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Merkel staffer’s laptop infected by US/UK spy malware – report

RT | December 29, 2014

An aide to the German chancellor has become the victim of a cyber-attack, according to media. The highly-sophisticated Regin virus that was found on her infected USB stick is reported to be a product of British and US spy agencies.

Having written a draft of a speech at work, one of Angela Merkel’s senior staff members decided to take it home to polish it on her private laptop in the evening. When the head of the Department of European Policy brought the USB stick with the document back to her work computer, virus scanning software revealed that it was infected, according to Monday’s report of Bild newspaper.

The USB stick was infected with the Regin spying software, but additional checks revealed no other infections on any of the 200 other high-security laptops in the Chancellery, sources from German security services said.

Regin was first warned of at the end of November by cyber-security company Symantec. A back door-type Trojan is able to “provide its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance.”

According to the report, the virus demonstrates such a “rare degree of technical competence” that indicates it has probably been developed by a nation state – and it could have taken years. Regin is able to fulfill a range of customizable tasks, such as making screenshots, controlling the mouse cursor and stealing passwords, depending on the target of a spying operation.

Media reports associated Regin with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The virus is believed to begin operating in 2008, targeting governments, infrastructure operators, researchers, as well as private individuals and businesses.

READ MORE:

Germany to drop investigation into US spying on Merkel – report

Sophisticated ‘state-sponsored’ spying tool targeted govts, infrastructure for years

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | 1 Comment

Indonesia recalls its Australian ambassador alleging phone-taps on President Yudhoyono

RT | November 18, 2013

Indonesia is recalling its ambassador to Australia over allegations that Canberra listened in on phone conversations of the Indonesian president.

Indonesia said the ambassador was being called to Jakarta for “consultations”.

The move by Jakarta comes as the Australian Department of Defence and the Defence Signals Directorate, or DSD, (now known as the Australian Signals Directorate), has been accused of monitoring the phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife Kristiani Herawati, as well as eight other high-ranking officials, including the vice president, Boediono.

The latest leak, provided in May 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was released jointly by The Guardian newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, and will likely aggravate another diplomatic firestorm between Canberra and Jakarta.

The top secret material from the DSD is in the form of a slide presentation, dated November 2009, and divulges information on the monitoring of mobile phones just as 3G technology was being introduced in Asia.

In one of the presentations, entitled Indonesian President Voice Events, a graphic of calls is given on Yudhoyono’s Nokia handset over a 15-day period in August 2009. The data provides CDRs – call data records – which record the numbers called, the duration of communications, and whether the transmission was a voice call or SMS.

The Australian spy agency “appears to have expanded its operations to include the calls of those who had been in touch with the president,” the report indicated. Another slide, entitled Way Forward, gives the simple command: “Must have content,” perhaps a reference to encrypted material.

Attached to the bottom of each slide in the 2009 presentation is the DSD slogan: “Reveal their secrets – protect our own.”

Also named in the surveillance slides are Dino Patti Djalal, then-foreign affairs spokesman for the president, who recently resigned as Indonesia’s ambassador to the US and is seeking the candidacy in next year’s presidential election for Yudhoyono’s Democratic party, and Hatta Rajasa, current minister for economic affairs and potential presidential candidate for the National Mandate party. Hatta served at the time of the surveillance as minister for transport; his daughter is the wife of the president’s youngest son.

Other high-level officials on the list of “IA Leadership Targets” are: Jusuf Kalla, the former vice-president who ran as the Golkar party presidential candidate in 2009; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, then a reforming finance minister and since 2010 one of the managing directors of the World Bank Group; Andi Mallarangeng, who was at the time the president’s spokesman, and later minister for youth and sports; Sofyan Djalil, who served until October 2009 as minister for state-owned enterprises; Widodo Adi Sucipto, a former head of the Indonesian military who served until October 2009 as security minister.

Another slide, entitled DSD Way Forward, acknowledges that the Australian spy agency’s must “capitalise on UKUSA and industry capability”, apparently a reference to assistance from telecom and internet companies, the same method that the NSA used to collect data on millions of individuals around the planet.

