In a recent report by The Washington Post, it was revealed that the FBI has been able to secretly activate a target’s laptop camera “without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording” for several years. While this may be surprising to some, it really shouldn’t be. Previous reports revealed that the FBI employs hackers to create software to remotely activate the microphones on laptops and cell phones as well as cameras. The U.S. government has also become the world’s largest buyer of malware. The NSA also recommended physically removing the webcam from Apple laptops for security reasons. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI has developed hacking tools like this for over a decade, though they rarely are discussed publicly.
WikiLeaks founder and journalist, Julian Assange, has marked the third year spent in detention in UK under constant threat of extradition to Sweden. | On December 7, 2010 Assange was taken into custody after voluntarily attending a British police station. He spent 10 days behind bars, before being released on bail with a residence requirement at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England. The journalist is wanted for questioning in Sweden in relation to a sexual misconduct investigation, which he labeled as politically motivated. Swedish authorities’ repeatedly refused to question Assange via video conference or personally in London, pressing for an extradition to Sweden. After the British Supreme Court upheld the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition warrant in June 2012, he found asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he remains in a five square-meter room. The move sparked a standoff between Ecuador and the UK authorities, who even mulled raiding the embassy to arrest Assange, but the threat was never fulfilled.
Sweden's intelligence agency has not only spied on Russian leadership, sharing intelligence with the NSA, but also apparently engaged in industrial espionage against business targets such as Russia’s energy companies, Sveriges Television reports. | According to a wire, obtained by Swedish TV program ‘Mission: Investigate’, Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) shared intelligence on Russia with Washington. “Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target, and underscore the primary role that FRA plays as a leading partner to work the Russian Target, including Russian leadership, ENERGY, … and … counterintelligence,” NSA wire said, as cited by SVT. The earlier omitted part of the quote reveals that Sweden was tapping on civilian targets as well. One source told the documentary there was “a very obvious interest in looking at the Russian companies” confirming it was “a part of the mission.” Commenting for the documentary on the intelligence gathering cooperation between the US and Sweden, Greenwald said they “work together when they perceive that their interests are mutually aligned and share information readily about a whole variety of topics, again having nothing to do with national security, including the energy sector in Russia.” The latest leak has nothing to do with national security and is “very conclusive about the fact that part of what they are doing is spying on energy companies, obviously for economic advantage,” Greenwald added.
Sveriges Radio: Sweden helps the US spy on the Baltics: report
Wayne Madsen: NSA Partnerships Invalidate Nordic Nation's Neutrality
Stephen Lendman: John Pilger's work exposed South African apartheid harshness. Doing so got him banned. Thirty years later he returned. He wanted to see firsthand what changed. He interviewed Mandela in retirement. His "Apartheid Did Not Die" documentary followed. "Behind the modern face of democracy, the scourges of inequality, unemployment and homelessness persist," he said. White supremacy remained unchanged. It's no different today. A few blacks share wealth, power and privilege. The vast majority of black society is worse off than under apartheid. Mandela embraced the worst of neoliberal harshness. His successors follow the same model. Pilger posed tough questions. He asked Mandela how ANC freedom fighting ended up embracing Thatcherism. Mandela responded saying: "You can put any label on it you like. You can call it Thatcherite but, for this country, privatization is the fundamental policy." Pilger discovered that 80% of South African children suffered poor health. One-fourth under age six were ill nourished. During Mandela's tenure, more South Africans died from malnutrition and preventable diseases than under apartheid. Concentrated wealth is more extreme than ever. White farmers control over 80% of agricultural land. They dominate choicest areas. Pilger said about one-fourth of South Africa's budget goes for interest on odious debt. He explained how five major corporations control over three-fourths of business interests. They dominate South African life. Concentrated wealth and power are extreme. Whites control about 90% of national wealth. A select few black businessmen, politicians and trade union leaders benefit with them. The dominant Anglo-American Corporation is hugely exploitive. Gold mining exacts an enormous human cost. Pilger said one death and 12 serious injuries accompany each ton of gold mined. One-third of workers contract deadly lung disease. They're left on their own to suffer and die. Post-apartheid democracy reflects the worst of free market capitalism. It's bereft of freedom. Reform denies it. Mandela's "unbreakable promise" was forgotten.
State secrecy law carrying threat of 10-year jail term criticised as attack on democracy but PM denies trying to gag press | In April 2011, while Fukushima’s fires still smouldered, journalists scrambled to find sources who could shed any light on the nuclear crisis. In a car park 25 miles south of the plant, a nervous maintenance worker on a rare break told The Independent that conditions onsite were chaotic and dangerous. Workers were exhausted; nobody at the top seemed to know what they were doing. Nearly three years later, Japan’s parliament is set to pass a new state secrecy bill that critics warn might make revealing such conversations impossible, even illegal. They say the law dramatically expands state power, giving every government agency and ministry the discretion to label restricted information “state secrets”. Breaching those secrets will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Thousands of Ukrainians are continuing protests over the government’s suspension of a key EU trade deal. The country risks falling into chaos as the opposition calls for a change of government and police brutality has left hundreds of people injured. Go to Part 1 of live updates. Stephen Lendman: Orange Revolution 2.0?
