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The Obama Administration's "Secret" Patriot Act Spys On Americans

IAO logo
© Unknown
During last spring's run-up to the re authorization of three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) charged that the administration and the FBI was relying on a "secret" interpretation of law to vacuum-up exabytes of data, including cell phone location records and internet data mining that target Americans.

In March, a written statement to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security by Justice Department official Todd Hinnen confirmed that the administration had used Section 215, the so-called "business records" section of the Act "to obtain driver's license records, hotel records, car rental records, apartment leasing records, credit card records, and the like."

Further confirmation of Wyden's charges came from an unlikely source: a White House nominee for a top counter terrorism position.

Star of David

Israel releases West Bank Hamas leader, other Palestinian prisoners

Palestinian flags
© flickr.com/Joi
Palestinian flags
Israel released 132 Palestinian political and security prisoners Thursday, including West Bank Hamas leader Hasan Yousef who had spent six years in prison, Palestinian officials said.

The Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Prisoners Affairs said the 132 who were freed had all completed their sentences earlier, but had been kept in jail till Thursday.

The ministry rejected Israeli claims that the release was an Israeli goodwill gesture for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Camera

Facial Recognition Software Takes One Glance at You and Brings Up Your Facebook Profile

Facial Recognition
© Brian Teutsch / Flickr
Faces in a crowd.

Worried about privacy on the Internet? It may be even worse than you thought - with rapidly improving face recognition technology, your automatically tagged Facebook pictures could help a stranger, or the authorities, quickly identify you on the street.

A simple system that compares Facebook pictures and webcam snapshots can make a positive match after less than three seconds, according to Carnegie Mellon University researchers. Alessandro Acquisti and colleagues presented their findings at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

"A stranger could know your last tweet just by looking at you," Acquisti told CNET's privacy blog.

The system was able to correlate Facebook profile pictures to webcam shots, and to otherwise anonymous photos on a dating website. The Facebook-webcam system identified about 31 percent of users, and only 10 percent of the dating site users, but the message was clear - anonymity is becoming harder and harder to maintain.

This can be problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is the damage that can be done by mistaken identity. Computer systems that put the wrong name to a face can cause headaches or worse. But in simpler terms, do average Facebook users really want random people to find out their e-mail addresses and phone numbers simply by looking at their faces?

Rocket

US Air Force Pulls 'Jesus Loves Nukes' Training

Image
© Unknown
Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Emblem
The Air Force has suspended decades-old Bible-centric ethics training intended to make Christian officers comfortable with the possible use of nuclear weapons. The training program was given to all new missile officers by Air Force chaplains.

"We're in the process of reviewing that training and we'll make a determination whether or not to continue [it] or if it will be a different course," Air Education and Training Command spokesman Dave Smith told Military.com.

Smith said the ethics training has been in place more than 20 years, although he didn't know exactly when it was begun.

The training slides include quotations from the Bible, portraits of Christian saints, prophets, and famous American generals known for their faith, including George Washington, Union Army Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

Eye 1

A Link to the Murdoch Scandal?: Under the Radar, Firm Sells Phone Tracking Tools to Police, Intelligence Agencies

Following revelations earlier this year by The Tech Herald that security firms with close ties to the Pentagon ran black ops for major U.S. banks and corporations, it became clear that proprietary software developed for the military and U.S. intelligence was being used to target Americans.

Those firms, including now-defunct HBGary Federal, parent company HBGary, Palantir (a start-up flush with cash from the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel) and Berico Technologies had partnered-up with the Bank of America's law firm Hunton & Williams and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and devised a sub rosa plan of attack against WikiLeaks and Chamber critics.

And when the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous published some 70,000 emails and documents filched from HBGary servers, it was off to the races.

Bad Guys

Ex-German Envoys Back Merkel's Stance Against Palestine Declaration

Angela Merkel, Israel, Germany
© REGIERUNGonline/Kugler
Angela Merkel
Several former German ambassadors to Israel applauded Chancellor Angela Merkel's refusal to endorse the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September.

