Aletho News


Israeli forces shoot photographer in Bilin demonstrations


Ma’an – 29/12/2013

RAMALLAH – A photographer was injured and dozens suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as Israeli forces dispersed a demonstration in Bilin near Ramallah.

Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators as they neared their lands close to the wall.

Photographer Mohammad Yassin, 20, was hit with a rubber coated steel bullet during the protests.

The demonstration was held in celebration of Christmas and the release of Samer Issawi, and in protest of Israeli settlement activity and the separation wall.

Participants, some of whom wore Santa Claus costumes, raised Palestinian flags and chanted songs for unity and resistance.

Since 2005, Bilin villagers have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli separation wall that runs through their village on land confiscated from local farmers.

Previous protests by Bilin activists have forced the Israeli authorities to re-route the wall, but large chunks of the village lands remain inaccessible to residents because of the route.

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

NSA collects data from undersea cables

342624_The SEA-ME-WE 4 cable
South East Asia–Middle East–Western Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) optical fiber submarine communications cable
Press TV – December 29, 2013

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has collected sensitive data on key undersea optical fiber telecommunications cables between Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Citing classified documents labeled “top secret” and “not for foreigners”, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the NSA spied on the so-called “South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4” also known as “Sea-Me-We 4” undersea cable system.

The German magazine said NSA specialists had hacked an internal website belonging to the operator consortium to mine documents about technical infrastructure including circuit mapping and network management information. “More operations are planned in the future to collect more information about this and other cable systems.” Spiegel quoted the NSA documents, dating from February, as saying.

According to the website of the project “the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 project is a next generation submarine cable system linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian Sub-Continent and Middle East. The project aims to take these regions to the forefront of global communication by significantly increasing the bandwidth and global connectivity of users along its route between Singapore and France.”

Spiegel reports that “Among the companies that hold ownership stakes in it are France Telecom, now known as Orange and still partly government-owned, and Telecom Italia Sparkle.”

In March 2004, a consortium of 16 international telecommunications companies signed construction and maintenance agreements for the new optical fiber submarine cable system linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian Sub-Continent and Middle East with Terminal Stations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria and France. The contract is being awarded jointly to Alcatel Submarine Networks, France and Fujitsu Ltd., Japan and the estimated project cost is of the order of $500 million.

The submarine cable system is approximately 20,000km long. It consists of the main backbone across the Eastern and Western worlds plus the extension links in various countries. The project seeks to support telephone, internet, multimedia and various broadband data applications.

It seems the method was employed by the NSA’s elite hacking unit (TAO) via incorporating routers and servers from non-NSA networks into its covert network by infecting these networks with “implants” that then allow the government hackers to control the computers remotely.

The document leaked by Der Spiegel proudly says that, on Feb. 13, 2013, TAO “successfully collected network management information for the SEA-Me-We Undersea Cable Systems (SMW-4).” With the help of a “website masquerade operation,” the agency managed to “gain access to the consortium’s management website and collected Layer 2 network information that shows the circuit mapping for significant portions of the network.”

The US government claims that its spying operations that are taking place both at home and abroad are vital for fighting terrorism.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet records is legal. US District Judge William Pauley also concluded that the operation is an important part of America’s effort to combat the threat of terrorism.

NSA spies on millions of telephone and Internet records that are routed through American networks on daily basis. According to some estimates, NSA spies on 380 million cellphones in the US.

Prior to Pauley’s ruling, another US District Court Judge, Richard Leon, had described the massive NSA spying program “Almost Orwellian”.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen,” Judge Leon wrote.

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on NSA collects data from undersea cables

Is Anything Left of the US Constitution or Privacy Rights?

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Vying for a Supreme Court appointment? US District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that the NSA’s massive spying program is legal.

By Franklin Lamb | Fig Trees and Vineyards | December 28, 2013

The answer to this question is being pondered across America in light of two seemingly contradictory federal court decisions handed down this month from two separate courts, one in Washington, the other in New York.

Since the Bush Administration’s “war of terrorism” was launched, civil liberties advocates have voiced growing alarms about the erosion of Constitutional guarantees. Yet with the disclosures by whistle blower Edward Snowden, concerns about what protections Americans have remaining—protections from governmental intrusions into their privacy as well as home or office invasions by police forces—have rapidly gained new impetus. Because of Snowden’s leaks, legal challenges have been brought against the National Security Agency; without the leaks, no challenge could have been mounted.

Now all of a sudden two US Federal District Courts, with identical powers under the US Constitution, have reached seemingly opposite conclusions on the same legal issue, i.e. the right of the NSA to conduct “metadata” searches and store the information of scores of millions of unknowing Americans. This means, given that appeals have been filed in both cases, that the issue is likely going to be decided by the US Supreme Court.

Civil libertarians were encouraged earlier this month when Federal Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on December 16 that the NSA’s bulk collection of cell phone data of Americans (everyone you called, when you called them, and where you were when you called them) violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Calling the data gathering “Orwellian,” Judge Leon reasoned that we now use our smartphones for a wide variety of personal activities in which we have the expectation of privacy, that probably we have more expectation of privacy from cell phones now than we did, say, from a pay phone in the 1980s. And he also noted, crucially, that cell phones today make it possible to determine the caller’s GPS location. “It’s one thing to say that people expect phone companies to occasionally provide information to law enforcement; it is quite another to suggest that our citizens expect all phone companies to operate what is effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation with the Government,” Leon wrote.

