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EU plans independent intelligence agency: Report

(File photo)

Press TV

The European Union (EU) is planning to assemble an independent intelligence body of its own in “an urgent response” to the recent revelation that the US has been spying on EU officials as well as European citizens.

The planned apparatus, which will be set up by owning and operating spy drones, surveillance satellites and espionage aircraft by the EU itself, will be used for “internal security and defence purposes,” the Telegraph reported, citing “officials.”

According to the report, the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS), a department of the EU, are behind the plan.

The decision to assess the agency in the EU came following the recent US spying scandal, involving the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA was plagued by the scandal when US whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed documents showing that the NSA was involved in espionage activities on a global scale, including against the EU.

“The Edward Snowden scandal shows us that Europe needs its own autonomous security capabilities, this proposal is one step further towards European defense integration,” said a senior EU official, whose name was not mentioned in the report.

The EU proposals, which have been prepared to assess the move, say “the commission will work with the EEAS on a joint assessment of dual-use capability needs for EU security and defence policies.”

“On the basis of this assessment, it will come up with a proposal for which capability needs, if any, could best be fulfilled by assets directly purchased, owned and operated by the Union.”

According to European Union sources, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the European Commission and France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland all are in favor of the plans.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Van Orden, a European parliamentarian, accused the European Commission of being “obsessed” with promoting the “EU’s military ambitions.”

“It would be alarming if the EU – opaque, unaccountable, bureaucratic and desperately trying to turn itself into a federal state – were to try and create an intelligence gathering capability of its own. This is something that we need to stop in its tracks before it is too late,” said Van Orden.

Snowden can leave Moscow airport: Report

by Carlos Latuff

Press TV

American whistleblower Edward Snowden has been given a document that would allow him to leave Moscow’s main international airport after one month.

Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena received the document on Wednesday, Russian media reported on Wednesday.

The former National Security Agency contractor, who is charged with espionage in the United States, could leave the Sheremetyevo airport in the next hours.

Snowden leaked to the news media details of two top-secret US government spying programs – one that collects massive amounts of information on phone calls made by Americans and the other, codenamed PRISM, sweeps up data on US citizens and other nationals via the Internet. He also revealed that the US spies on its European and Latin American allies.

Snowden has been staying in the transit zone of the airport since June 23 and applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week.

According to the reports, the leaker’s asylum request is being considered by Russian officials, but it would take up to three months to process.

Temporary asylum would allow Snowden to remain in Russia for one year and would require annual renewal. Snowden may appeal the decision in court if his request is rejected by the Russian Immigration Service.

Granting asylum to the American leaker would further increase tensions between the United States and Russia after their recent verbal arguments over Snowden’s month-long stay at Sheremetyevo airport.

Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to convince him to extradite Snowden, but Putin has refused the request, saying Washington trapped Snowden in Moscow.

The Obama administration has repeatedly warned Russia about consequences of Moscow’s refusal.

“The Russian government has an opportunity here to work with us,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “This should not be something that causes long-term problems for US-Russian relations.”

However, Sergei Gorlenko, the acting chief of the prosecutor general’s extradition office, pushed back against US calls to hand over Snowden, saying Washington routinely ignores Moscow’s extradition requests.

“The United States is repeatedly refusing Russia to extradite individuals, to hold them criminally liable, including those accused of committing serious or heinous crimes,” he said. “We have been denied the extradition of murderers, bandits and bribe-takers.”

Spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry Andrey Pilipchuk also said, “Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to.”

Documents show undersea cable firms provide surveillance access to US secret state

by Tom Burghardt, source

Documents published last week by the Australian web site Crikey revealed that the US government “compelled Telstra and Hong Kong-based PCCW to give it access to their undersea cables for spying on communications traffic entering and leaving the US.”

The significance of the disclosure is obvious; today, more than 99 percent of the world’s internet and telephone traffic is now carried by undersea fiber optic cables. An interactive submarine cable map published by the Global Bandwidth Research Service is illustrative in this regard.

Since the late 1960s as part of its ECHELON spy project, the United States has been tapping undersea cables to extract communications and signals intelligence. In fact, projects such as Operation Ivy Bells, a joint Navy-NSA secret intelligence program directed against the former Soviet Union was designed to do just that.

Prefiguring the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping scandal which broke in 2005, the Associated Press reported that a $3.2 billion Navy Seawolf class submarine, a 453-foot behemoth called the USS Jimmy Carter, “has a special capability: it is able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on the communications passing through them.”

A year later, AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein told Wired Magazine that NSA was tapping directly into the world’s internet backbone, and was doing so from domestic listening posts the telecommunications’ giant jointly built with the agency at corporate switching stations.

Whatever submarine operations NSA still carry out with the US Navy and “Five Eyes” surveillance partners (Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US), access to information flowing through undersea cables mean that the US government is well-positioned to scoop-up virtually all global communications.

Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began spilling the beans last month, it should be clear that the American government’s capabilities in amassing unprecedented volumes of information from cable traffic, also potentially hands the US and their corporate collaborators a treasure trove of sensitive economic secrets from competitors.

Economic Espionage

Reporting by Australian journalists confirm information published July 6 byThe Washington Post. There we learned that overseas submarine cable companies doing business in the United States must maintain “an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances,” a cadre of personnel whose job is to ensure that “when US government agencies seek access to the massive amounts of data flowing through their networks, the companies have systems in place to provide it securely.”

Inked just weeks after the 9/11 provocation, the 23-page Telstra documentspecifies that access to undersea cable traffic by the FBI and “any US governmental authorities entitled to effect Electronic Surveillance,” is an explicit condition for doing business in the United States.

Similar agreements were signed between 1999 and 2011 with telecommunication companies, satellite firms, submarine cable operators and the US government and were published earlier this month by the Public Intelligence web site.

It has long been known that the Australian secret state agency, the Defence Security Directorate (DSD), is a key participant in US global surveillance projects. Classified NSA maps provided by Snowden and subsequently published by Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, revealed the locations of dozens of US and allied signals intelligence sites worldwide. DSD currently operates four military installations involved in a top secret NSA program called X-Keyscore.

Snowden described X-Keyscore and other programs to Der Spiegel as “the intelligence community’s first ‘full-take’ Internet buffer that doesn’t care about content type . . . ‘Full take’ means it doesn’t miss anything, and ingests the entirety of each circuit’s capacity.”

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, along with the “US Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs,” three other DSD facilities, “the Shoal Bay Receiving Station near Darwin, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility at Geraldton and the naval communications station HMAS Harman outside Canberra,” were identified as X-Keyscore “contributors.” The paper also reported that “a new state-of-the-art data storage facility at HMAS Harman to support the Australian signals directorate and other Australian intelligence agencies” is currently under construction.

The Herald described the project as “an intelligence collection program” that “processes all signals before they are shunted off to various ‘production lines’ that deal with specific issues and the exploitation of different data types for analysis–variously code-named Nucleon (voice), Pinwale (video), Mainway (call records) and Marina (internet records). US intelligence expert William Arkin describes X-Keyscore as a ‘national Intelligence collection mission system’.”

Two of the Australian bases illustrated on the X-Keyscore map sit adjacent to major undersea cable sites transiting the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Cozy arrangements with Telstra and other firms however, hardly represent mere passive acceptance of terms and conditions laid out by the US government. On the contrary, these, and dozens of other agreements which have come to light, are emblematic of decades-long US corporate-state “public-private partnerships.”

As Bloomberg reported last month, “thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with US national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence.”

It’s a two-way street, Bloomberg noted. Firms providing “US intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications” use it “to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.” In return, “companies are given quick warnings about threats that could affect their bottom line.” Such sensitive data can also be used to undermine the position of their foreign competitors.

We now know, based on documents provided by Snowden, that the “infiltration” of computer networks by US secret state agencies are useful not only for filching military secrets and mass spying but also for economic and industrial espionage.

That point was driven home more than a decade ago in a paper prepared by journalist Duncan Campbell for the European Parliament.

“By the end of the 1990s,” Campbell wrote, “the US administration claimed that intelligence activity against foreign companies had gained the US nearly $150 billion in exports.”

“Although US intelligence officials and spokespeople have admitted using Comint [communications intelligence] against European companies . . . documents show that the CIA has been directly involved in obtaining competitor intelligence for business purposes.”

At the time the Telstra pact was signed, the Australian telecommunications and internet giant was “50.1% owned” by the Australian government. Reach Global Services, is described in the document as “a joint venture indirectly owned 50% by Telstra” and “50% owned” by Hong Kong’s Pacific Century CyberWorks Limited (PCCW).

With controlling interest in more than 40 undersea fiber optic cables, and with landing rights in global markets that include Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, North America and Europe, the joint venture was then the largest commercial telecommunications carrier in Asia with some 82,000 kilometers of undersea cables. Reach also operates international satellite systems that cover two-third’s of the planet’s surface.

Such assets would be prime targets of “Five Eyes” spy agencies under terms of the UKUSA Communications Intelligence Agreement.

Telstra and PCCW restructured their partnership in 2011, with the Australian firm now controlling the lion’s share of an undersea cable network that stretches “more than 364,000 kilometres and connects more than 240 markets worldwide,” the South Morning China Post reported. Inevitably, the restructuring will afford the US government an even greater opportunity for spying.

Network security agreements hammered out among undersea cable firms and the US government have profound implications for global commerce. Their geopolitical significance hasn’t been lost on America’s closet “allies.”

The Guardian revealed last month that the US is “spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington.” In addition to the EU mission, target lists include “the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.”

That list has since been supplemented by further disclosures.

Snowden told the South China Morning Post that NSA hacked into the “computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which owns one of the most extensive fibre optic submarine cable networks in the region.”

Recently, the firm signed major deals with the Chinese mainland’s “top mobile phone companies” and “owns more than 46,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cables.”

According to the paper, Pacnet “cables connect its regional data centres across the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong, the mainland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. It also has offices in the US.”

The South Morning China Post also disclosed that Tsinghua University, “China’s premier seat of learning” has sustained extensive attacks on the school’s “network backbones.”

Available documents based on Snowden disclosures and other sources seem to suggest that President Obama’s militaristic “pivot to Asia” is also an aggressive campaign to steal commercial and trade secrets from US imperialism’s Asian rivals.

Whether or not these revelations will effect negotiations over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a NAFTA-style “free trade” agreement between the US and ten Pacific Rim nations, including Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Singapore–all prime US-UK targets of PRISM, TEMPORA and X-Keyscore–remains to be seen.

‘Legal’ License to Spy

If we have learned anything since Snowden’s revelations began surfacing last month, it is that the US secret state relies on a body of “secret laws” overseen by a Star Chamber-like FISA court described in the polite language The New York Times as a “parallel Supreme Court,” to do its dirty work.

Along with leaked NSA documents, published agreements between telecommunications firms, internet service providers and the US government should demolish the fiction that blanket surveillance is “legal,” “limited in scope” or chiefly concerned with fighting “crime” and “terrorism.”

Proclaiming that “US communications systems are essential to the ability of the US government to fulfill its responsibilities to the public to preserve the national security of the United States, to enforce the laws, and to maintain the safety of the public,” the Telstra summary posted by Crikey should dispel any illusions on that score.

On the contrary, the agreement reveals the existence of a vast surveillance web linking private companies to the government’s relentless drive, as The Washington Post explained, to “collect it all.”

● All customer billing data to be stored for two years;
● Ability to provide to agencies any stored telecommunications or internet communications and comply with preservation requests;
● Ability to provide any stored metadata, billing data or subscriber information about US customers;
● They are not to comply with any foreign privacy laws that might lead to mandatory destruction of stored data;
● Plans and infrastructure to demonstrate other states cannot spy on US customers;
● They are not to comply with information requests from other countries without DoJ permission;
● A requirement to:

. . . designate points of contact within the United States with the authority and responsibility for accepting and overseeing the carrying out of Lawful US Process to conduct Electronic Surveillance of or relating to Domestic Communications carried by or through Domestic Communications Infrastructure; or relating to customers or subscribers of Domestic Communications Companies. The points of contact shall be assigned to Domestic Communications Companies security office(s) in the United States, shall be available twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week and shall be responsible for accepting service and maintaining the security of Classified Information and any Lawful US Process for Electronic Surveillance . . . The Points of contact shall be resident US citizens who are eligible for US security clearances.

In other words, an “internal corporate cell of American citizens,” charged with providing confidential customer data to the secret state, as The Washington Post first reported.

Additional demands include:

● A requirement to keep such surveillance confidential, and to use US citizens “who meet high standards of trustworthiness for maintaining the confidentiality of Sensitive Information” to handle requests;
● A right for the FBI and the DoJ to conduct inspection visits of the companies’ infrastructure and offices; and
● An annual compliance report, to be protected from Freedom of Information requests.

This is not a one-off as the other 27 Agreements published by Public Intelligence readily attest.

For example, the 31-page 2011 Agreement between the US government and Level 3 Communications, which operates in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, which acquired Global Crossing from from the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and Singapore Technologies Telemedia (the focus of The Washington Post’s July 6 report), was expanded beyond the FBI and Department of Justice to include the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, NSA’s “parent” agency.

