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Friday, November 13, 2015

‘Extremists exploit Islam for political gains’

Efforts must be made to counter groups using religion as a foil for politics says academic professor
Several groups that claim to act in the name of Islam are in fact un-Islamic and are only using religion as a means to legitimise their activities, a visiting academic scholar said in the capital on Wednesday.
During a lecture organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, Dr Mohammad Saadi, an associate professor at the University of Mohammad the First, Morocco, spoke on the dynamics of politics and religion.
“Islam needs to be liberated and purified from groups that are using the religion for political gains. These groups foster a very narrow-minded totalitarian ideology and share no resemblance to Islam,” he said.
Dr Saadi explained that much of the violence currently being witnessed in the Arab world is a result of extremist groups trying to fuse their ideology within the realms of politics.
“The problematic relationship between religion and politics is at the heart of current conflicts tied to the intellectual and political decision-making in the Arab and Muslim world,” he said.
“The slogans that have been advocated by groups that are trying to use Islam for their political goals has led to the prevalence of terrorism and violence,” he added.
Combating such groups requires a strong intellectual response according to Dr Saadi. “The ideological aspects behind extremist groups cannot be ignored and must be met head on. The battle is an intellectual one, unless we achieve an intellectual response there will not be a political solution,” he warned.
“Now more than ever, we need to enter an Islamic enlightened period, to lighten the heart of the Muslim world and to free it from the grip of extremists,” he added.

Glasgow cinema criticised for cancelling screening of Islam-themed film

The Islamic Society of Britain speaks out against the cancellation of the screening of The Message following the receipt of a petition signed by fewer than 100 protestors

Anthony Quinn in The Message
Mired in controversy … Anthony Quinn in The Message. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Tarik Film
A Scottish cinema has been criticised for cancelling a screening of the 1977 Islam-themed film The Message, despite receiving fewer than 100 complaints, reports the Scotsman.
The Grosvenor Cinema in Glasgow was due to screen Moustapha Akkad’s Oscar-nominated film about the prophet Muhammad and the birth of Islam, next month. But officials decided to withdraw it after receiving an anonymous petition signed by 94 people, some of whom are from as far away as Nigeria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The withdrawal has been criticised by the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), which had organised the screening, and the National Secular Society (NSS). The latter wrote to the cinema protesting what it called “a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views of some religious extremists”.

A spokesman for the ISB said: “As Scottish Muslims, we believe in the principles of freedom of speech and have worked for decades to promote the rights of people to make Islam relevant to British society. These protestors demonstrate the worst elements of our community, as they are imposing their beliefs on others.
“We will not be bullied by these people. We are also appealing for the Grosvenor to stick to the original agreement, and show the film.”
The Message, which stars Anthony Quinn and exists in both English and Arabic versions, has been mired in controversy ever since Akkad announced plans to shoot the film in the mid-1970s. It was ultimately financed by Moroccan, Saudi Arabian and Libyan leaders, after Hollywood refused to fund it and the Muslim World League spoke out against it.
In deference to some readings of Islam, the film avoids any depiction of Muhammad on screen, with Quinn playing the prophet’s uncle, Hamza. Scenes were occasionally shown from Muhammad’s perspective, but his voice was not heard and the only indication of his presence was the playing of light organ music. Even so, the film drew anger from some Muslims who had believed that Quinn was playing Muhammad.
Organisers of the petition against the screening of The Message, which had been due to take place on 15 November, are concerned over the film’s depiction of Muhammad’s companions by non-Muslims. They also object to the movie’s inclusion of occasional scenes featuring music and dancing.
Earlier this year, the big budget Iranian film Muhammad, Messenger of God drew criticism after including shots of the prophet’s hands and legs as a baby, and his back as a teenager. The film by Majid Majidi, who was the subject of a fatwa from Indian clerics in September, was chosen by Iran as its contender for the 2016 Oscars.
The Grosvenor Cinema has not made any public comment on the cancellation of the screening.

Edward Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your Privacy

LAST MONTH, I met Edward Snowden in a hotel in central Moscow, just blocks away from Red Square. It was the first time we’d met in person; he first emailed me nearly two years earlier, and we eventually created an encrypted channel to journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, to whom Snowden would disclose overreaching mass surveillance by the National Security Agency and its British equivalent, GCHQ.
This time around, Snowden’s anonymity was gone; the world knew who he was, much of what he’d leaked, and that he’d been living in exile in Moscow, where he’s been stranded ever since the State Department canceled his passport while he was en route to Latin America. His situation was more stable, the threats against him a bit easier to predict. So I approached my 2015 Snowden meeting with less paranoia than was warranted in 2013, and with a little more attention to physical security, since this time our communications would not be confined to the internet.
Our first meeting would be in the hotel lobby, and I arrived with all my important electronic gear in tow. I had powered down my smartphone and placed it in a “faraday bag” designed to block all radio emissions. This, in turn, was tucked inside my backpack next to my laptop (which I configured and hardened specifically for traveling to Russia), also powered off. Both electronic devices stored their data in encrypted form, but disk encryption isn’t perfect, and leaving these in my hotel room seemed like an invitation to tampering.
Most of the lobby seats were taken by well-dressed Russians sipping cocktails. I planted myself on an empty couch off in a nook hidden from most of the action and from the only security camera I could spot. Snowden had told me I’d have to wait awhile before he met me, and for a moment I wondered if I was being watched: A bearded man wearing glasses and a trench coat stood a few feet from me, apparently doing nothing aside from staring at a stained-glass window. Later he shifted from one side of my couch to the other, walking away just after I made eye contact.
Eventually, Snowden appeared. We smiled and said good to see you, and then walked up the spiral staircase near the elevator to the room where I would be conducting the interview, before we really started talking.
It also turns out that I didn’t need to be quite so cautious. Later, he told me to feel free to take out my phone so I could coordinate a rendezvous with some mutual friends who were in town. Operational security, or “opsec,” was a recurring theme across our several chats in Moscow.
In most of Snowden’s interviews he speaks broadly about the importance of privacy, surveillance reform, and encryption. But he rarely has the opportunity to delve into the details and help people of all technical backgrounds understand opsec and begin to strengthen their own security and privacy. He and I mutually agreed that our interview would focus more on nerdy computer talk and less on politics, because we’re both nerds and not many of his interviews get to be like that. I believe he wanted to use our chats to promote cool projects and to educate people. For example, Snowden had mentioned prior to our in-person meeting that he had tweeted about the Tor anonymity system and was surprised by how many people thought it was some big government trap. He wanted to fix those kinds of misconceptions.
Our interview, conducted over room-service hamburgers, started with the basics.