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US District Judge Richard Leon

The judge then focused on whether the massive NSA surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

He writes:

“The threshold issue that I must address, then, is whether plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the Government indiscriminately collects their telephony metadata along with the metadata of hundreds of millions of other citizens without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, retains all of that metadata for five years, and then queries, analyzes and investigates that data without prior judicial approval of the investigative targets. If they do – and a Fourth Amendment search has thus occurred– then the next step of the analysis will be to determine whether such a search is ‘reasonable.’”

Judge Leon found that the NSA, when demanding citizens’ telephone metadata, is conducting a search, and that it is most likely an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, given there is no specific suspicion of wrongdoing by any individual whose records are demanded.

In his ruling he granted the request for an injunction against the collection of the plaintiffs’ phone data, ordering the government to destroy any of their records that have been gathered. But the judge stayed action on his ruling pending a government appeal, recognizing in his 68-page opinion what he termed as the “significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues.”

But no sooner had Judge Leon’s decision been published, bringing hope to civil libertarians, than US District Judge William H. Pauley III in New York issued what looks almost like a diametrically antithetical ruling, making for the latest in a contentious debate that has also seen a presidential commission weighing in on certain aspects of NSA spying as well. On December 27, Pauley ruled that the NSA’s collection of vast oceans of data on private phone calls is legal—meaning that in a period of just 11 days the two judges, along with the presidential panel, had reached “the opposite of consensus on every significant question before them, including the intelligence value of the program, the privacy interests at stake and how the Constitution figures in the analysis,” as the New York Times reported it.

The case in New York was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it would appeal.

Judges Leon and Pauley have starkly differing understandings on how valuable the NSA program is. Echoing arguments made recently by former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III and other senior government officials, Pauley, whose courtroom is not far from where the World Trade Center towers stood, said he believed the program might have caught the 9/11 hijackers had it been in place at the time. “While robust discussions are underway across the nation, in Congress and at the White House, the question for this court is whether the government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful,” Pauley wrote. “This court finds it is.”

The finding stands in stark contrast to Leon’s ruling in Washington:

“The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature,” Judge Leon wrote.

What these conflicting decisions leave us in is a profound quandary with respect to the issues raised by Edward Snowden. In a Christmas address that was carried by British Channel 4 and widely aired on the Internet, the former NSA contractor expressed the legitimate concern of all people who value individual liberty and privacy. A child born today, he said, might “never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought.” He added that people are essentially walking around with a tracking device in their pockets, noting that this disappearance of privacy is important because privacy “is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on Is Anything Left of the US Constitution or Privacy Rights?

The ‘Islamist’ who wasn’t

By Inayat Bunglawala | The News | February 12, 2009

He was a self-confessed al-Qaida insider who in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was interviewed by all the major news networks eager to hear his fiery rhetoric.

Following the 7/7 bombings, he told us that he had now recognised the error of his ways and was committed to countering “Islamism”. He was going to spill the beans in a keenly anticipated book called Leaving al-Qaida relating how he had gone about recruiting British Muslims to go overseas and fight.

The American CBS network’s flagship documentary programme 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with him in March 2007 in which he talked about his “recruiting and fundraising techniques” in his extremist days.

Government ministers such as Tony McNulty sought an audience with him in order to listen to his learned thoughts on how to de-radicalise young Muslims.

Nick Cohen praised him for steering British Muslims:… away from violence while teaching wider society that radical Islam is not a rational reaction to Western provocation, but a totalitarian ideology with a life of its own.

In Manchester in April (2007), Hassan Butt, a one-time jihadist who is now opposed to extremism, was stabbed and beaten for speaking out against fanaticism. He now lives in hiding. There was only one problem with all this though – it was complete bullshit.

Hassan Butt’s admission in court that he was a “professional liar” who said what “the media wanted to hear” because all he was really interested in was making money will not have come as a surprise to many British Muslims who have long viewed him as a charlatan.

Butt “confessed he had also stabbed himself in the arm to make it appear as if he had been attacked by extremists for speaking out against violence.”

The tens of millions of pounds that the government has poured into its preventing violent extremism programme has inevitably attracted a number of self-professed “ex-Islamists” who are prepared to say exactly what the government and sections of the media want to hear ie that the rise of violent extremism in the UK has little to do with our government’s warmongering abroad and is mainly the fault of “Islamist ideology”.

Such an answer of course perfectly suits the government, which does not favour closer scrutiny of the impact of some of its actions abroad.

It also suits those like Cohen who were enthusiastic propagandists for those misbegotten wars.

With the election of Barack Obama and his warmly received call for there to be a “new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest” between the United States and the Muslim world, there at long last exists an opportunity to make amends for some of the disastrous mistakes of the past.

If we in the UK are to also avail ourselves of that opportunity it will require the government to do more than simply offer what are in effect bribes to those who are willing to turn a blind eye to its unjust policies.


December 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments