Democracy, Human Rights in Europe at lowest level

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The rule of law in Europe is going through its most severe crisis since the Cold War, a report by the continent’s top human rights and democracy watchdog warns.

Most of the European countries are facing “very worrying” challenges to human rights, democracies and the rule of law, Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, wrote in the report. Continue reading “Democracy, Human Rights in Europe at lowest level”

Who holds the seven keys to the internet?

Meet the seven people who hold the keys to worldwide internet security

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: seven keys, held by individuals from all over the world, that together control security at the core of the web. The reality is rather closer to The Office than The Matrix

 The Guardian,              Friday 28 February 2014 08.00 EST

 

In a nondescript industrial estate in El Segundo, a boxy suburb in south-west Los Angeles just a mile or two from LAX international airport, 20 people wait in a windowless canteen for a ceremony to begin. Outside, the sun is shining on an unseasonably warm February day; inside, the only light comes from the glare of halogen bulbs.

There is a strange mix of accents – predominantly American, but smatterings of Swedish, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese can be heard around the room, as men and women (but mostly men) chat over pepperoni pizza and 75-cent vending machine soda. In the corner, an Asteroids arcade machine blares out tinny music and flashing lights. Continue reading “Who holds the seven keys to the internet?”

China blocks foreign news sites that revealed elite’s offshore holdings

• Guardian among sites blocked over reports • China Digital Times publishes details of directive

Chinese President Xi Jinping
The Chinese government has recently concentrated on improving the image of President Xi Jinping. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

The blocking of foreign news sites that revealed details of offshore holdings by the relatives of senior leaders has continued in China as reports emerged of a propaganda directive ordering websites and services to target users posting on the subject.

Details of the order were published by China Digital Times, a website that monitors censorship instructions.

“Immediately find and remove the foreign media report “China’s Secret Offshore Tax Havens” and related content. Interactive platforms must strictly check [users]. Related images and accusatory comments about leaders and the system [of government] must be deleted without exception,” said the instructions, according to CDT. Continue reading “China blocks foreign news sites that revealed elite’s offshore holdings”

Major computer security firm RSA took $10 mln from NSA to weaken encryption – report

 

 Published time: December 20, 2013 23:48                                                                                                     

                
 
RSA SecureID electronic keys (Reuters / Michael Caronna)

RSA SecureID electronic keys (Reuters / Michael Caronna)

                            

The National Security Agency arranged a clandestine US$10 million contract with computer security power RSA that allowed the spy agency to embed encryption software it could use to infiltrate the company’s widely used products, Reuters reported. Continue reading “Major computer security firm RSA took $10 mln from NSA to weaken encryption – report”

Spy agencies infiltrate gaming world

Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies

NSA and GCHQ collect gamers’ chats and deploy real-life agents into World of Warcraft and Second Life
Read the NSA document: Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments

James Ball

The Guardian,  Monday 9 December 2013 18.26 EST

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: the NSA described games communities as a ‘target-rich network’ where potential terrorists could ‘hide in plain sight’.

To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear:  their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency’s impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs.

That vision of spycraft sparked a concerted drive by the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ to infiltrate the massive communities playing online games, according to  secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The files were obtained by the Guardian and are being published on Monday in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica.

Continue reading “Spy agencies infiltrate gaming world”

US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to ‘unmask’ Britons’ personal data

• 2007 deal allows NSA to store previously restricted material • UK citizens not suspected of wrongdoing caught up in dragnet • Separate draft memo proposes US spying on ‘Five-Eyes’ allies
 

James Ball

theguardian.com,              Wednesday 20 November 2013 14.00 EST                

 
nsatear900 

The memo explains that the US and UK ‘worked together to come up with a new policy that expands the use of incidentally collected unminimized UK data.’

The phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing have been analysed and stored by America’s National Security Agency under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials, according to documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Continue reading “US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to ‘unmask’ Britons’ personal data”

Snowden document reveals key role of companies in NSA data collection

ScreenHunter_97 Nov. 02 10.15

NSA leverages relationships with commercial partners to collect vast quantities of data from fibre-optic cables, file shows

Tapping fibre-optic cables – see the NSA slide

NSA HQ at Fort Meade, Maryland

Yahoo, Microsoft and Google deny they co-operate voluntarily with the intelligence agencies. Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP

The key role private companies play in National Security Agency surveillance programs is detailed in a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published for the first time on Friday.

One slide in the undated PowerPoint presentation, published as part of the Guardian’s NSA Files: Decoded project, illustrates the number of intelligence reports being generated from data collected from the companies.

In the five weeks from June 5 2010, the period covered by the document, data from Yahoo generated by far the most reports, followed by Microsoft and then Google.

Between them, the three companies accounted for more than 2,000 reports in that period – all but a tiny fraction of the total produced under one of the NSA‘s main foreign intelligence authorities, the Fisa Amendents Act (FAA).

It is unclear how the information in the NSA slide relates to the companies’ own transparency reports, which document the number of requests for information received from authorities around the world.

Yahoo, Microsoft and Google deny they co-operate voluntarily with the intelligence agencies, and say they hand over data only after being forced to do so when served with warrants. The NSA told the Guardian that the companies’ co-operation was “legally compelled”.

But this week the Washington Post reported that the NSA and its UK equivalent GCHQ has been secretly intercepting the main communication links carrying Google and Yahoo users’ data around the world, and could collect information “at will” from among hundreds of millions of user accounts.

The NSA’s ability to collect vast quantities of data from the fibre-optic cables relies on relationships with the companies, the document published on Friday shows.

The presentation, titled “Corporate Partner Access” was prepared by the agency’s Special Source Operations division, which is responsible for running those programs.

In an opening section that deals primarily with the telecom companies, the SSO baldly sets out its mission: “Leverage unique key corporate partnerships to gain access to high-capacity international fiber-optic cables, switches and/or routes throughout the world.”

The NSA is helped by the fact that much of the world’s communications traffic passes through the US or its close ally the UK – what the agencies refer to as “home-field advantage”.

The new revelations come at a time of increasing strain in relations between the intelligence community and the private sector. Google and Yahoo reacted angrily on Wednesday to the Washington Post’s report on the interception of their data.

The Guardian approached all three companies for comment on the latest document.

“This points out once again the need for greater transparency,” a Google spokesman said.

He referred to a letter the company and other Silicon Valley giants sent to the Senate judiciary committee on Thursday. “The volume and complexity of the information that has been disclosed in recent months has created significant confusion here and around the world, making it more difficult to identify appropriate policy prescriptions,” the letter said.

A Microsoft spokesperson said: “We are deeply disturbed by these allegations, and if true they represent a significant breach of trust by the US and UK governments. It is clear that there need to be serious reforms to better protect customer privacy.”

Yahoo had not responded by the time of publication.

The companies are also fighting through the courts to be allowed to release more detailed figures for the number of data requests they handle from US intelligence agencies. Along with AOL, Apple and Facebook, they wrote to the Senate judiciary committee this week calling for greater transparency and “substantial” reform of the NSA.

Google, the first to publish a transparency report, has reported US authorities’ requests for user data increased by 85% between 2010 and 2012 (from 8,888 in 2010 to 16,407 in 2012). But the vast majority of those are requests from local law enforcement looking for information about potential drug traffickers, fraudsters and other domestic criminal activity.

Legally compelled NSA request relating to foreign terrorist targets, which none of the firms are allowed to disclose, are thought to represent a tiny fraction of the overall figure.

While the internet companies are listed by name in the NSA document, the telecoms companies are hidden behind covernames.

The names of these “corporate partners” are so sensitive that they are classified as “ECI” – Exceptionally Controlled Information – a higher classification level than the Snowden documents cover. Artifice, Lithium and Serenade are listed in other documents as covernames for SSO corporate partners, while Steelknight is described as an NSA partner facility.

In a statement defending its surveillance programs, the NSA said: “What NSA does is collect the communications of targets of foreign intelligence value, irrespective of the provider that carries them. US service provider communications make use of the same information superhighways as a variety of other commercial service providers.

“NSA must understand and take that into account in order to eliminate information that is not related to foreign intelligence.

“NSA works with a number of partners and allies in meeting its foreign-intelligence mission goals, and in every case those operations comply with US law and with the applicable laws under which those partners and allies operate.”

UPDATE: Microsoft issued a further statement after publication of the Guardian’s story. A spokesperson said: “Microsoft only discloses customer data when served with valid legal orders and in June we published a complete view of the volume of orders we received from the US government.

“But it is clear that much more transparency is needed to help the companies and their customers understand these issues.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/01/nsa-data-collection-tech-firms

Meet George Soros’ favorite African strongman

 

Posted By Brendan Bordelon On 2:22 PM 10/30/2013

George Soros, the billionaire banker who recently backed Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations, also supports and finances a corrupt African strongman dragging his country to the brink of civil unrest.

Soros is the chief foreign backer of Alpha Conde, president of the mineral-rich West African nation of Guinea. Through his many think tanks and consulting firms, Soros helped Conde fleece foreign mining companies, despite political corruption and human rights abuses.

Conde gained power in 2010 through Guinea’s first ostensibly free vote since it gained independence from France in 1958. The election was marred by probable voter fraud, as Conde suspiciously jumped from 18 percent in the first round of voting to 52 percent in the final tally.

Now it seems Conde may have stolen another election. Guinean opposition claims that the president rigged a parliamentary vote held last September by stacking the nation’s election commission with his cronies.

“We were flagrantly robbed,” an opposition spokesperson told The Guardian. U.S., EU, French and UN representatives openly denounced “shortcomings and irregularities [that could] undermine the credibility of certain results.”

“The election commission has only published 30 percent of the votes cast,” said Tomas Caprioglio, an EU official monitoring the election. “People exercised their right to vote. A solution must now be found to take account of the votes of all who participated.”

All sides are urging calm, fearful the unstable country could tip into violence. At least 50 people have been killed, and hundreds injured, by Conde’s security forces due to protests over the run-up to September’s vote.

Guinean news outlet Aminata reports that Conde also dissolved dozens of locally-elected councils and targeted ethnic minorities for state persecution.

Throughout all this, Soros has proven an ardent supporter and financier of the Conde regime. In early 2011 he spent four days with the autocrat, pledging legal support and at least $5 million in grants for the re-examination of Guinea’s mining contracts with foreign corporations.

“George Soros and his Open Society Foundations wholeheartedly support the principles announced by President Alpha Conde and will seek to help President Conde put these into effect,” a press release stated, referencing Conde’s claims that mining companies unfairly exploited Guineans and should return more profits to the Guinean government.

With the assistance of lawyers and cash from Soros group Revenue Watch, Conde overhauled Guinea’s mining regulations. The new code more than doubled the government’s share of mining profits — 15 percent to 35 percent — and mining firms must now pay the government $1 billion for a concession to mine a specific region, up from just $50 million previously.

The new rules backfired, freezing all but $300 million of the $20 billion in new investments headed for Guinea and effectively putting the country’s mining industry on hold. “The government’s current thinking is not aligned with the hard realities of the mining world,” a Guinean mining expert told Reuters in 2012.

Mandated investigations into corporate corruption — also supported by Soros’ legal team — are seen by some as a cover for outright nationalization. BSG Resources, one of the largest foreign mining firms in Guinea, called an ongoing probe into alleged graft “the fifth and most clumsy attempt by an already discredited Government of Guinea in an ongoing campaign to illegally seize BSGR’s assets.”

Even with a crumbling economy and escalating corruption and violence, Soros’ support for Conde has continued unabated. As recently as June he recommended his supporters read an op-ed by the president published in The Guardian.

“President Conde writes about the struggle to reform business practices in Guinea’s mining sector so all the people of Guinea can benefit from the country’s immense mineral wealth,” wrote Michael Vachon, a Soros Fund Management advisor rumored to be Soros’ personal political director. “Open Society Foundation has been in the forefront of promoting transparency, particularly in the governance of natural resources … [Conde’s] op-ed is an elegant statement of why the issue is so vital to [Africa’s] development.”

The Daily Caller News Foundation communicated with Vachon, but had not received comment at press time.

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Article printed from The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com

URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/30/meet-george-soros-favorite-african-strongman/

NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts

• Agency given more than 200 numbers by government official • NSA encourages departments to share their ‘Rolodexes’ • Surveillance produced ‘little intelligence’, memo acknowledges

 

    • James Ball
    • The Guardian, Thursday 24 October 2013 14.14 EDT
SID_460 View larger picture
The NSA memo suggests that such surveillance was not isolated as the agency routinely monitors world leaders. Photograph: Guardian

The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.

The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA.

The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone.

After Merkel’s allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” the German chancellor’s communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.

The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so.

The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled “Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers”.

It begins by setting out an example of how US officials who mixed with world leaders and politicians could help agency surveillance.

“In one recent case,” the memo notes, “a US official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders … Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus several others have been tasked.”

The document continues by saying the new phone numbers had helped the agency discover still more new contact details to add to their monitoring: “These numbers have provided lead information to other numbers that have subsequently been tasked.”

But the memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”. In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.

The memo then asks analysts to think about any customers they currently serve who might similarly be happy to turn over details of their contacts.

“This success leads S2 [signals intelligence] to wonder if there are NSA liaisons whose supported customers may be willing to share their ‘Rolodexes’ or phone lists with NSA as potential sources of intelligence,” it states. “S2 welcomes such information!”

The document suggests that sometimes these offers come unsolicited, with US “customers” spontaneously offering the agency access to their overseas networks.

“From time to time, SID is offered access to the personal contact databases of US officials,” it states. “Such ‘Rolodexes’ may contain contact information for foreign political or military leaders, to include direct line, fax, residence and cellular numbers.”

The Guardian approached the Obama administration for comment on the latest document. Officials declined to respond directly to the new material, instead referring to comments delivered by Carney at Thursday’s daily briefing.

Carney told reporters: “The [NSA] revelations have clearly caused tension in our relationships with some countries, and we are dealing with that through diplomatic channels.

“These are very important relations both economically and for our security, and we will work to maintain the closest possible ties.”

The public accusation of spying on Merkel adds to mounting political tensions in Europe about the scope of US surveillance on the governments of its allies, after a cascade of backlashes and apologetic phone calls with leaders across the continent over the course of the week.

Asked on Wednesday evening if the NSA had in the past tracked the German chancellor’s communications, Caitlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security Council spokeswoman, said: “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel. Beyond that, I’m not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.”

At the daily briefing on Thursday, Carney again refused to answer repeated questions about whether the US had spied on Merkel’s calls in the past.

The NSA memo seen by the Guardian was written halfway through George W Bush’s second term, when Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state and Donald Rumsfeld was in his final months as defence secretary.

Merkel, who, according to Reuters, suspected the surveillance after finding her mobile phone number written on a US document, is said to have called for US surveillance to be placed on a new legal footing during a phone call to President Obama.

“The [German] federal government, as a close ally and partner of the US, expects in the future a clear contractual basis for the activity of the services and their co-operation,” she told the president.

The leader of Germany’s Green party, Katrin Goring-Eckhart, called the alleged spying an “unprecedented breach of trust” between the two countries.

Earlier in the week, Obama called the French president François Hollande in response to reports in Le Monde that the NSA accessed more than 70m phone records of French citizens in a single 30-day period, while earlier reports in Der Spiegel uncovered NSA activity against the offices and communications of senior officials of the European Union.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, this week backed proposals that could require US tech companies to seek permission before handing over EU citizens’ data to US intelligence agencies, while the European parliament voted in favour of suspending a transatlantic bank data sharing agreement after Der Spiegel revealed the agency was monitoring the international bank transfer system Swift.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/nsa-surveillance-world-leaders-calls

Fructose: the poison index

A ruling on fructose boosts the powerful sugar industry, either by incompetence or collusion, but is based on pseudoscience

    • Robert Lustig
    • The Guardian,              Monday 21 October 2013 16.00 EDT
Fructose Lustig

Fizzy drinks can have a ‘serum fructose concentration of six micromolar, enough to do major arterial and pancreatic damage’. Photograph: Nathalie Louvel/Getty Images

The battle over the compound fructose now reaches new levels of obfuscation. The food industry is a strong – and loud, and rich – proponent, hard to ignore. The European Food and Safety Agency has just weighed in, in favour of the substitution of sucrose (table sugar: a disaccharide composed of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose) with fructose alone, the sweeter of the two – even to the point of allowing health claims for fructose on the packaging of processed foods.

And yet the scientific data on fructose says it is one of the most egregious components of the western diet, directly contributing to heart disease and diabetes, and associated with cancer and dementia. Nature magazine has just published a scathing indictment of fructose by Dr Lewis Cantley, one of the US’s leading cancer researchers. But the EFSA says it sees no harm, justifying its stance on the basis that fructose has a lower glycaemic index than glucose.

The concept of glycaemic index is simple. This is how high your blood glucose rises after ingesting 50 grams of carbohydrate in any specific food, which is a measure of a food’s generation of an insulin response, and is used as a way of showing a food’s potential for weight gain. Glycaemic index is a proxy for how high your insulin level will rise, which determines whether that blood glucose will get shunted to fat cells for storage. Low-glycaemic-index diets promote blood sugar stability and are associated with weight loss. But the EFSA has missed the point. Glycaemic index is not the issue.

Glycaemic load is where it’s at. This takes into account how much of a given food one must eat to obtain 50 grams of carbohydrate. The perfect example is carrots. Carrots have a high glycaemic index – if you consume 50 grams of carbohydrate in carrots, your blood sugar will rise pretty high. But you would have to eat 1.3lbs – 600 grams – of carrots to get 50 grams of carbohydrate. Highly unlikely. Any high-glycaemic-index food can become a low-glycaemic-load food if it’s eaten with its inherent fibre. That means “real food”. But fructose is made in a lab. It’s anything but “real”.

Yes, fructose has a low glycaemic index of 19, because it doesn’t increase blood glucose. It’s fructose, for goodness sake. It increases blood fructose, which is way worse. Fructose causes seven times as much cell damage as does glucose, because it binds to cellular proteins seven times faster; and it releases 100 times the number of oxygen radicals (such as hydrogen peroxide, which kills everything in sight). Indeed, a 20oz soda results in a serum fructose concentration of six micromolar, enough to do major arterial and pancreatic damage. Glycaemic index is a canard; and fructose makes it so. Because fructose’s poisonous effects have nothing to do with glycaemic index; they are beyond glycaemic index.

The food industry is fond of referring to a 1999 study showing that liver fat generation from oral fructose occurs at a very low rate (less than 5%). And that’s true, if you’re thin, insulin sensitive, fasting (and therefore glycogen-depleted), and given just fructose alone (which is poorly absorbed). Conversely, if you’re obese, insulin resistant, well fed, and getting both fructose and glucose together (like a sizable percentage of the population), then fructose gets converted to fat at a much higher rate, approximating 30%. In other words, the toxicity of fructose depends on context.

The industry points to meta-analyses of controlled isocaloric “fructose for glucose” exchange studies that demonstrate no effect from fructose on weight gain or other morbidities. Perhaps one reason for this is because crystalline fructose is incompletely absorbed. When that happens, residual fructose in the gastrointestinal system causes pain, bloating, and diarrhoea: ask any child the morning after Halloween in between trips to the bathroom relieving his diarrhoea. Furthermore, those meta-analyses where fructose was supplied in excess do show weight gain, high levels of lipids in the blood, and insulin resistance. The dose determines the poison.

The EFSA has boosted the position of the sugar industry, either through incompetence or collusion. But it is clear that this recommendation is scientifically bogus. Nutritional policy should be based on science – not pseudoscience, as we have seen over the past 30 years.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/21/fructose-poison-sugar-industry-pseudoscience

 

Obesity experts appalled by EU move to approve health claim for fructose / high-fructose corn syrup is a healthy alternative

Food firms using fructose will be able to boast of health benefits despite fruit sugar being implicated in soaring US obesity levels

    • Sarah Boseley, health editor
    • The Guardian,  Thursday 17 October 2013 16.27 EDT
Fizzy drink can

Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is used in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other sweetened drinks. Photograph: Alamy

Obesity experts say they are appalled by an EU decision to allow a “health claim” for fructose, the sweetener implicated in the disastrous upsurge in weight in the US.

Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is used in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other sweetened US drinks. Many believe the use of high-fructose corn syrup caused obesity to rise faster in the US than elsewhere in the world. Europe has largely used cane and beet sugar instead.

But the EU has now ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim their sweetened products are healthier if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose.

The decision was taken on the advice of the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), on the grounds that fructose has a lower glycaemic index (GI) – it does not cause as high and rapid a blood sugar spike as sucrose or glucose.

But, say obesity experts, fructose is metabolised differently from other sugars – it goes straight to the liver and unprocessed excess is stored there as fat, building up deposits that can cause life-threatening disease.

There is potential for products high in sugar including soft drinks, cereal bars and low-fat yoghurts to make health claims by using fructose. Lucozade Original contains 33g of sugar in a 380ml bottle, Sprite has 21.8g of sugar in 330ml cans and Dr  Pepper 34.1g per 330ml.

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Elevenses bars have 18g of sugar in a 45g bar – so are more than a third sugar.

Barry Popkin – distinguished professor in the department of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the US, who co-authored the groundbreaking paper linking high-fructose corn syrup to obesity in 2003 – said the ruling would lead to claims from food and drink firms that would mislead consumers.

“This claim is so narrow and it will confuse a whole lot of people,” he said. “That’s what the industry does an awful lot of. People see it and think, ‘ah maybe it’s healthy.’

“It brings into question the whole area of health claims. They are made on such short-term effects.”

Drinking pomegranate juice might give you all the vitamin C and antioxidants you need that day, but six months of regular drinking could raise the risk of diabetes, he said.

A health claim relating to a lower glycaemic index ignored the wider and more important public health issue, he said: that we should all consume less fructose and other sugars.

George Bray, head of the division of clinical obesity and metabolism at the Pennington biomedical research centre in Louisiana and co-author of the fructose paper, said he could see no rational reason for adding pure fructose to the diet.

“Assuming that it is correct that manufacturers can substitute up to 30% fructose for glucose or sucrose, it would be a very sad commentary on their review of the literature,” he said.

“The quantity of fructose appearing in the diet is already excessive in my view. [Focusing on the fact that] fructose does not raise glucose as much ignores all of the detrimental effects of fructose from whatever source.”

Michael Goran, director of childhood obesity research at the University of Southern California, said that although it had a lower GI, “in the long term, excess fructose is more damaging metabolically for the body than other sugars”.

He added: “This opens the door for the beverage and food industry to start replacing sucrose with fructose, which is presumably cheaper.”

More people in Europe will be consuming more fructose as a result, he said. “This is a dangerous and problematic issue. There is going to be a big increase in fructose exposure.  There is going to be a big increase in fructose exposure.”

The European Heart Network raised concerns with DG Sanco, the European commission’s health department, and asked it to share its views with member states. Its director, Susanne Logstrup, warned that replacing glucose and sucrose with “healthier” fructose might make people think a drink or food was less fattening.

“If the replacement of glucose/sucrose is not isocaloric, replacement could lead to a higher caloric content. In the EU, the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is generally too high and it would not be in the interest of public health if intake were to increase,” she said.

Professor Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation health promotion research group at Oxford University and an adviser to the European Heart Network, said it was important the EU looked at nutritional health claims – and that it had in recent years taken a tougher stance.

“But here is an example in fructose of a claim that is technically probably true but has no public health benefit,” he said.

Industry is delighted by the EU ruling. Galam Group, an Israeli fructose manufacturer, called the move “a game-changing step” in comments to the trade journal Nutra Ingredients. It said it expected a surge in sales from 2 January, when the ruling takes effect.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/oct/17/obesity-experts-appalled-eu-fructose-health-claim-approval

British spies ‘hid activities from MPs’

Former Labour minister accuses spies of ignoring MPs over surveillance

Nick Brown says there is ‘uncanny’ similarity between GCHQ programmes exposed by Edward Snowden and bill’s proposals

 

Nick Brown

Former minister Nick Brown says mass surveillance appears to be happening ‘with or without parliament’s consent’. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images

A former Labour cabinet minister has warned that GCHQ and Britain’s other intelligence agencies appear to be undertaking mass surveillance without parliament’s consent because the coalition failed to get the so-called “snoopers’ charter” passed into law after Liberal Democrat opposition.

Nick Brown, a former chief whip who sat on the parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft communications data bill, said there was an “uncanny” similarity between the GCHQ surveillance programmes exposed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden and proposals in the first part of the bill.

The communications data bill – dubbed the “snoopers’ charter” by critics – would have given GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 much greater powers to gather and save information about people’s internet activities but it was shelved in the spring amid Lib Dem fears that it intruded too much into privacy.

Brown, a Labour MP, said that it “looks very much like this is what is happening anyway, with or without parliament’s consent” under GCHQ’s secret Tempora programme, which was revealed by the Guardian in July in reports based on files leaked by Snowden. Tempora allows GCHQ to harvest, store and analyse millions of phone calls, emails and search engine queries by tapping the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic.

Brown’s remarks closely echo those of Lord Blencathra, the Conservative chairman of the committee and a former Home Office minister, who on Monday said GCHQ may be operating “outside the law or on the very edge of the law” because of Tempora.

But in parliament, Theresa May, the home secretary, told the home affairs select committee there was nothing in the Snowden files that changed the case for new laws giving the security services more powers to monitor the internet. She also described the Guardian’s publication of the material as “damaging to the public interest” and repeatedly rejected the need for a debate on oversight of the intelligence agencies.

Afterwards, it emerged that Julian Smith, a Conservative MP, had written to the Metropolitan police asking the force to investigate whether the Guardian has broken the law by communicating intelligence information obtained from Snowden. The MP wrote to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to ask if offences had been committed under Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 or the Official Secrets Act.

A Guardian spokesman said: “The high public interest in the stories we have responsibly published is evidenced by the debates, presidential review and proposed legislative reforms in the US Congress, throughout Europe and in Westminster. We’re surprised that, once again, it is being proposed that terror legislation should be used against journalists.”

Brown, an ally of the former prime minister Gordon Brown, also called for “grown-up cross-party discussions” to look at how to protect the privacy of individual citizens as the security services seek to expand their ability to monitor the internet.

“The similarity between part 1 of the proposed data communications bill and the events Mr Snowden is describing as already taking place is uncanny,” Brown said. “It covers the same set of circumstances. The bill was trying to be permissive in that all material could be saved for a year. It now looks very much like this is what is happening anyway, with or without parliament’s consent.

“I agree with Lord Blencathra’s account of the evidence. I was sufficiently concerned not to accept part 1 of the [draft communications data] bill.”

On Tuesday night, two other Liberal Democrat members of the joint committee also questioned why the Home Office did not reveal the extent of GCHQ’s spying capabilities during the committee’s inquiry, which concluded the bill carried a risk of “trampling on the privacy of citizens”.

Lord Strasburger, a businessman, said nothing was mentioned about Tempora during two private “no holds barred sessions with the Home Office”. “You have to wonder why, even in the secret sessions, none of the witnesses mentioned Project Tempora … It was highly relevant to our work and I believe that deliberate failure to reveal it amounts to misleading parliament,” he said.

Last night, Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, mounted a defence of the ability of journalists at her own paper and at the Guardian to publish public interest stories based on the  files leaked by Snowden.

“I think … that those articles are very much in the public interest and inform the public,” she said on BBC’s Newsnight.

On claims by MI5 director general Andrew Parker that newspaper reports were causing “enormous damage” to the fight against terrorism, Abramson said that there had been no proof of actual harm to security.

Julian Huppert, a Liberal Democrat MP on the committee, also said he thought it was astonishing that May did not reveal the current capabilities of GCHQ to the committee through their Tempora and Prism programmes.

“Those of us on the committee were never told by any Home Office officials about the fact the data was already available,” Huppert said. “In our report, we accused them of being misleading. It seems they were far more misleading than we could have realised at the time. Presumably, the home secretary knew that this was information they already had available, in which case she was not fully open with the committee. If she didn’t know, that raises real questions about her role.”

He said the government must reveal which ministers knew about Tempora  after Chris Huhne, the former Lib Dem energy secretary, said he was not aware of the programme during his time in government.

“We know the cabinet was not briefed,” Huppert said. “We have no idea who was. Was it just the prime minister? Was it a handful of others? Who made the decision not to tell other people? This is incredibly alarming. I hope we will be able to see proper debate and parliamentary scrutiny of this issue. We know that the security services play a very important role but they should operate with public consent.”

• This article was amended on 16 October 2013. The original piece omitted a paragraph explaining that Julian Huppert was a member of the committee scrutinising the draft communications data bill. The paragraph has been reinstated.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/15/former-labour-minister-spies-surveillance

 

Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’

 

Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022

 

 

Link to video: Qatar: the migrant workers forced to work for no pay in World Cup host country

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also reveals:

Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.

• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.

• Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.

• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.

• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us,” said one Nepalese migrant employed at Lusail City development, a $45bn (£28bn) city being built from scratch which will include the 90,000-seater stadium that will host the World Cup final. “I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

The body tasked with organising the World Cup, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told the Guardian that work had yet to begin on projects directly related to the World Cup. However, it said it was “deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City’s construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness”. It added: “We have been informed that the relevant government authorities are conducting an investigation into the allegations.”

The Guardian’s investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Almost all migrant workers have huge debts from Nepal, accrued in order to pay recruitment agents for their jobs. The obligation to repay these debts, combined with the non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their place of work, constitute forced labour, a form of modern-day slavery estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe. So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an “open jail”.

Nepal embassy record               

Record of deaths in July 2013, from all causes, held by the Nepalese embassy in Doha.  Photograph:  /guardian.co.uk

“The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar,” said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded in 1839. “In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Qatar has the highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population in the world: more than 90% of the workforce are immigrants and the country is expected to recruit up to 1.5 million more labourers to build the stadiums, roads, ports and hotels needed for the tournament. Nepalese account for about 40% of migrant labourers in Qatar. More than 100,000 Nepalese left for the emirate last year.

The murky system of recruitment brokers in Asia and labour contractors in Qatar leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. The supreme committee has insisted that decent labour standards will be set for all World Cup contracts, but underneath it a complex web of project managers, construction firms and labour suppliers, employment contractors and recruitment agents operate.

According to some estimates, Qatar will spend $100bn on infrastructure projects to support the World Cup. As well as nine state-of-the-art stadiums, the country has committed to $20bn worth of new roads, $4bn for a causeway connecting Qatar to Bahrain, $24bn for a high-speed rail network, and 55,000  hotel rooms to accommodate visiting fans and has almost completed a new airport.

The World Cup is part of an even bigger programme of construction in Qatar designed to remake the tiny desert kingdom over the next two decades. Qatar has yet to start building stadiums for 2022, but has embarked on the big infrastructure projects likesuch as Lusail City that, according to the US project managers, Parsons, “will play a major role during the 2022 Fifa World Cup”. The British engineering company Halcrow, part of the CH2M Hill group, is a lead consultant on the Lusail project responsible for “infrastructure design and construction supervision”. CH2M Hill was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee. It says it has a “zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices”.

Halcrow said: “Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment. The terms of employment of a contractor’s labour force is not under our direct purview.”

Some Nepalese working at Lusail City tell desperate stories. They are saddled with huge debts they are paying back at interest rates of up to 36%, yet say they are forced to work without pay.

“The company has kept two months’ salary from each of us to stop us running away,” said one man who gave his name as SBD and who works at the Lusail City marina. SBD said he was employed by a subcontractor that supplies labourers for the project. Some workers say their subcontrator has confiscated their passports and refused to issue the ID cards they are entitled to under Qatari law. “Our manager always promises he’ll issue [our cards] ‘next week’,” added a scaffolder who said he had worked in Qatar for two years without being given an ID card.

Without official documentation, migrant workers are in effect reduced to the status of illegal aliens, often unable to leave their place of work without fear of arrest and not entitled to any legal protection. Under the state-run kafala sponsorship system, workers are also unable to change jobs or leave the country without their sponsor company’s permission.

A third worker, who was equally reluctant to give his name for fear of reprisal,  added: “We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job. The police could catch us at any time and send us back home. We can’t get a resident permit if we leave.”

Other workers said they were forced to work long hours in temperatures of up to 50C (122F) without access to drinking water.

grieving parents Nepal             

   Dalli Kahtri and her husband, Lil Man, hold photos of their sons, both of whom died while working as migrants in Malaysia and Qatar. Their younger son (foreground photo) died in Qatar from a heart attack, aged 20. Photograph: Peter Pattison/guardian.co.uk

The Qatari labour ministry said it had strict rules governing working in the heat, the provision of labour and the prompt payment of salaries.

“The ministry enforces this law through periodic inspections to ensure that workers have in fact received their wages in time. If a company does not comply with the law, the ministry applies penalties  and refers the case to the judicial authorities.”

Lusail Real Estate Company said: “Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor. We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Based on this investigation, we will take appropriate action against any individual or company who has found to have broken the law or contract with us.”

The workers’ plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.

“Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar’s extreme heat on a few hundred footballers,” said Umesh Upadhyaya, general secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions. “But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match.”

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/revealed-qatars-world-cup-slaves

The Russian government is asking for ‘planet hacking’ to be included in the climate science report, leaked documents show

Russia urges UN climate report to include geoengineering

    • Martin Lukacs, Suzanne Goldenberg and Adam Vaughan
    • The Guardian, Thursday 19 September 2013 12.00 EDT
Geoengineering : SPICE , Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering : clouds and sun

Documents seen by the Guardian show Russia is asking for a conclusion of the report to recommend geoengineering. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Russia is pushing for next week’s landmark UN climate science report to include support for controversial technologies to geoengineer the planet’s climate, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

As climate scientists prepare to gather for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm to present the most authoritative state of climate science to date, it has emerged the Russian government is asking for “planet hacking” to be included in the report. The IPCC has not included geoengineering in its major assessments before.

The documents seen by the Guardian show Russia is asking for a conclusion of the report to say that a “possible solution of this [climate change] problem can be found in using of [sic] geoengineering methods to stabilise current climate.” Russia also highlighted that its scientists are developing geoengineering technologies.

Geoengineering aims to cool the Earth by methods including spraying sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight, or fertilising the oceans with iron to create carbon-capturing algal blooms.

Such ideas are increasingly being discussed by western scientists and governments as a plan B for addressing climate change, with the new astronomer royal, Professor Sir Martin Rees, calling last week for such methods to buy time to develop sources of clean energy. But the techniques have been criticised as a way for powerful, industrialised nations to dodge their commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

Some modelling has shown geoengineering could be effective at reducing the Earth’s temperature, but manipulation of sensitive planetary systems in one area of the world could also result in drastic unintended consequences globally, such as radically disrupted rainfall.

Responding to efforts to discredit the climate science with a spoiler campaign in advance of the report, the chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra K Pachauri, said he was confident the high standards of the science in the report would make the case for climate action. He said: “There will be enough information provided so that rational people across the globe will see that action is needed on climate change.”

The Russian scientist Yuri Izrael, who has participated in IPCC geoengineering expert groups and was an adviser to the former Russian president Vladimir Putin, conducted an experiment in 2009 that sprayed particles from a helicopter to assess how much sunlight was blocked by the aerosol plume. A planned test in Britain that would have used a balloon attached to a 1km hose to develop equipment for spraying was prevented after a public outcry.

Observers have suggested that Russia’s admission that it is developing geoengineering may put it in violation of the UN moratorium on geoengineering projects established at the Biodiversity Convention in 2010 and should be discussed on an emergency basis when the convention’s scientific subcommittee meets in Montreal in October.

Civil society organisations have previously raised concerns that expert groups writing geoengineering sections of the IPCC report were dominated by US, UK and Canadian geoengineering advocates who have called for public funding of large-scale experiments or who have taken out commercial patents on geoenginering technologies. One scientist who served as a group co-chair, David Keith of Harvard University, runs a private geoengineering company, has planned tests in New Mexico, and is publicising a new book called The Case for Climate Engineering.

Nearly 160 civil society, indigenous and environmental organisations signed a letter in 2011 urging caution and calling on the IPCC not to legitimise geoengineering.

Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of the technology watchdog ETC Group, said: “We have been warning that a few geoengineering advocates have been trying to hijack the IPCC for their agenda. We are now seeing a deliberate attempt to exploit the high profile and credibility of this body in order to create more mainstream support for extreme climate engineering. The public and policymakers need to be on guard against being steamrollered into accepting dangerous and immoral interventions with our planet, which are a false solution to climate change. Geoengineering should be banned by the UN general assembly.”

Matthew Watson, a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol’s Earth sciences department and one of the team behind the cancelled balloon project, said: “In general ought the IPCC to be thinking about geoengineering? Yes. But do I want to see unilateralism or regionalism affect the debate? Certainly not. The people who don’t like geoengineering will suggest the IPCC is a method for normalising it.”

He added: “The IPCC has to be very careful about how it handles this [geoengineering] because it is clearly a very significant output that people are very mindful of.”

While the IPCC is intended to be a scientific advisory panel, government delegates have been reviewing the summary report and make final decisions about it in Stockholm at the end of the month.

Sweden, Norway and Germany expressed more scepticism about geoengineering and asked that the report underline its potential dangers.

“The information on geoengineering options is too optimistic as it does not appropriately reflect the current lack of knowledge or the high risks associated with such methods,” noted the German government.

Geoengineering is expected to play a much larger role in the next IPCC reports coming out in 2014. Observers were surprised that it had turned up in this first major report – meant to assess physical science rather than mitigation strategies.

Russia’s climate negotiators did not respond to a request for comment.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/19/russia-un-climate-report-geoengineering

 

US spy agency broke encryption on UN communications – report

Эдвард Сноуден шпион Цру CIA Призма Призм Prism слежка шпионаж США

© Collage: Voice of Russia

The US National Security Agency broke the encryption securing the United Nations’ internal video conferencing at its New York headquarters, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday, citing secret NSA documents.

0The move provided the agency with “a dramatic improvement of data from video teleconferences and the ability to decrypt this data traffic”, the magazine quoted an NSA document as saying.

0It said the NSA, which for months has been at the centre of revelations by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, broke the encryption in the summer of 2012 and within nearly three weeks, had bumped up the number of decrypted communications from 12 to 458.

0The NSA, on one occasion, also allegedly caught the Chinese secret services eavesdropping on the UN in 2011, it added, quoting an internal report.

0Der Spiegel also claims that the US agency kept tabs on the European Union after it moved into new offices in New York in September 2012.

0Among documents provided by Snowden were plans of the EU’s premises, which the NSA codenamed “Apalachee”.

0Earlier reports in Der Spiegel and Britain’s the Guardian newspaper had detailed alleged widespread covert surveillance by the NSA of EU offices, including diplomatic missions in Washington and at the United Nations in New York, as well as at the 28-member bloc’s Brussels headquarters.

0The US administration has scrambled to defend spying programmes in the wake of the leaks by Snowden, a former IT contractor at the NSA.

0Revelations about PRISM and other programmes by the NSA to capture and store personal information gleaned from emails, phone calls and web searches have sparked outrage in Europe.

0Snowden received temporary asylum in Russia on August 1 but is wanted by Washington on espionage charges linked to his media disclosures.

0Voice of Russia, AFP

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_08_25/US-spy-agency-broke-encryption-on-UN-communications-report-5674/

 

NSA paid millions to cover Prism compliance costs for tech companies

• Top-secret files show first evidence of financial relationship • Prism companies include Google and Yahoo, says NSA • Costs were incurred after 2011 Fisa court ruling

 

PRISM: 'really freaky'.

The material provides the first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA.

The National Security Agency paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program after a court ruled that some of the agency’s activities were unconstitutional, according to top-secret material passed to the Guardian.

The technology companies, which the NSA says includes Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook, incurred the costs to meet new certification demands in the wake of the ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court.

The October 2011 judgment, which was declassified on Wednesday by the Obama administration, found that the NSA’s inability to separate purely domestic communications from foreign traffic violated the fourth amendment.

While the ruling did not concern the Prism program directly, documents passed to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden describe the problems the decision created for the agency and the efforts required to bring operations into compliance. The material provides the first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA.

The intelligence agency requires the Fisa court to sign annual “certifications” that provide the legal framework for surveillance operations. But in the wake of the court judgment these were only being renewed on a temporary basis while the agency worked on a solution to the processes that had been ruled illegal.

An NSA newsletter entry, marked top secret and dated December 2012, discloses the huge costs this entailed. “Last year’s problems resulted in multiple extensions to the certifications’ expiration dates which cost millions of dollars for Prism providers to implement each successive extension – costs covered by Special Source Operations,” it says.

Fisa 1

An NSA newsletter entry dated December 2012 disclosing the costs of new certification demands. Photograph: guardian.co.ukSpecial Source Operations, described by Snowden as the “crown jewel” of the NSA, handles all surveillance programs, such as Prism, that rely on “corporate partnerships” with telecoms and internet providers to access communications data.

The disclosure that taxpayers’ money was used to cover the companies’ compliance costs raises new questions over the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA. Since the existence of the program was first revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post on June 6, the companies have repeatedly denied all knowledge of it and insisted they only hand over user data in response to specific legal requests from the authorities.

An earlier newsletter, which is undated, states that the Prism providers were all given new certifications within days of the Fisa court ruling. “All Prism providers, except Yahoo and Google, were successfully transitioned to the new certifications. We expect Yahoo and Google to complete transitioning by Friday 6 October.”