As with the 2001 Telstra agreement, “Access” to Level 3′s systems by governmental entities is defined as “the ability to physically or logically undertake any of the following actions: (a) read, divert, or otherwise obtain non-public information or technology from or about software, hardware, a system or a network; (b) add, edit or alter information or technology stored on or by software, hardware, a system or a network; and (c) alter the physical or logical state of software, hardware, a system or a network (e.g., turning it on or off, changing configuration, removing or adding components or connections).”

NSA, the principle US spy agency charged with obtaining, storing and analyzing COMINT/SIGINT “products, i.e., user data, has been handed virtually unlimited access to information flowing through Level 3 fiber optic cables as it enters the US.

This includes what is described as “Domestic Communications,” content, not simply the metadata, of any phone call or email that transit Level 3 systems: “‘Domestic Communications’ means: (a) Wire Communications or Electronic Communications (whether stored or not) from one US location to another US location; and (b) the US portion of a Wire Communication or Electronic Communication (whether stored or not) that originates or terminates in the United States.”

So much for President Obama’s mendacious claim that “nobody is listening to your phone calls”!

Access to the entirety of customer records and communications is clearly spelled out in the section entitled “Electronic Surveillance.”

Note: the “USC.” provisions refer to (18) the Stored Communications Act which compels disclosure to the government of stored wire, electronic and transactional data; a provision that greatly weakened the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. 50 USC outlines the role of War and National Defense in the United States Code and includes “foreign intelligence,” “electronic surveillance authorization without court order,” “internal security,” including the “control of subversive activities” and the “exercise of emergency powers and authorities” by the Executive Branch.

‘Electronic Surveillance,’ for the purposes of this Agreement, includes: (a) the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications as defined in 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510(1), (2), (4) and (12), respectively, and electronic surveillance as defined in 50 U.S.C. § 1801(f); (b) Access to stored wire or electronic communications, as referred to in 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.; (c) acquisition of dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information through pen register or trap and trace devices or other devices or features capable of acquiring such information pursuant to law as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 3121 et seq. and 50 U.S.C. § 1841 et seq.; (d) acquisition of location-related information concerning a service subscriber or facility; (e) preservation of any of the above information pursuant to 18 U.S.C.§ 2703(f); and (f) Access to, or acquisition, interception, or preservation of, wire, oral, or electronic communications or information as described in (a) through (e) above and comparable state laws.

Level 3 is further enjoined from disclosing what is described as “Sensitive Information,” that is, “information that is not Classified Information regarding: (a) the persons or facilities that are the subjects of Lawful US Process; (b) the identity of the Government Authority or Government Authorities serving such Lawful US Process; (c) the location or identity of the line, circuit, transmission path, or other facilities or equipment used to conduct Electronic Surveillance; (d) the means of carrying out Electronic Surveillance.”

In other words, we do the spying; you hand over it over and keep your mouths shut.

The electronic driftnet thrown over global communications is expedited bydirect access to Level 3′s equipment by the US government.

‘Principal Equipment’ means the primary electronic components of a submarine cable system, to include the hardware used at the NOC(s) [Network Operations Center], landing station(s) and the cable itself, such as servers, repeaters, submarine line terminal equipment (SLTE), system supervisory equipment (SSE), power feed equipment (PFE), tilt and shape equalizer units (TEQ/SEQ), optical distribution frames (ODF), and synchronous optical network (SONET), synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH), wave division multiplexing (WDM), dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM), coarse wave division multiplexing (CWDM) or optical carrier network (OCx) equipment, as applicable.

Who oversees the set-up? On paper it appears that Level 3 control their operations. However, the Agreement specifies that the firm must utilize “primary US NOCs for any Domestic Communications Infrastructure” and it “shall be maintained and remain within the United States and US territories, to be operated by Level 3, exclusively using Screened Personnel.”

Who signs off on “screened personnel”? Why the US government of course, which raises the suspicion that corporate employees are little more than spook assets.

But here’s where it gets interesting. “Level 3 may nonetheless use the United Kingdom NOC for routine day-to-day management of any of the Cable Systems as such management is in existence as of the Effective Date.”

Why might that be the case, pray tell?

Could it be that fiber optic cables transiting the UK are already lovingly scrutinized by NSA’s kissin’ cousins across the pond? GCHQ, as The Guardiandisclosed, is merrily ingesting “vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them” with the American agency.

Therefore, since UK undersea cable traffic is already under close “management” via the British agency’s TEMPORA program, described as having the “‘biggest internet access’ of any member of the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance,” it makes sense that Level 3 is allowed to “use the United Kingdom NOC” as a hub for its “Domestic Communications Infrastructure”!

In conclusion, these publicly available documents provide additional confirmation of how major corporations are empowering the US surveillance octopus.

By entering into devil’s pacts with the world’s “sole superpower,” giant telcos and internet firms view the destruction of privacy rights as just another item on the balance sheet, a necessary cost of doing business in America.

And business is very good.

On leaks and pseudo-reality: The US’ futile search for ‘world domination’

by Ramzy Baroud, source

Those enchanted by pseudo-reality must have been at the edge of their seats as they watched ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, a Hollywood account of how US SEAL Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011.

But a recently leaked report shows that the ‘riveting’ Hollywood account of the ‘greatest manhunt of all time’ was hardly as glamorous as it was made to be. In fact, if it were not for the ‘shocking state of affairs’ in Pakistan itself, where local governance had ‘completely collapsed’, the raid would have been yet another botched attempt at killing a man that had been using primitive means – for example a ‘cowboy hat’  to evade drones –  as he had managed to survive for nearly nine years.

The 337-page report was the outcome of a thorough, but secret investigation by a commission set up by the Pakistan government following the US raid. It mainly aimed at answering the question of  how US forces, a supposed ally, infiltrated Pakistani airspace, killing Bin Laden and three Pakistanis, and then hovered away undetected. The answer had little to do with the prowess of the US military whose behavior was viewed by the commission as that of a ‘criminal thug’. Instead, the answer lies in Pakistani authorities’ own failure, or as page 87 of the report describes as ‘Governance Implosion Syndrome’.

Reporting for Al Jazeera, Asad Hashim summed up the commission’s findings: “Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s chief, was able to evade detection in Pakistan for nine years due to the ‘collective failure’ of the Pakistani state’s military and intelligence authorities, and ‘routine’ incompetence at every level of the civil governance structure.”

Without that ‘collective failure’, there could have been no American success, the kind that is turned into riveting movies generating exuberant amounts of money which feed into the myth of the infallibility of the US military.

The timing of the leaked report was pretty interesting as well. It appeared shortly after Edward Snowden, a US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, leaked damning information of the very shady and illegal behavior by the US government pertaining to its global surveillance program. Hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world have fallen victim to the NSA spying program, whether through their telephone records, or through the PRISM program that grants the spying agency direct access to stored internet activity of nearly anyone, anywhere. It is “a global, ubiquitous surveillance system that has as its goal the elimination of privacy worldwide”, wrote Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian.

Even EU offices were bugged by the US, according to the leaked information. If America’s closest allies were bugged, then no one is safe. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo revealed in reports, based on information provided by Snowden that the US had tapped into telecoms infrastructure in Brazil to acquire massive volumes of communications and to spy on governments throughout the region.

While Al Jazeera’s leak translated into media debates regarding Pakistan’s own failures and its odd alliance with the US – which unabashedly continues to violate the country’s sovereignty – Snowden’s leaks are generating a global debate regarding the US’s persistent attempts at global meddling and domination despite its repeated setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its diminishing, once unchallenged role as a superpower.

While corporate US media continue to toe the line by doing everything in their power to focus on the least relevant parts of the Snowden story, US government apologists are trying to soften the blow. Jim Lewis, a former intelligence official – now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington – had this to stay, according to the Financial Times: “Great powers all engage in espionage. That includes China, Russia and the US. It’s not war, it’s not an attack, it’s not use of force, it’s not even coercion.”

Although there is an element of truth in Lewis’ remarks, there is no denial that the extent of that spying can also tell us a great deal about the nature of the spy and the use of the information. When the victims are hundreds of millions of people from every country in the world, then one cannot help but object to the illegality and magnitude of the act.

One knows that it’s not your everyday spying practice when Cristina Fernández, president of Argentina says, “It sends chills up my spine when we learn they are spying on all of us through their intelligence services in Brazil.”

Not even the most paranoid amongst us would have imagined the extent of the US government’s violation of the very privacy laws that itself helped draft, promote and swore to protect. The Snowden leak revealed aspects of the NSA’s unwarranted practices, but what else is still being concealed? And what is the ultimate goal of the US government when it spies potentially on every citizen and every government?

In some parts of the world, the spying scandal raised the above questions and more. “The revelations have revived a narrative about the dangers of a world dominated by an untrustworthy superpower that had been dormant as debate raged instead about American decline,” wrote Geoff Dyer in Washington.

But should the debate shift away from the palpable decline to something else? Hardly, as the supposedly gutsy raid that killed Bin Laden should by no means contribute to the Hollywood-fed myth of the infallibility of the US military. Global surveillance is merely an indication that President Barack Obama – as a representation of the US ruling class – was never sincere as he attempted to woo the world with an image of a more gentle and peaceful American government. The Bin Laden raid, per the conclusions of the Pakistani commission, told of a sorry state of affairs that afflicted all aspects of government and military, and how it was underhandedly used by the US to carry out its own policy agendas, even at the expense of a supposed ally. It is hard to believe that any government can genuinely trust the US administration after all of this.

Italy, Portugal apologize to Bolivia for blocking airspace to its presidential plane

Press TV

Italy and Portugal have officially apologized for involvement in illegally rerouting the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this month during a flight home from Moscow.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca announced Wednesday that Italian and Portuguese officials apologized for the controversial incident on July 3rd, when a number Western European countries closed their airspace to the presidential aircraft on a false suspicion that leaker of US electronic spying Edward Snowden was onboard, forcing the plane to land in Vienna on July 3.

“It was not only Spain, which sent us a letter with excuses, but Italy and Portugal as well,” Choquehuanca stated, adding that the ministry would consider the apology letters on Wednesday and will later issue a reply…

Spain apologizes for role in Morales jet ban

by Carlos Latuff

Press TV

Spain has apologized to Bolivia for its parts in the recent incident, in which Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was forbidden to fly over some European countries on the rumors that US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden was onboard.

Ambassador Angel Vazquez delivered on Monday the official apology to the Bolivian Foreign Ministry in La Paz.

Varquez gave a statement acknowledging an “apology for the obstacle and the hardships caused to the president.”

France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all refused to allow Morales’ plane, which was flying home on July 2 from Moscow, to cross their airspace.

The presidential plane was forced to land in Vienna, Austria where it was searched by authorities on false rumors that US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board.

The Bolivian Foreign Ministry accused the Europeans of bowing to US pressure when it banned Morales’ plane.

After the incident, Morales revealed that Spain’s ambassador to Austria had tried to conduct a search of the aircraft.

“We recognize publicly that perhaps the procedures used in the Vienna airport by our representative were not the most effective,” said Vaszquez.

“We regret this fact … the procedure was not appropriate and bothered the president (Morales), putting him in a difficult situation.”

The incident also caused strong condemnation from several countries in Latin American, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called it a “provocation” that concerned” all of Latin America.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have all offered asylum to Snowden, who is holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he landed in Russia from Hong Kong.

Latin America united against US over espionage

by Yusuf Fernandez, source

Anger is growing in Latin America over the US espionage disclosed by former CIA agent and current whistleblower, Edward Snowden. The recent meeting of the Mercosur, the common market organization of South America, in Montevideo (Uruguay) focused largely on US espionage against Latin Americans.

The summit issued a statement in which it condemned US “illegal acts of espionage that threaten citizens’ rights and the friendly co-existence between nations.”

The statement also expressed solidarity with the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, which have offered to grant asylum to Snowden, who has exposed extensive illegal spying by the US National Security Agency. The Mercosur statement reiterated that states have a right under international law to grant asylum.

Shortly before, Latin American Presidents showed their solidarity with Bolivian President, Evo Morales, whose plane was forced to land in Vienna for 14 hours due to the negative of four European countries (France, Spain, Portugal and Italy), under US pressure, to allow it to overfly their air space for fear that Snowden was on board.

This act was a clear violation of international treaties and air traffic agreements. It also put the lives of President Morales and other Bolivian officials who travelled in the aircraft at risk.

As a result, Mercosur countries have summoned their ambassadors in the four above-mentioned European states and have demanded an official explanation and “public apologies” from them for their “neo-colonial practices”.

These Latin American meetings took place amid the growing scandal over NSA spying activities in the continent. According to several sources, the NSA has targeted most Latin American nations in its activities. Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile and El Salvador are among the countries that have been spied by the agency, according to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, which cited documents leaked by Snowden. Significantly, some of these countries, such as Mexico and Colombia, have been close US allies for a long time.

The documents showed that the NSA´s PRISM program has collected emails, faxes, searches, chats and files from Latin American individuals, companies and government agencies through US companies working in Internet such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

At least, data from 5 Latin American satellites were also intercepted in 2012. “Special Collection Service” centers were created by the NSA and the CIA in some Latin American capitals, such as Bogota, Caracas, Brasilia, Mexico City and Panama City, in order to collect data from these satellites.

The documents showed that US espionage targeted not only military or political aspects but also commercial and energy issues, such as the oil production in Mexico and Venezuela.

This fact has fueled particular concern among Latin American companies, as this espionage damages their interests and favors the position of US corporations in their struggle to control the region´s economies.

