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No one left behind - N.S.A. spied on allies, aid groups and businesses

Joaquin Almunia nsa spying
© EPA/Oliver HosletEU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia at the news conference on the merger between Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines.
Secret documents reveal more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent years, including the office of an Israeli prime minister, heads of international aid organizations, foreign energy companies and a European Union official involved in antitrust battles with American technology businesses.

Do criticisms of N.S.A. programs by a presidential panel and a federal judge show that Edward Snowden is a principled whistleblower?

While the names of some political and diplomatic leaders have previously emerged as targets, the newly disclosed intelligence documents provide a much fuller portrait of the spies' sweeping interests in more than 60 countries.

Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, working closely with the National Security Agency, monitored the communications of senior European Union officials, foreign leaders including African heads of state and sometimes their family members, directors of United Nations and other relief programs, and officials overseeing oil and finance ministries, according to the documents. In addition to Israel, some targets involved close allies like France and Germany, where tensions have already erupted over recent revelations about spying by the N.S.A.

Details of the surveillance are described in documents from the N.S.A. and Britain's eavesdropping agency, known as GCHQ, dating from 2008 to 2011. The target lists appear in a set of GCHQ reports that sometimes identify which agency requested the surveillance, but more often do not. The documents were leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and shared by The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel.

The reports are spare, technical bulletins produced as the spies, typically working out of British intelligence sites, systematically tapped one international communications link after another, focusing especially on satellite transmissions. The value of each link is gauged, in part, by the number of surveillance targets found to be using it for emails, text messages or phone calls. More than 1,000 targets, which also include people suspected of being terrorists or militants, are in the reports.

It is unclear what the eavesdroppers gleaned. The documents include a few fragmentary transcripts of conversations and messages, but otherwise contain only hints that further information was available elsewhere, possibly in a larger database.

Some condemned the surveillance on Friday as unjustified and improper. "This is not the type of behavior that we expect from strategic partners," Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said on the latest revelations of American and British spying in Europe.


Obama couldn't use website to sign up for Obamacare

© AP
He won't use it, and he didn't actually sign up for it himself, but President Barack Obama has enrolled for health coverage through the new insurance exchanges.

Announcing his enrollment Monday, the White House called it a symbolic show of Obama's support for the fledgling exchanges where millions of Americans must buy insurance or face a penalty. Ironically, it also served as a reminder of just how complex and sometimes daunting the process can be.

Obama, like so many other Americans, couldn't use the website.

"The complicated nature of the president's case required an in-person sign-up," the White House said.

White House officials noted that for security reasons, the president's personal information is not readily available in government databases that the exchanges use to verify identities and check eligibility for tax subsidies.

But millions of other Americans have faced website glitches that made signing up through the exchanges difficult or impossible, particularly in the initial weeks before massive fixes to the site were put in place.

Unable to offer a camera-friendly photo-op of the president breezing through an improved HealthCare.gov, the White House quietly announced on Monday that, sometime over the weekend, aides had enrolled Obama through an in-person enrollment site while the president was vacationing in Hawaii.


A new twist in international relations: The corporate keep-my-data-out-of-the-U.S. clause

© Alex Wong/Getty ImagesMedea Benjamin of CodePink protests as Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander waits for the beginning of a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee on Oct. 29, 2013 in Washington, DC.
By now, we've heard from tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Cisco Systems that the National Security Agency's spying poses a threat to their international business and, in Cisco's case, is already hurting it. So what does that threat look like, exactly, at ground level?

Some companies are apparently so concerned about the NSA snooping on their data that they're requiring - in writing - that their technology suppliers store their data outside the U.S.

In Canada, a pharmaceutical company and government agency have now both added language to that effect to their contracts with suppliers, as did a grocery chain in the U.K., according to J.J. Thompson, chief executive officer of Rook Consulting, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based security-consulting firm. He declined to name the companies, which are using Rook to manage the segmentation and keep the data out of the U.S.


Some of the wildest conspiracy theories that actually turned out to be true!

© Criminal Justice Degree Hub
Have you heard about the United States government's top-secret heart attack gun? Did you know the Federal Bureau of Investigation poisoned alcohol during prohibition? Was the government thinking about developing a super-secret "gay bomb"?

Chances are you're familiar with at least one of the above questions. If you are, you also probably know that most of what you've heard is nonsense.

However, as noted in the following chart from Criminal Justice Degree Hub, a site dedicated to law education, there is a small kernel of truth to be found in many of the more popular conspiracy theories from the 20th century.

From stories about vaccines to theories about how the U.S. government control of the media, there's something to be said for many of the following theories (which probably these theories persist even to this day):


Good Cops?

Good Cops_1
© EricPetersAuto

All cops are bad - by definition.

Harsh statement? Certainly. It does not make it less true - like an accurate terminal cancer diagnosis. Pretending otherwise doesn't alter the reality.

Whether the cops themselves are conscious of their badness is immaterial.

No doubt, many cops (as distinct from peace officers) believe in their hearts (and perhaps even their minds) that they are "good men" doing righteous work.

It does not make it so. The average Nazi functionary was not a frothing fanatic, either. He was a good German with a wife and kids he doted on, who - in his own mind - believed he was doing the right thing.

Which, in his mind, meant enforcing the laws of the state.

The East German Stasi man believed this also.

Just as buzz cut Officer 82nd Airborne believes it today.

Most cops are probably not conscious sadists - though of course, many are.


Non-denying denial? RSA aims to distance itself from NSA scandal

© AFP Photo / David Paul Morris
Security firm RSA denies accusations that it entered into a secret contract with the National Security Agency to promote the use of weak security algorithms. The denial comes after a media report detailed information of the alleged hush-hush deal.