Fisa 2                An earlier undated newsletter after the Fisa court ruling on certifications. Photograph: guardian.co.ukThe Guardian invited the companies to respond to the new material and asked each one specific questions about the scale of the costs they incurred, the form of the reimbursement and whether they had received any other payments from the NSA in relation to the Prism program.

A Yahoo spokesperson said: “Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law.”

Asked about the reimbursement of costs relating to compliance with Fisa court certifications, Facebook responded by saying it had “never received any compensation in connection with responding to a government data request”.

Google did not answer any of the specific questions put to it, and provided only a general statement denying it had joined Prism or any other surveillance program. It added: “We await the US government’s response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today.”

Microsoft declined to give a response on the record.

The responses further expose the gap between how the NSA describes the operation of its Prism collection program and what the companies themselves say.

Prism operates under section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act, which authorises the NSA to target without a warrant the communications of foreign nationals believed to be not on US soil.

But Snowden’s revelations have shown that US emails and calls are collected in large quantities in the course of these 702 operations, either deliberately because the individual has been in contact with a foreign intelligence target or inadvertently because the NSA is unable to separate out purely domestic communications.

Last week, the Washington Post revealed documents from Snowden that showed the NSA breached privacy rules thousands of times a year, in the face of repeated assurances from Barack Obama and other senior intelligence figures that there was no evidence of unauthorised surveillance of Americans.

The newly declassified court ruling, by then chief Fisa judge John Bates, also revealed serious issues with how the NSA handled the US communications it was sweeping up under its foreign intelligence authorisations.

The judgment revealed that the NSA was collecting up to 56,000 wholly US internet communications per year in the three years until the court intervened. Bates also rebuked the agency for misrepresenting the true scope of a major collection program for the third time in three years.

The NSA newsletters say the agency’s response to the ruling was to work on a “conservative solution in which higher-risk collection would be sequestered”. At the same time, one entry states, the NSA’s general counsel was considering filing an appeal.

The Guardian informed the White House, the NSA and the office of the director of national intelligence that it planned to publish the documents and asked whether the spy agency routinely covered all the costs of the Prism providers and what the annual cost was to the US.

The NSA declined to comment beyond requesting the redaction of the name of an individual staffer in one of the documents.

UPDATE: After publication, Microsoft issued a statement to the Guardian on Friday afternoon.

A spokesperson for Microsoft, which seeks reimbursement from the government on a case-by-case basis, said: “Microsoft only complies with court orders because it is legally ordered to, not because it is reimbursed for the work. We could have a more informed discussion of these issues if providers could share additional information, including aggregate statistics on the number of any national security orders they may receive.”

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/23/nsa-prism-costs-tech-companies-paid

Internet Companies Paid Millions for Spying Activity

By NICK DIVITO

 

(CN) – The National Security Agency paid millions of dollars to Internet companies like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Facebook to cover costs of its PRISM surveillance program, according to secret documents obtained by The Guardian and published on its website.

The money was paid even after the agency’s activities were ruled unconstitutional by a secret court known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according the documents provided to the newspaper by Edward Snowden.

The so-called FISC court was to sign annual “certifications” of approval, but such certifications were only renewed temporarily while the agency sought a solution to what was ruled to be the over-collection of information that FISC Judge John Bates ruled unconstitutional on Oct. 3, 2013.

The order and two others by Bates were declassified two days ago.

“Last year’s problems resulted in multiple extensions to the Certifications’ expiration dates which cost millions of dollars for PRISM providers to implement each successive extension — costs covered by Special Source Operations,” said a December 2012 memo posted by the English newspaper.

Special Source Operations oversees the agency’s surveillance programs, including PRISM., to off-set costs associated with accessing Internet providers’ data, the paper reported.

The Internet companies have repeatedly denied any knowledge of the surveillance program.

An undated newsletter, also posted on Friday, says PRISM providers were given new “certifications” within days of the FISC ruling.

“All Prism providers, except Yahoo and Google, were successfully were successfully transitioned to the new certifications,” the memo reads. “We expect Yahoo and Google to complete transitioning by Friday 6 Oct.”

A Yahoo! Spokesman told The Guardian that it has requested reimbursement from the federal government for costs incurred to respond to requests. Google gave the paper only a “general statement” denying it had joined PRISM.

Microsoft told the paper that it only complies with court orders for information because it is ordered to, not because it is reimbursed on a case-by-case basis.

Bates’ October 2011 ruling showed that the NSA had collected up to 56,000 communications a year in three years. He accused the agency of misrepresenting the real scope of the program and collecting data that went beyond what was represented: domestic communications from foreign traffic.

The NSA has disclosed that it gathered 250 million Internet communications a year, and that 9 percent of those come from “upstream channels” of up to 25 million emails a year.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the federal government in Manhattan Federal Court over its alleged spying activities, is expected to provide the court an opening brief for preliminary injunction. The government, meanwhile, is expected to provide a motion to dismiss.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/08/23/60564.htm

Exclusive: Edward Snowden leaks reveal UK’s secret Middle-East internet surveillance base

EEV: Base has been Compromised

 

 

 

Data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn web project still being assembled by GCHQ

Duncan Campbell, Oliver Wright, James Cusick, Kim Sengupta

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.

The station is able to tap into and extract data from the underwater fibre-optic cables passing through the region.

The information is then processed for intelligence and passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham and shared with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The Government claims the station is a key element in the West’s “war on terror” and provides a vital “early warning” system for potential attacks around the world.

The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden. The Guardian newspaper’s reporting on these documents in recent months has sparked a dispute with the Government, with GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives containing the data.

The Middle East installation is regarded as particularly valuable by the British and Americans because it can access submarine cables passing through the region. All of the messages and data passed back and forth on the cables is copied into giant computer storage “buffers” and then sifted for data of special interest.

Information about the project was contained in 50,000 GCHQ documents that Mr Snowden downloaded during 2012. Many of them came from an internal Wikipedia-style information site called GC-Wiki. Unlike the public Wikipedia, GCHQ’s wiki was generally classified Top Secret  or above.

The disclosure comes as the Metropolitan Police announced it was launching a terrorism investigation into material found on the computer of David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – who is at the centre of the Snowden controversy.

1-snowden-AFP-Getty.jpg

Scotland Yard said material examined so far from the computer of Mr Miranda was “highly sensitive”, the disclosure of which “could put lives at risk”.

The Independent understands that The Guardian agreed to the Government’s request not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security.

As well as destroying a computer containing one copy of the Snowden files, the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, agreed to restrict the newspaper’s reporting of the documents.

The Government also demanded that the paper not publish details of how UK telecoms firms, including BT and Vodafone, were secretly collaborating with GCHQ to intercept the vast majority of all internet traffic entering the country. The paper had details of the highly controversial and secret programme for over a month. But it only published information on the scheme – which involved paying the companies to tap into fibre-optic cables entering Britain – after the allegations appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. A Guardian spokeswoman refused to comment on any deal with the Government.

A senior Whitehall source said: “We agreed with The Guardian that our  discussions with them would remain confidential”.

But there are fears in Government that Mr Greenwald – who still has access to the files – could attempt to release damaging information.

He said after the arrest of Mr Miranda: “I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I have many more documents on England’s spy system. I think  they will be sorry for what they did.”

1-miranda-AP.jpg

One of the areas of concern in Whitehall is that details of the Middle East spying base which could identify its location could enter the public domain.

The data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn internet project still being assembled by GCHQ. It is part of the surveillance and monitoring system, code-named “Tempora”, whose wider aim is the global interception of digital communications, such as emails and text messages.

Across three sites, communications – including telephone calls – are tracked both by satellite dishes and by tapping into underwater fibre-optic cables.

Access to Middle East traffic has become critical to both US and UK intelligence agencies post-9/11. The Maryland headquarters of the NSA and the Defence Department in Washington have pushed for greater co-operation and technology sharing between US and UK intelligence agencies.

The Middle East station was set up under a warrant signed by the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband, authorising GCHQ to monitor and store for analysis data passing through the network of fibre-optic cables that link up the internet around the world

The certificate authorised GCHQ to collect information about the “political intentions of foreign powers”, terrorism, proliferation, mercenaries and private military companies, and serious financial fraud.

However, the certificates are reissued every six months and can be changed by ministers at will. GCHQ officials are then free to target anyone who is overseas or communicating from overseas without further checks or controls if they think they fall within the terms of a current certificate.

The precise budget for this expensive covert technology is regarded as sensitive by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.

However, the scale of Middle East operation, and GCHQ’s increasing use of sub-sea technology to intercept communications along high-capacity cables, suggest a substantial investment.

Intelligence sources have denied the aim is a blanket gathering of all communications, insisting the operation is targeted at security, terror and organised crime.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-edward-snowden-leaks-reveal-uks-secret-middleeast-internet-surveillance-base-8781082.html#

Britain forced Guardian to destroy copy of Snowden material

Source: Reuters – Mon, 19 Aug 2013 10:28 PM

Author: Reuters

 

 

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) – The editor of the Guardian, a major outlet for revelations based on leaks from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, says the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed the classified documents or handed them back to British authorities.

In an article posted on the British newspaper’s website on Monday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said that a month ago, after the newspaper had published several stories based on Snowden’s material, a British official advised him: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

After further talks with the government, Rusbridger said, two “security experts” from Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the ultra-secretive U.S. National Security Agency, visited the Guardian’s London offices.

In the building’s basement, Rusbridger wrote, government officials watched as computers which contained material provided by Snowden were physically pulverized. “We can call off the black helicopters,” Rusbridger says one of the officials joked.

The Guardian’s decision to publicize the government threat – and the newspaper’s assertion that it can continue reporting on the Snowden revelations from outside of Britain – appears to be the latest step in an escalating battle between the news media and governments over reporting of secret surveillance programs.

On Sunday, British authorities detained for nine hours the domestic partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian writer who met face to face in Hong Kong with Snowden and has written or co-authored many of the newspaper’s stories based on his material.

The Guardian reported, and UK authorities subsequently confirmed, that David Miranda, Greenwald’s Brazilian partner, was detained by British authorities under an anti-terrorism law as he was in transit from Berlin to Brazil and was changing planes at London’s Heathrow Airport.

One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government’s detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday that while the United States did not ask British authorities to detain Miranda, British officials had given the United States a “heads up” about the British government’s plan to question him.

Rusbridger, in his article on the Guardian’s website, said that despite the destruction of the computers in London, he told British officials that due to the nature of “international collaborations” among journalists, it would remain possible for media organizations to “take advantage of the most permissive legal environments.” Henceforth, he said, the Guardian “did not have to do our reporting from London.”

A source familiar with the matter said that this meant British authorities were on notice that the Guardian was likely to continue to report on the Snowden revelations from outside British government jurisdiction.

Rusbridger said that in meetings with British officials before the computers were destroyed, he told them the Guardian could not do its journalistic duty if it gave in to the government’s requests.

In response, he wrote, a government official told him that the newspaper had already achieved the aim of sparking a debate on government surveillance. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

During Miranda’s trip to Berlin, which the Guardian said it had paid for, he visited with Laura Poitras, an independent film-maker who was the first journalist to interact with Snowden. Poitras co-authored stories based on Snowden’s material for the Washington Post and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Greenwald told the New York Times that Miranda went to Berlin to deliver materials downloaded by Snowden to Poitras and to acquire from Poitras a different set of materials for delivery to Greenwald, who lives with Miranda near Rio de Janeiro.

Greenwald said British authorities seized all electronic media, including data memory sticks, which Miranda was carrying. But Greenwald told the Forbes website that “everything” Miranda had “was heavily encrypted.”

Greenwald did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters requesting comment.

While British authorities confirmed that Miranda had been detained under an anti-terrorism law, they did not further explain their actions. Brazil’s government complained about Miranda’s detention in a statement on Sunday that said the use of the British anti-terrorism law was unjustified.     (Editing by Warren Strobel and Tim Dobbyn)

 

http://www.trust.org/item/20130819222315-enymm/?source=hpbreaking

Newspaper forced to destroy Snowden files, editor jokes it’s ‘so Chinese can’t get them’

Alan Rusbridger reveals ‘one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history’

Tuesday, 20 August, 2013 [Updated: 11:43AM]

Agence France-Presse

  • alan_rusbridger.jpg
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian. Photo: SCMP

The British government forced the Guardian to destroy files or face a court battle over its publication of US security secrets leaked by Edward Snowden, the paper’s editor claimed on Tuesday.

Alan Rusbridger said he was contacted by “a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister” which led to two meetings in which “he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on.”

The paper was in the middle of publishing candid revelations about mass surveillance programmes conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, after former US intelligence operative Snowden handed them thousands of documents.

Writing in Tuesday’s Guardian, Rusbridger claimed authorities told him: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

“There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures,” he continued. “The demand was the same: ‘hand the Snowden material back or destroy it…You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more’.”

The editor said the government threatened to use the courts to try and obtain the leaked documents if the paper did not destroy them themselves.

“And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred,” he added.

“With two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents.”

His article came as British authorities faced a furore after they held the partner of a Guardian journalist who worked with Snowden to expose the surveillance programmes for almost nine hours under anti-terror laws.

Rusbridger slammed the detention, and warned “it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources.”

The latest development in the Snowden saga emerged as British authorities came under pressure on Monday to explain why anti-terrorism powers were used to detain the partner of a reporter who wrote articles about US and British surveillance programmes based on leaks from Edward Snowden.

Brazilian David Miranda, the partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, was held for nine hours on Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport where he was in transit from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. He was released without charge.

http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1297981/newspaper-forced-destroy-snowden-files-editor-jokes-its-so-chinese-cant

 

Exclusive: NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ

• Secret payments revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden • GCHQ expected to ‘pull its weight’ for Americans   • Weaker regulation of British spies ‘a selling point’ for NSA

GCHQ's site in Bude, Cornwall

The NSA paid £15.5m towards redevelopments at GCHQ’s site in Bude, north Cornwall, which intercepts communications from the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic. Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters

The Guardian’s Nick Hopkins outlines the questions raised by the latest revelations from US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden Link to video: What questions are raised by the latest NSA revelations?The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes.

The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. “GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said.

The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.

In one revealing document from 2010, GCHQ acknowledged that the US had “raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSA’s minimum expectations”. It said GCHQ “still remains short of the full NSA ask”.

Ministers have denied that GCHQ does the NSA’s “dirty work”, but in the documents GCHQ describes Britain’s surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a “selling point” for the Americans.

The papers are the latest to emerge from the cache leaked by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has railed at the reach of the US and UK intelligence agencies.

Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic. “It’s not just a US problem,” he said. “They are worse than the US.”

As well as the payments, the documents seen by the Guardian reveal:

• GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to “exploit any phone, anywhere, any time”.

• Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive programme expressed concern about “the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved”.

• The amount of personal data available to GCHQ from internet and mobile traffic has increased by 7,000% in the past five years – but 60% of all Britain’s refined intelligence still appears to come from the NSA.

• GCHQ blames China and Russia for the vast majority of cyber-attacks against the UK and is now working with the NSA to provide the British and US militaries with a cyberwarfare capability.

The details of the NSA payments, and the influence the US has over Britain, are set out in GCHQ’s annual “investment portfolios”. The papers show that the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9m in 2009. The following year the NSA’s contribution increased to £39.9m, which included £4m to support GCHQ’s work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2m for the agency’s Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of “raw” information ready for analysis.

The NSA also paid £15.5m towards redevelopments at GCHQ’s sister site in Bude, north Cornwall, which intercepts communications from the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic. “Securing external NSA funding for Bude has protected (GCHQ’s core) budget,” the paper said.

In 2011/12 the NSA paid another £34.7m to GCHQ.

The papers show the NSA pays half the costs of one of the UK’s main eavesdropping capabilities in Cyprus. In turn, GCHQ has to take the American view into account when deciding what to prioritise.

A document setting out GCHQ’s spending plans for 2010/11 stated: “The portfolio will spend money supplied by the NSA and UK government departments against agreed requirements.”

Other documents say the agency must ensure there has been “an appropriate level of contribution … from the NSA perspective”.

The leaked papers reveal that the UK’s biggest fear is that “US perceptions of the … partnership diminish, leading to loss of access, and/or reduction in investment … to the UK”.

When GCHQ does supply the US with valuable intelligence, the agency boasts about it. In one review, GCHQ boasted that it had supplied “unique contributions” to the NSA during its investigation of the American citizen responsible for an attempted car bomb attack in Times Square, New York City, in 2010.

No other detail is provided – but it raises the possibility that GCHQ might have been spying on an American living in the US. The NSA is prohibited from doing this by US law.

Asked about the payments, a Cabinet Office spokesman said: “In a 60-year alliance it is entirely unsurprising that there are joint projects in which resources and expertise are pooled, but the benefits flow in both directions.”

A senior security source in Whitehall added: “The fact is there is a close intelligence relationship between the UK and US and a number of other countries including Australia and Canada. There’s no automaticity, not everything is shared. A sentient human being takes decisions.”

Although the sums represent only a small percentage of the agencies’ budgets, the money has been an important source of income for GCHQ. The cash came during a period of cost-cutting at the agency that led to staff numbers being slashed from 6,485 in 2009 to 6,132 last year.

GCHQ seems desperate to please its American benefactor and the NSA does not hold back when it fails to get what it wants. On one project, GCHQ feared if it failed to deliver it would “diminish NSA’s confidence in GCHQ’s ability to meet minimum NSA requirements”. Another document warned: “The NSA ask is not static and retaining ‘equability’ will remain a challenge for the near future.”

In November 2011, a senior GCHQ manager working in Cyprus bemoaned the lack of staff devoted to one eavesdropping programme, saying: “This is not sustainable if numbers reduce further and reflects badly on our commitments to the NSA.”

The overriding necessity to keep on the right side of the US was revealed in a UK government paper that set out the views of GCHQ in the wake of the 2010 strategic defence and security review. The document was called: “GCHQ’s international alliances and partnerships: helping to maintain Britain’s standing and influence in the world.” It said: “Our key partnership is with the US. We need to keep this relationship healthy. The relationship remains strong but is not sentimental. GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight.”

Astonishingly, the document admitted that 60% of the UK’s high-value intelligence “is based on either NSA end-product or derived from NSA collection”. End product means official reports that are distillations of the best raw intelligence.

Another pitch to keep the US happy involves reminding Washington that the UK is less regulated than the US. The British agency described this as one of its key “selling points”. This was made explicit two years ago when GCHQ set out its priorities for the coming years.

“We both accept and accommodate NSA’s different way of working,” the document said. “We are less constrained by NSA’s concerns about compliance.”

GCHQ said that by 2013 it hoped to have “exploited to the full our unique selling points of geography, partnerships [and] the UK’s legal regime”.

However, there are indications from within GCHQ that senior staff are not at ease with the rate and pace of change. The head of one of its programmes warned the agency was now receiving so much new intelligence that its “mission management … is no longer fit for purpose”.

In June, the government announced that the “single intelligence account” fund that pays for GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 would be increased by 3.4% in 2015/16. This comes after three years in which the SIA has been cut from £1.92bn to £1.88bn. The agencies have also been told to make £220m savings on existing programmes.

The parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) has questioned whether the agencies were making the claimed savings and said their budgets should be more rigorously scrutinised to ensure efficiencies were “independently verifiable and/or sustainable”.

The Snowden documents show GCHQ has become increasingly reliant on money from “external” sources. In 2006 it received the vast majority of its funding directly from Whitehall, with only £14m from “external” funding. In 2010 that rose to £118m and by 2011/12 it had reached £151m. Most of this comes from the Home Office.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/01/nsa-paid-gchq-spying-edward-snowden

XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

• XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data • NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches • Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history

NSA’s XKeyscore program – read one of the presentations

 

XKeyscore map

One presentation claims the XKeyscore program covers ‘nearly everything a typical user does on the internet’

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.

The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.

Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

One training slide illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst’s ability to query the databases at any time.

KS1 

The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a “selector” in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.

Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.

One document notes that this is because “strong selection [search by email address] itself gives us only a very limited capability” because “a large amount of time spent on the web is performing actions that are anonymous.”

The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.

Analysts are warned that searching the full database for content will yield too many results to sift through. Instead they are advised to use the metadata also stored in the databases to narrow down what to review.

A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc”.

Email monitoring

In a second Guardian interview in June, Snowden elaborated on his statement about being able to read any individual’s email if he had their email address. He said the claim was based in part on the email search capabilities of XKeyscore, which Snowden says he was authorized to use while working as a Booz Allen contractor for the NSA.

One top-secret document describes how the program “searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents”, including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines” and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites”.

To search for emails, an analyst using XKS enters the individual’s email address into a simple online search form, along with the “justification” for the search and the time period for which the emails are sought.