The US government is currently worried about the increase of trading links and foreign investments from China, Russia and Europe in Latin America, a region that Washington still considers its “courtyard”. China especially has been developing its ties with Latin American countries in several fields, including energy, in recent years.

Bolivia rejects US envoy

On July 13, Morales claimed US intelligence had hacked into the email accounts of senior Bolivian officials amid growing concerns about Washington’s secret surveillance programs. “US intelligence agents have accessed the emails of our most senior authorities in Bolivia,” Morales said in a speech. “It was recommended to me that I not use email, and I have followed suit and shut it down,” the Bolivian president added.

Some days earlier, Morales had threatened to expel the US diplomatic mission and shut down its embassy. “We do not need the pretext of cooperation and diplomatic relations so that they can come and spy on us,” said the Bolivian president.

Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero also revealed that La Paz had rejected a diplomat suggested by Washington as the new US ambassador to the Latin American country.

Romero said in an interview that the decision was made due to the negative remarks of James Nealon, the proposed ambassador, about the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela.

In a secret document revealed by WikiLeaks in 2011, Nealon, who was Washington’s ambassador to Peru at the time, accused “anti-system” Bolivian President Evo Morales of trying to destabilize Peruvian President Alan Garcia with the support of the of Venezuela and Ecuador.

The US had proposed Nealon as its new ambassador to La Paz in December 2012. It is worth recalling that Morales expelled former US Ambassador to La Paz Philip S. Goldberg in 2008, arguing that he was attempting to undermine the Bolivian government.

Other Latin American countries have also protested against US spying activities. Colombia’s foreign ministry “showed its concern” that there had been an “unauthorized data collection program” and asked the US government to give an account of its actions through its embassy in Bogota.
“In rejecting the acts of espionage that violate people’s rights and intimacy as well as the international conventions on telecommunication, Colombia requests the corresponding explanations from the US government through its ambassador to Colombia,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying.

For his part, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said that the espionage was worrisome. “We are against these kinds of spying activities,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

“It would be good for Congress to look with concern at privacy issues related to personal information.” “This is the world we live in; a world with new forms of colonialism,” Argentini4n President Cristina Fernandez said. “It is more subtle than it was two centuries ago, when they came with armies to take our silver and gold.”

Brazil case

O Globo reported that the NSA and CIA have also collected telephone calls and emails in Brazil, the biggest country of Latin America and a leading member of international blocs such as UNASUR, MERCOSUR, CELAC and BRICS.

After these data were published, Brazil’s telecommunications agency said that it would investigate whether local operators had violated customer privacy rules by cooperating with US agencies. According to O Globo, the espionage of Brazilian communications took place through US companies that are partners with Brazilian firms.

For her part, President Dilma Rousseff warned that if the reports prove true, and so far every indication is that they will, they will represent “violations of sovereignty and human rights.”

Some Brazilian congressmen have called on the Brazilian government to cancel defense contracts with US companies in retaliation and others have stated that Brazil should offer asylum to Snowden.

Gilberto Carvalho, a top aide to President Dilma Rousseff, said a “very hard” response to Washington was needed. “If we lower our heads, they will trample all over us tomorrow,” he said. According to Reuters, Anatel, the country´s telecommunications regulator has announced that it will work with the federal police to determine whether local telephone operators have broken any laws.

US double standards

For its part and instead of answering Latin American concerns regarding to its spying activities, Washington is still showing its old bully attitude in its relations with these countries.

“All across the region, American embassies have communicated Washington´s message that letting Snowden into Latin America, even if he shows up unexpectedly, would have lasting consequences”, claimed a recent article published in the New York Times. A senior State Department official told the Times that aiding Snowden “would put relations (of these countries with the US) in a very bad place for a long time to come.”

Some Latin American media has criticized these open threats and accused the US of using double standards here too. In fact, Washington has rejected the extradition to Venezuela of Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and terrorist who allegedly masterminded the bombing of a Cuban plane that killed 73 people in the 1970s.

He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in the 1980s and is currently living in the US. Similarly, Washington has ignored Bolivian demand to extradite Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who was President from 2002 to 2003 and fled Bolivia after he was ousted by massive protests against his plan to sell Bolivian gas resources to foreign companies. De Lozada now faces charges of genocide in his country for ordering the military to fire on unarmed protesters in 2003. More than 60 people were killed due to these facts.

The spying scandal will certainly deal a serious blow to US influence in Latin America at a time when it was already diminishing. “A region that was once a broad zone of American power has become increasingly confident in its ability to act independently”, said a recent article in the New York Times. “Our influence in the hemisphere is diminishing,” acknowledged Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

In any case, US bully policies might well prove unsuccessful this time, when Latin America is striving to increase its unity and integration. “The State Department and the government of the United States should know that Venezuela learned a long time ago to defeat pressures from any part of the world,” Venezuelan foreign minister, El?as Jaua, said. Other Latin American countries will surely think the same.

UN Human Rights chief: Whistleblowers need protection

by Carlos Latuff

UN Human Rights chief: Whistleblowers need protection

Al Manar

In her first reference to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s case, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has called on all countries to protect the rights of those who uncover abuses and stressed the need to respect the right for people to seek asylum.

Commenting on the fugitive former US intelligence contractor, who is presently wanted by the US for leaking classified details of its surveillance programs, Pillay noted that undue surveillance could amount to an infringement of human rights.

“National legal systems must ensure that there are adequate avenues for individuals disclosing violations of human rights to express their concern without fear of reprisals,” said Pillay.

“Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy,” she added.

Snowden appeared with human rights activists during a press event at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Friday, during which he expressed thanks for “all offers of support or asylum I have been extended,” which so far include Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.

At the same time, Snowden indicated that he would seek asylum from Russia, at least for the time being, until such time as travel to Latin America would be possible.

Meanwhile, the White House warned Russia not to offer the former intelligence contractor a “propaganda platform,” while the US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, called a member of the humans rights delegation on Friday and asked her to pass on a message to Snowden that he was not considered a whistleblower by the US, reports the Guardian.

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Asylum for Snowden won’t stop Greenwald from publishing more leaks

RT

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has indicated that he is willing to halt his leakage of US secrets, a condition for gaining Russian asylum, though the journalist who first published information from those leaks intends to continue.

Glenn Greenwald, a journalist working with both the British Guardian newspaper and Brazil’s O Globo, had been in direct contact with the now fugitive Snowden and coordinated with the former intelligence contractor ahead of publishing information on secret online surveillance programs.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that asylum for Snowden would be offered only under the condition that he releases no further information that could prove damaging to the US. Greenwald, however, has indicated that he would consider the intelligence provided by Snowden already in his possession fair game.

“There are many more domestic stories coming, and big ones, and soon,” Greenwald wrote in an email to Politico on Friday.

