Archive | September 26th, 2015

Unfortunate Attacks in our Movement Continue

NOVANEWS

Image result for Jewish Voice for Peace LOGO

Today, the movement for solidarity with Palestine remains deeply divided due to a series of unfortunate attacks on one of the most effective Palestine solidarity organizations in the movement.

Despite nearly two-thousand signatures, including Palestinian grassroots resistance leader Iyad Burnat; Palestinian grassroots resistance leader Bassem Tamimi; UN special rapporteur on Occupied Palestine Richard Falk;  Al-Awda Steering Committee member Abbas Hamideh; professor and activist Mazin Qumsiyeh; Holocaust survivor and peace activist Hedy Epstein; Palestine-based activist leader George Rishmawi; peace activists Cindy Sheehan and Arun Gandhi; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee founder James Abourezk; authors Joel Kovel and Sunaina Maira; former US government officials-turned-peace-activists Ray McGovern, Edward Peck, Philip Giraldi, and Ann Wright; nearly 200 members of Jewish Voice for Peace; and at least 15 Gaza Flotilla activists,

the US Campaign and Jewish Voice for Peace’s national leadership have ignored our beliefs that it is unacceptable to fabricate accusations of anti-Semitism — especially when failing to take principled stances on matters like Zionism.

This website details all of the information regarding our open letter to stop the attacks on If Americans Knew and Alison Weir, and provides in-depth analysis on some of the issues that this debacle has touched upon: the failure of the movement to put the Palestinian cause first, stigmatizing those who discuss and criticize Zionism, and engaging in witch-hunts for anti-Semitism.

Racist rhetoric at the Campaign? The US Campaign has sent around new “common principles,” up for a vote at the organization’s conference. The Campaign again refuses to consider Zionism a form of racism, while condemning “anti-Semitism” and “Islamophobia”. How an organization ostensibly dedicated to Palestinian rights can actively ignore that Zionism is a form of racism, while witch-hunting for anti-Semitism, is beyond many of us. The common principles also limit the Campaign’s opposition to Israel’s “apartheid policies” — not the Israeli government itself.

Likewise, as events have shown, the Campaign’s commitment to “reject the charge of anti-Semitism when used spuriously to silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and practices” are false.

Ironically, while the US Campaign has sought to make in-roads among genuine mass movements like the Black Lives Matter movement, the Campaign’s claims of rejecting racism in all forms closely resemble the rhetoric of anti-black activists. While ostensibly claiming to reject racism generally, US Campaign singles out intolerance against the ethnic group Israel claims to represent, while refusing to condemn Zionism as a form of racism against Palestinians. This is the kind of problematic rhetoric that Black Lives Matter has repeatedly rejected.

The Campaign has also exhibited an appalling double standard to diverse Middle Eastern communities. When another member organization took a public stand that was widely condemned by many of its own members and hundreds of others as genocide denial – and was even openly rebuked by a Campaign leader – the Campaign did not expel the offending organization. Perhaps this was because the Campaign, appropriately, stayed focused on the issue of Palestine. In fact, the Campaign has given the organization, American Muslims for Palestine, a workshop slot at the upcoming conference.

Yet the US Campaign expelled If Americans Knew over tenuous accusations of anti-Semitism that outside observers consider unfounded and has barred the organization from even tabling at the conference. This despite that numerous activists consider IAK’s materials some of the most useful on Palestine and its workshops among the most valuable. Such hypocrisy is not acceptable.

You are not alone. Many of us no longer feel that the US Campaign is a safe space for us to put forward more principled resistance to Israel, Zionism, the pro-Israel Lobby, and racism more generally. More organizations have resigned from the US Campaign for the same reasons, including the Berkeley-based Free Palestine Movement and the Louisville Committee for Peace in the Middle East. Others have publicly condemned US Campaign’s behavior, including Al-Awda, the Chico Palestine Action Group, and the Ann Arbor Quakers in the Palestine-Israel Action Group. Others are in the process of reconsidering their membership.

We want to let those of you who have expressed feelings of disillusionment know that you are not alone. We believe that our Open Letter has spurred much needed internal discussion and hope that it urges those of us who are in the movement for justice in Palestine to behave as allies should.

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Profiled From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users’ Online Identities

NOVANEWS
surveillance

There was a simple aim at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.

Amid a renewed push from the U.K. government for more surveillance powers, more than two dozen documents being disclosed today by The Intercept reveal for the first time several major strands of GCHQ’s existing electronic eavesdropping capabilities.

One system builds profiles showing people’s web browsing histories. Another analyzes instant messenger communications, emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, and social media interactions. Separate programs were built to keep tabs on “suspicious” Google searches and usage of Google Maps.

The surveillance is underpinned by an opaque legal regime that has authorized GCHQ to sift through huge archives of metadata about the private phone calls, emails and Internet browsing logs of Brits, Americans, and any other citizens  all without a court order or judicial warrant.