News of Australia’s high-level snooping on the Indonesian president and his top aides is certain to provoke a harsh response from Jakarta, especially considering this is not Australia’s first breach of trust between the Pacific Rim countries.

Tensions between Canberra and Jakarta began in October when top secret files revealed by the German newspaper Der Spiegel and published by Fairfax newspapers showed that Australian diplomatic posts across Asia were being used to intercept communications.

Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian foreign minister, issued a harsh response and threatened to review bilateral initiatives on issues important to Australia, including people smuggling and terrorism.

During a visit last week to the Australian city of Perth, Vice president Boediono – not yet privy to information that his own Blackberry device had been compromised by Australian spy agencies – briefly mentioned the long-standing spying controversy.

“I think we must look forward to come to some arrangement which guarantees that intelligence information from each side is not used against the other,” he said. “There must be a system.”

Yudhoyono is the latest in a growing list of global leaders who have had their personal communications listened to by the American intelligence service.

It has recently been reported that the leaders of Germany, Brazil and Mexico have been listened to by the so-called Five Eyes, the collective name for the intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who share information.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in late October demanded a personal explanation from US President Barack Obama as to why the NSA had tapped her mobile phone. The White House attempted to reassure the chancellor that her phone was “not currently being tapped and will not be in the future”.

It will be interesting at this point to see if the diplomatic backlash in wake of the recent wave of revelations will curb the Five Eyes’ surveillance program, or if it will just go deeper underground.

The Guardian then reported that the DSD worked together with the NSA to stage a massive surveillance operation in Indonesia during a UN climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

On Monday a spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “Consistent with the long-standing practice of Australian governments, and in the interest of national security, we do not comment on intelligence matters.”

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

German Chancellor Merkel on NSA spy list since 2002 – reports

RT | October 26, 2013

The German Chancellor’s mobile phone has been on an NSA target list since 2002 and was code-named “GE Chancellor Merkel”, according to Der Spiegel. The paper also reports that President Obama assured Merkel that he did not know her phone was tapped.

The monitoring operation was still in force even a few weeks before Obama’s visit to Berlin in June 2013.

In the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the US embassy in Berlin. It also warned that its exposure would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.

Using the spying branch, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communications in Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.

The magazine says that according to a secret document from 2010, such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.

However, it is unclear, Der Spiegel reports, if the SCS obtained recorded conversations or just connection data.

President Obama, however, told Merkel that he was not aware that her phone was bugged, if he had known, he would have immediately stopped it, Der Spiegel reports as it also disclosed the recent conversation between the two.

The German newspaper cites the Chancellor’s office, which said that during Wednesday’s call Obama expressed his deep regret and apologized to the Chancellor.

Earlier, Barack Obama assured Merkel that his country was not monitoring her communications, but failed to confirm or deny the tapping took place in the past.

Speaking to her German counterpart, Susan E. Rice, the President’s national security adviser, also insisted that Obama did not know about the monitoring of Merkel’s phone, and said it was not currently happening. However, she also failed to deny it happened in the past.

Angela Merkel called President Obama over the German government’s suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone on Wednesday.

Following the call, US ambassador to Germany Steffen Seibert stated that Merkel had made clear to Obama that if the information proved trued it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust”.

A few days earlier, the US President had to convince his French colleague of the same issues.

The Le Monde newspaper reported earlier this week that the NSA spied on the agency records of millions of phone calls of top French politicians and business people. Later The Guardian revealed citing former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the leadership of 35 nations was spied on; the list of countries however did not follow.

In response to allegations, Obama promised that the US secret service would revise its methods of working in order to both provide the security of citizens and not to interfere with their privacy.

Germany will send heads of its foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to Washington to hold talks with the White House and the National Security Agency in order to push forward” an investigation into allegations the US spied on its leader.”

“What exactly is going to be regulated, how and in what form it will be negotiated and by whom, I cannot tell you right now,” German government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters.

German media citing sources close to the intelligence service reported on Saturday that the delegation will include top officials from the German secret service.

Earlier, Germany and France said they want “a no-spy deal” with the US to be signed by the end of the year.