‘Nothing is beyond our reach’: Evil octopus strangling the world becomes latest US intelligence seal
Billions of dollars annually are being used to fund operations conducted by the United States intelligence community, the likes of which allow the government to eavesdrop on emails, listen to world leaders’ phone calls and about everything in-between. One thing that budget hasn’t bought, however, is subtlety. ● The US National Reconnaissance Office launched a top-secret surveillance satellite into space Thursday evening, and the official emblem for the spy agency’s latest mission is, well, certainly accurate, to say the least. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence live-tweeted Thursday’s launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and throughout the course of the ordeal made no effort to ignore the logo for the NROL-39 mission. ● The latest spy satellite to be sent into orbit by the NRO can be recognized by its seal: a malevolent octopus with furrowed brows that also happens to be wrapping its tentacles around all corners of the Earth. “Nothing is beyond our reach,” the NRO boasts on the bottom half of the emblem just below the most sinister-looking cephalopod likely ever to be sent into space.
The operator of the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant said on Dec. 2 that it has detected radioactive materials that topped 36,000 times the permissible level in underground water extracted in the area. According to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), strontium-90 and other radioactive substances that emit beta rays were detected at a level of 1.1 million becquerels per liter in underground water pumped up from an observatory well on Nov. 28. The well is located at a sea bank east of the No. 2 reactor, about 40 meters from the ocean.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is sending out letters telling gun owners to turn over their rifles and shotguns — or else face the consequences. | New York City’s ban on rifles and shotguns that hold more than five rounds is now being enforced, according to a letter the NYPD is sending out to targeted city gun owners. “It appears you are in possession of a rifle and/or Shotgun (listed below) that has an ammunition feeding device capable of holding more than five (5) rounds of ammunition. Rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than five (5) rounds of ammunition are unlawful to possess in New York City, as per NYC Administrative Code 10-306 (b).”
Four men have killed themselves in two weeks, putting spotlight on mental health care in Canadian military | A "sudden" spate of suicides in the Canadian armed forces has raised urgent questions about care for Afghanistan veterans amid criticism of the government for failing to provide mental health support professionals for soldiers. Four men have killed themselves in the past two weeks. The latest was Master Corporal Sylvain Lelievre, 46, who was found dead at his military base near Quebec City on Monday. He had served in Afghanistan and in Bosnia during his nearly 30-year career. The Canadian military is investigating the recent apparent suicides of Warrant Officer Michael McNeil at a base in Ontario, Master Corporal William Elliott in Manitoba and Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast, who was being held on domestic assault charges in an Alberta correctional facility.
Political and cultural elite set to attend funeral where Mandela's spirit of reconciliation may offer backdrop to unusual meetings | World leaders are preparing to converge in unprecedented numbers on South Africa for Nelson Mandela's funeral, likely to be one of the biggest global gatherings of powerful people in modern history. As South Africa embarked on nine days of mourning, comparisons were being drawn with earlier mammoth funeral ceremonies, of Pope John Paul II, Princess Diana, President John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill. But Mandela's appeal was even broader, cutting across religious divides and the usual geopolitical barriers between north and south, east and west. Barack Obama will fly in, with his wife Michelle, as well as former US presidents. Britain is expected to send senior royals, presumably Prince Charles, and possibly Prince William as well as the prime minister, David Cameron. They are likely to mix in the funeral cortege with leaders from across the globe, including from China, Iran, Cuba, Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is not clear how Syria will be represented, or whether Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir, charged with genocide by the international criminal court, will attend.
Russia Today: Mandela’s sharp statements rarely cited in mainstream media
Prison Planet: Mandela Love Fest Ignores Dark Side of Legacy
Patrick O’Connor: Former South African President Nelson Mandela dies
Israel is the world's biggest exporter of military drones, used around the world for everything from surveillance to precision rocket attacks on speeding cars in remote locales. Israel's drone program hasn't stirred as much controversy as its American counterpart, but not because their targeted killings are any less fatal. VICE sent Simon Ostrovsky to a drone testing airfield in Israel to find out what their latest eye-in-the-sky can see.
Holiday Christmas shopping season off to a slow start according to preliminary retail sales numbers and with the stock market sitting near all time highs, one can’t help but wonder what will happen when investors realize the economy isn’t really doing as well as we’ve been told by the experts. The evidence suggests that we can expect devastating global economic changes in 2014 as a result of our national debt, further impoverishment of the working class, and massive new tax burdens resulting from President Obama’s health care legislation. The fundamentals, by most accounts, are indicative of an economy on the cusp of a total detonation within the next year. Now, with the prospect of an abysmal shopping season for retailers because of tapped out consumers, the first quarter of 2014 could cause serious problems in financial markets as a result of lackluster performance in corporate earnings. What’s more, the trajectory of our stock markets over the last eighteen months has been eerily reminiscent of markets back in 1929, right before the crash that led to a decade’s long depression in America.
