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Archive for the ‘spooks’ Category

YouTube may be blocked in Russia over the anti-Islam movie produced by an Israeli-American in the United States, the Russian Communications Minister says.

Referring to a new Russian media law, Nikolai Nikiforov said on Tuesday that “Because of this video… all of YouTube could be blocked throughout Russia…If there is a court decision and YouTube does not take off the video, then access will be limited.”

In response to the remark, Google Russian officials said that “Since the Russian Google company does not carry out administrative service of YouTube, we have forwarded the warning to our head office in the United States.”

The warning comes after Senator Ruslan Gattarov called on Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to ban the movie.

“It is obvious that the objective behind the movie is to split the society by the religious parameters and then clash parts of it. This can lead to far-reaching consequences and that is why we must do everything to ban the demonstration of this film on the Internet,” said Senator Ruslan Gattarov on Monday.

Earlier on September 16, Google in India blocked access to the anti-Islam movie following a request by New Delhi.

Several other countries including Malaysia and Indonesia also asked Google to block access to the controversial film.

Meanwhile, the anti-Islam film has drawn condemnation from many countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria , Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia and Yemen as well as the Vatican in Rome.

On September 11, US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other consulate staff members were killed in Benghazi after clashes involving a group of angry demonstrators near the consulate building.

At least four Yemeni protesters were killed on Thursday after US embassy guards in Sana’a opened fire on protesters trying to break into the building.

Sam Bacile, a real estate developer, has assumed responsibility for the film released on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which he said was made thanks to Zionists donations totaling $ 5 million.

from PressTV

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As the music labels of the RIAA prepare to launch their six-strikes initiative in the United States, elsewhere in the world their strategies are somewhat different. In Europe, labels including EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner are pumping money into an anti-piracy company who do everything from cyberlocker takedowns to the dirtiest of all anti-piracy tactics – extracting cash settlements from Internet users. According to an insider, the company employees dozens of students as pirate hunters.

While organizations such as IFPI have somewhat of a global plan for dealing with online piracy, in recent times it’s become evident that their member companies will pursue local strategies taking both the law – and what they can get away with politically – into consideration.

As we know, in the United States the labels will shortly go down the warning notice route, following in the footsteps of countries such as New Zealand and France. Elsewhere, however, the situation is quite different.

Due to legal developments in Germany in recent years, it has become easy to extract money from alleged file-sharers by threatening to sue, something the major labels aren’t averse to getting involved in.

One of the anti-piracy companies that EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner are putting money into for this purpose is proMedia. This Hamburg-based company has an exclusive contract to hunt down copyright infringements on behalf of the IFPI-affiliated BVMI industry group, of which the above-mentioned labels are members.

The operations of these anti-piracy companies are usually shrouded in secrecy, but on condition of anonymity an insider has been speaking out about his work hunting pirates at proMedia. The individual, referred to only as ‘Peter’, told SpiegelOnline that he has worked for the company for four years, tracking down copyright infringements on behalf of the big labels.

Peter, a musician and student teacher, works in proMedia’s Hamburg office, but he is not alone. According to the 26-year-old, proMedia employs a total of 35 students in a range of anti-piracy roles.

In addition to using Google to search forums, blogs and cyberlockers for infringements, Peter and his colleagues also engage in the most controversial anti-piracy work – tracking down file-sharers on P2P networks such as BitTorrent in order to extract cash settlements from them.

The labels’ aggressive stance towards infringement is well-known, so file-sharers shouldn’t be surprised if they’re targeted, Peter says. “If someone is caught, it’s his own fault,” he explains.

According to Spiegel, the BVMI reports that it closed (read: settled or gave up on) 13,562 civil cases on behalf of the labels in 2008 alone (more recent data was not provided). As revealed by an earlier TorrentFreak investigation, there is big money to be made from these settlements. Universal, Warner and Universal look for around 1,200 euros per time, with Sony requesting around 950 euros.