Addressing Merkel in a letter Tuesday, the six former ambassadors to Israel lashed out at 32 other retired German ambassadors and consuls who in an open letter in July had demanded that Merkel support the unilateral declaration.

The six envoys accused their colleagues of ignoring threats to Israel's existence and urged Merkel to stay the course.

"Just as you have made it clear to [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin that unilateral steps will not help, we ask that you represent this position assertively within the European Union," their letter read in part.

"The recognition of a Palestinian state is in our opinion only possible if it goes hand in hand with an explicit recognition and guarantee of the existence of the Jewish state."

Arrow Down

Panic Rips Through Global Markets: Eurozone Crisis and Fears Over U.S. Economy Trigger Worst Day of Trading in Three Years

  • FTSE closes down 3.4% - a 12-month low
  • Dow Jones also falls by more than 350 points in morning trading
  • Spanish and Italian markets drop 3%
  • BoE holds interest rates at 0.5% for 29th month in row
Stock markets plunged yesterday in the biggest rout since the height of the financial crisis three years ago.

Panic tore through global financial centres, raising fears of a new world recession.

The FTSE 100 index saw £50billion wiped off the value of Britain's biggest companies, bringing a total fall of £125billion in the space of only a week.
Image
© Reuters
Major losses: A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange contemplates the eighth biggest fall in Wall Street history yesterday

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NSA Wants to Hire Hackers at DefCon

h4x00rz
© The Escapist
The National Security Agency descends on the Las Vegas hacker convention looking for fresh blood to turn into "cyber warriors."

DefCon is an annual gathering of hackers in Sin City which incongruously allows people who've only conversed in IRC chat rooms to meet face-to-face. The convention will cover all of the hot topics in hackerdom today, including panels on techniques and a fair amount of boasting of hacker exploits. The cost to attend is $150 cash - no credit cards or trackable currency allowed - but many hackers will walk away from DefCon with a fancy new job. High-tech corporations always have a presence trying to recruit the often intelligent hacker community to work for them, but perhaps the most intriguing story is that the oft-misunderstood government agency - the NSA - is also entreating former hackers to become cyber warriors in the fight against America's enemies online.

People

Air France had policy to protect female employees from Strauss-Kahn

Image
© Unknown
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Air France issued orders for only male staff to serve Dominique Strauss-Kahn when the former IMF boss -- accused of attempted rape in New York -- travelled on its planes, a report said Thursday.

Le Parisien newspaper also said that lawyers of Strauss-Kahn's accuser were calling for testimony from Air France female stewards who allegedly suffered inappropriate behaviour by him.

A spokesman for the airline however responded to the report by saying that "Air France formally denies having given any instruction about the composition of its crews."

Le Parisien said lawyers of Nafissatou Diallo -- the African hotel maid who made the accusations against the ex-International Monetary Fund chief -- had received at least two testimonies from air crew who had been importuned.

The paper quoted the lawyers as saying that "this inexplicable mindset which enables him to abuse women is further proof which gives credibility to the aggression suffered by Ms Diallo on May 14."

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State-sponsored 5-year global cyberattack uncovered

Spy agency probably the real (cyber) slim shady

A five-year operation targeting more than 70 global companies, governments and non-profit organisations was probably the work of an intelligence agency, according to McAfee.

The malware-powered cyber-snooping campaign - dubbed Operation Shady RAT - began in mid-2006 with a series of attacks that affected some organisations for up to 28 months. An analysis by McAfee, published on Tuesday, said that the malware had affected firms across 14 countries.

Victims included the US federal government, satellite communications companies, the Canadian government, the Vietnamese government, the Taiwanese government, the UN and more. Others affected included 13 defence contractors, three construction firms, four IT outfits (including two that specialised in information security) and five sporting organisations.

"The interest in the information held at the Asian and Western national Olympic Committees, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency in the lead-up and immediate follow-up to the 2008 Olympics was particularly intriguing and potentially pointed a finger at a state actor behind the intrusions, because there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks," writes Mitri Alperovitch, McAfee's VP of threat research.