“Given everything I know, I’d be very shocked if he ever asked me that,” Greenwald told Politico when asked if he would halt publishing any sensitive information if Snowden were to ask.

“I’d deal with that hypothetical only in the extremely unlikely event that it ever happened, but I can’t foresee anything that would or could stop me from further reporting on the NSA documents I have,” he added.

On Friday, Snowden said that he would remain in Russia until able to get safe passage to Latin America, where he has been offered political asylum by Venezuela as well as Honduras. Comments made during a meeting with human rights activists at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport Friday also indicated that he intended to renew a petition for asylum from Russia.

“Snowden is serious about obtaining political asylum in the Russian Federation,” said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a lawmaker who attended the meeting at the Moscow airport, reports The Guardian.

Most recently, Greenwald in conjunction with several reporters with O Globo published further information showing the existence of a wide array of surveillance programs tracking citizens of South American countries.

O Globo cited documents this week indicating that from January to March of 2013, NSA agents carried out “spying actions” via the ‘Boundless Informant’ program, which collected telephone calls and Internet data. Agents also used PRISM from February 2 to 8 this year, O Globo said.

Essentially all of Latin America is reported to be targeted for surveillance, including Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador. The most intense surveillance according to O Globo seems to have been directed at Colombia, a key US ally in the so-called War on Drugs, as well as Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.

Comments by Greenwald to Politico on Friday suggest that the journalist already has a backlog of leaks to work with, and that any agreement Snowden were to make with a foreign government in regards to conditions of political asylum would be independent of Greenwald’s publication of that information.

Meanwhile, Snowden released a statement on Friday via WikiLeaks, which has orchestrated his legal defense as well as asylum petitions, to convey that he would accept all offers of political asylum made to him.

“I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future,” Snowden stated during his meeting with rights activists and lawyers at Sheremetyevo.

“I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted,” he told the meeting.

Microsoft helped the NSA bypass encryption, new Snowden leak reveals

RT

Microsoft worked hand-in-hand with the United States government in order to allow federal investigators to bypass encryption mechanisms meant to protect the privacy of millions of users, Edward Snowden told The Guardian.

According to an article published on Thursday by the British newspaper, internal National Security Agency memos show that Microsoft actually helped the federal government find a way to decrypt messages sent over select platforms, including Outlook.com Web chat, Hotmail email service, and Skype.

The Guardian wrote that Snowden, the 30-year-old former systems administrator for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided the paper with files detailing a sophisticated relationship between America’s intelligence sector and Silicon Valley.

The documents, which are reportedly marked top-secret, come in the wake of other high-profile disclosures attributed to Snowden since he first started collaborating with the paper for articles published beginning June 6. The United States government has since indicted Snowden under the Espionage Act, and he has requested asylum from no fewer than 20 foreign nations.

Thursday’s article is authored by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two journalists who interviewed Snowden at length before he publicly revealed himself to be the source of the NSA leaks. They are joined by co-authors Ewen MacAskill, Spencer Ackerman and Dominic Rushe, who wrote that the classified documents not only reveal the degree in which Microsoft worked with the feds, but also detail the PRISM internet surveillance program. The US government’s relationships with tech companies are also included in the documents, according to the journalists.

“The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration,” the journalists wrote. “All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their cooperation with the NSA to meet their customers’ privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.”

In the case of Microsoft, however, it appears as if the Bill Gates-founded tech company went out of its way to assist federal investigators.

Among the discoveries made by the latest Snowden leaks, Guardian journalists say that Microsoft specifically aided the NSA in circumventing encrypted chat messages sent over the Outlook.com portal before the product was even launched to the public.

“The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year,” they wrote. “Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats.”

According to internal documents cited by the journalists, Microsoft “developed a surveillance capability” that was launched “to deal” with the feds’ concerns that they’d be unable to wiretap encrypted communications conducted over the Web in real time.

“These solutions were successfully tested and went live 12 Dec 2012,” the memo claims, two months before the Outlook.com portal was officially launched.

In a tweet, Greenwald wrote that “the ‘document’ for the Microsoft story is an internal, ongoing NSA bulletin over 3 years,” and that The Guardian “quoted all relevant parts.” The document is not included in the article.

The Guardian revealed that Microsoft worked with intelligence agencies in order to let administrators of the PRISM data collection program easily access user intelligence submitted through its cloud storage service SkyDrive, as well as Skype.

“Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio,” the journalists wrote.

That allegation comes in stark contrast to claims made previously by Skype, in which it swore to protect the privacy of its users. RT reported previously that earlier documentation supplied by Snowden showed that the government possesses the ability to listen in or watch Skype chats “when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of ‘audio, video, chat and file transfers’ when Skype users connect by computer alone.”

RT earlier acknowledged that Microsoft obtained a patent last summer that provides for “legal intercept” technology. The technology allows agents to “silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session” without asking for user authorization. In recent weeks, however, Microsoft has attacked the government over its secretive spy powers and even asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court if it could be more transparent in discussing the details of FISA requests compiling tech companies for data.

“We continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues,” Microsoft Vice President John Frank wrote last month.

“In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps,” Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union told The Guardian. “It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.”

Earlier this week, Yahoo requested that the FISA court unseal documents from its own FISA battle. The court ruling in 2008 compelled Yahoo – and later other Silicon Valley entities – to supply the government with user data without requiring a warrant.

“Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51 percent belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time,” The Guardian reporters wrote. “Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.”

During a March press conference, FBI general counsel Andrew Weissman said that federal investigators plan on being able to wiretap any real-time Internet conversation by the end of 2014.

“You do have laws that say you need to keep things for a certain amount of time, but in the cyber realm you can have companies that keep things for five minutes,” he said. “You can imagine totally legitimate reasons for that, but you can also imagine how enticing that ability is for people who are up to no good because the evidence comes and it goes.”

Former CIA officer Ray McGovern expanded further on the subject to RT, remembering the Bush presidency and how unsurprising it is that this sort of breach of rights continues to exist.

“If you look at what happened when Bush, Cheney and General Hayden – who was head of the NSA at the time – deliberately violated the law to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant, did the telecommunications companies cooperate? Verizon, AT&T…All the giants did…the one that didn’t was Quest. And what happened to Quest? Well, the CEO ended up in jail – and he still might be in jail – on some unrelated charges.”

Later the Congress voted to hold everyone in an innocent light, including the companies who were complicit in the spying. So there is absolutely no disincentive not to engage in violating people’s rights, McGovern warns.

‘German government sells the privacy of German citizens to the US’

RT

The recent NSA spying scandal showed the German government behaves towards US like a puppet regime, involving all major political parties just before the September elections, German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter told RT.