KS2 

KS3edit2 

The analyst then selects which of those returned emails they want to read by opening them in NSA reading software.

The system is similar to the way in which NSA analysts generally can intercept the communications of anyone they select, including, as one NSA document put it, “communications that transit the United States and communications that terminate in the United States”.

One document, a top secret 2010 guide describing the training received by NSA analysts for general surveillance under the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, explains that analysts can begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications. Once options on the pull-down menus are selected, their target is marked for electronic surveillance and the analyst is able to review the content of their communications:

KS4 

Chats, browsing history and other internet activity

Beyond emails, the XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor a virtually unlimited array of other internet activities, including those within social media.

An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.

KS55edit 

An analyst can monitor such Facebook chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.

KS6 

Analysts can search for internet browsing activities using a wide range of information, including search terms entered by the user or the websites viewed.

KS7 

As one slide indicates, the ability to search HTTP activity by keyword permits the analyst access to what the NSA calls “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”.

KS8 

The XKeyscore program also allows an analyst to learn the IP addresses of every person who visits any website the analyst specifies.

KS9 

The quantity of communications accessible through programs such as XKeyscore is staggeringly large. One NSA report from 2007 estimated that there were 850bn “call events” collected and stored in the NSA databases, and close to 150bn internet records. Each day, the document says, 1-2bn records were added.

William Binney, a former NSA mathematician, said last year that the agency had “assembled on the order of 20tn transactions about US citizens with other US citizens”, an estimate, he said,  that “only was involving phone calls and emails”. A 2010 Washington Post article reported that “every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7bn emails, phone calls and other type of communications.”

The XKeyscore system is continuously collecting so much internet data that it can be stored only for short periods of time. Content remains on the system for only three to five days, while metadata is stored for 30 days. One document explains: “At some sites, the amount of data we receive per day (20+ terabytes) can only be stored for as little as 24 hours.”

To solve this problem, the NSA has created a multi-tiered system that allows analysts to store “interesting” content in other databases, such as one named Pinwale which can store material for up to five years.

It is the databases of XKeyscore, one document shows, that now contain the greatest amount of communications data collected by the NSA.

KS10 

In 2012, there were at least 41 billion total records collected and stored in XKeyscore for a single 30-day period.

KS11 

Legal v technical restrictions

While the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008 requires an individualized warrant for the targeting of US persons, NSA analysts are permitted to intercept the communications of such individuals without a warrant if they are in contact with one of the NSA’s foreign targets.

The ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, told the Guardian last month that national security officials expressly said that a primary purpose of the new law was to enable them to collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without individualized warrants.

“The government doesn’t need to ‘target’ Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications,” said Jaffer. “The government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans” when targeting foreign nationals for surveillance.

An example is provided by one XKeyscore document showing an NSA target in Tehran communicating with people in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and New York.

KS12 

In recent years, the NSA has attempted to segregate exclusively domestic US communications in separate databases. But even NSA documents acknowledge that such efforts are imperfect, as even purely domestic communications can travel on foreign systems, and NSA tools are sometimes unable to identify the national origins of communications.

Moreover, all communications between Americans and someone on foreign soil are included in the same databases as foreign-to-foreign communications, making them readily searchable without warrants.

Some searches conducted by NSA analysts are periodically reviewed by their supervisors within the NSA. “It’s very rare to be questioned on our searches,” Snowden told the Guardian in June, “and even when we are, it’s usually along the lines of: ‘let’s bulk up the justification’.”

In a letter this week to senator Ron Wyden, director of national intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that NSA analysts have exceeded even legal limits as interpreted by the NSA in domestic surveillance.

Acknowledging what he called “a number of compliance problems”, Clapper attributed them to “human error” or “highly sophisticated technology issues” rather than “bad faith”.

However, Wyden said on the Senate floor on Tuesday: “These violations are more serious than those stated by the intelligence community, and are troubling.”

In a statement to the Guardian, the NSA said: “NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.

“XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.

“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks … In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring.”

“Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.

“These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad.”

US army blocks access to Guardian website to preserve ‘network hygiene’

Military admits to filtering reports and content relating to government surveillance programs for thousands of personnel

 

cyberwarfare

The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was only seeking to restrict access to certain content. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters

The US army has admitted to blocking access to parts of the Guardian website for thousands of defence personnel across the country.

A spokesman said the military was filtering out reports and content relating to government surveillance programs to preserve “network hygiene” and prevent any classified material appearing on unclassified parts of its computer systems.

The confirmation follows reports in the Monterey Herald that staff at the Presidio military base south of San Francisco had complained of not being able to access the Guardian’s UK site at all, and had only partial access to the US site, following publication of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was not seeking to block the whole website, merely taking steps to restrict access to certain content.

But a spokesman for the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) in Arizona confirmed that this was a widespread policy, likely to be affecting hundreds of defence facilities.

“In response to your question about access to the guardian.co.uk website, the army is filtering some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks,” said Gordon Van Vleet, a Netcom public affairs officer.

“The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative ‘network hygiene’ measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks.”

The army stressed its actions were automatic and would not affect computers outside military facilities.

“The department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to visit while on a DoD system, but instead relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats,” said Van Vleet. “The DoD is also not going to block websites from the American public in general, and to do so would violate our highest-held principle of upholding and defending the constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy.”

Similar measures were taken by the army after the Guardian and other newspapers published leaked State Department cables obtained via WikiLeaks.

“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security, however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information,” added the Netcom spokesman.

“Until declassified by appropriate officials, classified information – including material released through an unauthorized disclosure – must be treated accordingly by DoD personnel. If a public website displays classified information, then filtering may be used to preserve ‘network hygiene’ for DoD unclassified networks.”

A Defense Department spokesman at the Pentagon added: “The Guardian website is NOT being blocked by DoD. The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks.”

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/us-army-blocks-guardian-website-access

How the NSA is still harvesting your online data

Files show vast scale of current NSA metadata programs, with one stream alone celebrating ‘one trillion records processed’

and

guardian.co.uk,    Thursday 27 June 2013 11.03 EDT

The semantic web: some markup code showing built-in metadata

The NSA collects and analyzes significant amounts of data from US communications systems in the course of monitoring foreign targets. Photograph: guardian.co.uk

A review of top-secret NSA documents suggests that the surveillance agency still collects and sifts through large quantities of Americans’ online data – despite the Obama administration’s insistence that the program that began under Bush ended in 2011.

Shawn Turner, the Obama administration’s director of communications for National Intelligence, told the Guardian that “the internet metadata collection program authorized by the Fisa court was discontinued in 2011 for operational and resource reasons and has not been restarted.”

But the documents indicate that the amount of internet metadata harvested, viewed, processed and overseen by the Special Source Operations (SSO) directorate inside the NSA is extensive.

While there is no reference to any specific program currently collecting purely domestic internet metadata in bulk, it is clear that the agency collects and analyzes significant amounts of data from US communications systems in the course of monitoring foreign targets.

On December 26 2012, SSO announced what it described as a new capability to allow it to collect far more internet traffic and data than ever before. With this new system, the NSA is able to direct more than half of the internet traffic it intercepts from its collection points into its own repositories. One end of the communications collected are inside the United States.

The NSA called it the “One-End Foreign (1EF) solution”. It intended the program, codenamed EvilOlive, for “broadening the scope” of what it is able to collect. It relied, legally, on “FAA Authority”, a reference to the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act that relaxed surveillance restrictions.

This new system, SSO stated in December, enables vastly increased collection by the NSA of internet traffic. “The 1EF solution is allowing more than 75% of the traffic to pass through the filter,” the SSO December document reads. “This milestone not only opened the aperture of the access but allowed the possibility for more traffic to be identified, selected and forwarded to NSA repositories.”

It continued: “After the EvilOlive deployment, traffic has literally doubled.”

The scale of the NSA’s metadata collection is highlighted by references in the documents to another NSA program, codenamed ShellTrumpet.

On December 31, 2012, an SSO official wrote that ShellTrumpet had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record”.

It is not clear how much of this collection concerns foreigners’ online records and how much concerns those of Americans. Also unclear is the claimed legal authority for this collection.

Explaining that the five-year old program “began as a near-real-time metadata analyzer … for a classic collection system”, the SSO official noted: “In its five year history, numerous other systems from across the Agency have come to use ShellTrumpet’s processing capabilities for performance monitoring” and other tasks, such as “direct email tip alerting.”

Almost half of those trillion pieces of internet metadata were processed in 2012, the document detailed: “though it took five years to get to the one trillion mark, almost half of this volume was processed in this calendar year”.

Another SSO entry, dated February 6, 2013, described ongoing plans to expand metadata collection. A joint surveillance collection operation with an unnamed partner agency yielded a new program “to query metadata” that was “turned on in the Fall 2012”. Two others, called MoonLightPath and Spinneret, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”

A substantial portion of the internet metadata still collected and analyzed by the NSA comes from allied governments, including its British counterpart, GCHQ.

An SSO entry dated September 21, 2012, announced that “Transient Thurible, a new Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) managed XKeyScore (XKS) Deep Dive was declared operational.” The entry states that GCHQ “modified” an existing program so the NSA could “benefit” from what GCHQ harvested.

“Transient Thurible metadata [has been] flowing into NSA repositories since 13 August 2012,” the entry states.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/27/nsa-online-metadata-collection

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits / phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009

Exclusive: phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009

 

GCHQ composite

Documents uncovered by the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, reveal surveillance of G20 delegates’ emails and BlackBerrys. Photograph: Guardian

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday – for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.

The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls “ground-breaking intelligence capabilities” to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.

This included:

• Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates’ use of computers;

• Penetrating the security on delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls;

• Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit;

• Targeting the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party;

• Receiving reports from an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow.

The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, and that intelligence, including briefings for visiting delegates, was passed to British ministers.

A briefing paper dated 20 January 2009 records advice given by GCHQ officials to their director, Sir Iain Lobban, who was planning to meet the then foreign secretary, David Miliband. The officials summarised Brown’s aims for the meeting of G20 heads of state due to begin on 2 April, which was attempting to deal with the economic aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis. The briefing paper added: “The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG’s desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it.” Two documents explicitly refer to the intelligence product being passed to “ministers”.

GCHQ ragout 1

  One of the GCHQ documents. Photograph: GuardianAccording to the material seen by the Guardian, GCHQ generated this product by attacking both the computers and the telephones of delegates.

One document refers to a tactic which was “used a lot in recent UK conference, eg G20”. The tactic, which is identified by an internal codeword which the Guardian is not revealing, is defined in an internal glossary as “active collection against an email account that acquires mail messages without removing them from the remote server”. A PowerPoint slide explains that this means “reading people’s email before/as they do”.

The same document also refers to GCHQ, MI6 and others setting up internet cafes which “were able to extract key logging info, providing creds for delegates, meaning we have sustained intelligence options against them even after conference has finished”. This appears to be a reference to acquiring delegates’ online login details.

Another document summarises a sustained campaign to penetrate South African computers, recording that they gained access to the network of their foreign ministry, “investigated phone lines used by High Commission in London” and “retrieved documents including briefings for South African delegates to G20 and G8 meetings”. (South Africa is a member of the G20 group and has observer status at G8 meetings.)

GCHQ Ragout 2                Another excerpt from the GCHQ documents. Photograph: GuardianA detailed report records the efforts of the NSA’s intercept specialists at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire to target and decode encrypted phone calls from London to Moscow which were made by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and other Russian delegates.

Other documents record apparently successful efforts to penetrate the security of BlackBerry smartphones: “New converged events capabilities against BlackBerry provided advance copies of G20 briefings to ministers … Diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO of using smartphones. Exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year.”

The operation appears to have run for at least six months. One document records that in March 2009 – the month before the heads of state meeting – GCHQ was working on an official requirement to “deliver a live dynamically updating graph of telephony call records for target G20 delegates … and continuing until G20 (2 April).”

Another document records that when G20 finance ministers met in London in September, GCHQ again took advantage of the occasion to spy on delegates, identifying the Turkish finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, as a target and listing 15 other junior ministers and officials in his delegation as “possible targets”. As with the other G20 spying, there is no suggestion that Simsek and his party were involved in any kind of criminal offence. The document explicitly records a political objective – “to establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit” and their “willingness (or not) to co-operate with the rest of the G20 nations”.

The September meeting of finance ministers was also the subject of a new technique to provide a live report on any telephone call made by delegates and to display all of the activity on a graphic which was projected on to the 15-sq-metre video wall of GCHQ’s operations centre as well as on to the screens of 45 specialist analysts who were monitoring the delegates.

“For the first time, analysts had a live picture of who was talking to who that updated constantly and automatically,” according to an internal review.

A second review implies that the analysts’ findings were being relayed rapidly to British representatives in the G20 meetings, a negotiating advantage of which their allies and opposite numbers may not have been aware:  “In a live situation such as this, intelligence received may be used to influence events on the ground taking place just minutes or hours later. This means that it is not sufficient to mine call records afterwards – real-time tip-off is essential.”

In the week after the September meeting, a group of analysts sent an internal message to the GCHQ section which had organised this live monitoring: “Thank you very much for getting the application ready for the G20 finance meeting last weekend … The call records activity pilot was very successful and was well received as a current indicator of delegate activity …

“It proved useful to note which nation delegation was active during the moments before, during and after the summit. All in all, a very successful weekend with the delegation telephony plot.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/16/gchq-intercepted-communications-g20-summits?guni=Network

 

Americans start operation “Troll the NSA”

 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

An operation to troll the NSA has started up online in a bid to jam the spy scanners.

The plan is to ‘test’ the system by sending a message full of terrorist buzz words to the agency Wednesday at 7pm EST.

The website was set up in response to the accusations at the U.S. government is collecting and looking at data from Internet companies like Google, Facebook and Apple through a secretive program codenamed PRISM.

Operation ‘Troll The NSA’ describes the plan stating: ‘If millions of us, all at the exact same time, call or email someone with our keywords-of-terror-filled script, we can give our nation’s impressive surveillance system the kind of test it deserves.

‘They say they don’t read or listen to the contents of our messages. Why not test it out? It’ll be fun.’

The creators of the website have written a seemingly innocent email about a bad job and travel plans addressed from a disgruntled employee to a friend.

But words designed to catch the scanner’s interest litter the script, including famous American landmarks such as ‘Manhattan,’ ‘Golden Gate Bridge’, ‘Brooklyn Bridge’,’ Verrazano Narrows Bridge’ and ‘Financial District.’

It also included words associated with terrorists such as ‘death to millions of Americans,’ ‘strike at any second’ and ‘oppressive regime.’

They hope that the scanner will pick up the words and consequently get jammed from the overload.

The stunt was set up by two BuzzFeed employees.

Chris Baker and Mike Lacher, creative directors at the news site, say they hope millions of people will take part.

‘It would be amazing if we actually did screw with their systems a little bit,’ said Baker.

‘But the ultimate goal is that the site itself will get enough attention … that NSA becomes aware of it on some level and gives them a moment to reflect on their duties,’ he told the Daily Beast.

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who leaked the secret information about a classified U.S. government surveillance program is currently on the run in Hong Kong.

Snowden, 29, is a technology expert working for a private firm subcontracted to the US National Security Agency.

Last week he told the Guardian newspaper of a mammoth surveillance operation run by the NSA on telephone and Internet records around the world.

In the US, in a spectacularly strange way he has been branded a traitor by the mainstream media. Perhaps, it now makes sense why Snowden chose to leak the information to a British newspaper. Is the US Media in on it?

http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/23495/61/

 

BREAKING NEWS: Defense contractor, 29, who leaked NSA documents reveals himself

  • Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA  technical assistant, says he passed the classified information to The Guardian
  • The documents  blew open a number of intense NSA surveillance operations and caused a firestorm  over the government’s actions
  • Snowden, a high  school drop-out, says he leaked information because  he doesn’t ‘want to live in  a society that does these sort of things’
  • Comes after  National Intelligence director James R Clapper defended the surveillance  programs for keeping America safe
  • NSA filed  criminal report with Justice Dept. in relation to leaks to The Guardian and The  Washington Post

By  Anna Sanders and Helen Pow

PUBLISHED: 14:09 EST, 9 June  2013 |  UPDATED: 15:34  EST, 9 June 2013

The whistle-blower responsible for leaking  confidential NSA documents in one of the most serious breaches in U.S. political  history has come forward.

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA  technical assistant, claims he passed the classified information that blew open  a number of intense surveillance operations to the media because he doesn’t  ‘want to live in a society that does these sort of things.’

Snowden, who now works for Booz Allen  Hamilton, a defense contractor for the National Security Agency, caused a  firestorm after he leaked the top-secret documents to The Guardian over several  days of interviews.

Whistle-blower: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant, claims he passed the classified information to the media 

Whistle-blower: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA  technical assistant, claims he passed the classified information to the  media

 

He said he wanted to own up to the leak  because he didn’t believe he’d done anything illegal.

‘I have no intention of hiding who I am  because I know I have done nothing wrong,’ he told The  Guardian.

 

Explaining his decision to disclose the  sensitive documents, North Carolina native said: ‘I  understand that I will be  made to suffer for my actions,’ but ‘I will be satisfied if the federation of  secret law, unequal pardon and  irresistible executive powers that rule the  world that I love are  revealed even for an instant.’

He said he was bracing for the government to  demonize him, but he hoped  that his coming forward would not divert attention  away from the  revelations he made public.

‘I really want the focus to be on these  documents and the debate which I  hope this will trigger among citizens around  the globe about what kind  of world we want to live in,’ he told The Guardian.

‘My sole motive is to inform the public as to  that which is done in their name and that which is done against  them.’

Hide out: Snowden boarded a plane to Hong Kong, pictured, on May 20 and has been there since 

Hide out: Snowden boarded a plane to Hong Kong,  pictured, on May 20 and has been there since

Snowden was living ‘a very  comfortable life’  with his live-in girlfriend in Hawaii, where he earned $200,000 with Booz  Allen.

But he said: ‘I’m willing to sacrifice all of  that because I can’t in good  conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy  privacy, internet  freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with  this  massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.’

According to The Guardian, Snowden copied the  final set of documents he intended to disclose three weeks ago, at the NSA  office in Hawaii where he had been working.

He then told his boss and his girlfriend that  he’d be away for a few weeks, keeping the reasons vague as only someone working  in intelligence can, and on May 20, he boarded a plane to Hong Kong, where he  remains.

He chose Hong Kong because ‘they have a  spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent,’ he  said.

Defensive: Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper said in a statement Saturday that disclosures on intelligence gathering practices were 'reckless' 

Defensive: Director of National Intelligence James R  Clapper said in a statement Saturday that disclosures on intelligence gathering  practices were ‘reckless’

 

The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper responded Saturday to the disclosure of classified government surveillance programs as a new report sheds light on the gathering system 'Boundless Informant'Informant: The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper released a statement on PRISM, which is reported to have been used to gather information from Internet companies like Facebook

Informant: The Director of National Intelligence James R  Clapper, left, released a statement on PRISM, which is reported to have been  used to gather information from the data centers of Internet companies like  Facebook, one of which is pictured left

'Necessary': The top intelligence official, James R Clapper, said the NSA's intelligence measures disclosed in recent reports were 'used to keep Americans safe' 

‘Necessary’: The top intelligence official, James R  Clapper, said the NSA’s intelligence measures disclosed in recent reports were  ‘used to keep Americans safe’

Snowden said he has been holed up in a hotel  room since arriving in the city, leaving it just three times for  fear he’s  being spied on.

He described to the newspaper how he rims the  door of the plush hotel  room, where he is eating all of his meals, with pillows  to prevent  anyone from eavesdropping.

Snowden has good reason to be  concerned. The  NSA – the most powerful and secretive organization in the world – is hunting him  down, having visited his home in Hawaii twice  and already contacted his  girlfriend.

Sitting in his hotel room alone, he has  watched television reports and read  articles online since the news of the leaks  first broke, and he is  well aware of the threats being thrown his  way.

And given the Obama administration’s track  record at prosecuting  whistle-blowers, he fully expects to get the same  treatment. But he  insists he is not afraid of what lies ahead because ‘this is  the choice  I’ve made,’ he told The Guardian.

According to newspaper, he broke down just  once during the series of interviews, when he was discussing the impact his  actions would have on his family, many of whom work in government agencies or  departments. He said these fears for his family’s welfare kept him up at  night.

Snowden’s ability to get to the center of the  NSA is impressive given he attended community college in Maryland to obtain his  high school diploma but dropped out before completing.

Ten years ago he enlisted in the US army and  began a training program to join the Special Forces, explaining to The Guardian  that he wanted to fight in the Iraq war because he felt he had an obligation as  a human being to help free people from oppression – the same reason he is giving  to justify his leaks. But he broke both his legs in a training accident and was  discharged.