Of course, the entire system is widely hated by just about everyone not making money from it, largely because of what is perceived as a bullying and disproportionate response to individuals downloading a few songs. But Peter insists that this is still theft and comparable to shoplifting.

“The only difference is that songs are apparently not perceived by many as a valuable commodity and everyone generally thinks they should be freely accessible,” he says.

As a musician, Peter says he has also been personally hit by piracy. After selling an album of his band’s music after concerts, to his annoyance even his friends were copying his music. Peter’s not any more pleased with the Pirate Party either, noting that their plans for the revision of copyright law would deprive musicians of income.

“I do not think much of the politics of the pirates,” says Peter. “As a musician myself, I feel degraded by them.”

And yet, like so many in the anti-piracy business, Peter was once on the other side of the fence.

“Anyone who claims to have never downloaded something is lying,” he concludes.

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The White House has officially announced that the Obama administration is opposed to the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, expected to go before Congress this week. But does it really matter?

The Obama administration has formally condemned the latest Internet legislation up for vote, but this week a top White House official confirmed that the commander-in-chief’s closest officers are opposed to the bill. If Americans learned anything from the president’s under-the-table signing of the National Defense Authorization act last year though, it’s that decrees from underneath President Barack Obama can be reversed as quickly as announced.

The United States Congress could vote on CISPA as early as this week, which is the next step towards sending the bill to the White House for the president to sign into law. Alec Ross, a senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reiterates to the Guardian this week that top officials underneath President Obama are pushing to keep the legislation from being signed.

“The Obama administration opposes CISPA,” explains Ross. “The president has called for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. There is absolutely a need for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation.”

What CISPA’s supporters are asking for in Congress does much more than just implement measures to make America’s online infrastructure safe for terrorism threats, though. If approved, CISPA will let both private companies and the federal government alike infiltrate personal conversation carried out over the Internet and eavesdrop on Americans from coast-to-coast under the guise of cybersecurity.

Ross adds to the Guardian that the White House is telling Congress, “we want legislation to come with necessary protections for individuals,” which, as other anti-CISPA critics will vouch for, won’t be a reality if lawmakers approve the bill this week.

Despite insistence from the Obama administration though, will the president follow through with plans to push CISPA off Capitol Hill?

Last year, the White House went public with plans to veto the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 as opponents of the bill and its indefinite detention of American citizen provisions caused a massive backlash among critics. In its earlier form, the White House wrote to Congress that parts of the NDAA would bring a “dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical Executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute detainees,” would constrain counterterrorism efforts and undermine national security.

On November 17, 2011, the White House formally announced of the NDAA, “Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.”  In regards to the military custody provisions inside the NDAA, the White House added that they spawned “serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”

The bill was approved by the president only six weeks later on New Year’s Eve.

With CISPA quickly snowballing from fringe legislation to a mainstream news story and garner opponents just as quickly as NDAA, it should not come as a surprise that the president is supposedly putting his foot down over CISPA. Given how quickly the stance was changed over the NDAA last year, however, it very well could be a prime example of the president pandering to audiences yet again, especially given the proximity to Election Day.

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The Invisible Children NGO, most famous for its Kony 2012 online video, helped the Ugandan government arrest a former child soldier and backed an operation that killed more civilians than militants, cables published by Wikileaks reveal.

­A memo written by a public affairs officer at the US embassy in Uganda documents Invisible Children’s collaboration with Ugandan intelligence services. It notes that the US-based NGO tipped the Ugandan government on the whereabouts of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was wanted by security officials for extorting money from the government officials, NGO’s and local tribal leaders. Ugandan security organizations jumped the tip and immediately arrested Komakech.

As a result of the tip, the Ugandan military claimed it obtained the names of other suspects from Komakech. The military then conducted a sweep and arrested a number of people, many of whom declared their innocence, the Ugandan media reported. Human rights groups say torture of arrested suspects by Ugandan security forces is routine.