The Foreign Policy reported on Saturday that 21 one countries are now participating in talks over a draft UN General Resolution aimed at holding back US government surveillance.

EU leaders say their relations with the US have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.

A partnership with America should be built on respect and trust, they said in a joint statement on Friday.

“[The leaders] stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism,” the BBC cites the statement as reading. “A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering.”

The European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.

However, anti-war activist Richard Becker doubted President Obama did not know the German Chancellor’s phone was bugged.

“These kinds of assertions are comical,” he told RT. “It shows that the US’ relationship with other countries is based on its notion of its “American exceptionalism.” There is in fact an American exceptionalism – no other country in the world spies on everybody else and all of the countries and feels free to intervene in all other countries,” he said.

Becker says the spying scandal shows “the nature of the relationships” between the US and other states.

“Even among the allies they are in contention and competition among each other and not to mention the kind of relationship that is carried out against those countries that the US considers its enemies,” he said.

October 27, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Merkel justifies NSA eavesdropping surveillance

RT | July 11, 2013

Despite “justified questions” to the American intelligence community regarding eavesdropping on German networks, the US remains Berlin’s “most loyal ally”, announced Chancellor Angela Merkel in interview to Die Zeit weekly.

Merkel has made her first detailed comment into the unraveling diplomatic scandal with the America’s National Security Agency (NSA) global telecommunication eavesdropping, including those of its European allies, Germany foremost among them.

It emerged recently that Germany happens to be the most-snooped-on EU country by the American National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA’s real-time online surveillance PRISM program allows US intelligence agencies to intercept virtually any communications over the internet, phone calls and makes possible direct access to files stored on the servers of major internet companies.

Merkel declared that she herself has learnt about the US surveillance programs, such as the NSA’s PRISM spy program, “through the current reporting” in the media.

In early July spokesman Steffen Seibert announced on the behalf of Chancellor Merkel that “The monitoring of friends – this is unacceptable. It can’t be tolerated,” adding that Merkel had already delivered her concerns to the US.  “We are no longer in the Cold War,” Seibert added.

The German government subsequently summoned US Ambassador Philip Murphy to Berlin to explain the incendiary reports.

At the same time according to new revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Germany’s Spiegel magazine, the American NSA and Germany’s intelligence agencies are “in bed together.”

Seibert told Reuters this week that German’s Federal Intelligence Agency’s (BND) cooperation with the NSA “took place within strict legal and judicial guidelines and is controlled by the competent parliamentary committee.”

‘Intelligence is essential for democracies’

Merkel stressed that intelligence “has always been and will in future be essential for the security of citizens” of democratic countries. “A country without intelligence work would be too vulnerable,” Merkel said.

At the same time, she observed that there must be a “balance between maximum freedom and what the state needs to give its citizens the greatest possible security.”

Merkel emphasized that German-American special relationship should not be endangered by the incident.

“America has been, and is, our most loyal ally over all the decades,” Merkel said, but pointed out that Washington should clear up the situation with the US allegedly bugging the embassies of the European countries and the EU facilities, noting that “the Cold War is over.”

Stasi and NSA are not comparable

In acknowledgment of the Germany’s contemporary history, Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, refused to make any parallels between the methods of work of DDR’s secret police Stasi and America’s NSA.

“For me, there is absolutely no comparison between the Stasi and the work of intelligence agencies in democratic states,” she was quoted as saying. “They are two completely different things and such comparisons only lead to a trivialization of what the Stasi did to [East Germany’s] people,” said Merkel.

Rhetoric shift

In the face of the national elections in September, Angela Merkel has come under fierce criticism in connection with the NSA spying scandal for not protesting unequivocally enough, while various German politicians demanded to stop spying immediately.

Germany’s center-left opposition insists on questioning country’s officials with a view to find out what exactly they knew about the American surveillance of German communications before the eavesdropping scandal emerged.

Earlier Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger both declined any knowledge of the eavesdropping performed by the American US in German networks.

In the interview to Die Zeit Chancellor Merkel revealed that reports from German intelligence agencies are being delivered to her chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla who coordinates their work from the chancellery.