He got his first NSA job working as a  security guard at one of the agency’s facilities at the University of Maryland  before moving to the CIA to work on IT security. There, he rose  quickly.

He was given more and more access to  top-secret documents as he climbed the ranks. And in 2007, he was stationed with  diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for  maintaining computer network security.

The clearance sparked his concern for the  intense surveillance detailed in the documents.

He told The Guardian of one incident where  CIA operatives got a Swiss banker drunk in an effort to recruit him as an  informant to obtain secret banking information.

He said they encouraged him to drive home  intoxicated in his car and when he was arrested for DUI, the undercover agents  offered to help and managed to recruit the banker after the favor.

He said this and other things he witnessed in  Geneva disillusioned him about how his government worked and how this in turn  impacted the world.

‘I realized that I was part of something that  was doing far more harm than good,’ he said.

He told The Guardian that he first considered  exposing the Government’s secrets in Geneva but he chose not to because he  didn’t want to endanger anyone – the CIA deals in people rather than systems or  technology.

When he quit that role in 2009, he took up a  job with an outside contractor and was assigned to an NSA facility in  Japan.

He said he was disappointed President Obama  advanced the policies he was hoping the newly elected President was stamp out,  and that ‘hardened’ him.

He said he could no longer wait around for  someone else to act, and after spending three years learning just how ‘intent’  the NSA was to make every conversation and behavior in the world known to them,  he took the leap.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2338534/Edward-Snowden-speaks-CIA-analyst-29-leaked-NSA-documents-reveals-himself.html#ixzz2VknIm4jO Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The spy who came in for your soul – ” We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

COLUMN – The spy who came in for your soul

Source: Reuters – Sun, 9 Jun 2013 08:00 PM

Author: Reuters

(Jack Shafer is a Reuters columnist but his opinions are his own.)

By Jack Shafer

June 9 (Reuters) – Leaks to the press, like hillside rain tugged seaward by gravity, gather momentum only if the flow is steadily replenished.

After a major leak to the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald resulted in a scoop Wednesday about the National Security Agency’s harvesting of phone records, reporters instantly mined their back pages for leads and rang up their sources to amplify and extend his story, and went looking for leakers of their own. In other words, the press pack prayed for rain.

But before that scoop had run its course, Greenwald (and Ewen MacAskill) went to press with another revelation about the NSA’s Prism program, which collects email, chat, VOIP conversations, file transfers, photos, videos and more from Web users. A similar Washington Post piece by Barton Gellman and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras beat the Guardian duo by a few minutes, a downpour in a very short time. The Guardian-Post overlap was so pronounced that it’s likely the two publications were nurtured by the same source, identified in the Post as “a career intelligence officer.”

Friday afternoon, Greenwald and MacAskill dropped another bombshell about Obama’s cyberattack plans in the Guardian. These aren’t leaks. This is a flood.

Faster than you can say evaporation-condensation-precipitation, I expect this week’s expos?s to produce additional investigations that will produce more leaks and further scoops about our digital records. This will now fuel new cycles of reporting, leaks and scoops – and another, and another – as new sources are cultivated and reportorial scraps gathering mold in journalists’ notebooks gain new relevance and help break stories.

Greenwald’s storm will continue to rage because, I suspect, the story won’t be limited to just phone records or Web data. Ultimately, it will be about the government’s pursuit of all the digital breadcrumbs we produce as necessary byproducts of day-to-day life – and phone records and Web data are just a small part.

Bank records, credit history, travel records, credit card records, EZPass data, GPS phone data, license-plate reader databases, Social Security and Internal Revenue Service records, facial-recognition databases at the Department of Motor Vehicles and elsewhere, even 7-Eleven surveillance videos comprise information lodes that are of equal or greater value to the national security establishment than phone and Web files. It doesn’t sound paranoid to conclude that the government has reused, or will reuse, the interpretation of the Patriot Act it presented to the secret FISA court in its phone record and Prism data requests to grab these other data troves.

Lest I sound like a Fourth Amendment hysteric, I understand there’s nothing automatically sacrosanct about any of the digital trails we leave behind. Lawful subpoenas can liberate all sorts records about you, electronic or otherwise.

What’s breathtaking about these two government surveillance programs that the Guardian and the Washington Post have revealed is that they’re vast collections of data about hundreds of millions of people suspected of no wrongdoing and not part of any civil action. Defending the phone-record cull, National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper explained this week that smaller sets of information aren’t very useful in screening for and identifying “terrorism-related communications,” hence all must collected.

Besides, as the government and its supporters insist, phone-record metadata does not include the names of individuals or organizations connected to the phone numbers (and government eavesdropping isn’t part of the operation).

I won’t belabor the point made better in scores of venues this week about how massive phone-record sets can be manipulated to produce revelatory information about individuals. Not even a saint could resist the siren call to combine data sets and use them in impermissible ways for “the good of the people.”

Even before governments start to combine data, it knows too much about you. Once it gets started, it can know practically everything worth knowing. A former NSA employee captured the grand scheme succinctly last year when he told Wired magazine, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Daniel J. Solove, who has been beavering away at privacy issues for some time, addresses what he calls the “exclusion” problem posed by the government’s massing of personal data.

He writes:

“Many government national-security measures involve maintaining a huge database of information that individuals cannot access. Indeed, because they involve national security, the very existence of these programs is often kept secret. This kind of information processing, which blocks subjects’ knowledge and involvement, is a kind of due-process problem. It is a structural problem, involving the way people are treated by government institutions and creating a power imbalance between people and the government. To what extent should government officials have such a significant power over citizens? This issue isn’t about what information people want to hide but about the power and the structure of government.”

Journalists love nothing more than to learn and share secrets, which, with the Guardian and the Washington Post as our guides, appear to be in ample supply.

If anything, journalists are fully vested in maintaining their constitutional rights to ask questions, associate freely, and speak and write their minds. If journalists react strongly to government intrusions – even well-meaning intrusions intended to protect us from acts of terrorism – it’s because we’re too intimate with the misuse of power and regard most government secrets as measures designed to displace freedom in favor of security.

Or as a character in David Hare’s film “Page Eight” put it disparagingly, “We can’t be free because we have to be safe.”

The only thing that beats leakers is a long, hard freeze. In my experience, fire beats ice every time.

(Jack Shafer is a Reuters columnist covering the press and politics.)

(Jack Shafer)

Boundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data

Revealed: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing data – including figures on US collection
Boundless Informant: mission outlined in four slidesRead the NSA’s frequently asked questions document

 

boundless heatmap View larger picture

The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Note the ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.

The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications.

The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.

The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, “What type of coverage do we have on country X” in “near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure.”

An NSA factsheet about the program, acquired by the Guardian, says: “The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country.”

Under the heading “Sample use cases”, the factsheet also states the tool shows information including: “How many records (and what type) are collected against a particular country.”

A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA “global heat map” seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.

boundless heatmap

The heat map reveals how much data is being collected from around the world. Note the ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.

The heatmap gives each nation a color code based on how extensively it is subjected to NSA surveillance. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance).

The disclosure of the internal Boundless Informant system comes amid a struggle between the NSA and its overseers in the Senate over whether it can track the intelligence it collects on American communications. The NSA’s position is that it is not technologically feasible to do so.

At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” replied Clapper.

Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”

Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.

IP address is not a perfect proxy for someone’s physical location but it is rather close, said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist with the Speech Privacy and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If you don’t take steps to hide it, the IP address provided by your internet provider will certainly tell you what country, state and, typically, city you are in,” Soghoian said.

That approximation has implications for the ongoing oversight battle between the intelligence agencies and Congress.

On Friday, in his first public response to the Guardian’s disclosures this week on NSA surveillance, Barack Obama said that that congressional oversight was the American peoples’ best guarantee that they were not being spied on.

“These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress and they are being  fully briefed on these programs,” he said. Obama also insisted that any surveillance was “very narrowly circumscribed”.

Senators have expressed their frustration at the NSA’s refusal to supply statistics. In a letter to NSA director General Keith Alexander in October last year, senator Wyden and his Democratic colleague on the Senate intelligence committee, Mark Udall, noted that “the intelligence community has stated repeatedly that it is not possible to provide even a rough estimate of how many American communications have been collected under the Fisa Amendments Act, and has even declined to estimate the scale of this collection.”

At a congressional hearing in March last year, Alexander denied point-blank that the agency had the figures on how many Americans had their electronic communications collected or reviewed. Asked if he had the capability to get them, Alexander said: “No. No. We do not have the technical insights in the United States.” He added that “nor do we do have the equipment in the United States to actually collect that kind of information”.

Soon after, the NSA, through the inspector general of the overall US intelligence community, told the senators that making such a determination would jeopardize US intelligence operations – and might itself violate Americans’ privacy.

“All that senator Udall and I are asking for is a ballpark estimate of how many Americans have been monitored under this law, and it is disappointing that the inspectors general cannot provide it,” Wyden told Wired magazine at the time.

The documents show that the team responsible for Boundless Informant assured its bosses that the tool is on track for upgrades.

The team will “accept user requests for additional functionality or enhancements,” according to the FAQ acquired by the Guardian. “Users are also allowed to vote on which functionality or enhancements are most important to them (as well as add comments). The BOUNDLESSINFORMANT team will periodically review all requests and triage according to level of effort (Easy, Medium, Hard) and mission impact (High, Medium, Low).”

Emmel, the NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian: “Current technology simply does not permit us to positively identify all of the persons or locations associated with a given communication (for example, it may be possible to say with certainty that a communication traversed a particular path within the internet. It is harder to know the ultimate source or destination, or more particularly the identity of the person represented by the TO:, FROM: or CC: field of an e-mail address or the abstraction of an IP address).

“Thus, we apply rigorous training and technological advancements to combine both our automated and manual (human) processes to characterize communications – ensuring protection of the privacy rights of the American people. This is not just our judgment, but that of the relevant inspectors general, who have also reported this.”

She added: “The continued publication of these allegations about highly classified issues, and other information taken out of context, makes it impossible to conduct a reasonable discussion on the merits of these programs.”

Additional reporting: James Ball in New York and Spencer Ackerman in Washington

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-boundless-informant-global-datamining?guni=Network

Spy program shows just how well US knows its people

 

They're watching you <i>(Image: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)</i>They’re watching you (Image: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The US government is watching every digital move that Americans make. More than 115 million people use Verizon’s cellphone service in the US, making billions of calls every year. A top-secret document revealed this week shows that the US government, through the National Security Agency, is collecting the details of every single one of those calls on a daily basis. To make matters worse, The Washington Post and The Guardian newspapers today claimed that the NSA also has direct access to the search history, email and even live chats of all customers of the world’s biggest technology firms, including Google, Apple and Facebook.

By turning over what surely amounts to billions of call logs to the US government, Verizon is enabling what is likely to be the broadest surveillance scheme in history. And the likelihood is that it is not the only one.

The secret court order was granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington DC, which oversees surveillance requests. It forces Verizon to turn over its data. But while the order makes it clear that content – the words exchanged during calls – is not collected, that’s little comfort from a privacy perspective. Using network science, it is easy to manipulate large databases like this to figure out exactly who is behind every phone number, who they’ve talked to, when, where and for how long. The NSA probably doesn’t care to track the movements and activities of every person in the Verizon database, but the possibility is just a mouse click away.

Four calls to find you

We don’t know exactly how the NSA analyses these huge lists of records, but we do know what kinds of insights can be drawn from data sets on this scale. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vincent Blondel from the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium and colleagues analysed 1.5 million anonymised call records from a Western cell carrier. They showed that it takes just four calls or text messages, each made at a different time and place, to distinguish one person’s movements from everyone else’s (Nature Scientific Reports, doi.org/msd).

Patterns of communication form a digital fingerprint in time, and finding every thing, person and place you have interacted with becomes easy. Such records are exactly the kind of information we now know that Verizon, and likely every other US carrier, is handing over to the NSA on a daily basis.

Judge Roger Vinson, at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, signed an order on 25 April obliging Verizon to hand data “including but not limited to session identifying information, trunk identifier… and time and duration of call” over to the NSA on a daily basis. In a news conference on Thursday morning (6 June), Senator Dianne Feinstein confirmed that this is just a monthly renewal of a secret order which has been in effect for seven years.

Identifying information refers to the phone numbers of those making and receiving a call or text. The trunk identifier shows which cell towers the calling and receiving phones talked to – the callers’ locations, in other words. Blondel says that datasets like those Verizon is handing over could be used to build up a precise picture of different communities.

Chris Clifton, who works on data privacy at Purdue University in Indiana, says he expects the NSA doesn’t always know exactly what it’s looking for in the call metadata, but rather uses software to sort the records into groups by similarity – people who make lots of calls, for example, or people who never call abroad. Patterns in time could be useful too. If one call appears to spark off a whole flurry of other calls, that might conceivably mean the first phone number belongs to an authority figure in a criminal organisation, for instance.

They know everything

“You’re trusting the phone companies with this data like you’re trusting your bank with your financial transactions,” Blondel says. “They know when you go for surgery, divorce – they know everything.”

“Any sensible question you can ask about the call metadata would be answered in a fraction of a second by five-year-old supercomputers,” says cryptographer Daniel Bernstein from the University of Illinois, Chicago. This means the NSA’s giant supercomputing centre in Utah is massive overkill for analysing measly Verizon call logs. Perhaps it would be more useful for crunching internet data.

An NSA Powerpoint presentation discovered by The Guardian newspaper in London and the Washington Post claims that the NSA is gaining direct access to the servers of the world’s biggest tech firms to spy on internet activity. According to the slides, Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook and more are all signed up to a scheme, known as PRISM, which lets the NSA access their customers’ search history, chat logs and emails. The presentation says that data gained from PRISM is used to create nearly 1 in 7 of all intelligence reports. Executives of all the firms implicated have denied knowledge of any such programme and refute the allegation that they have been handing over their customers’ data in this way.

But even if the NSA does not have full internet access, it’s still relatively easy for it to access private data on the internet. Details are scarce, but there is one confirmed case where the NSA was caught in the act. An AT&T engineer named Mark Klein provided evidence that the NSA was skimming a copy of all internet traffic that passed through an AT&T data centre in San Francisco in 2003.

Now Andrew Clement and a team of information scientists at Toronto University in Canada is using that model of surveillance to try and give internet users a sense of whether and where their internet activities are being logged by the NSA. Clement’s system, called IXMaps, has aggregated thousands of traceroutes – information trails which map the paths taken by packets of data as they are directed through the routers and exchanges which make up the internet in the US.

Internet monitoring

A paper due to be presented at the International Symposium on Technology and Society in Toronto at the end of June shows that 99 per cent of internet traffic passing through the US goes through one of just 18 US cities. The paper notes that this shows it is completely feasible for the NSA to be monitoring the majority of US internet traffic with just a handful of warrantless listening posts. These would use ‘splitters’ that split the beam of light in fibre-optic cables to siphon off information. “It is powerful confirmation that it is technically feasible for the NSA to install splitters in relatively few strategic internet choke points from where it could intercept a very large proportion of internet traffic,” it says.

Nancy Paterson, who works on IXMaps with Clement, says the internet is not a random collection of network links, routing data in the most efficient way possible. Instead, the way data moves across the net is tightly controlled according to the business interests that run the subnetworks within it. This control makes blanket monitoring feasible.

“Routing isn’t what you used to call it. The best-effort internet has changed to a highly centralised, controlled space,” she says. “It’s not your grandmother’s internet.”

Although privacy protection may not seem to be on the NSA’s priority list, Clifton says he knows the organisation has people actively working on techniques which would let it analyse data effectively while not breaching privacy. “If they get too intrusive on the data people will be up in arms and they will lose access,” he says. “If they protect privacy they can get more data. They view it as part of their mission.”

De Montjoye says the NSA revelations emphasise the need for new systems which allow rich datasets like mobile phone data to be used while protecting privacy at the same time. An ongoing project in MIT, called openPDS, aims to do exactly this. OpenPDS works by only allowing third parties to ask questions of a customer dataset, never actually getting their hands on the raw data. De Montjoye says this, combined with legal systems which notify individuals when their data has been searched, and auditing systems that record who is searching for what information and when, could change the privacy debate. “I think that such a ‘mixed approach’ to privacy is the way forward,” he says.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23669-spy-program-shows-just-how-well-us-knows-its-people.html?full=true&print=true

 

Foreign Governments gathering secret intelligence via covert NSA operation

UK gathering secret intelligence via covert NSA operation

Exclusive: UK security agency GCHQ gaining information from world’s biggest internet firms through US-run Prism programme

 

Documents show GCHQ has had access to the NSA's Prism programme since at least June 2010

Documents show GCHQ (above) has had access to the NSA’s Prism programme since at least June 2010. Photograph: David Goddard/Getty Images

The UK’s electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world’s biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America’s top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The documents show that GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, has had access to the system since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year.

The US-run programme, called Prism, would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside the UK.

The use of Prism raises ethical and legal issues about such direct access to potentially millions of internet users, as well as questions about which British ministers knew of the programme.

In a statement to the Guardian, GCHQ, insisted it “takes its obligations under the law very seriously”.

The details of GCHQ’s use of Prism are set out in documents prepared for senior analysts working at America’s National Security Agency, the biggest eavesdropping organisation in the world.

Dated April this year, the papers describe the remarkable scope of a previously undisclosed “snooping” operation which gave the NSA and the FBI easy access to the systems of nine of the world’s biggest internet companies. The group includes Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

The documents, which appear in the form of a 41-page PowerPoint presentation, suggest the firms co-operated with the Prism programme. Technology companies denied knowledge of Prism, with Google insisting it “does not have a back door for the government to access private user data”. But the companies acknowledged that they complied with legal orders.

The existence of Prism, though, is not in doubt.

Thanks to changes to US surveillance law introduced under President George W Bush and renewed under Barack Obama in December 2012, Prism was established in December 2007 to provide in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information about foreigners overseas.

The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

The documents make clear the NSA has been able to obtain unilaterally both stored communications as well as real-time collection of raw data for the last six years, without the knowledge of users, who would assume their correspondence was private.

The NSA describes Prism as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses” of intelligence, and boasts the service has been made available to spy organisations from other countries, including GCHQ.

It says the British agency generated 197 intelligence reports from Prism in the year to May 2012 – marking a 137% increase in the number of reports generated from the year before. Intelligence reports from GCHQ are normally passed to MI5 and MI6.

The documents underline that “special programmes for GCHQ exist for focused Prism processing”, suggesting the agency has been able to receive material from a bespoke part of the programme to suit British interests.

Unless GCHQ has stopped using Prism, the agency has accessed information from the programme for at least three years. It is not mentioned in the latest report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner Office, which scrutinises the way the UK’s three security agencies use the laws covering the interception and retention of data.

Asked to comment on its use of Prism, GCHQ said it “takes its obligations under the law very seriously. Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee”.

The agency refused to be drawn on how long it had been using Prism, how many intelligence reports it had gleaned from it, or which ministers knew it was being used.

A GCHQ spokesperson added: “We do not comment on intelligence matters.”

The existence and use of Prism reflects concern within the intelligence community about access it has to material held by internet service providers.

Many of the web giants are based in the US and are beyond the jurisdiction of British laws. Very often, the UK agencies have to go through a formal legal process to request information from service providers.

Because the UK has a mutual legal assistance treaty with America, GCHQ can make an application through the US department of justice, which will make the approach on its behalf.

Though the process is used extensively – almost 3,000 requests were made to Google alone last year – it is time consuming. Prism would appear to give GCHQ a chance to bypass the procedure.

In its statement about Prism, Google said it “cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data”.

Several senior tech executives insisted they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a programme.

“If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said. An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of Prism.

In a statement confirming the existence of Prism, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence in the US, said: “Information collected under this programme is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”

A senior US administration official said: “The programme is subject to oversight by the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the executive branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimise the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/jun/07/uk-gathering-secret-intelligence-nsa-prism?guni=Network front:network-front full-width-1 Breaking news ticker:Breaking news ticker (editable):Position3

 

Leak of NSA order against Verizon could cause irreversible harm to national security, says top intelligence officer

  • A copy of a  secret order shows that the National Security Agency ordered Verizon to hand  over millions of phone records with no explanation
  • Order  extends from until July 19 and includes domestic and foreign  calls
  • Nearly  150million Verizon customers could be affected by the court  order
  • Even more  had their email and social networking accounts recorded
  • Comes just  after news of the Department of Justice spying on  journalists

By  Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 23:57 EST, 6 June  2013 |  UPDATED: 00:09  EST, 7 June 2013

Not good: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that the leak of top secret documents proving government oversight over personal records could cause serious national security issues 

Not good: Director of National Intelligence James  Clapper warned that the leak of top secret documents proving government  oversight over personal records could cause serious national security  issues

The top U.S. intelligence official denounced  the disclosure of highly secret documents Thursday and sought to set the record  straight about how the government collects intelligence about people’s telephone  and Internet use.

He said he was declassifying some aspects of  the monitoring to help Americans understand it better.

Director of National Intelligence James  Clapper called the disclosure of an Internet surveillance program  ‘reprehensible’ and said it risks Americans’ security.

He said a leak that revealed a program to  collect phone records would affect how America’s enemies behave and make it  harder to understand their intentions.

‘The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret  U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to  our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,’  Clapper said in an unusual late-night statement.

At the same time, he moved to correct  misunderstandings about both programs, taking the rare step of declassifying  some details about the authority used in the phone records program and alleging  that articles about the Internet program ‘contain numerous inaccuracies.’

He did not specify what those inaccuracies  might be.

At issue is a court order, first disclosed  Wednesday by The Guardian newspaper in Britain, that requires the communications  company Verizon to turn over on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ the records of its  customers’ calls. Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported  Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours  the nation’s main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, emails and other  information.

Spying: The NSA has been getting millions of phone records from Verizon on a daily basis for months without any justification for the order, that was only revealed today 

Spying: The NSA has been getting millions of phone  records from Verizon on a daily basis for months without any justification for  the order, that was only revealed today

'The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,' Clapper said Thursday  

‘The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court  document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability  to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,’ Clapper said  Thursday

Clapper said the Internet program, known as  PRISM, can’t be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the U.S.

He said a special court, Congress and the  executive branch all oversee the program and that extensive procedures make sure  the acquisition, retention and dissemination of data accidentally collected  about Americans is kept to a minimum.

He added that Congress recently reauthorized  the section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes such a  program.

 

‘Information collected under this program is  among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we  collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats,’  Clapper said.

Clapper acknowledged the risks inherent in  publicly discussing details about the phone records program but said he wanted  to correct the ‘misleading impression’ created by the article that disclosed its  existence.

Double bind: Part of the order mandated that Verizon not tell its' customer's about the record transfer nor could they admit that the order existed 

Double bind: Part of the order mandated that Verizon not  tell its’ customer’s about the record transfer nor could they admit that the  order existed

‘I believe it is important for the  American  people to understand the limits of this targeted  counterterrorism program and  the principles that govern its use.’

To that end, Clapper said he was  immediately  declassifying and releasing to the public certain details  about the FISA  provision that governs the program.

A special panel known as the FISA  Court  authorizes the phone records program and reviews it about every 90 days, Clapper  said, adding that the Justice Department oversees  information acquired under  the court order and that members of Congress  have been fully and repeatedly  briefed.

He said only a small fraction of the  records  collected ever get examined because most are unrelated to any  inquiries into  terrorism activities.

The NSA collects the phone data in  broad  swaths, Clapper said, because collecting it a narrow fashion would make it  harder to identify terrorism-related communications.

Wide-reaching: Millions of Verizon customers had their data turned over to the NSA, and it is not known whether similar orders were given to other phone companies as well 

Wide-reaching: Millions of Verizon customers had their  data turned over to the NSA, and it is not known whether similar orders were  given to other phone companies as well

Lashing out: Former Vice President Al Gore called the surveillance 'outrageous', not supporting his fellow Democrats 

Lashing out: Former Vice President Al Gore called the  surveillance ‘outrageous’, not supporting his fellow Democrats

Timing: The revelation comes the same day as President Obama announced his appointment of Susan Rice (right) to be the new head of the NSA, replacing Tom Donilon (center) 

Timing: The revelation comes the same day as President  Obama announced his appointment of Susan Rice (right) to be the new head of the  NSA, replacing Tom Donilon (center)

He said the information collected lets the  government, over time, make connections about terrorist activities. He said the  program doesn’t let the U.S. listen to people’s calls, but  only includes  information like call length and telephone numbers dialed.

The court also prohibits the  government from  indiscriminately rummaging through the phone data, which he said can only be  queried when there are specific facts to back up a  reasonable suspicion of an  association with a foreign terrorist group.

He says officials allowed to access the  records must be specially cleared and are trained in the court-approved  procedures.

Clapper also cited the USA Patriot Act and  noted both the Obama and Bush administrations had reauthorized the  provision  used to grant authority to the program. That provision deals  with the ability  to compel an entity to hand over business records.

Warning: Senators Mark Udall (left) and Ron Wyden (right) wrote a letter warning the Attorney General that there would be public outcry should the government's actions become publicWarning: Senators Mark Udall (left) and Ron Wyden (right) wrote a letter warning the Attorney General that there would be public outcry should the government's actions become public

Warning: Senators Mark Udall (left) and Ron Wyden  (right) wrote a letter warning the Attorney General that there would be public  outcry should the government’s actions become public

When the first revelation in the case came  out Wednesday night about the order against Verizon, The American Civil  Liberties Union  put out an immediate statement calling for an end to the  program – which  is scheduled to run until July 19 – and a investigation into  the order.

‘From a civil liberties perspective,  the  program could hardly be any more alarming,’ ACLU deputy legal  director Jameel  Jaffer said in a statement.

‘It’s a program in which some untold  number  of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance  of government  agents.

‘It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides  further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being  surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence  agencies.’

The order is the first concrete evidence that  U.S. intelligence officials are continuing a broad campaign of domestic  surveillance that began under President George W. Bush and caused great  controversy when it was first exposed.

In 2005, the New York Times reported that the  NSA was wiretapping Americans without warrants on international calls. Los  Angeles Times and USA Today later reported that the agency also had unchecked  access to records on domestic calls.

In addition, a former AT&T technician,  Mark Klein, said that a room accessible only with NSA clearance in the carrier’s  main San Francisco hub received perfect copies of all  transmissions.

Verizon is the second biggest U.S. telephone  company behind AT&T in terms of revenue. The vast majority of Verizon’s  overseas operations come from its acquisition of MCI Communications, which is  also covered by the order although foreign-to-foreign calls are exempted from  it.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2337265/Leak-NSA-order-Verizon-cause-irreversible-harm-national-security-says-intelligence-officer.html#ixzz2VVYaKkti Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

By the numbers: The NSA’s super-secret spy program, PRISM

   Posted By Elias Groll     Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 8:00 PM

 

In a bombshell scoop, the Washington Post is reporting that the National Security Agency (NSA) has gained direct access to the servers of nine prominent Internet companies, enabling the spy agency to track e-mails, photographs, and video, among other forms of digital communciation.

The highly classified program, known as PRISM, has emerged as a central tool in the NSA’s arsenal and, according to documents detailing the program’s operation, is run with the assistance of the Silicon Valley tech companies it targets. The exposure of the program — which was also reported by the Guardian — is the latest in a string of reports detailing government snooping that have reignited the debate in Washington over the proper balance between privacy and national security.

To put that debate in perspective, here’s how PRISM stacks up by the numbers based on what we’ve learned today:

1,477: The number of times data obtained via PRISM has been cited in the president’s daily intelligence briefing.

1 in 7: The proportion of NSA intelligence reports using raw material from PRISM.

77,000: The number of intelligence reports that have cited PRISM.

2,000: The number of PRISM-based reports issued per month.

24,005: The number of PRISM-based reports issued in 2012 alone, which was a 27 percent increase from the previous year.

9: The number of tech companies whose servers NSA has access to via PRISM.

6: The number of years PRISM has been in operation.

2: The number of presidential administrations PRISM has operated under.

51 percent: The minimum confidence of a target’s “foreignness” when an NSA analyst uses PRISM.

248 percent: The increase in 2012 in the number of Skype communications intercepted via PRISM

131 percent: The increase in 2012 in PRISM requests for Facebook data.

63 percent: The increase in 2012 in PRISM requests for Google data.

$20 million: The annual cost of PRISM.

$8 billion: The estimated annual budget of the NSA.

35,000 to 55,000: The estimated number of employees at the NSA.

0: The number of times Twitter has agreed to participate in PRISM.

1: The number of ad campaigns by Microsoft, the first company to agree to participate in PRISM, in which the company declares “your privacy is our priority.”

Here’s that ad:

 

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/06/06/by_the_numbers_the_nsas_super_secret_spy_program_prism?wp_login_redirect=0

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily – revealed

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

Read the court order in full here

 

 The Guardian,    Wednesday 5 June 2013

    Phone records data

    Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

    The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

    The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

    The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

    The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

    Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

    The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

    Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

    The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

    The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

    The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

    “We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

    The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

    The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

    The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

    While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

    It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

    The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.

    For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

    Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

    Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

    The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

    In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

    “We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

    Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

    Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

    The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

    These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency’s focus on domestic activities.

    In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

    At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

    Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman

     

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order?guni=Network

    [Up to $20 Trillion U.S.] Offshore financial industry leak exposes identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world

    Identities of the rich who hide cash offshore

    David Leigh

    The Guardian,  Wednesday 3 April 2013 18.59 EDT

    British Virgin Islands
    The British Virgin Islands, the world’s leading offshore haven used by an array of government officials and rich families to hide their wealth. Photograph: Duncan Mcnicol/Getty Images

    Millions of internal records have leaked from Britain’s offshore financial industry, exposing for the first time the identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world, from presidents to plutocrats, the daughter of a notorious dictator and a British millionaire accused of concealing assets from his ex-wife.

    The leak of 2m emails and other documents, mainly from the offshore haven  of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.

    In France, Jean-Jacques Augier, President François Hollande’s campaign co-treasurer and close friend, has been forced to publicly identify his Chinese business partner. It emerges as Hollande is mired in financial scandal because his former budget minister concealed a Swiss bank account for 20 years and repeatedly lied about it.

    In Mongolia, the country’s former finance minister and deputy speaker of its parliament says he may have to resign from politics as a result of this investigation.

    But the two can now be named for the first time because of their use of companies in offshore havens, particularly in the British Virgin Islands, where owners’ identities normally remain secret.

    The names have been unearthed in a novel project by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists [ICIJ], in collaboration with the Guardian and other international media, who are jointly publishing their research results this week.

    The naming project may be extremely damaging for confidence among the world’s wealthiest people, no longer certain that the size of their fortunes remains hidden from governments and from their neighbours.

    BVI’s clients include Scot Young, a millionaire associate of deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Dundee-born Young is in jail for contempt of court for concealing assets from his ex-wife.

    Young’s lawyer, to whom he signed over power of attorney, appears to control interests in a BVI company that owns a potentially lucrative Moscow development with a value estimated at $100m.

    Another is jailed fraudster Achilleas Kallakis. He used fake BVI companies to obtain a record-breaking £750m in property loans from reckless British and Irish banks.

    As well as Britons hiding wealth offshore, an extraordinary array of government officials and rich families across the world are identified, from Canada, the US, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, China, Thailand and former communist states.

    The data seen by the Guardian shows that their secret companies are based mainly in the British Virgin Islands.

    Sample offshore owners named in the leaked files include:

    • Jean-Jacques Augier, François Hollande’s 2012 election campaign co-treasurer, launched a Caymans-based distributor in China with a 25% partner in a BVI company. Augier says his partner was Xi Shu, a Chinese businessman.

    • Mongolia’s former finance minister. Bayartsogt Sangajav set up “Legend Plus Capital Ltd” with a Swiss bank account, while he served as finance minister of the impoverished state from 2008 to 2012. He says it was “a mistake” not to declare it, and says “I probably should consider resigning from my position”.

    • The president of Azerbaijan and his family. A local construction magnate, Hassan Gozal, controls entities set up in the names of President Ilham Aliyev’s two daughters.

    • The wife of Russia’s deputy prime minister. Olga Shuvalova’s husband, businessman and politician Igor Shuvalov, has denied allegations of wrongdoing about her offshore interests.

    •A senator’s husband in Canada. Lawyer Tony Merchant deposited more than US$800,000 into an offshore trust.

    He paid fees in cash and ordered written communication to be “kept to a minimum”.

    • A dictator’s child in the Philippines: Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, a provincial governor, is the eldest daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos, notorious for corruption.

    • Spain’s wealthiest art collector, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, a former beauty queen and widow of a Thyssen steel billionaire, who uses offshore entities to buy pictures.

    • US: Offshore clients include Denise Rich, ex-wife of notorious oil trader Marc Rich, who was controversially pardoned by President Clinton on tax evasion charges. She put $144m into the Dry Trust, set up in the Cook Islands.

    It is estimated that more than $20tn acquired by wealthy individuals could lie in offshore accounts. The UK-controlled BVI has been the most successful among the mushrooming secrecy havens that cater for them.

    The Caribbean micro-state has incorporated more than a million such offshore entities since it began marketing itself worldwide in the 1980s. Owners’ true identities are never revealed.

    Even the island’s official financial regulators normally have no idea who is behind them.

    The British Foreign Office depends on the BVI’s company licensing revenue to subsidise this residual outpost of empire, while lawyers and accountants in the City of London benefit from a lucrative trade as intermediaries.

    They claim the tax-free offshore companies provide legitimate privacy. Neil Smith, the financial secretary of the autonomous local administration in the BVI’s capital Tortola, told the Guardian it was very inaccurate to claim the island “harbours the ethically challenged”.

    He said: “Our legislation provides a more hostile environment for illegality than most jurisdictions”.

    Smith added that in “rare instances …where the BVI was implicated in illegal activity by association or otherwise, we responded swiftly and decisively”.

    The Guardian and ICIJ’s Offshore Secrets series last year exposed how UK property empires have been built up by, among others, Russian oligarchs, fraudsters and tax avoiders, using BVI companies behind a screen of sham directors.

    Such so-called “nominees”, Britons giving far-flung addresses on Nevis in the Caribbean, Dubai or the Seychelles, are simply renting out their names for the real owners to hide behind.

    The whistleblowing group WikiLeaks caused a storm of controversy in 2010 when it was able to download almost two gigabytes of leaked US military and diplomatic files.

    The new BVI data, by contrast, contains more than 200 gigabytes, covering more than a decade of financial information about the global transactions of BVI private incorporation agencies. It also includes data on their offshoots in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Cook Islands in the Pacific.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/03/offshore-secrets-offshore-tax-haven

    Study: Earthworms may contribute to global warming ” Blame Organic Fertilizer? “

    EEV: Confirmed Study.. Link is Below

     

    Posted By Michael Bastasch On 3:54 AM  02/06/2013 @ 3:54 AM In Daily Caller News Foundation,Uncategorized,US |

    As environmentalists and politicians fret about man-made global warming, they may be ignoring another culprit: earthworms. According to a new study by an international team of researchers, earthworms could be contributing to global warming.

    The study looked at results from 237 separate experiments from published stories to explore earthworms’ role in affecting global warming.

    “Our results suggest that although earthworms are largely beneficial to soil fertility, they increase net soil greenhouse-gas emissions,” according to the study’s abstract.

    Worms affect how much carbon dioxide is produced in the soil and how much escapes into the atmosphere by altering the physical structure of the soil through burrowing, which makes it more porous. Earthworms interact with microbes in the soil that produce a large chunk of the carbon dioxide emissions.

    There are concerns that earthworms increase greenhouse gas emissions, which troubles scientists since earthworm numbers are on the rise.

    “Earthworms play an essential part in determining the greenhouse-gas balance of soils worldwide, and their influence is expected to grow over the next decades,’ reads the abstract. “They are thought to stimulate carbon sequestration in soil aggregates, but also to increase emissions of the main greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.”

    The study found that earthworms in soil increased nitrous oxide emissions by 42 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent. However, the report also notes that worms can increase one type of greenhouse gas emissions while reducing another.

    The Guardian reports that approximately 20 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions and two-thirds of N2O emissions come from the soil — produced by natural biological processes involving plant roots, as well as the micro-organisms living in the ground.

    The study says that earthworm’s contribution to global warming is small in the grand scheme of things, but their numbers are growing.

    “Over the next few decades, earthworm presence is likely to increase in ecosystems worldwide,” according to the study. “For example, large parts of North American forest soils are now being invaded by earthworms for the first time since the last glaciation”.

    The more people use organic fertilizers and move away from conventional land development, the more the number of earthworms could increase. However, habitat degradation and species invasions could reduce the world population.

    Follow Michael on Twitter

    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.


    Article printed from The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com

    URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/06/study-earthworms-may-contribute-to-global-warming/

    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1692.html

     

    Undercover officers stole identities of dead children

    Police officers stole the identities of 80 dead children to create undercover aliases, it is alleged.

    Met launches new child abuse probe

    Scotland Yard confirmed that they have received a complaint about the practice Photo: AP

    By Hayley Dixon

    8:37PM GMT 03 Feb 2013

    The Metropolitan Police took details from birth and death records without the consent of the children’s families and issued fake passports, driving licences and National Insurance Numbers for officers infiltrating protest groups.

    Some spent a decade using the stolen identities and the practice went on for 30 years, according to The Guardian

    Scotland Yard, who said the practice would not be authorised now, confirmed they have received a formal complaint, which is being investigated by the Directorate of Professional Standards.

    They will also examine the practice as part of an investigation into the “past arrangements for undercover identities used by Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) officers”.

    The practice, introduced 40 years ago but deemed classified intelligence, was fictionalised in Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal. As a result officers have nicknamed the process of searching for suitable identities the “jackal run”.

    One officer working undercover with anti-racist groups in the 1990s said he felt he was “stomping on the grave” of the four-year-old boy whose identity he had used. He even visited the child’s home to back up his story

    Another officer, who used the identity of a car-crash victim, said he was aware the parents would “still be grief-stricken” and he had “dilemmas” as they had not consented.

    They had worked for the controversial unit, which was disbanded in 2008, alongside Sergeant John Dines who it is said used the identity of an eight-year-old who died from leukaemia in 1968.

    He had a two-year relationship with an activist. When he vanished she tried to trace the family of the dead boy – believing it was his. She said she was relieved she never found them.

    There have been claims that the practice stopped in the mid-1990s, but the case being investigated relates to 2003.

    Around 80 officers are reported to have used the identities between 1968 and 1994.

    The Met have refused to confirm or deny the identity of the undercover officers.

     

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9846193/Undercover-officers-stole-identities-of-dead-children.html

    Germany saves money by Deporting the Elderly

    Friday, 28 December 2012

    German pensioners are being sent to care homes in Eastern Europe and Asia in what has been described as an ‘inhumane deportation’.  Rising numbers of the elderly and sick are moved overseas for long-term care because of sky-high costs at home.

    .
    Some private healthcare providers are even building homes overseas, while state insurers are also investigating whether they can care for their clients abroad.

    .
    Experts describe a time bomb’ of increasing numbers unable to afford the growing costs of retirement homes.

    .

    And they say the situation should be a warning to Britain, where rising numbers of pensioners are forced to sell their homes to pay for care.

    .
    The Sozialverband Deutschland (VdK), a socio-political advisory group, said the fact that many Germans were unable to afford the costs of a retirement home in their own country was a huge ‘alarm signal’.

    .
    ‘We simply cannot let those people, who built Germany up to be what it is, be deported,’ VdK’s president Ulrike Mascher told The Guardian. ‘It is inhumane.’
    Researchers found an estimated 7,146 German pensioners living in retirement homes in Hungary in 2011.

    .
    More than 3,000 were in the Czech Republic and more than 600 in Slovakia. There were also unknown numbers in Spain, Greece and the Ukraine, as well as Thailand and the Philippines.
    Some told researchers they were there out of choice as costs were lower, while standards of care were often higher.

    .
    But many others admitted they moved reluctantly.

    .

    http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/22457/53/

    Russians man Syrian air defences

    Russian military presence in Syria poses challenge to US-led intervention

    Advisers deployed with surface-to-air systems bolster President Assad’s defences and complicate outcome of any future strikes

    Syria crisis – an Assad regime military vehicle destroyed by rebels

    Syria crisis – an Assad regime military vehicle destroyed by rebels during clashes in Bayada neighborhood, Homs province. Photograph: Associated Press

    Russian military advisers are manning some of Syria‘s more sophisticated air defences – something that would complicate any future US-led intervention, the Guardian has learned.

    The advisers have been deployed with new surface-to-air systems and upgrades of old systems, which Moscow has supplied to the Assad regime since the Syrian revolution broke out 21 months ago.

    The depth and complexity of Syria’s anti-aircraft defences mean that any direct western campaign, in support of a no-fly zone or in the form of punitive air strikes against the leadership, would be costly, protracted and risky. The possibility of Russian military casualties in such a campaign could have unpredictable geopolitical consequences.

    Meanwhile, near-daily atrocities have kept western governments under pressure to act. A Syrian government air strike on a town near the central city of Hama on Sunday killed dozens of civilians queueing for bread, according to human rights activists.

    Amateur footage from Halfaya showed mangled human remains strewn along a street where people had been blown off scooters and out of cars. One video showed a boy with his feet blown off. Piles of corpses could be seen beneath rubble outside a two-storey building the cameraman described as a bakery. It was unclear how many bodies were in the smoking ruins.

    Human Rights Watch has previously accused the regime of targeting bakeries. The group warned the Assad regime that such targeted bombing of civilians represented war crimes. However, in the face of a Russian veto at the UN security council, the international criminal court has not had a mandate to investigate the atrocities committed by either side. The UN has put the death toll at more than 40,000 as the war continues to escalate.

    Turkish officials, who accurately predicted the Syrian regime would use Scud missiles after several warplanes were shot down by rebels, also believe President Bashar al-Assad has twice come close to using chemical weapons including sarin, the nerve gas. First, after the bombing of the regime’s Damascus security headquarters in July, which killed the president’s brother in law, Assef Shawkat, and then last month, after opposition forces made significant gains.

    The Turks and western officials say there are signs Assad sees chemical weapons as another step in the escalation of force, rather than a Rubicon-crossing gamble that could end his regime. The US, UK, France and Turkey have warned Syria that its use of such weapons would trigger military retribution. But any such a response would be fraught with difficulties.

    Air strikes against chemical weapon depots would potentially disperse lethal gases over a vast area, triggering a humanitarian disaster. US and allied special forces have been trained to seize the air bases where the warheads are kept, but it is unclear what the next step would be. It would be physically impossible to fly the hundreds of warheads out of the country, while it would take thousands of troops to guard the arsenal for what could be many months. In the interim, those western troops could easily become the target of Islamist groups fighting the government in Damascus.

    Any air strikes against regime targets, in response to chemical weapon use, or any attempt to create a no-fly zone to stop further bombing of refugee camps, would require the suppression of Syria’s formidable defences. Those have been bolstered significantly since Israeli strikes on an alleged nuclear reactor site at al-Kibar in 2007 exposed holes, and again since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March 2011.

    The upgrades were supplied by Moscow, which sees them as a bulwark against western-imposed regime change and  protection of a longstanding investment in Syria. The country includes Russia‘s biggest electronic eavesdropping post outside its territory, in Latakia, and its toehold on the Mediterranean, a small naval base at Tartus.

    Russian security and defence officials, who are notoriously loth to publicly comment on their operations abroad, have repeatedly denied providing explicit support for the Assad regime.

    Over the weekend, the head of Russia’s ground forces air defence, Major General Alexander Leonov, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station: “Syria’s air-defence system is a no-nonsense force. As a result, no one has ever used serious air combat power against it.”

    That “no-nonsense” force, the air defence command, comprises two divisions and an estimated 50,000 troops – twice the size of Muammar Gaddafi’s force – with thousands of anti-aircraft guns and more than 130 anti-aircraft missile batteries.

    According to Jeremy Binnie, the editor of Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, recent Russian deliveries include Buk-M2 and Pantsyr-S1 (known to Nato as SA-22) mobile missile launch and radar systems. Reports of the shipment of the modern long-range S-300 have not been confirmed, and the Syrian armed forces did not show off any S-300 missiles in a military display this year. It is possible they have been delivered but are not yet operational.

    Guy Ben-Ari, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “They don’t just sell the equipment. They also help man the crews and train the crews. Sometimes there is just no domestic capacity to run these systems, and that is the case in Syria where Syrian crews are not capable of using the equipment to its full capacity.”

    Sources familiar with the Moscow-Damascus defence relationship confirmed the presence of Russian air-defence crews inside Syria. Their deployment would be a consideration when western contingency plans for Syria were being considered, they said.

    Such a dense, layered and overlapping air-defence system would require a huge air campaign, heavily reliant on thousands of precision-guided missiles. The UK, France and other American allies in Europe used up their stocks of such weapons in Libya and although details are classified there have been reports that they have not yet returned to pre-Libya levels.

    “We know they pretty much ran out of them at the end of Libya. Given the budgetary constraints the Europeans are operating with, and in an era where every euro spent on defence is very heavily scrutinised, it is a hard sell to restock on this stuff,” Ben-Ari said. “And it would not be enough to be at Libya levels. You would need far more for Syria.”

    A Syrian air campaign would also require stealth aircraft and a great amount of signals intelligence, satellite imagery and aerial reconnaissance, all of which are US specialities. For all those reasons, Washington would not be able to “lead from behind” as it did in Libya.

    The Obama administration has so far been extremely wary of getting enmeshed in another Middle East war, particularly with the knowledge that the long-running Iranian nuclear crisis could trigger a conflict in the Gulf at any time. With the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus last month, the administration arguably lost its most powerful advocate of Syrian intervention.

    John Kerry, the nominee for secretary of state, has advocated greater support for the rebels, but stopped short of calling for direct US or Nato involvement. With no new secretary of defence yet nominated, it could take several months for the new team to recalibrate its approach.

    The robust Syrian defences, combined with Damascus’s hand-in-glove relationship with Moscow, and the fragmented nature of the opposition, help explain why a US-led intervention – predicted as imminent for more than a year by advocates and opponents alike – has so far failed to materialise, and why there is little appetite for such a move in Washington and most other western capitals, barring a major, verifiable use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/23/syria-crisis-russian-military-presence

     

    China: 700 mountains to be levelled to make way for new town

    Saturday, 08 December 2012
    Chinese developers are planning to flatten 700 mountains to make way for a new town in the north-west of the country.

    The nation’s most ambitious “mountain moving” project is slated for a patch of desert the outskirts of Lanzhou in the Gansu province and is estimated to cost $3.2bn, according to the Guardian.

    But developers hope the cost and effort will be worth it, with the new metropolis potentially able to boost the region’s GDP by $38bn by 2030.
    The ambitious mountain-flattening is already underway, despite concerns over the effect it will have on the natural environment.

    Lanzhou, home to 3.6 million people, already has the nation’s worst air pollution and the region is notoriously arid, with water in scarce supply.
    But a spokesman for the developers, China Pacific Construction Group, told the Guardian that the project would divert water to the region and promote reforestation.

     

     

    http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/22345/53/

    China weighs into Europe’s austerity battle: depth of public anger in the eurozone could lead to a ‘complete discarding’ of austerity programmes

    Top official at China’s £300bn sovereign wealth fund said that the depth of public anger in the eurozone could lead to a ‘complete discarding’ of austerity programmes

     

    Zombie protest marks visit of IMF Chief to Manila

    Activists dressed as zombies stage a protest outside the presidential palace in Manila over the visit by International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde.  Photograph: Ezra Acayan/  Ezra Acayan/Demotix/Corbis

    Opposition to Europe‘s austerity programmes intensified on Friday as a top official at China’s £300bn sovereign wealth fund warned that the public are at “breaking point” and protesters demonstrated in solidarity against the International Monetary Fund in Manila.

    Jin Liqun, chair of the supervisory board of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), said that undue harshness risked a backlash which could end with necessary economic reforms being abandoned. Jin, who has previously argued that Europeans should work harder, repeated an earlier warning that governments had spent unsustainably in the past and need to be more fiscally responsible, but added that the depth of public anger could lead to a “complete discarding” of austerity programmes.

    “The fact the public are taking to the streets and resorting to violence indicates the general public’s tolerance has hit its limits,” he said.

    “Unions are now involved in organised protests; demonstrations and strikes. It smacks of the 1930s,” he said.

    “The general public’s tolerance of austerity has been stretched to breaking point.”

    Speaking to the Guardian, Jin said the key was to balance fiscal cutbacks with growth strategies. “So there should be some tolerance, but the determination to carry on austerity should not be relaxed.”

    Jin’s comments came two days after the eurozone saw the biggest anti-austerity protests since the financial crisis began, with riot police clashing with demonstrators in several cities.

    Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, received a taste of the global concern over the eurozone during a trip to the Philippines. Protesters gathered in Manila dressed as zombies, carrying placards bearing slogans including “IMF is an economic zombie” and “IMF is dead. A walking dead”.

    Plastered with fake blood, the group lay down on the road outside the presidential palace and said they were acting in solidarity with the people of Europe,

    The euro crisis overshadowed Lagarde’s trip – which is already being truncated so she can return to Europe for another meeting of finance ministers next Tuesday. The IMF managing director said it was essential that the eurozone agrees a way to put Greece on a sustainable debt path.

    “It is not over until the fat lady sings, as the saying goes,” Lagarde told a press briefing. “It is a question of working hard, putting our mind to it, making sure that we focus on the same objective which is that the country in particular.”

    Gary Jenkins, analyst at Swordfish Research, predicted that the IMF and the eurozone will agree a deal to give Greece its next slice of funding, after failing to reach agreement last Monday.

    “The alternative is to risk a disorderly default and a potential meltdown of the eurozone,” Jenkins added.

    The latest trade data showed a drop in goods being brought into the eurozone, a day after it fell into recession. Imports fell 4% in September while exports rose by 1%, resulting in a euro area trade surplus of €9.8bn (£7.8bn) in September, up from just €1.7bn a year ago.

     

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/nov/16/china-sovereign-wealth-fund-austerity-eurozone

    Israel ‘planned Iran attack in 2010’

    Binyamin Netanyahu ordered military to prepare for strike against Iran two years ago, according to TV documentary

    Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu

    Binyamin Netanyahu: the order to raise the alert level was not carried out after strong opposition from Israeli security chiefs. Photograph: Reuters

    Israel‘s prime minister and defence minister ordered the country’s military to prepare for a strike against Iran‘s nuclear installations two years ago, according to a television documentary.

    But the order was not carried out after it met with strong opposition from two key security figures, the military chief of staff and head of the Mossad, claimed Uvda (Fact), broadcast yesterday.

    It said that at the end of a meeting of selected ministers and officials Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak ordered the army to raise its level of preparedness to P Plus, a code signifying imminent military action.

    But the army chief, Gabi Ashkenazi and the Mossad head, Meir Dagan, who were at the meeting, opposed the move. According to the hour-long Channel 2 programme, Dagan told Netanyahu and Barak: “You are likely to make an illegal decision to go to war. Only the cabinet is authorised to decide this.” The programme reported Dagan saying after the meeting that the prime minister and defence minister were “simply trying to steal a war”.

    Ashkenazi voiced fears that raising the alert level would “create facts on the ground”, making a military strike inevitable. He was quoted as saying: “This is not something you do unless you are certain you want to execute at the end.”

    Both security chiefs have since left their posts.

    Barak, who was interviewed for the programme, said the order was not carried out because the military did not have the necessary operational capability. He rejected the notion that security chiefs vetoed the order.

    “The things you are describing are the responsibility of the government,” he said. “The idea that if the chief of staff does not recommend something that is possible to do, then we cannot decide to carry it out – this has no basis in fact. The chief of staff must build the operational capacity, he must tell us from a professional point of view whether it is possible to carry out an order, or if it is not possible, and he also can – and must – give his recommendation. [But] it can be carried out against his recommendation.”

    Barak also said that raising the alert level “did not necessarily mean war”.

    The reporter for the programme, Ilana Dayan, said Israeli military censors prevented her from disclosing the date in 2010 for the order.

    Since leaving office, both former security chiefs have made clear their opposition to premature military action against Iran’s nuclear programme. In August, Ashkenazi said “we’re still not there”, urging more time for sanctions and diplomacy.

    Dagan said bombing Iran was “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard“. He told CBS’s 60 Minutes: “An attack on Iran now before exploring all other approaches is not the right way … to do it.”

    The current senior echelon of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment in Israel is also believed to have serious reservations about launching unilateral military action. The US has urged restraint, arguing that sanctions need time to take effect.

    In his speech to the United Nations in September, Netanyahu pulled back from the likelihood of an imminent Israeli strike when he declared that a “red line” – the point at which Iran is close to nuclear capability – would not be crossed until next spring or summer. The Iranians say their nuclear programme is for domestic use, not to create weapons.

    Scott Johnson, a senior analyst with IHS Jane’s, said that Israel still faces the same capability issues as two years ago. “The capability issues that prevent them from performing a unilateral strike are the same now as they were in 2010,” he said, citing the lack of air-to-air refuellers and heavy-duty bombs needed to penetrate underground bunkers. “They can plan and prepare for a unilateral strike as much as they want, but they can’t actually do it without the US.”

    The timing of the broadcast, two months before a general election in Israel, could be significant, said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli analyst. “If Netanyahu and Barak are shown as too eager to go to war without considering opinion inside the cabinet and security establishment, that makes them look reckless. The fact that the [Israeli] military censors allowed the programme to be aired could mean that they are trying to show it was the military establishment that basically saved Israel from possible disaster.”

    Channel 2’s disclosures came as a respected Israeli thinktank, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), published the outcome of a war game simulating the 48-hour period after an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear installations. In the scenario, Israel does not inform the US of its operation until after its launch. Iran reacts by launching around 200 missiles at Israel, and urging its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas to do likewise. However, it is careful to avoid attacking US targets in the immediate aftermath of a strike.

    According to the INSS, there are two opposing outcomes of an Israeli attack: “One anticipates the outbreak of world war three, while the other envisions containment and restraint, and presumes that in practice Iran’s capabilities to ignite the Middle East are limited.” Its war game “developed in the direction of containment and restraint”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/05/israel-planned-iran-attack-claim

    Santa’s pipe put out in new edition of children’s classic: ” edited out a few words and lines that reference Santa smoking and removed the cover illustration of his pipe”

    Fresh version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas sparks censorship ro)

    Father Christmas smoking

    Santa smoking … a traditional image of Father Christmas. Photograph: Alamy/Beryl Peters Collection

    A new version of Clement C Moore’s classic festive poem A Vist from St Nicholas, better known by its first line, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, has removed all mentions of Santa Claus’s pipe in a bid to limit children’s exposure to images of smoking.

    Canadian publisher Pamela McColl released her edition of the 1823 poem, which is attributed to Moore, last month, drawing widespread criticism from anti-censorship groups. Her version cuts two lines from the poem – the description of St Nicholas which runs “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, / And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath” – as well as redrawing the illustration to remove the pipe and smoke from around the character.

    McColl, who published the book through her own company, Grafton and Scratch, is an anti-smoking campaigner, and believes children’s books which feature smoking should include parental warnings. She did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian, but writes on her website that the cuts she has made to the Moore poem do not constitute censorship.

    “I have edited out a few words and lines that reference Santa smoking and removed the cover illustration of his pipe. The omission of these few words do not change the material intent of the author nor do they infringe on the reader’s understanding or enjoyment of this historically-rich story, but by removing these words we may save lives and avoid influencing new smokers,” she says. “I think these edits outweigh other considerations. If this text is to survive another 200 years it needs to modernise and reflect today’s realities. I want children to celebrate the spirit of giving and to reflect proudly on the holiday traditions that shape their childhood, and the best way to honour Santa and this story is to make him smoke-free.”

    The description for the book on Amazon states that “as the direct link between the exposure to the depiction of characters smoking and youth initiation to nicotine has been well established, we were compelled to make these recommended changes”.

    But the American Library Association disagreed, saying that the changes made represent “an act of censorship that denies the audience access to the author’s authentic voice”. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom, said that “such censorship misrepresents the artist’s original work and relies wholly on the idea that children are incapable of critical thinking or that a parent’s guidance and training are meaningless”.

    She suggested that “a far better path would be providing tools for parents who want to raise the issue with their children rather than suppressing Clement Moore’s speech. One person’s beliefs, no matter how well-meaning, should not be used to deny youth and families the ability to read Clement Moore’s original poem for their own enjoyment.”

    At the National Coalition Against Censorship, director of programmes Svetlana Mintcheva said that “putting children in an insulation bubble, hoping to protect them from anything their parents may deem harmful, is not only impossible, it is unproductive”.

    “In this world where all kinds of images barrage us in the street, on the internet and through mass media, energies should be directed at helping children navigate among messages and look at them critically rather than hoping for a magic solution by taking away Santa’s pipe,” she said.

    McColl has not addressed the issue of Santa’s obesity in her “special 21st-century edition”. Moore writes that “He had a broad face and a little round belly / That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly”, and these lines remain in the poem.

    “He doesn’t eat in the story. That’s not my issue,” she told the LA Times. “That’s Jamie Oliver and other people’s issue.”

     

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/24/santa-pipe-new-night-before-christmas?newsfeed=true

    Rogue geoengineer’s ocean field test condemned : Dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the sea

    14:45 17 October 2012 by Michael Marshall

    Frustration has bubbled up about the actions of a rogue climate hacker. Independent geoengineer Russ George has reportedly attempted to fertilise a patch of ocean in the north-east Pacific, drawing criticism from researchers who have done similar trials in the past.According to The Guardian newspaper, George dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the seanear the Canadian Haida Gwaii archipelago in July.Iron can trigger plankton blooms, which lock carbon away if they sink. Several research teams have carried out field trials in the past to determine the method’s effectiveness, but those involved in these earlier experiments say George’s actions cannot be sanctioned.George’s field test appears to contravene existing regulations governing geoengineering experiments. The London Convention and Protocol, which regulates the dumping of waste and other material at sea, passed a resolution in 2008 stating that “ocean fertilisation activities other than legitimate scientific research should not be allowed”. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity has also placed a moratorium on geoengineeringif it affects biodiversity.”I am disturbed and disappointed, as this will make legitimate, transparent fertilisation experiments more difficult” says Victor Smetacek of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, who carried out iron fertilisation research experiments in 2004 and 2007.

    Profit driven?

    George was previously CEO of Planktos, a company that sought to sell carbon credits off the back of iron fertilisation – and Smetacek and other researchers fear that such financially motivated endeavours will make basic research in the field difficult.

    “This is extremely unhelpful for those of us wanting to do some serious work on iron fertilisation,” says Richard Lampitt of the UK’s National Oceanography Centre.

    Both researchers argue that tests of geoengineering should be run as a public good, but not for profit as George has attempted in the past.

    Lampitt is a member of the In-Situ Iron Studies (ISIS) Consortium. This calls for more experiments on iron fertilisation, but also advocates a strict code of conduct that includes carrying out research openly and abiding by the London Convention. Lampitt and other ISIS members yesterday issued a statement criticising George for ignoring these principles.

    Not everyone agrees that the field test was immoral. Fish farms and sewage dumping regularly fertilise the ocean, but do not draw the same level of ire, argues Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “Apparently, dumping raw sewage simply to save the cost of sewage processing is less repugnant than fertilising the ocean in hopes of increasing fish yields.”

    Ecological benefits?

    New Scientist was unable to reach George for comment. In his latest endeavour, he appears to have been assisted by Haida villagers. Guujaww, the president of the Haida Nation, confirmed that the iron fertilisation experiment took place and told New Scientist that George “convinced one of our villages that this was good”.

    In theory at least, dumping iron could boost the ocean ecosystem, improving the Haida’s fisheries. Dust from a 2008 volcanic eruption in Alaska may have caused a plankton bloom, leading to record salmon populations in 2010 (Fisheries and Oceanography, doi.org/jjb).

    Satellite pictures taken at the time (see above) suggest an increase in phytoplankton to the west of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, although it is not clear that this was a direct consequence of the iron dumping, as such blooms happen regularly naturally.

    “Determining the local effects of iron fertilisation against the background of natural variations is difficult, and impacts on fisheries, ocean biota and carbon cycling harder still”, say the ISIS team in their statement.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22390-rogue-geoengineers-ocean-field-test-condemned.html

    Catholic theologian: Unseat pope and push ‘authoritarian’ church to radical reform

    By Kate Connolly, The Guardian Friday, October 5, 2012 14:26 EDT

    Pope Benedict XVI via Agence France-Presse

    Hans Küng urges confrontation from the grassroots to unseat pope and force radical reform at Vatican

    One of the world’s most prominent Catholic theologians has called for a revolution from below to unseat the pope and force radical reform at the Vatican.

    Hans Küng is appealing to priests and churchgoers to confront the Catholic hierarchy, which he says is corrupt, lacking credibility and apathetic to the real concerns of the church’s members.

    In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Küng, who had close contact with the pope when the two worked together as young theologians, described the church as an “authoritarian system” with parallels to Germany’s Nazi dictatorship.

    “The unconditional obedience demanded by bishops who swear their allegiance to the pope when they make their holy oath is almost as extreme as that of the German generals who were forced to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler,” he said.

    The Vatican made a point of crushing any form of clerical dissent, he added. “The rules for choosing bishops are so rigid that as soon as candidates emerge who say, stand up for the pill, or for the ordination of women, they are struck off the list.” The result was a church of “yes men”, almost all of whom unquestioningly toed the line.

    “The only way for reform is from the bottom up,” said Küng, 84, who is a priest. “The priests and others in positions of responsibility need to stop being so subservient, to organise themselves and say that there are certain things that they simply will not put up with anymore,” he added.

    Küng, the author of around 30 books on Catholic theology, Christianity and ethics, which have sold millions worldwide, said that inspiration for global change was to be found in his native Switzerland and in Austria, where hundreds of Catholic priests have formed movements advocating policies that openly defy current Vatican practices. The revolts have been described as unprecedented by Vatican observers, who say they are likely to cause deep schisms in the church.

    “I’ve always said that if one priest in a diocese is roused, that counts for nothing. Five will create a stir. Fifty are pretty much invincible. In Austria, the figure is well over 300, possibly up to 400 priests; in Switzerland it’s about 150 who have stood up and it will increase.”

    He said recent attempts by the archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, to try to stamp out the uprising by threatening to punish those involved in the Austrian “priests’ initiative” had backfired owing to the strength of feeling. “He soon stopped when he realised that so many ordinary people are supportive of them and he was in danger of turning them all against him,” Küng said.

    The initiatives support such seemingly modest demands as letting divorced and remarried people receive communion, allowing non-ordained people to lead services and allowing women to take on important positions in the hierarchy. However, as they go against conventional Catholic teaching, the demands have been flatly rejected by the Vatican.

    Küng, who was stripped of the authority to teach Catholic theology by Pope John Paul II in 1979 for questioning the concept of papal infallibility, is credited with giving the present pope, Joseph Ratzinger as he then was, the first significant step up the hierarchy of Catholic academia when he called him to Tübingen University, in south-west Germany, as professor of dogmatic theology in 1966.

    The pair had worked closely together for four years in the 1960s as the youngest theological advisers on the second Vatican council – the most radical overhaul of the Catholic church since the middle ages.

    But the relationship between the two was never straightforward, with their political differences eventually driving a wedge between them. The dashing and flamboyant Hans Küng, by various accounts, often stole the limelight from the more earnest and staid Joseph Ratzinger.

    Küng refers to the “heap of legends” that abound about himself and Ratzinger from their “Tübingen days”, not least the apocryphal accounts of how he gave lifts in his “red sports car” to the bicycle-riding Ratzinger.

    “I often gave him a lift, particularly up the steep hills of Tübingen, yes, but too much has been made of this,” he said. “I didn’t drive a sports car, rather an Alfa Romeo Giulia. Ratzinger admitted himself that he had no interest in technology and had no driving licence. But it’s often been turned into some kind of pseudo-profound metaphor idealising the ‘cyclist’ and demonising the ‘Alfa Romeo driver’”.

    Indeed the “modest” and prudent “bicycle-rider” image that pope-to-be, now 85, fostered for years has all but evaporated since his 2005 inauguration, according to Küng.

    “He has developed a peculiar pomposity that doesn’t fit the man I and others knew, who once walked around in a Basque-style cap and was relatively modest. Now he’s frequently to be seen wrapped in golden splendour and swank. By his own volition he wears the crown of a 19th-century pope, and has even had the garments of the Medici pope Leo X remade for him.”

    That “pomposity”, he said, manifested itself most fully in the regular audiences who gather on St Peter’s Square in Rome. “What happens has Potemkin village dimensions,” he said. “Fanatical people go there to celebrate the pope, and tell him how wonderful he is, while meanwhile at home their own parishes are in a lamentable state, with a lack of priests, a far higher number than ever before of people who are leaving than are being baptised and now Vatileaks, which indicates just what a poor state the Vatican administration is in,” he said, referring to the scandal over leaked documents uncovering power struggles within the Vatican which has seen the pope’s former butler appear in court this week[CHECK].

    It was in Tübingen that the paths of the two theologians crossed for several years before diverging sharply following the student riots of 1968. Ratzinger was shocked by the events and escaped to the relative safety of his native Bavaria, where he deepened his involvement in the Catholic hierarchy. Küng stayed in Tübingen and increasingly assumed the role of the Catholic church’s enfant terrible.

    “The student revolts were a primal shock for Ratzinger and after that he became ever more conservative and part of the hierarchy of the church,” said Küng.

    Calling Pope Benedict XVI’s reign a “pontificate of missed opportunities”, in which he had foregone chances to reconcile with the Protestant, Jewish, orthodox and Muslim faiths, as well as failing to help the African fight against Aids by not allowing the use of birth control, Küng said his “gravest scandal” was the way he had “covered up” worldwide cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics during his time as the head of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Ratzinger and had then failed to apologise.

    “The Vatican is no different from the Kremlin,” Küng said. “Just as Putin as a secret service agent became the head of Russia, so Ratzinger, as head of the Catholic church’s secret services, became head of the Vatican. He has never apologised for the fact that many cases of abuse were sealed under the secretum pontificium (papal secrecy), or acknowledged that this is a disaster for the Catholic church.” Küng described a process of “Putinisation” that has taken place at the Vatican.

    Yet despite their differences, the two have remained in contact. Küng visited the pope at his summer retreat, Castel Gandolfo, in 2005, during which the two held an intensive four-hour discussion.

    “It felt like we were on an equal footing – after all, we’d been colleagues for years. We walked through the park and there were times I thought he might turn the corner on certain issues, but it never happened. Since then we’ve still kept exchanging letters, but we’ve not met since.”

    Kung has travelled widely in his life, befriending everyone from Iranian leaders to John F. Kennedy, and Tony Blair with whom he forged close links a decade ago, becoming something of a spiritual guru for the then British prime minister ahead of his decision to convert to Catholicism.

    “I was impressed how he tackled the Northern Ireland conflict. But then came the Iraq war and I was extremely troubled by the way in which he collaborated with Bush. I wrote to him calling it a historical failure of the first order. He wrote me a hand-written note in reply, saying he respected my views and thankyou, but that I should know he was acting according to his conscience and was not trying to please the Americans. I was astounded that a British prime minister could make such a catastrophic mistake, and he remains for me a tragic figure.” He described Blair’s conversion to Catholicism as a mistake, insisting he should instead have used his role as a public figure to reconcile differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches in the UK.

    From his book-filled study, where a portrait of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century English Catholic martyr, hangs on the wall, Küng looks out on to his front garden and a two-metre-tall statue of himself. Critics have called it symptomatic of Kung’s inflated sense of his own importance. He is embarrassed as he attempts to explain how it was a gift from his 20-year-old Stiftung Weltethos, (Foundation for a Global Ethic), which operates from his house and will continue to do so after his death.

    Far from putting the brakes on his prolific theological output, Küng has recently distilled the ideas of Weltethos – which seeks to create a global code of behaviour, or a globalisation of ethics – into a capricious musical libretto. Mixing narrative with excerpts from the teachings of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Küng’s writings have been incorporated into a major symphonic work by the British composer Jonathan Harvey that will have its London premiere on Sunday at the Southbank Centre.

    Küng says the musical work, like the foundation, is an attempt to emphasise what the religions of the world have in common rather than what divides them.

    Weltethos was founded in the early 1990s as an attempt to bring the religions of the world together by emphasising what they have in common rather than what divides them. It has drawn up a code of behavioural rules that it hopes one day will be as universally acceptable as the UN.

    The work’s aim is arguably high-minded – Harvey described the demanding task of writing a score for the text as an “awe-inspring responsibility”. But Küng, who has won the support of leading figures including Henry Kissinger, Kofi Annan, Jacques Rogge, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Shirin Ebadi, insisted its aims were grounded in basic necessity.”At a time of paradigm change in the world, we need a common set of principles, most obvious among them the Golden Rule, in which Confucius taught to not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself,” he said.

    Weltethos will be performed at the Royal Festival Hall on October 7

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/05/catholic-theologian-unseat-pope-and-push-authoritarian-church-to-radical-reform/

    Oxfam: Land snapped up by corporations could have fed nearly 1 billion

    By John Vidal, The Guardian
    Thursday, October 4, 2012 9:54 EDT

    Rows of corn severely damaged by widespread drought is left standing for insurance adjusters to evaluate on a farm near Bruceville, Indiana in August 2012. US producer prices jumped 1.7 percent in August, the largest monthly rise in three years, sparked by skyrocketing crop prices due to drought and higher energy costs, fresh data showed.

    International land investors and biofuel producers have taken over land around the world that could feed nearly 1bn people.

    Analysis by Oxfam of several thousand land deals completed in the last decade shows that an area eight times the size of the UK has been left idle by speculators or is being used largely to grow biofuels for US or European vehicles.

    In a report, published on Thursday, Oxfam says the global land rush is out of control and urges the World Bank to freeze its investments in large-scale land acquisitions to send a strong signal to global investors to stop “land grabs”.

    “More than 60% of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems. But two-thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce on the land. Nearly 60% of the deals have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels,” says the report.

    Very few, if any, of these land investments benefit local people or help to fight hunger, says Oxfam. “Instead, the land is either being left idle, as speculators wait for its value to increase … or it is predominantly used to grow crops for export, often for use as biofuels.”

    The bank has tripled its support for land projects to $6bn-$8bn (£3.7bn-£5bn) a year in the last decade, but no data is available on how much goes to acquisitions, or any links between its lending and conflict.

    Since 2008, says Oxfam, 21 formal complaints have been brought by communities affected by World Bank investments, in which they claim that these have violated their land rights.

    Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said: “The rush for land is out of control and some of the world’s poorest people are suffering hunger, violence and greater poverty as a result. The World Bank is in a unique position to help stop land grabs becoming one of the biggest scandals of the century.”

    She added: “Investment should be good news for developing countries – not lead to greater poverty, hunger and hardship.”

    According to the International Land Coalition, 106m hectares (261m acres) of land in developing countries were acquired by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010, sometimes with disastrous results.

    Nearly 30% of Liberia has been handed out in large-scale concessions in the past five years, and up to 63% of all arable land in Cambodia has been passed over to private companies.

    Oxfam dismisses the claim made by the World Bank and others that lots of available land is unused and waiting for development. “It is simply a myth. Most agricultural land deals target quality farmland, particularly land that is irrigated and offers good access to markets.

    “It is clear that much of this land was already being used for small-scale farming, pastoralism and other types of natural resource use.”

    A 2010 study by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) – the World Bank’s official monitoring and evaluation body – stated that about 30% of bank projects involved involuntary resettlement. The IEG estimated that at any one time, more than 1 million people are affected by involuntary resettlement in active World Bank-financed projects.

    Oxfam urged the UK government, one of the bank’s largest shareholders, to use its influence to persuade it to implement the freeze. “It can also play a crucial role as president of the G8 next year by putting food and hunger at the heart of the agenda, and addressing land grabs as part of this. Critically, it can also press the EU to reverse biofuels targets – a key driver of land grabs.”

    Stocking said: “The UK should also show leadership in reversing flawed biofuels targets, which are a main driver for land and are diverting food into fuel.”

    In a statement to the Guardian, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private lending arm, said: “IFC does not finance land acquisitions for speculative purposes. We invest in productive agricultural and forestry enterprises that can be land intensive to help provide the food and fibre the world needs. IFC has roughly a $4.85bn portfolio of agri-related investments. Of that, roughly $600m has a land component. Total land holding related to those investments total 0.7m hectares.

    “Competition for scarce land resources has spurred rising investment in land. This competition can fuel conflict with existing users. Inevitably, bank group involvement in forestry and agriculture is not without risk, particularly given the fact we are operating in imperfect governance environments. But the total number of complaints received gives no explanation as to their validity.”

    © Guardian News and Media 2012

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/04/oxfam-land-snapped-up-by-corporations-could-have-fed-nearly-1-billion/

    Citizens United ruling accounts for 78 percent of 2012 election spending

    By Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian
    Monday, September 24, 2012 19:54 EDT

    Money in politics photo via Shuttershock

    Almost $465m of outside money has been spent on the US presidential election campaign so far, including $365m that can be attributed to the supreme court’s landmark Citizens United ruling, according to a report released on Monday.

    Super Pacs, which came into effect following the 2010 Citizens United verdict, accounted for $272m of the expenditure in the study, conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to increasing transparency in government.

    A further $93m has been spent by corporations, trade associations and non-profits which, according to the supreme court’s decision, are able to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigning without disclosing the source of their funds.

    “This cycle’s outside spending mostly comes in the form of ‘independent expenditures’ supporting or opposing political candidates by unions, corporations, trade associations, non-profit groups and Super Pacs,” wrote Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation.

    “This money enabled outside groups to run shadow campaigns for or against candidates of their choice.”

    Kiely said around 78% of outside spending in 2012 – $365m of the total $465m – could be attributed to the “Citizens United effect”. The 2010 ruling by the supreme court in the case of Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on campaigning, enabling Super Pacs to spend unlimited amounts as long as they had no coordination with the candidates they support.

    In reality, those running Super PACs have often have close ties to political parties. Former George W Bush advisor Karl Rove runs the conservative American Crossroads Super Pac, while Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney Super Pac, was founded by former Romney aides.

    The money spent by Super Pacs, unions, corporations and non-profit groups is more than double what those groups spent in 2010, the first campaign in which the supreme court judgment had taken effect. Although Super Pacs are usually thought of being aligned with presidential candidates, the Sunlight Foundation found that much of these groups’ recent spending has been focussed on more localised electoral battles.

    “A deeper dive into the data shows that the latest uptick in outside spending is focused on congressional races: even in presidential battleground states, almost all the spending by outside groups is focused on House and Senate candidates,” Kiely wrote.

    Recent expenditure includes Crossroads GPS spending $400,000 in Nevada against Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Berkley; Workers Voice, an AFL-CIO Super Pac, logged hundreds of expenditures in the $25-60 range in Florida, indicating a get-out-the-vote effort for senator Bill Nelson, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

    Of $465m of outside money spent so far in 2012 $460.8m comes from Super Pacs, corporations and other groups which do not have to register as political groups. An additional $4.1m comes from “electioneering communications”: advertisements or political activities that focus on issues and policies – the oil industry, for example – and encourage voters to support a candidate without mentioning any politicians by name.

    The Sunlight Foundation’s data shows a heavy skew towards negative campaigning, with $99.2m so far spent supporting a candidate and $360.7m opposing a candidate. Some $131.1m has been spent on communications opposing President Barack Obama, with a relatively small $50.7m spent opposing Mitt Romney.

    The figures also show that $21.3m has been spent opposing Rick Santorum – a nod to his surprising endurance during the Republican primaries – and $18.8m has been spent on opposing Newt Gingrich, who won the South Carolina and Georgia primaries before fading from the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

    Looking at the money spent supporting rather than opposing candidates, Romney comes out on top, with $15.7m spent in his favour. Gingrich comes second, having had $13.5m invested in his bid for the presidency. Just $6.4m of outside money has been spent in support of Obama.

    guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

    Microsoft warns of new zero-day flaw targeting Internet Explorer

    By Charles Arthur, The Guardian Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:10 EDT

    Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates arrives at a gala event for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in Washington DC on July 21, via AFP

    Hackers have already targeted flaw that affects IE versions 7, 8 and 9, and could be exploited on XP, Vista and Windows 7

    Microsoft is urging Windows users to install a free piece of security software to protect PCs from a newly discovered “zero-day” security flaw in its Internet Explorer browser which hackers are already exploiting to take remote control of computers.

    “We’re aware of targeted attacks potentially affecting some versions of Internet Explorer,” Microsoft said in a statement.

    The bug is found in IE 7, 8 and 9 and can be exploited on computers running XP, Vista and Windows 7, according to the security company Rapid7.

    With versions of IE in use on those platforms by hundreds of millions of people, Microsoft has taken the interim measure of offering free security software on its website (the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, EMET, at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29851) while it works on rolling out an update to harden the program.

    Zero-day vulnerabilities are rare, mostly because they are hard to identify – requiring highly skilled software engineers or hackers with lots of time to scrutinise code for holes that can be exploited to launch attacks.

    Security experts only disclosed discovery of eight major zero-day vulnerabilities in all of 2011, according to Symantec.

    Eric Romang, a researcher in Luxembourg, discovered the flaw on Friday when his PC was infected by a piece of malicious software known as Poison Ivy that hackers use to steal data or take remote control of PCs.

    When he analysed the infection, he learned that Poison Ivy had gotten on to his system by exploiting a previously unknown bug, or zero-day vulnerability, in IE.

    He suspected that it was the work of a hacking crew dubbed “Nitro” by the company because they had previously used zero-day exploits to hack into PCs used at chemicals companies, apparently to steal corporate data.

    “Any time you see a zero-day like this, it is concerning,” said Liam O Murchu, a research manager with antivirus software maker Symantec. “There are no patches available. It is very difficult for people to protect themselves.”

    But that makes zero-day flaws valuable to commercial and government hackers, and there is known to be a thriving underground business in which companies discover and sell zero-day hacks to others, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

    Efforts by Microsoft, Google and Mozilla, whose IE, Chrome and Firefox browsers respectively make up the majority of desktop use, to offer bounties for telling them about zero-day flaws has had little effect on the business – although trading in them or distributing them for free is illegal in Germany.

    Internet Explorer used to be the world’s most widely-used browser, thanks to its position as the default on Microsoft’s Windows software. But Google’s Chrome, launched only in September 2008, has overtaken it, according to the web monitoring company StatCounter, which says that Chrome has 34% of the world market.

    IE has 33%, it says, and Firefox 23%. The next largest is Apple’s Safari at 8%, it says.

    Symantec and other major antivirus software makers have already updated their products to protect customers against the newly discovered bug in Internet Explorer. Yet O Murchu said that might not be sufficient to ward off adversaries.

    “The danger with these types of attacks is that they will mutate and the attackers will find a way to evade the defenses we have in place,” he said.

    Some security experts said computer users should avoid Internet Explorer, even if they install Microsoft’s EMET security tool.

    “It doesn’t appear to be completely effective,” said Tod Beardsley, an engineering manager at Rapid7.

    Rapid7 released software on Monday that security experts can use to simulate attacks that exploit the security flaw in Internet Explorer to see whether corporate networks are vulnerable to that particular bug.

    But in a world where many businesses rely on software written specially to run on IE to carry out corporate functions, avoiding IE may simply not be feasible.

    And Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of the security company BeyondTrust, pointed out that it may not be feasible for some businesses and consumers to install Microsoft’s EMET tool on their PCs.

    He said the security software had in some cases proven to be incompatible with existing programs already running on networks.

    Dave Marcus, director of advanced research and threat intelligence with Intel’s McAfee security division, said it might be a daunting task for home users to locate, download and install the EMET tool.

    “For consumers, it might be easier to simply click on [Google’s] Chrome,” Marcus said

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/18/microsoft-warns-of-new-zero-day-flaw-targeting-internet-explorer/

    Walmart supplier NFI’s warehouse workers strike over working conditions

    California workers say they’ve filed labour complaints over lack of access to drinking water and alleged bullying by managers

    Walmart

    NFI Crossdock warehouse in Ontario, California is part of the Inland Empire, a massive collection of warehouses. Photograph: Robert Yager for the Guardian

    A group of workers at a warehouse that supplies Walmart stores have gone on strike to protest what they say are dangerous labour conditions and retaliation by management against employees who complain about them.

    Organisers for the activist group Warehouse Workers United, which is working in the booming warehouse industry that has grown up in the Inland Empire region of southern California, say at least 20 workers had walked off the job and were protesting outside the gates of a warehouse run by transport firm NFI.

    Labour abuses in the Inland Empire’s warehouse industry have recently been highlighted in various media and academic reports. Experts say the industry, which is thought to employ some 110,000 people, is often staffed by poor, immigrant workers who toil for long hours with little pay and in unsafe conditions. One recent survey by the WWU and the University of California interviewed 101 workers and found that 83 of them said they had suffered a job-related illness.

    The striking workers at the NFI facility have filed an official complaint with California labour authorities on conditions that they say show inadequate safety protection, not enough access to drinking water in warehouses that can reach 125F on a hot day, and a management culture that bullies them.

    They also say that workers listed in their legal complaint have since been retaliated against by things such as demotions or reduced hours, and the threat of losing their job.

    One of the strikers, David Garcia, 29, said he had walked out of work in order to fight for better conditions. “We were told we would lose our jobs if we did not shut up,” he said.

    The workers are not members of a union and risk dismissal by refusing to work. “I am willing to risk it for the rights of myself and my co-workers,” said Garcia.

    The strike comes as WWU begins a six-day “pilgrimage” of warehouse workers who will walk 50 miles from the high desert of the Inland Empire to downtown Los Angeles.

    The march will aim to use the route taken by the shipping containers that arrive by boat in LA and are then driven to the vast warehouse hub of the Inland Empire, where they are unpacked and then reloaded for entry into the distribution networks of major retailers.

    In its actions the WWU has specifically targeted Walmart warehouses due to the company’s scale, which many experts say dictates the practises of the rest of the entire industry. “We are hoping Walmart will intervene. They must be aware of these problems,” said Guadalupe Palma, a WWU director.

    Neither NFI or Walmart responded to requests by the Guardian for comment.

    Previously, NFI has disputed the specific claims of workers. It is contesting the official complaint. It says it does not retaliate against workers and adheres to safety standards. Walmart, meanwhile, has said that it expects all its the companies in its supply chain to conform to “the highest standards” and take corrective action if abuses occur