Last week, Reuters reported that RSA accepted $10 million from the National Security Agency in exchange for making a specific algorithm - Dual EC DRGB - the default option in its BSAFE security toolkit, which is used to enhance security in many computer products.

The deal was allegedly part of the NSA's attempts to embed weak encryption software - also created by the agency - in security systems so that it could easily gain access to them later.

In a press release issued on Sunday, RSA denied allegations that it was hiding its involvement with the NSA.

Comment: Once again, the timing of events is pretty interesting. Weaknesses in the code were pointed out in 2007, yet RSA did nothing to address this until AFTER Edward Snowden started singing about NSA leaks?
Come on already.


Home Office confiscates Moazzam Begg's passport following Syria trip

© Murdo Macleod/The GuardianMoazzam Begg settled with the government out of court after being imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for three years.
The former Guantánamo Bay inmate Moazzam Begg has been stripped of his UK passport after visiting Syria.

Begg, 45, from Birmingham, says he was stopped by police at Heathrow airport on his return from a trip to South Africa and told that his passport was being confiscated as it was "not in the public interest" for him to travel.

A Home Office order given to him at that time stated that he had been assessed as being involved in terrorist activity because of a visit to Syria last year, while the police are reported to have said that royal prerogative powers were being used to confiscate the passport.

Begg denied any involvement in terrorist activity, however, and said he was being harassed because of his work with Cageprisoners, a London-based Muslim NGO that campaigns for the rights of individuals detained during counterterrorism operations. He told the Mail on Sunday: "I have consistently been asking for the intelligence and security services to be held to account for complicity in torture and rendition. It is more logical that is the reason I've had my passport confiscated."


Obama can't point to a single time the NSA call records program prevented a terrorist attack

© Susan Walsh/APPresident Obama speaks during an end-of-the year news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.
National Security Agency defenders, including President Obama, continue to cite the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 when defending the program that scoops up domestic call records in bulk. But asked specifically, on Friday, if he could identify a time when that program stopped a similar attack, President Obama couldn't. That's because the program hasn't prevented a second 9/11.

At the end of the year news conference, Reuters's Mark Felsenthal asked:

As you review how to rein in the National Security Agency, a federal judge says that, for example, the government has failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata actually stopped an imminent attack. Are you able to identify any specific examples when it did so? Are you convinced that the collection of that data is useful to national security to continue as it is?

But President Obama never answered the question about a specific examples. Instead he spoke more broadly and tied the program, again, back to 9/11.

Comment: Of course NSA surveillance programs haven't 'stopped or prevented' any genuine terrorist attacks, but it is expected that the defenders of such ineffective programs will continually use 9/11 as the umbrella excuse and justification for their existence and continued implementation.

After all, without the BS excuse of the official government version of the events of 9/11 to use as the pretext for foisting all of their oppressive, intrusive, restrictive, unconstitutional, or illegal policies, measures and practices upon Americans and the world-at-large, how would the psychopathic elites continue to play these ongoing games of mass deception? Think about it.
They need to constantly refer to the incessantly peddled lies about September 11, 2001 to support, prop up and reinforce the ground upon which all the illegal wars, invasions, occupations, drone strike mass murder campaigns, funding and arming of Syrian 'rebels', mercenaries and extremists, toppling of regimes, unconstitutional legislation, etc. are all predicated.
The whole illusion precariously pivots upon that point, as it has from the beginning.


Snowden: 'I already won'

© Reuters / Tobias Schwarz
Edward Snowden has said he feels satisfied and a winner despite the espionage charges confronting him. Denying claims he is a traitor, Snowden said he is working to improve the NSA, something that US spy chiefs do not realize.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Snowden said that he had "already won" because society has begun to address the issue of government surveillance.

"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," said the whistleblower. "Remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

He went on to defend his actions, saying that accusations from NSA brass that he violated an oath of loyalty were baseless. If anyone is guilty of such crimes, Snowden said, it is the national security establishment.

"The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy," Snowden said. "That is an oath to the constitution. That is the oath that I kept that [NSA Director] Keith Alexander and [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper did not."


Vladimir Ilyich Putin, conservative icon

© AFPLeader of the "Conservative International"?
Vladimir Putin is calling on the conservatives of the world to unite -- behind him.

The Kremlin leader's full-throated defense of Russia's "traditional values" and his derision of the West's "genderless and infertile" liberalism in his annual state-of-the-nation address last week was just the latest example of Putin attempting to place himself at the vanguard of a new "Conservative International."

The speech came on the heels of the appointment of Dmitry Kiselyov -- the television anchor who has said the hearts of gays and lesbians who die should be buried or burned -- as head of the new Kremlin-run media conglomerate Rossia Segodnya.

And just days before Putin's address, the Center for Strategic Communications, an influential Kremlin-connected think tank, held a press conference in Moscow to announce its latest report. The title: "Putin: World Conservatism's New Leader."

According to excerpts from the report cited in the media, most people yearn for stability and security, favor traditional family values over feminism and gay rights, and prefer nation-based states rather than multicultural melting pots. Putin, the report says, stands for these values while "ideological populism of the left" in the West "is dividing society."

Comment: Keeping in mind that Radio Free Europe is a CIA propaganda outlet, it's important to realize that when Putin speaks of 'conservatism', he refers to that natural desire ordinary humans have to be free to forge their own destiny, even if, in practice, most people actually follow the herd and NEED strong leaders, whether they'll admit that need or not.

The dominant strain of American 'conservatism' is something else entirely: it's an ideological vehicle, like a Trojan horse, for the subversion and infection of normal human values towards psychopathic values of greed, brutality towards others and rampant corruption.