Micah Lee: What are some operational security practices you think everyone should adopt? Just useful stuff for average people.
Edward Snowden: [Opsec] is important even if you’re not worried about the NSA. Because when you think about who the victims of surveillance are, on a day-to-day basis, you’re thinking about people who are in abusive spousal relationships, you’re thinking about people who are concerned about stalkers, you’re thinking about children who are concerned about their parents overhearing things. It’s to reclaim a level of privacy.
  • The first step that anyone could take is to encrypt their phone calls and their text messages. You can do that through the smartphone app Signal, by Open Whisper Systems. It’s free, and you can just download it immediately. And anybody you’re talking to now, their communications, if it’s intercepted, can’t be read by adversaries. [Signal is available for iOS and Android, and, unlike a lot of security tools, is very easy to use.]
  • You should encrypt your hard disk, so that if your computer is stolen the information isn’t obtainable to an adversary — pictures, where you live, where you work, where your kids are, where you go to school. [I’ve written a guide to encrypting your disk on Windows, Mac, and Linux.]
  • Use a password manager. One of the main things that gets people’s private information exposed, not necessarily to the most powerful adversaries, but to the most common ones, are data dumps. Your credentials may be revealed because some service you stopped using in 2007 gets hacked, and your password that you were using for that one site also works for your Gmail account. A password manager allows you to create unique passwords for every site that are unbreakable, but you don’t have the burden of memorizing them. [The password manager KeePassX is free, open source, cross-platform, and never stores anything in the cloud.]
  • The other thing there is two-factor authentication. The value of this is if someone does steal your password, or it’s left or exposed somewhere … [two-factor authentication] allows the provider to send you a secondary means of authentication — a text message or something like that. [If you enable two-factor authentication, an attacker needs both your password as the first factor and a physical device, like your phone, as your second factor, to login to your account. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, GitHub, Battle.net, and tons of other services all support two-factor authentication.]
We should not live lives as if we are electronically naked.
We should armor ourselves using systems we can rely on every day. This doesn’t need to be an extraordinary lifestyle change. It doesn’t have to be something that is disruptive. It should be invisible, it should be atmospheric, it should be something that happens painlessly, effortlessly. This is why I like apps like Signal, because they’re low friction. It doesn’t require you to re-order your life. It doesn’t require you to change your method of communications. You can use it right now to talk to your friends.
Micah Lee and Edward Snowden, Moscow, Russia.
Photo: Sue Gardner
Lee: What do you think about Tor? Do you think that everyone should be familiar with it, or do you think that it’s only a use-it-if-you-need-it thing?
Snowden: I think Tor is the most important privacy-enhancing technology project being used today. I use Tor personally all the time. We know it works from at least one anecdotal case that’s fairly familiar to most people at this point. That’s not to say that Tor is bulletproof. What Tor does is it provides a measure of security and allows you to disassociate your physical location. …
But the basic idea, the concept of Tor that is so valuable, is that it’s run by volunteers. Anyone can create a new node on the network, whether it’s an entry node, a middle router, or an exit point, on the basis of their willingness to accept some risk. The voluntary nature of this network means that it is survivable, it’s resistant, it’s flexible.
[Tor Browser is a great way to selectively use Tor to look something up and not leave a trace that you did it. It can also help bypass censorship when you’re on a network where certain sites are blocked. If you want to get more involved, you can volunteer to run your own Tor node, as I do, and support the diversity of the Tor network.]
Lee: So that is all stuff that everybody should be doing. What about people who have exceptional threat models, like future intelligence-community whistleblowers, and other people who have nation-state adversaries? Maybe journalists, in some cases, or activists, or people like that?
Snowden: So the first answer is that you can’t learn this from a single article. The needs of every individual in a high-risk environment are different. And the capabilities of the adversary are constantly improving. The tooling changes as well.
What really matters is to be conscious of the principles of compromise. How can the adversary, in general, gain access to information that is sensitive to you? What kinds of things do you need to protect? Because of course you don’t need to hide everything from the adversary. You don’t need to live a paranoid life, off the grid, in hiding, in the woods in Montana.
What we do need to protect are the facts of our activities, our beliefs, and our lives that could be used against us in manners that are contrary to our interests. So when we think about this for whistleblowers, for example, if you witnessed some kind of wrongdoing and you need to reveal this information, and you believe there are people that want to interfere with that, you need to think about how to compartmentalize that.
Tell no one who doesn’t need to know. [Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend of several years, didn’t know that he had been collecting documents to leak to journalists until she heard about it on the news, like everyone else.]
When we talk about whistleblowers and what to do, you want to think about tools for protecting your identity, protecting the existence of the relationship from any type of conventional communication system. You want to use something like SecureDrop, over the Tor network, so there is no connection between the computer that you are using at the time — preferably with a non-persistent operating system like Tails, so you’ve left no forensic trace on the machine you’re using, which hopefully is a disposable machine that you can get rid of afterward, that can’t be found in a raid, that can’t be analyzed or anything like that — so that the only outcome of your operational activities are the stories reported by the journalists. [SecureDrop is a whistleblower submission system. Here is a guide to using The Intercept’s SecureDrop server as safely as possible.]
And this is to be sure that whoever has been engaging in this wrongdoing cannot distract from the controversy by pointing to your physical identity. Instead they have to deal with the facts of the controversy rather than the actors that are involved in it.
Lee: What about for people who are, like, in a repressive regime and are trying to …
Snowden: Use Tor.
Lee: Use Tor?
Snowden: If you’re not using Tor you’re doing it wrong. Now, there is a counterpoint here where the use of privacy-enhancing technologies in certain areas can actually single you out for additional surveillance through the exercise of repressive measures. This is why it’s so critical for developers who are working on security-enhancing tools to not make their protocols stand out.
Lee: So you mentioned that what you want to spread are the principles of operational security. And you mentioned some of them, like need-to-know, compartmentalization. Can you talk more about what are the principles of operating securely?
Snowden: Almost every principle of operating security is to think about vulnerability. Think about what the risks of compromise are and how to mitigate them. In every step, in every action, in every point involved, in every point of decision, you have to stop and reflect and think, “What would be the impact if my adversary were aware of my activities?” If that impact is something that’s not survivable, either you have to change or refrain from that activity, you have to mitigate that through some kind of tools or system to protect the information and reduce the risk of compromise, or ultimately, you have to accept the risk of discovery and have a plan to mitigate the response. Because sometimes you can’t always keep something secret, but you can plan your response.
Lee: Are there principles of operational security that you think would be applicable to everyday life?
Snowden: Yes, that’s selective sharing. Everybody doesn’t need to know everything about us. Your friend doesn’t need to know what pharmacy you go to. Facebook doesn’t need to know your password security questions. You don’t need to have your mother’s maiden name on your Facebook page, if that’s what you use for recovering your password on Gmail. The idea here is that sharing is OK, but it should always be voluntary. It should be thoughtful, it should be things that are mutually beneficial to people that you’re sharing with, and these aren’t things that are simply taken from you.
If you interact with the internet … the typical methods of communication today betray you silently, quietly, invisibly, at every click. At every page that you land on, information is being stolen. It’s being collected, intercepted, analyzed, and stored by governments, foreign and domestic, and by companies. You can reduce this by taking a few key steps. Basic things. If information is being collected about you, make sure it’s being done in a voluntary way.
For example, if you use browser plugins like HTTPS Everywhere by EFF, you can try to enforce secure encrypted communications so your data is not being passed in transit electronically naked.
Lee: Do you think people should use adblock software?
Snowden: Yes.
Everybody should be running adblock software, if only from a safety perspective …
We’ve seen internet providers like ComcastAT&T, or whoever it is, insert their own ads into your plaintext http connections. … As long as service providers are serving ads with active content that require the use of Javascript to display, that have some kind of active content like Flash embedded in it, anything that can be a vector for attack in your web browser — you should be actively trying to block these. Because if the service provider is not working to protect the sanctity of the relationship between reader and publisher, you have not just a right but a duty to take every effort to protect yourself in response. Lee: Nice. So there’s a lot of esoteric attacks that you hear about in the media. There’s disk encryption attacks like evil maid attacks, and cold-boot attacks. There’s all sorts of firmware attacks. There’s BadUSB and BadBIOS, and baseband attacks on cellphones. All of these are probably unlikely to happen to many people very often. Is this something people should be concerned about? How do you go about deciding if you personally should be concerned about this sort of attack and try to defend against it?
Snowden: It all comes down to personal evaluation of your personal threat model, right? That is the bottom line of what operational security is about. You have to assess the risk of compromise. On the basis of that determine how much effort needs to be invested into mitigating that risk.
Now in the case of cold-boot attacks and things like that, there are many things you can do. For example, cold-boot attacks can be defeated by never leaving your machine unattended. This is something that is not important for the vast majority of users, because most people don’t need to worry about someone sneaking in when their machine is unattended. … There is the evil maid attack, which can be protected against by keeping your bootloader physically on you, but wearing it as a necklace, for example, on an external USB device.
You’ve got BadBIOS. You can protect against this by dumping your BIOS, hashing it (hopefully not with SHA1 anymore), and simply comparing your BIOS. In theory, if it’s owned badly enough you need to do this externally. You need to dump it using a JTAG or some kind of reader to make sure that it actually matches, if you don’t trust your operating system.
There’s a counter to every attack. The idea is you can play the cat-and-mouse game forever.
You can go to any depth, you can drive yourself crazy thinking about bugs in the walls and cameras in the ceiling. Or you can think about what are the most realistic threats in your current situation? And on that basis take some activity to mitigate the most realistic threats. In that case, for most people, that’s going to be very simple things. That’s going to be using a safe browser. That’s going to be disabling scripts and active content, ideally using a virtual machine or some other form of sandboxed browser, where if there’s a compromise it’s not persistent. [I recently wrote about how to set up virtual machines.] And making sure that your regular day-to-day communications are being selectively shared through encrypted means. Lee: What sort of security tools are you currently excited about? What are you finding interesting?
Snowden: I’ll just namecheck Qubes here, just because it’s interesting. I’m really excited about Qubes because the idea of VM-separating machines, requiring expensive, costly sandbox escapes to get persistence on a machine, is a big step up in terms of burdening the attacker with greater resource and sophistication requirements for maintaining a compromise. I’d love to see them continue this project. I’d love to see them make it more accessible and much more secure. [You can read more about how to use Qubes here and here.]
Something that we haven’t seen that we need to see is a greater hardening of the overall kernels of every operating system through things like grsecurity [a set of patches to improve Linux security], but unfortunately there’s a big usability gap between the capabilities that are out there, that are possible, and what is attainable for the average user.
Lee: People use smartphones a lot. What do you think about using a smartphone for secure communications?
Snowden: Something that people forget about cellphones in general, of any type, is that you’re leaving a permanent record of all of your physical locations as you move around. … The problem with cellphones is they’re basically always talking about you, even when you’re not using them. That’s not to say that everyone should burn their cellphones … but you have to think about the context for your usage. Are you carrying a device that, by virtue of simply having it on your person, places you in a historic record in a place that you don’t want to be associated with, even if it’s something as simple as your place of worship?
Lee: There are tons of software developers out there that would love to figure out how to end mass surveillance. What should they be doing with their time?
Snowden: Mixed routing is one of the most important things that we need in terms of regular infrastructure because we haven’t solved the problem of how to divorce the content of communication from the fact that it has occurred at all. To have real privacy you have to have both. Not just what you talked to your mother about, but the fact that you talked to your mother at all. …
The problem with communications today is that the internet service provider knows exactly who you are. They know exactly where you live. They know what your credit card number is, when you last paid, how much it was.
You should be able to buy a pile of internet the same way you buy a bottle of water.
We need means of engaging in private connections to the internet. We need ways of engaging in private communications. We need mechanisms affording for private associations. And ultimately, we need ways to engage in private payment and shipping, which are the basis of trade. These are research questions that need to be resolved. We need to find a way to protect the rights that we ourselves inherited for the next generation. If we don’t, today we’re standing at a fork in the road that divides between an open society and a controlled system. If we don’t do anything about this, people will look back at this moment and they’ll say, why did you let that happen? Do you want to live in a quantified world? Where not only is the content of every conversation, not only are the movements of every person known, but even the location of all the objects are known? Where the book that you leant to a friend leaves a record that they have read it? These things might be useful capabilities that provide value to society, but that’s only going to be a net good if we’re able to mitigate the impact of our activity, of our sharing, of our openness.
Lee: Ideally, governments around the world shouldn’t be spying on everybody. But that’s not really the case, so where do you think — what do you think the way to solve this problem is? Do you think it’s all just encrypting everything, or do you think that trying to get Congress to pass new laws and trying to do policy stuff is equally as important? Where do you think the balance is between tech and policy to combat mass surveillance? And what do you think that Congress should do, or that people should be urging Congress to do?
Snowden: I think reform comes with many faces. There’s legal reform, there’s statutory reform more generally, there are the products and outcomes of judicial decisions. … In the United States it has been held that these programs of mass surveillance, which were implemented secretly without the knowledge or the consent of the public, violate our rights, that they went too far, that they should end. And they have been modified or changed as a result. But there are many other programs, and many other countries, where these reforms have not yet had the impact that is so vital to free society. And in these contexts, in these situations, I believe that we do — as a community, as an open society, whether we’re talking about ordinary citizens or the technological community specifically — we have to look for ways of enforcing human rights through any means.
That can be through technology, that can be through politics, that can be through voting, that can be through behavior. But technology is, of all of these things, perhaps the quickest and most promising means through which we can respond to the greatest violations of human rights in a manner that is not dependent on every single legislative body on the planet to reform itself at the same time, which is probably somewhat optimistic to hope for. We would be instead able to create systems … that enforce and guarantee the rights that are necessary to maintain a free and open society.
Lee: On a different note — people said I should ask about Twitter — how long have you had a Twitter account for?
Snowden: Two weeks.
Lee: How many followers do you have?
Snowden: A million and a half, I think.
Lee: That’s a lot of followers. How are you liking being a Twitter user so far?
Snowden: I’m trying very hard not to mess up.
Lee: You’ve been tweeting a lot lately, including in the middle of the night Moscow time.
Snowden: Ha. I make no secret about the fact that I live on Eastern Standard Time. The majority of my work and associations, my political activism, still occurs in my home, in the United States. So it only really make sense that I work on the same hours.
Lee: Do you feel like Twitter is sucking away all your time? I mean I kind of have Twitter open all day long and I sometimes get sucked into flame wars. How is it affecting you?
Snowden: There were a few days when people kept tweeting cats for almost an entire day. And I know I shouldn’t, I have a lot of work to do, but I just couldn’t stop looking at them.
Lee: The real question is, what was your Twitter handle before this? Because you were obviously on Twitter. You know all the ins and outs.
Snowden: I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of other Twitter accounts.

Disclosure: Snowden and I are both directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Netanyahu Has Never Actually Supported a Palestinian State, Despite What He Told Obama

IN A MEETING with President Obama today, Benjamin Netanyahu went through the familiar motions of expressing rhetorical support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Stating, “I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu said that he wanted “make it clear that we have not given up our hope,” for achieving a two-state solution to the conflict. Just a day before this statement, however, the Israeli government took steps to ensure such a vision could never become reality, moving to authorize the construction of an additional 2,200 housing units in the occupied territories in the face of Palestinian opposition.
The reason behind this apparent discrepancy between word and deed is that Netanyahu does not, and has essentially never, supported the creation of an actual Palestinian state. Last year, during the Israeli election, Netanyahu briefly acknowledged this fact himself, explicitly stating to voters that there would not be a Palestinian state during his tenure as prime minister if he was reelected. Despite this, the convenient fiction that the Israeli prime minister supports a “two-state solution” continues to linger in the United States. Why?
In his 2000 book, A Durable Peace, Netanyahu outlined his vision for any future self-governing Palestinian territory, one that bore little resemblance to actual statehood. “Many in the world have blithely accepted the notion that the Palestinians must have their own independent state,” Netanyahu wrote. “When I am asked about a Palestinian state, I answer in the negative.” Instead of statehood, Netanyahu proposed the creation of a “Palestinian entity,” a governing body with some rights of limited self-governance but not full independence.
In a video recorded the year following the release of the book, Netanyahu bragged that during his first term as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999, he had “de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords,” the agreement that had been negotiated with the Palestinians by his predecessor, and which intended to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
For many years, this brazen opposition to Palestinian statehood remained Netanyahu’s public position. While he moved on to other pursuits, including helping pitch the Iraq War to the U.S. Congress, his stance on Palestinian self-governance remained more or less static. Indeed, in the absence of any American pressure, a public evolution on this issue was not even necessary.
In 2009, however, that began to change. In June of that year, newly elected President Barack Obama, who had made rebuilding ties with the Muslim world a part of his foreign policy platform, gave a landmark speech in Cairo in which he said the United States “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” going on to describe them as contrary to previous agreements and an impediment to peace in the region.
Israeli media would report at the time that Obama’s words “resonated through Jerusalem’s corridors.” In seeming recognition of shifting American sentiments on this issue, 10 days later Netanyahu gave what was billed as a landmark speech at Bar-Ilan University near Tel-Aviv, dealing in part with the subject of Palestinian statehood.
In his address, hailed by the White House as an “important step forward,” Netanyahu endorsed for the first time the creation of what he called “a demilitarized Palestinian state” in the occupied territories. But the same speech added stipulations that, in sum, turned this so-called state into a rebranded version of Netanyahu’s 2000 “Palestinian entity,” with only limited autonomy. In private, just three months before the speech, Netanyahu was even more blunt about the limits he required for a more independent Palestinian territory, stipulating he could only support one “without an army or control over air space and borders,” according to diplomatic cables later released by WikiLeaks.
In a speech two years later to Congress, Netanyahu would go into more detail about the ridiculous conception of Palestinian “statehood” he was imagining, one in which the West Bank would be essentially bifurcated by massive Israeli settlement blocs, the prospective Palestinian capital of East Jerusalem would be surrounded by settlements, and the Israeli Defense Forces would continue to have “a long-term military presence” inside the newly independent “state.” Needless to say, such a proposal was unlikely ever to be accepted by the Palestinians, nor did it bear much resemblance to the independent statehood they had actually been seeking.
Netanyahu let the mask drop even further in July 2014, when he stated in a press conference that “there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” essentially outlining a position of permanent military occupation of Palestinian territories. In the run-up to the 2015 election, when he publicly disowned the idea of Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu would specifically repudiate his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, stating that “there will be no withdrawals and no concessions,” and that the speech was “not relevant.” As recently as last week, Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future,” before adding darkly that Israel “will forever live by the sword.”
In light of all this, it’s difficult to take seriously Netanyahu’s most recent claim that he supports the creation of a Palestinian state. At best, he has in the past expressed support for a Palestinian “entity” with some features of self-governance (an idea that has well-known historical precedents), but certainly not one that affords genuine independence, freedom or statehood to its inhabitants. At his most brazen, he has denied the possibility of even that limited form of self-determination, stating bluntly that Israel will control the entire West Bank and keep its inhabitants under indefinite military subjugation.
Netanyahu has nonetheless been allowed to maintain a convenient fiction that he supports the negotiated goal of Palestinian self-determination. In reality, he has never really supported it. Thanks in large part to Netanyahu’s leadership, a Palestinian state will likely never emerge. Due to his own obstinance, as well as American indulgence, a binational state or a formalized Apartheid regime have now become the most probable remaining outcomes to this disastrous, decades-long conflict.