The head of the center-left opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel told Spiegel Online that “Ms. Merkel is now trying to shift political responsibility to her chief of staff.”

“That’s an old game: [pretending] not knowing anything at first, trying to play down the problem and then finally pointing the finger at a staff member. But it’s not going to work because it’s clear that the dimensions of this scandal are so great that no person other than the chancellor can ensure that basic rights are defended in Germany,” the SPD leader claimed.

Today battling terrorism is impossible “without the possibility of telecommunications monitoring,” Merkel told the weekly. “The work of intelligence agencies in democratic states was always vital to the safety of citizens and will remain so in the future.”

In the meantime, Friedrich is meeting US Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco in Washington on Friday for talks dedicated to the NSA scandal.  Though Merkel’s government is not likely to pedal the spying issue, Berlin surely expects explanation from Washington in regards of the ‘Snowdengate’ “for all the more-than-justified questions”, Merkel was quoted as telling Die Zeit.

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UK spying on Germany’s major data cable to US triggers media storm

RT | June 25, 2013

A wave of outraged comments have swept the German media after it was revealed Monday that British secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) wiretapped the dataflow of Germany’s major transatlantic cable.

The northern German public broadcaster NDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported late on Monday that Germany’s external intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) has been in the dark about GCHQ wiretapping Transatlantic Telephone Cable No. 14 (TAT-14) connecting Germany with the US via UK, in the framework of its Tempora data collection project.

The TAT-14 fiber optic cables entered service in 2001. It is operated by private consortium German Telekom and used by around 50 international communication companies for phone calls, internet connection, data transfer etc.

Countries like Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the UK itself also use this cable for internet connection to North America.

The capacity of the 15,000km TAT-14 is enormous; it transfers hundreds of gigabytes of data per second in both directions. The report claimed British GCHQ has already had access to 21,600 terabytes of private and business German data transferred through the cable.

‘We haven’t asked NSA and GCHQ to protect us’

The initial reaction from official Berlin concerning Edward Snowden’s revelations about British intelligence straddling Germany’s major fiber optics cables without Berlin’s knowledge was rather moderate.

Senior German Interior Ministry official Ulrich Weinbrenner admitted to the Bundestag committee that it was known “in general form” that foreign tapping programs – like American PRISM and British Tempora – existed.

Having met American President Barack Obama last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautiously commented that collecting information needs ‘proportionality’ and that “the free democratic order is based on people feeling safe.”

However, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced that Berlin wanted explanations from NATO allies “on what legal basis and to which extent” surveillance had been conducted.

The head of the Free Democratic Party parliamentary group, Rainer Brüderle, demanded an investigation.

“A comprehensive monitoring of citizens in the network cannot and will not be accepted ,” he told Passau Neue Presse.

“We need to step back here and say clearly: mass surveillance is not what we want,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green member in charge of a planned overhaul of the European Union’s data protection laws.

“We urge the Federal Government and the EU Commission to initiate an infringement proceedings against the UK government,” which would have to deal with the matter, Albrecht said to Berliner Zeitung.

“The Federal Government and the Commission must take the issue of protecting fundamental rights seriously,” the rapporteur added in the Judiciary Committee.

Albrecht’ thoughts were echoed by CSU MEP Manfred Weber who told Berliner Zeitung that “If European law has been broken, such as in relation to the retention, the Commission must act.”

The harshest comment came from German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who dubbed the total eavesdropping from a NATO ally a “Hollywood nightmare.”

Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar called on the federal government to proceed on an international level against data espionage from abroad.

“The federal government must insist that our emails will not be penetrated by foreign intelligence services,” he demanded according to Bild newspaper.

The methods used by the American NSA and British GCHQ agencies are “secret, but lawful” and “subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards,” stated UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.

But such statements have produced little effect on the public or within expert communities.

“How much and which data of German citizens and companies had been secretly accessed by the Anglo-American intelligence services NSA and GCHQ, for example by tapping glass fiber cables?” questioned Greens party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele, as quoted by Deutsche Welle (DW).
‘Not our laws’

“The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn’t make them. We shouldn’t be subject to them,” Spiegel online columnist Jakob Augstein. “We have not asked the NSA and GCHQ to ‘protect’ us,” he said.