RT: Let’s just discuss it now with the journalist  Manuel Ochsenreiter who is joining us from Berlin. Mr. Ochsenreiter, to what extend do you think Germany may have cooperated with the NSA?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: Well, I think it’s a matter of fact that we know that the German authorities, the German mainstream politicians, the German government they all cooperate in a very intense way with US intelligence. I feel a little bit weird to use the term “cooperation” for this because when we look exactly on what is going on that they were spying on German citizens we have to say that the German government behaves towards the US government in this question more or less like a US puppet regime. No claim of sovereignty. No claim of independence. Of course, no claim of privacy, for the right to privacy of their own citizens. So, the German citizens are not at all protected by their own government. The German government sells the privacy of German citizens to the US government. And this is the really, really serious case, it’s a big scandal.

RT: Snowden claims top politicians were insulated in case of a scandal – yet now they seem to be outraged. What you are saying is that they might be doing this because of the public outrage. What’s got them more angry then, if that’s the case that they did not know, or that they did not know about the scale of the operations that they would too be spied on?

MO: To be honest I believe that they are angry that it became public, that now all the facts are open and the citizens can see what’s going on because I wouldn’t believe any word right now of a government politician. By the way, I’m also not fond of opposition politicians in the German parliament. We have to know that the government before the Merkel government was built by the GPD opposition. And they cooperated as well with the Americans as the today’s government are doing this. And when we listen very well to the words of mainstream politicians in Germany we hear right now a lot of justifications of this. Yes, let us say cooperation as they call it. They say it’s for our security, they say that this is a partnership, that this is a friendship but, of course, it’s not. It’s pure spying. And we have to watch a little bit back in the past we had in the 1990s the ECHELON project. It was also USA spy project especially on Germany. And this spying project was especially for economic espionage. The German companies, the German economy was monitored by the US secret service. So, what we see here is that Germany is behaving more or less like, well, let me say like a state fully under control of the US without any independence. And the scandal’s not that US are doing that.  Real scandal’s  that the German politicians are not doing something  against it…

‘German politicians should expel the US American military bases’

RT: Snowden did say that this went beyond agreements between the countries in terms of what they can share, what they can… in terms of sharing information. So, how is this affecting the politicians knowing that. They have been spied on far more than the agreement they had. So, yes, so, we say “yes” they did know about this. But to the extent that they have been spied on, I mean, this is going beyond spying on just their own citizens. It goes it is spying within politicians as well. How are they reacting to that? Is it going to create tension between the US and its allies now? Are they not seeing this? Are we just reading too much into something which is been happening anyway?

MO: We are knowing a very interesting time Germany because we have in September the elections. And I think the spying scandal is really really disturbing the elections campaigns of all the mainstream parties because they all are involved in the scandal. So, what they are doing now is that they all try to give the impression that on the one side they knew about so-called cooperation but that they are completely surprised about how far it went. And to be honest I wouldn’t believe any word because we had already the experience in the past about how far the US governments are going and how they treat their so-called allies or their so-called partners. So, if the German politicians… Let me finish with one sentence. If they are really so upset and so surprised as they act now then we have to see the consequences. And they are many consequences we could do with. For example, that the US ambassador is summoned to the Chancellor and is so criticized that there is diplomatic protest, that, for example, we make it to initiate that we have until today US barracks and US army troops on Germans soil. And we know that those military bases are also used for the NSA projects. So we invite the Americans to our country or our politicians invite them in our country to establish their military and intelligence bases there. So, if the German politicians want to do something it’s very easy to them just expel the US American military bases. Don’t make any more Germany do the military aircraft carried out in Europe of the US Americans. It would be easy but they will not do, because they believe in this partnership which is not a partnership.

RT: So, how does the spying on the EU leaders, and seat with the intelligence community cooperating. I mean, is that a sign that the US doesn’t trust its allies? Or it’s just keeping a close eye on its allies?

MO: I think this shows a lot about the attitude of the American government has towards the allies because we are never talking about the partnership we are talking about hegemonic politics. They want to be able to control a partnership or something else. Partnership is when two countries make an agreement with each other. But what we see here is that the US are gained the control and for control of those countries. I’m not sure that it will really bring mistrust in the EU bureaucracy because these people are used to that and I’m not sure if they are really upset about this because they know about this. But the interesting question is how long will the population be so tolerant to bear those problems. This is the interesting question.

RT: Just one more from you. In terms of destroying itself, I mean, we now have been focusing a lot on Snowden instead of what he’s actually been leaking. Do you think we are just kind of missing what politicians in the EU are trying to cover all of this up, by focusing on him rather then what actually Snowden keeps on releasing?

MO: Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, it might be interesting what Snowden has on his four laptops he took with him and I’m pretty much sure the information we got until now is not really 100% percent of what he has with him. I think you know he is in Moscow. Now, I think, the Russians are very interested in the content and the Germans again (I’m from Germany) my politicians, my government, they should be really interested in the content of the full-scale, of these espionage practices if they really want to know this. But I don’t see that right now. But I think in the near future we will get may be a lot of surprises how intense the spying is really.

NSA spies in bed with Germany, other Western states: Snowden

by Carlos Latuff

Press TV

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden said the National Security Agency (NSA) has massive spying partnerships with other Western states that are now grumbling about the agency’s surveillance programs.

He made the comments in an interview with U.S. cryptography expert Jacob Appelbaum and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras before revealing the NSA’s internal and global surveillance programs last month.

NSA spies are “in bed together with the Germans and most other Western states,” Snowden said in remarks published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday.

The fugitive leaker added that the NSA has a department called the Foreign Affairs Directorate which coordinates work with Western spying agencies.

Snowden said the NSA, for example, provides Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency with “analysis tools” for data passing from regions like the Middle East through Germany.

The former NSA contractor has also revealed that the American agency spies on European Union offices in New York, Washington and Brussels, drawing ire from European leaders, especially Germany.

The NSA, according to top secret documents disclosed by Snowden, also collected around half a billion telephone calls, emails or mobile phone text messages and Internet chat entries in Germany per month.

Germany demanded an immediate explanation from the U.S. over the surveillance programs.

Justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, strongly condemned the U.S. spying, saying it was reminiscent of “the methods used by enemies during the Cold War.”

Snowden, 30, has reportedly holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23. He is wanted in the US on espionage charges.

After US, France has vast data surveillance

Al Ahed news

France’s foreign intelligence service intercepts computer and telephone data on a vast scale, like the controversial US Prism program, according to the French daily Le Monde.

The data is stored on a supercomputer at the headquarters of the DGSE intelligence service, the paper clarified, and noted “the operation is “outside the law, and beyond any proper supervision.”

Other French intelligence agencies access the data secretly.

It is not clear, however, whether the DGSE surveillance goes as far as Prism. So far French officials have not commented on Le Monde’s information.

The DGSE analyzed the “metadata” – not the contents of e-mails and other communications, but the data revealing who is speaking to whom, when and where.