Invisible Children also actively supported Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT), a joint attack by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the then-autonomous South Sudan against the LRA. The operation, which was also received US intelligence and logistical backing, killed more civilians than LRA militants.

In a confidential memo dating back to 2009, US ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning noted that the US-based NGO planned pro-OLT events under the theme “Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children”.

Browning says local Invisible Children activists led the events. These events included visiting Washington to meet with lawmakers and conducting awareness campaigns in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

But Norbert Mao, a Ugandan opposition politician who, Browning claimed, “honchoed” the 2009 events, disputes the veracity of the ambassador’s assessment.

I did not support OLT,” Mao told The Black Star News “It was an operation to rain bombs in the areas where Kony was believed to be participating and would lead to indiscriminate killing of those the operation was intended to rescue. But even so, I believe there is no purely military solution to the LRA issue. Even after the release of Kony 2012 I stated clearly that the doors to peaceful solutions must never be closed”.

Kony 2012 has been viewed over 100 million times and Invisible Children is now planning to release a sequel to the video. It has been criticized for oversimplified the issue, in which religious fundamentalism and century-long intertribal conflicts intertwine. It has also been accused of providing financial aid for the Ugandan government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, both of which have regularly been charged with human rights violations. Invisible Children denied this claim, however. It has also been blamed for being heavy on advocacy and weak on aid, with most of the money spent for staff salaries, travel and transport and film production.

The release of the video followed a decision by US President Barack Obama to deploy 100 US soldiers to the region to help “remove” Joseph Kony from the picture.

The conflict between the Ugandan government, led by Yoweri Musevini, and the Lord Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, has lasted for over two decades.

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More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

 

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true — if convenient for a CIA director.

The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.

That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish.

“Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come,” Petraeus observed. “Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spy’s friend. But Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.

Why? With the arrival of Timeline, Facebook made it super-easy to backdate your online history. Barack Obama, for instance, hasn’t been on Facebook since his birth in 1961. Creating new identities for CIA non-official cover operatives has arguably never been easier. Thank Zuck, spies. Thank Zuck.

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The biggest-ever data complex, to be completed in Utah in 2013, may take American citizens into a completely new reality where their emails, phone calls, online shopping lists and virtually entire lives will be stored and reviewed.

­US government agencies are growing less patient with their own country with every month. First, paying with cash, shielding your laptop screen and a whole list of other commonplace habits was proclaimed to be suspicious – and if you see something you are prompted to say something. Then, reports emerged that drones are being fetched for police forces. Now, the state of Utah seems to be making way in a bid to host the largest-ever cyber shield in the history of American intelligence. Or is it a cyber-pool?

Utah sprang to media attention when the Camp Williams military base near the town of Bluffdale sprouted a vast, 240-acre construction site. American outlets say that what’s hiding under the modest plate of a Utah Data Complex is a prospective intelligence facility ordered by the National Security Agency.

­Cyber-security vs. Total awareness

The NSA maintains that the data center, to be completed by September 2013, is a component of the Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative. The facility is to provide technical assistance to the Department of Homeland Security, collect intelligence on cyber threats and carry out cyber-security objectives, reported Reuters.

But both ordinary Americans and their intelligence community were quick to dub it “a spy center.

­The Utah Data Center will be built on a 240-acre site near Camp Williams, Utah. Once completed in September 2013, it will be twice as large as the US Capitol. The center will provide 100,000 square feet of computer space, out of a total one million square feet. The project, launched in 2010, is to cost the National Security Agency up to $2 billion.

The highly-classified project will be responsible for intercepting, storing and analyzing intelligence data as it zips through both domestic and international networks. The data may come in all forms: private e-mails, cell phone calls, Google searches – even parking lot tickets or shop purchases.

This is more than just a data center,” an official source close to the project told the online magazine Wired.com. The source says the center will actually focus on deciphering the accumulated data, essentially code-breaking.

This means not only exposing Facebook activities or Wikipedia requests, but compromising “the invisible” Internet, or the “deepnet.” Legal and business deals, financial transactions, password-protected files and inter-governmental communications will all become vulnerable.