Gisela Pilz, a data protection expert with the parliamentary group of the liberal FDP, the junior partner in the governing coalition, agrees.

“We observe with a great deal of concern and dismay the amount of data that has been collected and stored,” she told DW.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government was caught in the crossfire of criticism for not ensuring national digital security.

It is the responsibility of the German government to see that foreign agencies no longer process the data of German citizens and companies, Augstein stressed, because “a government that cannot make that assurance is failing in one of its fundamental obligations: to protect its own citizens from the grasp of foreign powers,” he concluded. “Germans should closely observe how Angela Merkel now behaves.”

The head of the Bundestag’s intelligence supervisory committee, opposition Social Democrats deputy Thomas Oppermann, called to speed up the elaboration of data privacy legislation currently being drafted in the EU.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Germany slams US for ‘Stasi methods’ ahead of Obama visit

RT | June 12, 2013

Germans are expressing outrage as details of a US internet spy program – revealed by a former CIA employee-turned-whistleblower – are prompting comparisons with that of former communist East Germany’s Ministry for State Security.

Unfortunately for Obama’s upcoming trip to Berlin, it was revealed that Germany ranks as the most-spied-on EU country by the US, a map of secret surveillance activities by the National Security Agency (NSA) shows.

German ministers are expressing their outrage over America’s sweeping intelligence-gathering leviathan, with one parliamentarian comparing US spying methods to that of the communist East Germany’s much-dreaded Ministry for State Security (Stasi).

Washington is using “American-style Stasi methods,” said Markus Ferber, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party and member of the European Parliament.

“I thought this era had ended when the DDR fell,” he said, using the German acronym for the disposed German Democratic Republic.

Clearly, enthusiasm for the American leader’s upcoming visit will be much more tempered than it was in 2008 when 200,000 people packed around the Victory Column in central Berlin to hear Obama speak of a world that would be dramatically different from that of his hawkish Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Merkel will question Obama about the NSA program when he visits in Berlin on June 18, government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday. Some political analysts fear the issue will dampen a visit that was intended to commemorate US-German relations on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

Bush excesses, Obama digresses

One year into his second term, Barack Obama seems powerless to roll back the military and security apparatus bolted down by the Bush administration in the ‘War on Terror.’

One consequence of this failure of the Obama administration to reign in Bush-era excesses emerged last week when former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden, 29, blew the whistle on a top-secret intelligence system named Prism, which collects data on individuals directly from the servers of the largest US telecommunications companies.

According to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, PRISM gave US intelligence agencies access to emails, internet chats and photographs from companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Verizon and Skype.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said leaked reports that US intelligence services are able to track virtually all forms of Internet communication demanded an explanation.

“The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is,” she wrote in a guest editorial for Spiegel Online on Tuesday. “The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the US administration itself is paramount at this point.”

All of the facts must be put on the table, the minister added.

Obama has defended the intelligence-gathering system as a “modest encroachment” that Americans should be willing to accept on behalf of security.

“You can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society. There are trade-offs involved.”

The United States, however, is not legally restricted from eavesdropping on the communications of foreigners, meaning in theory that Washington could be listening to and collecting the private communications of individuals anywhere in the world.

Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, said the leaked intelligence was grounds for “massive concern” in Europe.

“The problem is that we Europeans are not protected from what appears to be a very comprehensive surveillance program,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper. “Neither European nor German rules apply here, and American laws only protect Americans.”

Meanwhile, German opposition parties hope to gain from the scandal, especially with parliamentary elections approaching in September, and Merkel looking to win a third term.

“This looks to me like it could become one of the biggest data privacy scandals ever,” Greens leader Renate Kuenast told Reuters.

Obama is scheduled to hold talks and a news conference with Merkel on Wednesday followed by a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the 18th triumphal arch that is one of Germany’s most recognizable landmarks.

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Germany slams US for ‘Stasi methods’ ahead of Obama visit