The U.S. military will no longer disclose to the media and public whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, a spokesman said Wednesday, eliminating what had long been an unofficial barometer of conditions at the secretive military outpost. ● Hunger strikes have been employed by men held at Guantanamo since shortly after the prison opened in January 2002 and the U.S. has long disclosed how many are refusing to eat and whether they meet military guidelines to be force fed. Officials have now determined it is no longer in their interest to publicly disclose the information, said Navy Cmdr. John Fiolstrat, a spokesman for the military's Joint Task Force-Guantanamo.
Fred Mazelis: US officials will no longer to provide information on Guantánamo hunger strikers ■ The latest policy and its Orwellian defense (“the welfare of the detainees!”) are in some ways the logical extension of the longstanding practice of brutal force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners, in which a nasogastric feeding tube is forced into their stomachs, causing great pain. The practice has been widely denounced as a form of torture. The American military had earlier concluded that force-feeding was necessary because it feared that deaths caused by the protests would focus greater worldwide attention on the inhuman conditions at Guantánamo, as well as the by now well-known fact that the vast majority of the detainees are guilty of nothing, even by the legally dubious standards of the US “war on terror.” Apparently the US government has now decided that it would be even more effective to pretend that the remaining 162 prisoners at Guantánamo do not exist.
Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama. | The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries. The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The US National Security Agency has considered spying on Australian citizens without the knowledge or consent of the Australian intelligence organisations it partners with, according to a draft 2005 NSA directive kept secret from other countries. The draft directive leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals how the NSA considered the possibility of "unilaterally" targeting citizens and communication systems of Australia, New Zealand and Canada – all "5-Eyes" partners which it refers to as “second party” countries.
L'Espresso: Revealed: How the Nsa Targets Italy
UK security agency GCHQ gaining information from world's biggest internet firms through US-run Prism programme. | The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. The documents show that GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, has had access to the system since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year. The US-run programme, called Prism, would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside the UK. The use of Prism raises ethical and legal issues about such direct access to potentially millions of internet users, as well as questions about which British ministers knew of the programme.
John Chan: Biden lectures Chinese leaders on “human rights” In a provocative move that will further strain already tense relations with China, US Vice President Joe Biden made a point of sharply criticising the Chinese government over “human rights” in a speech yesterday to American business leaders in Beijing. Biden called on China to “open its politics and society as well as its economy,” so that people could “speak freely” and “challenge orthodoxy” and “newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences.” He declared: “We have many disagreements, and some profound disagreements [with China], on some of those issues right now, in the treatment of US journalists.” Biden’s call for “human rights” in China is deliberately provocative. “Human rights” has been the political banner under which US imperialism has ruthlessly prosecuted its interests around the world, including waging wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. As the US has strengthened its military alliances and strategic partnerships as part of the “rebalance to Asia,” it has sought to justify this menacing network as the partnership of Asian “democracies” such as Japan, Australia and India, in opposition to the “authoritarian” regimes of China and Russia.
Biden’s remarks came [after] a tense four and a half hour meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday focussed China’s recently proclaimed air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. China’s declaration of the ADIZ was in response to mounting pressure from the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” which has encouraged Japan to take a more assertive role in Asia. Beijing’s inclusion of the disputed islets in its ADIZ was a rather reckless step calculated to advance its claims over the uninhabited rocky outcrops. The US has exploited the issue both to intensify pressure on China, and consolidate its military alliances with Japan and South Korea. The Biden-Xi meeting did nothing to resolve the tensions.
In a rather chilling remark, he did not rule out war, but declared instead that “there’s nothing inevitable about a conflict with China.” In that context, he criticised China’s “sudden” announcement of an ADIZ as causing “significant apprehension in the region.” Biden’s threat was clear. Unless Beijing is prepared to accommodate to the dictates of the US imperialism, including guaranteeing the rights of American capital in China, the US will mobilise its diplomatic and military resources to thwart the interests of its potential rival, including through the means of war.
A curious crowd grew. Police officers arrived and tried to corral Mr. Broadnax, a 250-pound man. When he reached into his pants pocket, two officers, who, the police said, thought he was pulling a gun, opened fire, missing Mr. Broadnax, but hitting two nearby women. Finally, a police sergeant knocked Mr. Broadnax down with a Taser. The shootings once again raised questions about the police use of firearms in crowded areas and drew comparisons to a shooting a year ago, when officers struck nine bystanders in front of the Empire State Building when they killed an armed murder suspect. Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney’s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, died on Thursday, the government announced, leaving the nation without its moral center at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the country’s leaders. “Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address on Thursday night, adding that Mr. Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. “His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.” Mr Zuma said that South Africa’s thoughts were with Mr. Mandela’s family. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free,” he said. Mr. Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress, long a banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.
Mail & Guardian: Nelson Mandela dies
NYT: Mandela as Dissident, Liberator and Statesman - Photos
John Pilger: Mandela's greatness may be assured, but not his legacy [11 July 2013]
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