Once communication data is stored, a process known as data-mining will begin. Everything a person does – from traveling to buying groceries – is to be displayed on a graph, allowing the NSA to paint a detailed picture of any given individual’s life.

With this in mind, the agency now indeed looks to be “the most covert and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever,” as Wired.com puts it.

William Binney, NSA’s former senior mathematician-gone-whistleblower, holds his thumb and forefinger close together and tells the on-line magazine:

We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.

­‘Everybody is a target’

Before the data can be stored it has to be collected. This task is already a matter of the past, as the NSA created a net of secret monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities – a practice that was exposed by people like William Binney in 2006.

The program allowed the monitoring of millions of American phone calls and emails every day. In 2008, the Congress granted almost impecible legal immunity to telecom companies cooperating with the government on national security issues.

By this time, the NSA network has long outgrown a single room in the AT&T building in San Francisco, says Binney:

I think there are ten to twenty of them. This is not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.

Binney suspects the new center in Utah will simply collect all the data there is to be collected. Virtually, no one can escape the new surveillance, created in the US for the War on Terror.

Some data, of course, would be crucial in the anti-terrorism battle: exposing potential adversaries. The question is how the NSA defines who is and who is not a potential adversary.

Everybody is a target; everybody with communication is a target,” remarks another source close to the Utah project.

­Breaking the unbreakable

Now, the last hurdle in the NSA’s path seems to be the Advanced Encryption Standard cipher algorithm, which guards financial transactions, corporate mail, business deals, and diplomatic exchanges globally. It is so effective that the National Security Agency even recommended it for the US government.

Here, the Utah data complex may come in handy for two reasons. First: what cannot be broken today can be stored for tomorrow. Second: a system to break the AES should consist of a super-fast computer coupled with a vast storage capabilities to save as many instances for analysis as possible.

The data storage in Utah, with its 1 million square feet of enclosed space, is virtually bottomless, given that a terabyte can now be stored on a tiny flash drive. Wired.com argues that the US plan to break the AES is the sole reason behind the construction of the Utah Data Center.

The eavesdropping issue has been rocking the US since the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, when domestic spying was eventually outlawed. Nowadays, a lot of questions are still being asked about the secret activities of the US government and whether it could be using the Patriot Act and other national security legislation to justify potentially illegal actions. The NSA’s former employees, who decided to go public, wonder whether the agency – which is to spend up to $2 billion on the heavily fortified facility in Utah – will be able to restrict itself to eavesdropping only on international communications.

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Five foreign nationals suspected of involvement in espionage activities in Syria have reportedly been arrested in the flashpoint Syrian city of Homs.

According to reports three Frenchmen, a Briton and an American who have illegally entered the country as journalists have been detained in Homs.

Homs has been the scene of violent clashes between army troops and armed gangs in recent months as foreign agents are said to have infiltrated Syrian towns from areas in northern Lebanon controlled by Saudi-backed Salafists.

Meanwhile, Eric Chevallier the French ambassador to Syria, whom Paris withdrew from Syria two weeks earlier, returned to Damascus on Thursday to secure the release of the French suspects.

Syrian authorities have, however, not accepted the French ambassador’s request for the evacuation of the French nationals and have sent them to Damascus, where they are due to stand trial on charges of illegal entry into the country.

According to a French spokesman Paris is in discussions with its European Union partners to “reinforce sanctions,” against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The arrest of the foreign nationals comes as Western countries led by the US plan military intervention in the country. The US had earlier said that it will consider military assistance to armed groups fighting the Syrian government.

Pro-Israeli US Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, have also called for arming Syrian gangs with the help of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The pro-opposition Friends of Syria conference organized by a number of Western countries and the Arab League kicked off in Tunisia on Friday to discuss Syria unrest.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. The violence has claimed the lives of hundreds, reportedly including over 2,000 security forces.

Damascus blames ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups’ for the unrest, asserting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

from PressTV

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