Monday, November 09, 2015

How Law Enforcement Can Use Google Timeline To Track Your Every Move

THE RECENT EXPANSION of Google’s Timeline feature can provide investigators unprecedented access to users’ location history data, allowing them in many cases to track a person’s every move over the course of years, according to a report recently circulated to law enforcement.
“The personal privacy implications are pretty clear but so are the law enforcement applications,” according to the document, titled “Google Timelines: Location Investigations Involving Android Devices,” which outlines the kind of information investigators can now obtain.
The Timeline allows users to look back at their daily movements on a map; that same information is also potentially of interest to law enforcement. “It is now possible to submit a legal demand to Google for location history greater than six months old,” the report says. “This could revitalize cold cases and potentially help solve active investigations.”
The report was written by a law enforcement trainer, Aaron Edens, and provides detailed guidance on the wealth of historic location information available through Google Timeline and how to request it. A copy of of the document was obtained by The Intercept.
The expansion of Google’s Timeline feature, launched in July 2015, allows investigators to request detailed information about where someone has been — down to the longitude and latitude — over the course of years. Previously, law enforcement could only yield recent location information.
The 15-page document includes what information its author, an expert in mobile phone investigations, found being stored in his own Timeline: historic location data — extremely specific data — dating back to 2009, the first year he owned a phone with an Android operating system. Those six years of data, he writes, show the kind of information that law enforcement investigators can now obtain from Google.
The document also notes that users can edit or delete specific locations in their history, or an entire day, stressing the importance of preservation letters for criminal investigators involving Android phones. “Unfortunately, Google has made it very easy to delete location history from a specific date,” he wrote.
There is no indication data is recoverable from Google once it has been deleted by the user, the report says.
Location data is only stored in users’ Google accounts if they enable the feature. Individual Android users can turn it off, but users often don’t.
The ability of law enforcement to obtain data stored with privacy companies is similar — whether it’s in Dropbox or iCloud. What’s different about Google Timeline, however, is that it potentially allows law enforcement to access a treasure trove of data about someone’s individual movement over the course of years.
The report also advises investigators to remember there is a significant amount of other information retained by Google.
“Consider including Gmail, photos and videos, search history, contacts, applications, other connected devices, Google Voice and Google Wallet, if they are relevant to the investigation,” the report suggests. Investigators are also advised to include a non-disclosure order with their search warrants for Google data, which prevents the company from notifying the account holder that their data is being provided to law enforcement.
It’s impossible to know how many of these requests for historic Timeline location information have been made by law enforcement, since Google does not specify what types of requests it gets from law enforcement. Google’s transparency report provides information on the number of requests received from law enforcement, and the most recent requests go up to the end of 2014 and do not cover the time period after the expanded Timeline was launched. (In the first half of 2014, Google received 12,539 criminal legal requests in the U.S. and in the second half it received 9,981.)
The major barrier law enforcement faces is that Google does not provide any additional advice or help on deciphering data, once it is turned over under subpoena or warrant. “Based on conversations with other law enforcement investigators and prosecutors, they have resisted attempts to bring them into court to discuss the issue,” Edens wrote.
“Google does not provide expert witness testimony,” Edens said in response to The Intercept’s questions, noting that this is a similar practice to that of other companies, like Facebook. His report, he added, was written to help law enforcement in the absence of assistance from Google.
“Google has always been wary of any perceived cooperation with law enforcement, even before [Edward] Snowden,” he said.
“We respond to valid legal requests, and have a long track record of advocating on behalf of our users,” a Google spokesperson told The Intercept.
Research: Micah Lee
Update: November 9, 2015
In an email, the Google spokesperson notes that the company requires a warrant to obtain detailed user data such as that available in Timeline. “A subpoena,” the  spokesperson writes, “is not and has never been sufficient to get it.” The article has been updated to reflect this.

U.K. Government Proposes More, Not Less, Electronic Snooping

Two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the vast reach of U.S. and U.K. surveillance, the U.S. Congress rolled back the most manifestly unconstitutional element: the bulk collection of domestic phone data.
The U.K. government, on Wednesday, chose to double down instead.
The newly unveiled text of what critics are calling a proposed “Snooper’s Charter” or “Hacker’s License” would explicitly authorize the bulk collection of domestic data, require telecommunications companies to store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by the government, approve the government’s right to hack into and bug computers and phones, severely restrict the ability of citizens to raise questions about secret surveillance warrants or evidence obtained through bulk surveillance presented in court, and oblige companies to assist in bypassing encryption.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said terrorists should have no “safe space” to communicate online, and Britain’s Home Office — charged with law enforcement, prisons, and border security — has presented in recent years several draft bills with that idea in mind.
The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Theresa May, who is similar to the secretary of state for the U.S., insisted that the engines of Britain’s spy agencies would hum along as usual — just more efficiently, and with even more oversight, if the law passed. She answered questions from Parliament about the bill in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday.
There are some new limits in the bill. For example, if police wanted to use phone call information to try and track down a journalist’s source, those efforts would now have to be approved by a judicial commissioner. In fact, most warrants would need approval by a judicial commissioner, after the U.K. secretary of state signs off.
But overall, the bill, which May described as “world-leading” in its oversight provisions, remains a concern for privacy advocates because of its massive surveillance authorities and vague language and loopholes.
David Winnick, a parliamentarian from the Labour party and one of the few to offer criticism, told May that he was still “concerned” about the “excessive powers” being given to Britain’s spy agencies — a “bitter blow to civil liberties.”
Bulk Collection By Law
First, the bill explicitly authorizes bulk collection of domestic data, as long as it is “foreign focused,” “necessary in the interests of national security,” and approved by the secretary of state and the judicial commissioner. If an agency wants to actually examine domestic data, it has to get a targeted warrant — but massive amounts of data will have already been seized at that point.
“Powers for bulk interception that the government has long undertaken in secret have finally been explicitly avowed, but the case for them remains uncritically examined and evidentially weak,” wrote Privacy International in its initial statement about the bill.
May insisted that bulk collection is not a new power — that it was previously authorized under the Telecommunications Act.
However, the new standard is incredibly far-reaching. The United States Second Circuit ruled earlier this year that bulk collection of domestic communications data is so exceptionally broad as to be illegal, and in 2013 a District Court judge in Washington, D.C., found the program likely violated the U.S. constitution’s prohibition on general warrants. Congress ultimately decided to end the program and force the National Security Agency to replace it with something less intrusive.
Collection of Browsing History
Additionally, the bill would authorize British intelligence agencies to access a year’s worth of information about what websites British people visit without prior court approval. May did acknowledge this was a new power, but insisted it wasn’t all that intrusive, because a warrant would still be required to access specific browsing history for every page on every website visited, instead of just the homepage URL (like the Intercept homepage versus a specific article).
Anne Jellema, CEO of the Web Foundation, expressed concerns about the bill’s mass surveillance of Internet records.
“It will hurt U.K. businesses, create new vulnerabilities for criminals to attack, and ride roughshod over the right to privacy,” she wrote. “It will be possible to paint an incredibly detailed picture of a person’s hopes, fears and activities, and will create a data pool rife for theft, misuse or political persecution.”
British citizens also aren’t confident the government will protect all that new data it would now be entitled to. According to a poll conducted by British human rights group Big Brother Watch in 2012 — when a more severe surveillance bill was on the table — 71 percent of people said they didn’t think the government could keep their data, like websites visited, secure. Though the new bill isn’t as intrusive, this new power over website history remains.
License to Hack
The government will also create a new “regime” that will be granted authority to “interfere” with “electronic equipment” — basically to hack into devices and insert malware in order to covertly access information about the device or the user during an investigation of “serious crimes.”
Currently, the secretary of state approves the technique for intelligence or military agencies, while a chief police officer or “chief constable” authorizes a request made by law enforcement to hack. With the new bill, a judicial commissioner would also have to approve.
The U.S. government, including the FBI, also uses malware to access suspects’ devices, but the practice is much more secretive and unclear. Most warrants granted to law enforcement agencies to hack are sealed, making it hard to determine how often it happens.
Cooperating Companies and Encryption Restrictions
And companies, both abroad and domestically, would be under new pressures to comply with warrants issued by the U.K. government. For example, executives of foreign technology firms served with interception warrants from any “senior official” in the U.K., including local authorities, could be jailed or fined for ignoring a warrant.
And communications providers would be required to “remove any encryption applied” from communications when requested.
Though the U.K. government says companies were previously required to comply with warrants by decrypting messages, there’s a question as to whether that’s actually the case. The government wrote in February in its Interception of Communications Code of Practice that communications providers need to provide a “permanent interception capability” — or way to access communications through a warrant. However, there is no explicit mention of decrypting text or providing plaintext.
“It’s clearly not the same thing,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. policy manager for international digital rights group Access Now. The U.K. government is “reinterpreting current law” by saying companies “have to actually provide a way to decrypt communications.”
She said the new language would effectively eliminate forms of encryption that companies cannot decrypt upon request, namely end-to-end encryption where only the sender and receiver hold the key to read it — technology Apple provides. With the new bill, Apple could be pressured to comply with U.K. law or pull out of the market entirely.
No Questions Asked
Finally, some privacy advocates are worried that new protections would not be effective because of the bill’s provisions for challenging surveillance practices.
Under the new law, it would be illegal for anyone even to ask questions in court about whether or not evidence was obtained through bulk surveillance, or to talk to anyone about a surveillance warrant received — much like U.S. policy on national security letters issued to companies by intelligence agencies.
Amnesty International, the human rights group that learned it was being spied on by GCHQ this summer, wrote that the bill’s “wider powers” would “take U.K. closer to becoming a surveillance state.”
“Just a few months ago the government admitted through gritted teeth that they’d been spying on Amnesty International and another NGO,” wrote Alice Wyss, a U.K. researcher for Amnesty. “They were only caught out then because they broke their own rules and kept our communications too long, and that’s likely to have been just the tip of the iceberg.”
Correction: November 4, 2015
An earlier version of this story conflated two judicial rulings into one. A panel of the U.S. Second Circuit ruled bulk collection illegal, but did not rule on its constitutionality. D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon raised the constitutional concerns.

