. At the same time, he continued to blast the DNC for initially locking down his camp’s access to all voter data.

“That is an egregious act,” he said. He also needled Clinton’s campaign for sending out “many press releases” criticizing him for the breach.

Clinton, in response, said all should “move on” from the dispute.

The DNC had already restored Sanders’ access to the voter files late Friday after a round of legal threats and accusations. But the episode stirred up long-simmering complaints from Clinton’s rivals that some in DNC leadership are trying to boost her campaign.

The debate Saturday fell at a time when the Democratic race has been overshadowed by the intense sparring on the Republican side and the shifting dynamics in that race. By contrast, Clinton has mostly held a steady lead on the Democratic side. She leads nationally by a wide margin and has restored a consistent lead in most Iowa polls, after a period this fall where Sanders had closed the gap.

In the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, however, the Vermont senator continues to trade the lead with the Democratic front-runner.

The campaign itself has shifted in part to focus more on security issues in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks, a development seen by some analysts to put the economy-focused Sanders at a disadvantage. Sanders also has eased off criticism of Clinton’s personal email scandal, though it remains a major line of attack on the Republican side.


Time to Gear Up Fighting Islamic State Propaganda Online and Deal With Encryption?

December 17, 2015

By Kurt Wagner

Almost two weeks ago, the New York Times and NBC reported that one of the San Bernardino attackers, Tashfeen Malik, pledged allegiance to ISIS in a Facebook post prior to opening fire on the Inland Regional Center.

Talking with the press earlier today, FBI Director James Comey said that wasn’t true,calling those press reports “a garble.” He then quickly descended into yet another jeremiad against the tech industry’s encryption practices.

FBI Director James Comey

Why is the FBI whining about encryption when the private messaging features on social networks are, well, unencrypted?

Apparently the couple at San Bernardino used some kind of messaging service to discuss support for jihad ahead of the attack, communicating privately versus public declarations. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least some of it was over Facebook messages. At the conference, Director Comey name-checked Twitter “as a way to crowdsource terrorism.”

Twitter Direct Messages aren’t encrypted. Facebook messages aren’t either, at least not on Facebook’s servers. That means that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies should be able to access those messages with appropriate court orders.

And while encryption looks like it’s going to continue to be the chief focal point for security experts over the next few weeks while details from San Bernardino continue to emerge, the real issue seems to be that Malik and her husband Syed Farook were not on anyone’s watch list ahead of the attacks (although Facebook had previously confirmed to the Times that Malik did post publicly on Facebook shortly after the attacks).

This is a separate issue — one of policing or censorship, depending on whom you ask — that doesn’t have a simple solution. Facebook and Twitter don’t actively scan their sites for terrorist-related content, and that includes private messages. They only act on those posts or messages once they’re flagged by other users.

Neither company has made any indication that they plan to change this policy.

As high-profile data breaches have mounted in the last few years, Facebook, Apple, Google and other tech companies have added more sophisticated encryption tech to their messaging services. In October, activists and Silicon Valley successfully pressured President Obama to back off on pushing a bill through Congress that would have required building backdoors for government access to encrypted user data.*

Though after San Bernardino and Paris it’s now politically fashionable for presidential contenders to slam the tech industry and encryption, Silicon Valley will likely continue to stay quiet and wait out the backlash.

Still, government agencies are recalibrating their practices even without much (public) cooperation from tech companies. The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly going to begin reviewing the social media profiles of visa applicants,** and the Obama Administration is recruiting college students to fight ISIS propaganda online.

What’s unclear is why, in the absence of compelling, public information indicating a direct link between recent terror attacks and encrypted communications, law enforcement is continuing to loudly complain about encryption.

In an emailed response, a representative for the FBI said: “The Director was referring to the time period before the shooting, and describing how direct private messages between the subjects would not have been apparent to a wider audience. We have not commented on media reports that the subjects posted claims of allegiance online after the shooting, as this remains an ongoing investigation.”

* Provisions that enable government surveillance were worked into the end-of-year federal budget legislation that is almost surely going to be signed into law, although that has less to do with encryption and more to do with accessing user data without a warrant.

** The Wall Street Journal reported on DHS’ plans two days ago. From the initial Dec. 4 New York Times article saying Malik had publicly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before the San Bernardino attacks: “Immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks, and there is a debate inside the Department of Homeland Security over whether it is even appropriate to do so.”



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