Connections inside France and between France and other countries are all monitored, Le Monde report.

The paper the data is being stored on three basement floors of the DGSE building in Paris. The secret service is the French equivalent of Britain’s MI6.

The operation is designed, say expert to uncover terrorist cells. But the scale of it means that “anyone can be spied on, any time”, Le Monde said.

There is a continuing international furor over revelations that the US has been systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.

The French government has sharply criticized the US spying, which allegedly included eavesdropping on official EU communications.

The scale of surveillance by America’s National Security Agency [NSA] emerged from classified intelligence documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The UK spy agency GCHQ is reported to run a similarly vast data collection operation, co-operating closely with the NSA.

EU ambassadors meet to find joint stance on US spy scandal

Al Ahed news

EU ambassadors are to hold talks in Brussels Thursday to agree a common stance on US spying on European premises and embassies that have sparked outrage across the bloc.

The information have threatened to derail long-awaited EU-US talks about a massive free trade deal, expected to boost both sides’ economies by billions of dollars.

The row widened on Wednesday after Bolivia lashed out at France, Italy, Portugal and Spain for temporarily denying President Evo Morales’s plane over flight rights over suspicions that intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was travelling with him.

Morales’s plane, returning home from a trip to Moscow, was forced to make an unscheduled stopover in Vienna, where airport police searched the aircraft and confirmed that the fugitive American was not on board.

Morales had earlier said his country would consider giving political asylum to Snowden, who has been holed up in a Moscow airport.

France already expressed its regret for its role in the incident, but in the Bolivian capital La Paz on Wednesday protesters were burning the French flag in the streets.

Meanwhile, European countries responded with alarm to revelations attributed to Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency [NSA], that the US was systematically seizing vast amounts of Internet and telephone data around the world.

Reports in the Guardian and Der Spiegel in recent days have detailed widespread covert surveillance by the NSA of EU offices, including diplomatic missions in Washington and at the United Nations in New York, as well as at the 28-member bloc’s Brussels headquarters.

The information threatened to hurt free trade talks with Washington, although Berlin and Paris struck a note of discord on Wednesday over the issue.

France pushed for the European Union to delay negotiations, while Germany said they should go ahead as planned.

EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso eventually announced a compromise: the trade talks would open but run in tandem with working groups tasked with probing the extent of US spying.

Seeking to limit the fallout from the spying scandal, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to address mounting European concerns.

“The president assured the chancellor that the United States takes seriously the concerns of our European allies and partners,” according to a readout of the call.

The White House said they agreed to a “high-level meeting” between US and German security officials in the coming days to address intelligence matters, and that a US-EU dialogue on intelligence collection and data protection would begin as early as July 8.

The EU stated establishing a Free Trade Agreement would add about 119 billion euros annually to the EU economy, and 95 billion euros for the United States.

Trade in goods between the United States and the EU last year was worth some 500 billion euros, with another 280 billion euros in services and trillions in investment flows.

Snowden, meanwhile, appeared to be still stranded in a Moscow airport transit zone, waiting for a country to give him safe haven.

The 30-year-old computer specialist arrived there from Hong Kong on June 23 in a bid to escape US efforts to have him extradited on espionage charges.

He has filed asylum requests with 21 countries this week.

Bolivia condemns jet aggression over Snowden row

by Carlos Latuff

Al Manar

Bolivia accused European countries of an “act of aggression” for refusing to allow its presidential jet into their airspace, amid rumors US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.

Bolivian President Evo Morales flew out of Austria on Wednesday after police inspected his jet and found that Snowden was not on board in an incident that has sparked a diplomatic row.

Morales lashed out at European countries for denying his jet entry into their airspace overnight, dragging his country into the escalating US spying scandal.

“I am not a delinquent,” Morales told reporters at Vienna airport where his plane was held up for more than 12 hours.

Bolivia’s UN envoy Sacha Llorenti said the country would file a complaint to UN chief Ban Ki-moon over the diversion which he said “violated international law”.The diversion was an “act of aggression” against Bolivia and tantamount to “kidnapping” Morales, he told reporters in Geneva.

The Austrian interior ministry said airport police carried out a “voluntary inspection” of the jet, confirming Snowden was not on board. The jet was carrying just five crew and six passengers, it said. The plane eventually left Vienna shortly before 1200 GMT after Spain opened its airspace. The jet was on its way to the Spanish Canary Island of Las Palmas for servicing before continuing on to Bolivia.

The diversion of the flight, which originally took off from Moscow, occurred late Tuesday just hours after Morales said his country would consider giving political asylum to 30-year-old Snowden if he submitted one.

Bolivian officials accused France, Portugal, Italy and Spain of initially denying airspace to Morales’s plane, forcing it to reroute over the groundless rumours that Snowden was travelling with Morales.

‘Infiltrated from all sides’: Bug found in London’s Ecuadorian embassy

RT

A hidden microphone has been discovered in the Ecuadorian ambassador’s office in London, said Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino. He denounced the find as yet more evidence of the loss of ethics at an international level in government relations.

“We regret to inform that we have found a hidden microphone in the London embassy,” said Patino at a press conference He added that he had received intelligence that pointed at the origin of the security breach and would reveal it later on Wednesday.

The device itself had been discovered almost three weeks ago on June 16 in the office of the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the UK, Ana Alban, in a routine security check ahead of Patino’s visit.

“I did not bring this up before because I didn’t want my visit to London to hold talks on Julian Assange to be confused with accusations over this surveillance device found in the ambassador’s office,” he told press.

The head of the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry stated that he would have to consult with President Rafael Correa on the issue and they would require an explanation from the country responsible.

Moreover, Patino clarified that he was not insinuating this discovery had anything to do with the US spy network, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Patino went on to voice his concerns that the Ecuadorian government was being “infiltrated from all sides.”

“This is a testament to the loss of ethics at an international level in the relations that we have with other governments,” noted Patino.

During his visit to London, Patino held negotiations with his British counterpart, William Hague, to push for the safe-conduct of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to Ecuador where he has been granted asylum. Assange has now been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over a year as UK authorities threaten to arrest him if he sets foot outside the diplomatic mission.

The British government refused to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador and reiterated their commitment to extradite the whistleblower to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over accusations of sexual assault.

Ecuador is also currently assessing the asylum request of former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who is held up in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. He is currently unable to travel as his passport is invalid.

Washington has issued an extradition order against Snowden under the espionage act and called for international cooperation in returning him to American jurisdiction.

The US threatened the Ecuadorian government with taking away a lucrative customs tax agreement if the Latin American country grants Snowden asylum.

The Ecuadorean government reacted with ire, stating that in the face of “insolence” and “threats,” Ecuador will renounce its trade benefits with the US.