Seven Major Takeaways From the U.K.’s Proposed Surveillance Rules

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT on Wednesday published a proposed new law to reform and dramatically expand surveillance powers in the United Kingdom. The 190-page Investigatory Powers Bill is thick with detail and it will probably take weeks and months of analysis until its full ramifications are understood. In the meantime, I’ve read through the bill and noted down a few key aspects of the proposed powers that stood out to me — including unprecedented new data retention measures, a loophole that allows spies to monitor journalists and their sources, powers enabling the government to conduct large-scale hacking operations, and more.

Internet connection records

In the days prior to the publication of the Investigatory Powers Bill, the British government’s Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that the law would not be “giving new powers to go through people’s browsing history.” However, the text of the bill makes clear that this is precisely what the government is trying to do.
Under the proposed law, Internet companies in the U.K. would be forced to record and store for up to 12 months logs showing websites visited by all of their customers. The government has tried to present this as “not a record of every web page” accessed (emphasis added). This is technically true, but it’s also extremely misleading. The logs will show every web site you visited — for example, bbc.com — as opposed to the specific pages on that website, for example, bbc.com/news.
This information, especially when accumulated over a period of a year, would still be highly personal, potentially revealing your political preferences, sexuality, religion, medical problems, and other details that could be used to draw inferences about your private life.
The attempt to obtain this power is a politically radical move. As far as I am aware, no other Western democracy has implemented a nationwide data retention regime that encompasses all citizens’ annual web browsing habits. The British government says the data will only be looked at to determine, for example, “whether someone [has] accessed a communications website [or] an illegal website.” But there are only limited safeguards in place to ensure these conditions are not breached by overzealous authorities. Police will be able to access the records without any judicial approval; a person’s website browsing records can be obtained after a “designated senior officer” grants an authorization.
Notably, British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, already has systems it uses to sweep up and monitor people’s website browsing histories in bulk, as The Intercept reported in September. You can make it much harder for the government and Internet companies to monitor your browsing habits by adopting the anonymity tool Tor.

Spying on journalists

The draft bill includes a welcome safeguard that will force police to obtain judicial authorization if they are seeking to use metadata to identify a journalist’s confidential sources. However, the provision protecting journalists from arbitrary police spying contains a gaping loophole that exempts British intelligence agencies, meaning they still have carte blanche to monitor journalists’ communications without any judicial approval. The law will also ensure that the surveillance is kept secret from journalists and their legal representatives, unlike the stronger system that is in place in the United States for journalists when it comes to government surveillance.

Leading oversight?

The British government claims that new measures contained in the bill amount to “world-leading oversight.” Unfortunately, this is nonsense. While it is true that the proposed law would to some degree strengthen the extremely lax surveillance safeguards currently in place in the U.K., the changes would not amount to the creation of a world-leading system.
Warrants for the interception of the content of communications are presently signed off by a government minister; under the new legal regime, the government minister would sign off the warrant and then it would go to a “judicial commissioner” (likely a current or former judge) who would review it and decide whether to grant final approval.
This additional layer of judicial scrutiny on its face seems like a significant change, but in practice, as some British legal experts have pointed out, it is not clear whether the judicial commissioner would have a great deal of power to properly scrutinize or formally “authorize” the warrants in anything other than a supervisory role. Moreover, the government minister would retain the power to bypass the authority of the judicial commissioner if there were deemed to be an “urgent need” to approve a warrant.

Bulk hacking

A section of the bill proposes new powers to allow police to perform what is euphemistically termed “equipment interference.” In normal language, this means hacking. In recent years, British authorities have been very anxious about adopting hacking techniques, fearing that such methods could violate the U.K.’s computer misuse laws. However, under the powers contained in the new surveillance law, police would be handed the authority to launch hacking operations in cases involving “serious crime” and where a judicial commissioner approves a warrant that has already been signed off by a senior officer.
Notably, the bill also contains a clause designed to allow British spy agencies to perform “bulk equipment interference” — in other words, large-scale hacking of computers or phones to covertly collect data or monitor communications. Prior to the Edward Snowden disclosures, it would have been unthinkable for the British government to admit that it performed any kind of hacking, so to see powers for this tactic formalized in such a way is quite remarkable. It represents an attempt to institutionalize, broaden, and perhaps in some cases even retroactively legalize the tactics the agencies have been deploying in recent years on dubious legal footing under cover of secrecy.

Anti-whistleblower clause

The bill includes a clause that seeks to criminalize any “unauthorized disclosure” by telecommunications employees of any details about government surveillance. The clause appears designed to stifle leaks and deter whistleblowers. A breach of this section of the proposed law would result in a 12-month jail term and a fine.

Encryption ban

In the lead-up to the publication of the bill, there was speculation that the British government may try to impose a ban on strong encryption. The bill does not seek to ban encryption, but it does make clear that the government will have powers to serve companies with a “technical capability notice” for the “removal of electronic protection applied by a relevant operator.” The government says this measure does not go beyond the powers it already has to compel Internet companies to remove encryption from communications or data they process. But the phrasing of the technical capability clause is vague and it remains unclear whether it could in practice be used to attempt to force companies to place surveillance backdoors in their encryption products — such as, for instance, smartphone apps offering encrypted chats.

Domestic spying

In September, The Intercept reported that British spy agency MI5 was conducting extensive domestic surveillance within the U.K. as part of a program named DIGINT. But the publication of the Investigatory Powers Bill brought with it the first official confirmation: The British government admitted that MI5 has been involved in bulk surveillance of domestic communications.
Announcing the proposed new law on Wednesday, the home secretary referred to the “use of bulk communications data” in relation to a domestic terrorist plot that was said to have been aimed at the London Stock Exchange. The bulk surveillance was authorized under the Telecommunications Act, a 1984 law that has been used to secretly obtain communications from companies when doing so is deemed to be “in the interests of national security or international relations.”
If the new Investigatory Powers Bill is passed into law, it will replace this power, ensuring that the bulk domestic surveillance continues unabated.

Last British Detainee At Guantánamo Goes Home — Eight Years After Being Cleared for Release

ALMOST 14 YEARS after he was first detained by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee held at Guantánamo Bay, was released from the prison today and repatriated back to his home in England. In a statement issued by a spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron, the government indicated that it had no plans to detain him upon his release, and that “he is free to be reunited with his family.”
Aamer’s release today concludes a long legal ordeal that had raised the ire of human rights groups around the world. Despite spending nearly a decade and a half in U.S. custody, Aamer was never charged with any crime, and was cleared for release from the prison on separate occasions in both 2007 and 2009. In a statement issued today through the prisoner advocacy organization CAGE, Moazzam Begg, another former British detainee at Guantánamo and a longtime friend of Aamer, said, “The day has finally arrived. … [Aamer’s] family, friends, lawyers, campaigners and well-wishers have fought a battle to free an innocent man and finally, that battle has been won.”
Aamer, 48, is a Saudi citizen and resident of the United Kingdom, whose British-born wife and four children, the youngest of whom he has never met, still live today in London. In 2001, he was among the many Arabs detained in Afghanistan by local bounty hunters following the American invasion of the country, before being rendered into the custody of U.S. troops. The bounty system set up by the American occupation would later be criticized by Amnesty International for effectively creating a market for local opportunists to capture people of Arab descent, brand them as terrorists, and sell them to American forces in exchange for lucrative cash rewards. This system would later be blamed for helping contribute to the imprisonment of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people who would later be transferred to Guantánamo Bay and other detention sites around the world.
Following his capture in late 2001, Aamer himself would be held for two months at the prison facility at Bagram Air Field, before being transported to Guantánamo Bay. At both sites he alleges that he was subject to torture by American military personnel. In some instances, Aamer has also said that this torture occurred in the presence of agents of the British intelligence service MI5, a politically explosive allegation about the extent of that agency’s complicity in post-9/11 torture.
During the years of his detention, Aamer’s case has become a minor cause célèbre in England, with politicians, celebrities and prominent civil society figures advocating publicly for his release and repatriation. Earlier this month, many such public figures even held a hunger strike on his behalf to help build pressure for his release.
Aamer, who emerged as something of a leader among Guantánamo prisoners during his incarceration, had frequently taken part in such strikes at the prison, despite the deleterious impact it had on his health and mental state. In the midst of one such strike in 2013, Aamer would tell the legal advocacy organization Reprieve, “I am losing my mind, I am losing my health, I am losing my life. They are trying to do as much damage to us as they can before we leave here,” adding that “this is a living death here in Guantánamo, so if I have to risk death for a principle, that is what I want to do.”
Through his lawyers and sympathetic human rights organizations, Aamer, a fluent English speaker, has managed to give eloquent and emotional testimony about the various episodes of mistreatment he has been subject to over the years of his incarceration, including constant beatings and humiliations by prison guards and interrogators, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, shackling in stress positions, and threats to sexually assault his young daughter.
In a 2014 report issued by an independent psychologist who met with Aamer at Guantánamo, he described the effect of some of this mistreatment, saying, “I was not a human being anymore. I meant nothing to them. I lost my dignity, my pride. I had to take off my underwear and hand it to them. I had sleep deprivation for 11 days. That made me crazy. They poured cold water over me. They kept me standing for 20 hours a day. I had to hold my hands and arms out.” In another letter published in part by British newspaper The Independent in 2012, Aamer would plead with captors to “torture me in the old way,” adding that “here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.”
Among many of his supporters, a widespread belief lingers that part the reason Aamer has remained behind bars so long after being cleared for release is that as an English-speaking resident of a Western country, he would serve as an effective public witness against those responsible for human rights abuses in U.S. detention facilities. In his statement issued today through CAGE, Moazzam Begg alluded to this, saying, “His qualities have been acknowledged by his tormentors, and I’m certain he won’t disappoint when he’s ready to tell his side of the story.”

Europe, Still Angry at U.S. Spying, Prepares to Increase Its Own

Just as the United States is taking a first step toward placating European privacy concerns about U.S. surveillance, several European countries are passing laws dramatically expanding their own spy programs.
The House last month passed the Judicial Redress Act, intended to extend some privacy protections to foreign citizens. Meanwhile, the French Senate just passed one of the broadest international surveillance bills in the world and several other European countries are moving in a similar direction.
That frustrates Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who sponsored the Judicial Redress Act because he wanted to improve relationships with our international allies.
“Rather than criticizing U.S. surveillance practices, I encourage the EU to work to ensure that its own privacy protections meet the standards they demand from us,” he said in a statement emailed to The Intercept.
Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of the U.S. National Security Agency’s sweeping dragnet of surveillance overseas in 2013, the Obama administration has been working to reassure friendly nations that we trust them, and aren’t indiscriminately spying on them.
It’s been an uphill battle. When European diplomatic leaders first learned the extent of NSA spying, they threatened to renegotiate major trade deals and said they felt betrayed. President Obama gave a speech stressing the importance of protecting privacy for people outside the U.S. in January 2014, saying, “Our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy, too.” He told European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he’ll “call them” rather than resort to surveillance in the future.
The Judicial Redress Act passed in the House would give the Department of Justice the power to identify allied countries, presumably in Europe, where citizens would be allowed to sue U.S. agencies that mishandle their private data. The USA Freedom Act that passed in June, while in no way curtailing surveillance of foreigners, was seen by many as a sign that Congress was willing to consider curtailing the power of the NSA.
Despite all that, European officials continue to find U.S. privacy protections inadequate. Most recently, the EU Court of Justice this month invalidated the safe harbor data-sharing framework between the United States and Europe because it concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies were meddling in the “fundamental rights of persons” by indiscriminately vacuuming up Europeans’ data.
But instead of reining in their own spy agencies as they would have the U.S. do with the NSA, European countries are doing the opposite.
Privacy activists across the EU see a “race to the bottom” going on. “While the U.S. has been a bad example, EU countries have been adopting similar or worse measures in the past years,” writes Estelle Masse, a policy analyst for digital rights organization Access Now.
Governments in 14 countries around the world have passed new laws giving domestic intelligence agencies increased surveillance powers since June 2014, according to a new study released last week by Freedom House.
“In response to Snowden’s revelation, instead of strengthening safeguards against unlawful surveillance, many European states are weakening privacy protections,” Tomaso Falchetta, a legal officer for Privacy International, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “They have enacted laws that give more powers to intelligence and security agencies to intrude into our lives.”
In France, if the Senate bill becomes law as expected, French intelligence agencies will be able to vacuum up any and all communications sent or received from overseas via underwater Internet cables relating to the “essential interests of foreign policy” or  the “essential economic and scientific interest of France.”
While United States foreign intelligence gathering is supposedly specifically directed toward “targets” suspected of involvement in terrorism or transnational crime, the new French law allows for carte blanche spying on any person, group, or region outside France that might be of foreign policy, economic, or scientific interest — with very little oversight, warrants, or judicial review.
“The justification of the measures is so broad as to be meaningless,” says Kirsten Fiedler, managing director of European Digital Rights, one of 30 civil rights groups who sent a letter to French parliamentarians on September 30 asking them to reject the law — though many suspected it would easily pass.
La Quadrature du Net, a French Internet advocacy group, cites the exploitation of terrorism fears following the Charlie Hebdo attacks for the success of multiple new surveillance laws in France.
Under the new bill, France’s prime minister would be the sole authority over the spying program, which would allow the government to hold onto data for years. Meanwhile, the legislation leaves room for future spying technology to quietly proceed without any debate.
And in the U.K., the government on Wednesday will introduce a new investigatory powers bill to give police and intelligence agents more leeway to track people online.
Germany, which last week announced that it would be curtailing its spy agencies’ powers as a result of its work with the NSA, appears to be an outlier.
Sensenbrenner reacted with outrage to the European Court of Justice’s striking down of the safe harbor provision for lack of privacy protections. He called safe harbor provisions “critical for U.S. businesses.”
“The court reached this decision despite the fact that the United States has given serious thought and enacted meaningful reforms to protect privacy rights without compromising national security,” Sensenbrenner said.
“Serious legislation, such as the USA Freedom and Judicial Redress Acts, not only protect people’s privacy, but also give significant transparency of America’s surveillance practices,” he said. “But as we continue these efforts in America, we encourage our European colleagues to do the same.”

Leaked Emails From Pro-Clinton Group Reveal Censorship of Staff on Israel, AIPAC Pandering, Warped Militarism

LEAKED INTERNAL EMAILS from the powerful Democratic think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) shed light on several public controversies involving the organization, particularly in regard to its positioning on Israel. They reveal the lengths to which the group has gone in order to placate AIPAC and long-time Clinton operative and Israel activist Ann Lewis — including censoring its own writers on the topic of Israel.
The emails also provide crucial context for understanding CAP’s controversial decision to host an event next week for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That event, billed by CAP as “A Conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” will feature CAP President Neera Tanden and Netanyahu together in a Q&A session as they explore “ways to strengthen the partnership between Israel and the United States.” That a group whose core mission is loyalty to the White House and the Democratic Party would roll out the red carpet for a hostile Obama nemesis is bizarre, for reasons the Huffington Post laid out when it reported on the controversy provoked by CAP’s invitation.
Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress, Nov. 10, 2014.
Photo: Mel Evans/AP
The emails, provided to The Intercept by a source authorized to receive them, are particularly illuminating about the actions of Tanden (right), a stalwart Clinton loyalist as well as a former Obama White House official. They show Tanden and key aides engaging in extensive efforts of accommodation in response to AIPAC’s and Lewis’ vehement complaints that CAP is allowing its writers to be “anti-Israel.” Other emails show Tanden arguing that Libyans should be forced to turn over large portions of their oil revenues to repay the U.S. for the costs incurred in bombing Libya, on the grounds that Americans will support future wars only if they see that the countries attacked by the U.S. pay for the invasions. For years, CAP has exerted massive influence in Washington through its ties to the Democratic Party and its founder, John Podesta, one of Washington’s most powerful political operatives. The group is likely to become even more influential due to its deep and countless ties to the Clintons. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put it earlier this year: CAP “is poised to exert outsized influence over the 2016 president race and — should Hillary Clinton win it — the policies and agenda of the 45th President of the United States. CAP founder John Podesta is set to run Clinton’s presidential campaign, and current CAP president Neera Tanden is a longtime Clinton confidante and adviser.”
The recent CAP announcement of the Netanyahu event has generated substantial confusion and even anger among Democratic partisans. Netanyahu “sacrificed much of his popularity with the Democratic Party by crusading against the Iran nuclear deal,” the Huffington Post noted. Netanyahu has repeatedly treated the Obama White House as a political enemy. Indeed, just today, Netanyahu appointed “as his new chief of public diplomacy a conservative academic who suggested President Obama was anti-Semitic and compared Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘mental age’ to that of a preteen.”
A core objective of Netanyahu’s trip to Washington is to re-establish credibility among progressives in the post-Obama era. For that reason, the Huffington Post reported, “the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to” CAP and “was joined by [AIPAC], which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak.”
The article quoted several former CAP staffers angered by the group’s capitulation to the demands of the Israeli government and AIPAC; said one: Netanyahu is “looking for that progressive validation, and they’re basically validating a guy who race-baited during his election and has disavowed the two-state solution, which is CAP’s own prior work.” Matt Duss, a former foreign policy analyst at CAP, said “the idea that CAP would agree to give him bipartisan cover is really disappointing” since “this is someone who is an enemy of the progressive agenda, who has targeted Israeli human rights organizations throughout his term, and was re-elected on the back of blatant anti-Arab race-baiting.” Yet another former CAP staffer, Ali Gharib, published an article in The Nation noting that Netanyahu has all but formally aligned himself with the GOP, writing: “That a liberal institution feels the need to kowtow to AIPAC in a climate like this speaks volumes about either how out of touch or how craven it can be.”
BUT NONE OF THIS should be surprising. The Nation previously investigated CAP’s once-secret list of corporate donors, documenting how the group will abandon Democratic Party orthodoxy whenever that orthodoxy conflicts with the interests of its funders. That article noted that “Tanden ratcheted up the efforts to openly court donors, which has impacted CAP’s work. Staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors.”
Since that article, CAP, to its credit, has provided some greater transparency about its funding sources. As the Washington Post’s Sargent reported earlier this year, “CAP’s top donors include Walmart and Citigroup,” and also “include the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents leading biotech and bio-pharma firms, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.” Other large CAP donors include Goldman Sachs, the Em­bassy of the United Ar­ab Emir­ates, Bank of America, Google and Time Warner.
Still, many of its largest donors remain concealed. That is disturbing because of persistent reports that CAP manipulates and suppresses its own writers’ opinions to suit the interests of its donors. One former CAP staffer described to The Intercept the not-so-subtle ways they were pressured to abandon positions that offended CAP’s donors; the staffer was directed to meet with corporate lobbyists who argued against his progressive position on a widely debated political controversy, and was told by CAP officials that his views were “bad” and “unhelpful.”
But on Israel, CAP’s efforts to manipulate the content of its publications are even more aggressive and overt. Under Tanden, the group has repeatedly demonstrated it will go to almost any length to keep AIPAC and its pro-Israel donors happy, regardless of how such behavior subverts its pretense of independent advocacy.
In 2012, a former AIPAC spokesman, Josh Block, launched a campaign to brand several young, liberal writers at CAP’s blog, ThinkProgress, as anti-Semites due to their writings on Israel, Palestine and Iran. CAP and its writers were widely vilified for what Ben Smith, then of Politico, called deviations from “the bipartisan consensus on Israel,” and for voicing “a heretical and often critical stance on Israel heretofore confined to the political margins.” Among other crimes, these CAP writers stood accused of failing to sufficiently praise the Netanyahu government: “Warm words for Israel can be hard to find on [CAP’s] blogs,” Smith noted.
Rather than stand behind its writers, top CAP officials, led by Tanden, applied constant coercion to stifle content upsetting to AIPAC. As Gharib, one of the vilified CAP writers, recounted last week, “CAP’s positions moving forward from the attacks — including but not limited to virtually banishing criticisms of Israel and Netanyahu from our writings and, in at least one case, needlessly censoring a piece after publication — were guided by how to return to AIPAC’s good graces, often in coordination with AIPAC itself.” Most of the CAP writers accused of Israel heresy were gone from the organization within a short time thereafter, and several have publicly revealed that they had been censored on matters pertaining to Israel.
THESE NEWLY PUBLISHED EMAILS reveal AIPAC-pleasing efforts far more heavy-handed than previously known. On January 20, 2012 — at the height of the controversy over ThinkProgress’ publications on Israel — Tanden wrote an email to CAP founder John Podesta and several of her top aides, including ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum. In that email, Tanden recounted an angry call she received from Ann Lewis who, among other D.C. roles, served as the representative of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign on Jewish matters and is also a board member of Block’s hard-line group The Israel Project. The email reflects the censorship demands being imposed on CAP over Israel and how seriously Tanden was taking those demands:

That phone call was preceded by a rambling, detailed email from Lewis to Tanden, describing the audit she conducted of ThinkProgress’ output over several weeks about Israel and identifying all of the offending material. “Ambassador Michael Oren was called a liar in two posts,” complained Lewis, and “there are regular criticisms of the Israeli government” but “no mention of rocket attacks from Gaza.” (All of the leaked CAP emails referenced in this article can be read here.)
Four days after Lewis’ angry phone call, two ThinkProgress writers, Gharib and Eli Clifton, published an investigation that exposed the funding sources behind a controversial anti-Muslim film called “The Third Jihad,” which had been used as training material by the NYPD. The film was produced by a shadowy group calling itself The Clarion Fund, about which almost nothing was known. Through outstanding shoe-leather reporting, Gharib and Clifton revealed numerous ties between that group and various Israeli settlers and other extremists.
Because it dared to discuss Israeli activists, publication of this exposé provoked serious consternation from Tanden, as this email exchange demonstrates. It begins with an email from long-time Democratic Party operative Howard Wolfson, formerly a top aide to Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, which provides a link to the piece with one simple message: “For the love of god!” Tanden’s reply expressed concern about whether Israel should have been included in the reporting:

Soon after their article was published, it was severely censored. Virtually every reference to Israelis was simply deleted. The neocon magazine Weekly Standard first noticed the censorship and reveled in the success of the campaign to force CAP to suppress Israel criticisms. “Somebody at the Center for American Progress’ ThinkProgress realized that what had been published was completely inappropriate. Within what seems to have been a few hours, the post was scrubbed,” it noted. “The good news is that there seems to be at least one grown up at the Center for American Progress,” it proclaimed.
One of the article’s authors, Gharib, told The Intercept that Tanden implemented a policy requiring that any material about Israel was to receive special review from a designated editor before being published. Gharib and Clifton did not submit this particular article for special review in advance of publication because it concerned only individual Israeli funders, not Israel itself. That editor, however, went into the article hours after it was published and deleted the references to Israelis. When asked, CAP’s senior national security fellow and then-chief-of-staff, Ken Gude, said he “does not recall this specific incident.”
The website Mondoweiss, which had trumpeted the importance of this Clarion Group report when it was first published, detailed the following day that “the piece originally contained four explicit references to Israel. Now it contains only one, at the end, an aside about Gingrich.” As Mondoweiss put it, “This is a shocking effort to remove any description of the Israel lobby from a major ideological and political undertaking.”
Shocking indeed. But it was all part of a larger CAP effort to assure AIPAC and the likes of Ann Lewis that it would not allow any meaningful criticisms of Israel to be voiced. In a Washington Post article on the Josh Block-created campaign against CAP, Gude groveled, reciting this loyalty pledge: “The clear and overwhelming record of the literally hundreds of articles and policy papers from the Center for American Progress and ThinkProgress demonstrates our longstanding support both for Israel and the two-state solution to the Middle East peace process as being in the moral and national security interests of the United States.”
CAP also denounced the language used by its writers as “inappropriate” and boasted to the Post that they deleted some of the tweets that were deemed offensive. And after his article was censored, Gharib was told by a CAP editor that he was to avoid criticizing American Jewish groups, such as AIPAC, under any circumstances. When he asked whether this was a temporary ban in light of the controversy or a permanent one — i.e., when he could once again write about such groups — the editor told him: “For AIPAC? Probably never.”
Less than two weeks after CAP criticized its own writers to the Washington Post, the group’s top officials celebrated that their censorship efforts and public groveling seemed to be restoring them to AIPAC’s good graces. On February 1, 2012 — exactly one week after publication of the heavily censored post — Gude wrote an excited email to top CAP officials, including Tanden. The subject was Gude’s meeting with AIPAC’s deputy director of policy and government affairs, Jeff Colman, which Gude gushed was “very positive.”
In light of “the steps we have taken” — the public apologies, the censorship, the denouncing of CAP’s own writers — AIPAC, said Gude, deemed that CAP “now was moving in the right direction.” The AIPAC official singled out several CAP staffers for praise, saying AIPAC now believes “CAP/AF is in good hands.” Gude celebrated the rewards CAP was likely to receive for its good behavior: “I bet we get a lot of invitations to attend” an upcoming AIPAC event, Gude predicted. “And it’s very likely that I’m going to Israel on one of their upcoming trips.”
The list of CAP employees who received the AIPAC stamp of approval is telling indeed: “Jeff is a big fan of Rudy and Brian.” “Rudy” is Rudy DeLeon, who, in addition to serving as a CAP senior fellow and being a former Pentagon official, is now a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics; he’s literally being paid by weapons manufacturers as he helps manage CAP’s positions. “Brian” is Brian Katulis, also a CAP senior fellow whose “work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia”; he simultaneously works as a senior adviser to the “strategic consulting” firm Albright Stonebridge Group, “assisting clients with issues related to the Middle East and South Asia.” Katulis was one of the first to publicly distance CAP from the work of its own writers on Israel.  That is who AIPAC demanded shape CAP’s positions, and that is exactly what AIPAC got: people literally paid by the permanent corporate war faction in Washington to promote its agenda and serve its interests.

Gude claims that when citing all the “steps” that convinced AIPAC that CAP was “moving in the right direction,” he was referring to only one incident, namely: “We were responding to a controversy that originated from a young staffer’s use of his personal social media account. We instituted a social media policy for the organization that asked staff to make clear that their personal social media accounts represented their own views and a reminder that even in that context, their social media messages reflect on the organization.” 
Notably, Tanden’s effort to suppress Israel reporting began well before the anti-CAP public campaign was launched. As one former CAP staffer recounted to The Intercept, Tanden, almost immediately upon her return to CAP from the Obama White House in late 2010, summoned senior staff to a meeting at which she demanded to know why CAP was covering “Israel/Palestine.” She said she understood that Israel was one of three issues — along with “trade and guns” — that were “off the table” for CAP, and did not understand why ThinkProgress was devoting coverage to it. In response to questions for this article, CAP’s Ken Gude denied that these topics were “off limits,” and cited numerous posts published and events hosted by the group on those topics from 2012-2015 (after the reported conversation with Tanden took place).
When told that the CAP blog had hired several writers such as Matt Duss who specialized in that area, and that CAP’s work was consistent with the Obama White House’s intention to confront Israel on settlements, Tanden re-iterated her view that it was not “constructive” for CAP to work on Israel, particularly in such a critical manner. The subsequent public controversy aimed at CAP, and the resulting censoring of its own writers, had its genesis in Tanden’s pre-existing belief that Israel should be avoided.
GIVEN ALL THIS, it is anything but surprising that ever since it rid itself of its troublesome Israel heretics, CAP’s foreign policy positions have been hawkish in the extreme. One remarkable email exchange in particular reveals the critical role played by Tanden in that positioning. In October 2011, a CAP national security writer, Benjamin Armbruster, circulated a discussion on CNN about whether Libya should be forced to turn over its oil revenue to the U.S. as compensation and gratitude for the U.S. having “liberated” Libya.
After one CAP official, Faiz Shakir, noted how perverse it is to first bomb a poor country and then make it turn over its revenues to you for doing so, Tanden argued that this made a great deal of sense:

Tanden’s argument is quite similar to Donald Trump’s long-time stance about Iraqi oil: “I say we should take it and pay ourselves back.” But Tanden’s twist on the argument — that Americans will continue to support foreign wars only if they see the invaded countries forced to turn over assets that the U.S. can use to fund its own programs — is singularly perverse, as it turns the U.S. military into some sort of explicit for-profit imperial force. As Shakir put it in a subsequent email, that suggestion would “make people start to think that our military is just for-hire to carry out the agendas of other people.”
At first glance, CAP’s devotion to AIPAC and Netanyahu may seem strange given that it is so plainly at odds with the Obama White House’s interests. But CAP — like so many leading D.C. think tanks with pretenses to objective “scholarship” — has repeatedly proven that it prioritizes servitude to its donors’ interests even over its partisan loyalties.
In the case of Israel and Netanyahu, there is an even more significant factor at play: Tanden is far more of a Clinton loyalist than an Obama loyalist, and a core strategy of the Clinton campaign is to depict Hillary as supremely devoted to Israel. Just last night, Clinton published an op-ed in The Forward on Israel that is so extreme it has to be read to be believed. Its core purpose is clear from its headline and photo: to implicitly criticize Obama for being too adversarial to Israel and Netanyahu, while vowing that she, as president, will be the most stalwart Israel loyalist imaginable:

Clinton’s op-ed reads like the ultimate loyalty oath: “I have stood with Israel my entire career. … As president, I will continue this fight.” Moreover, she writes, “Netanyahu’s visit to Washington on November 9 is an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds of friendship and unity between the people and governments of the United States and Israel.” She vows: “I will do everything I can to enhance our strategic partnership and strengthen America’s security commitment to Israel, ensuring that it always has the qualitative military edge to defend itself. That includes immediately dispatching a delegation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet with senior Israeli commanders. I would also invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in my first month in office.”
There is not a peep of criticism about the Israeli occupation or the violence it has used against Palestinians, though the op-ed does harshly scold the occupied people: “Israelis have to look over their shoulders during everyday tasks, like carrying groceries and waiting for the bus. … This violence must not be allowed to continue. It needs to stop immediately. … Many of us have seen the video of a cleric encouraging worshippers to stab Jews as he waves a knife in the air. This incitement needs to end, period,” etc. etc.
In that context, CAP’s servitude to AIPAC and pandering to Netanyahu makes all the sense in the world. It may conflict with the Obama White House’s preferences, but it very clearly serves its new primary goal: advancement of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Though Gude insists CAP did not communicate with the Clinton campaign about the Netanyahu invitation, he acknowledges that “the CAP board was informed and [Clinton campaign head] John Podesta and [campaign official] Jose Villarreal are members of the CAP board. They did not have a role in making the decision to do the event.” Whatever else is true, as Clinton’s op-ed last night makes clear, she has clearly adopted a strategy of siding with Netanyahu and Israel over the Obama White House, and CAP, with its characteristic subservience, is fully on board.
UPDATE: Tanden’s office originally indicated she was traveling today and thus was unable to respond to The Intercept’s inquiries, but shortly after publication of this article, CAP’s Daniella Leger provided this comment about our questions about Tanden’s views on Libyan oil revenues: “We’re a think tank, and we have internal discussions and dialogues all the time on a variety of issues. We encourage throwing out ideas to spur conversation and spark debate. We did not take a position on this, but ThinkProgress covered it. The posts certainly did not endorse the idea.”
Ironically, one of those ThinkProgress posts she cited mockingly describes Michele Bachmann’s views, which are strikingly similar to the ones expressed by Tanden: “At last night’s GOP presidential debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said Iraq and Libya should repay the U.S. for its war efforts in those two countries.” The other link described how even Rick Santorum condemned this oil-seizure idea — the one advocated by Tanden and Bachmann — as immoral and counterproductive: “I think that would send every possible wrong signal that America went to war for oil,” said the right-wing former GOP senator.


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