Metadata reveals information about a communication  such as the sender and recipient of an email, or the phone numbers someone called and at what time  but not the written content of the message or the audio of the call.

As of 2012, GCHQ was storing about 50 billion metadata records about online communications and Web browsing activity every day, with plans in place to boost capacity to 100 billion daily by the end of that year. The agency, under cover of secrecy, was working to create what it said would soon be the biggest government surveillance system anywhere in the world.

Radio radicalization

The power of KARMA POLICE was illustrated in 2009, when GCHQ launched a top-secret operation to collect intelligence about people using the Internet to listen to radio shows.

The agency used a sample of nearly 7 million metadata records, gathered over a period of three months, to observe the listening habits of more than 200,000 people across 185 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

A GCHQ graphic illustrating how KARMA POLICE worksA GCHQ graphic illustrating how KARMA POLICE works

summary report detailing the operation shows that one aim of the project was to research “potential misuse” of Internet radio stations to spread radical Islamic ideas.

GCHQ spies from a unit known as the Network Analysis Center compiled a list of the most popular stations that they had identified, most of which had no association with Islam, like France-based Hotmix Radio, which plays pop, rock, funk and hip-hop music.

They zeroed in on any stations found broadcasting recitations from the Quran, such as a popular Iraqi radio station and a station playing sermons from a prominent Egyptian imam named Sheikh Muhammad Jebril. They then used KARMA POLICE to find out more about these stations’ listeners, identifying them as users on Skype, Yahoo, and Facebook.

The summary report says the spies selected one Egypt-based listener for “profiling” and investigated which other websites he had been visiting. Surveillance records revealed the listener had viewed the porn site Redtube, as well as Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, Google’s blogging platform Blogspot, the photo-sharing site Flickr, a website about Islam, and an Arab advertising site.

GCHQ’s documents indicate that the plans for KARMA POLICE were drawn up between 2007 and 2008. The system was designed to provide the agency with “either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet.”

The origin of the surveillance system’s name is not discussed in the documents. But KARMA POLICE is also the name of a popular song released in 1997 by the Grammy Award-winning British band Radiohead, suggesting the spies may have been fans.

A verse repeated throughout the hit song includes the lyric, “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.”

The Black Hole

GCHQ vacuums up the website browsing histories using “probes” that tap into the international fiber-optic cables that transport Internet traffic across the world.

A huge volume of the Internet data GCHQ collects flows directly into a massive repository named Black Hole, which is at the core of the agency’s online spying operations, storing raw logs of intercepted material before it has been subject to analysis.

Black Hole contains data collected by GCHQ as part of bulk “unselected” surveillance, meaning it is not focused on particular “selected” targets and instead includes troves of data indiscriminately swept up about ordinary people’s online activities. Between August 2007 and March 2009, GCHQ documents say that Black Hole was used to store more than 1.1 trillion “events”  a term the agency uses to refer to metadata records  with about 10 billion new entries added every day.

As of March 2009, the largest slice of data Black Hole held  41 percent  was about people’s Internet browsing histories. The rest included a combination of email and instant messenger records, details about search engine queries, information about social media activity, logs related to hacking operations, and data on people’s use of tools to browse the Internet anonymously.

Throughout this period, as smartphone sales started to boom, the frequency of people’s Internet use was steadily increasing. In tandem, British spies were working frantically to bolster their spying capabilities, with plans afoot to expand the size of Black Hole and other repositories to handle an avalanche of new data.

By 2010, according to the documents, GCHQ was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day, and work was underway to double capacity to 100 billion. The agency was developing “unprecedented” techniques to perform what it called “population-scale” data mining, monitoring all communications across entire countries in an effort to detect patterns or behaviors deemed suspicious. It was creating what it saidwould be, by 2013, “the world’s biggest” surveillance engine “to run cyber operations and to access better, more valued data for customers to make a real world difference.”

HERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.

Amid a renewed push from the U.K. government for more surveillance powers, more than two dozen documents being disclosed today by The Intercept reveal for the first time several major strands of GCHQ’s existing electronic eavesdropping capabilities.

One system builds profiles showing people’s web browsing histories. Another analyzes instant messenger communications, emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, and social media interactions. Separate programs were built to keep tabs on “suspicious” Google searches and usage of Google Maps.

The surveillance is underpinned by an opaque legal regime that has authorized GCHQ to sift through huge archives of metadata about the private phone calls, emails and Internet browsing logs of Brits, Americans, and any other citizens — all without a court order or judicial warrant.

Metadata reveals information about a communication — such as the sender and recipient of an email, or the phone numbers someone called and at what time — but not the written content of the message or the audio of the call.

As of 2012, GCHQ was storing about 50 billion metadata records about online communications and Web browsing activity every day, with plans in place to boost capacity to 100 billion daily by the end of that year. The agency, under cover of secrecy, was working to create what it said would soon be the biggest government surveillance system anywhere in the world.

Radio radicalization

The power of KARMA POLICE was illustrated in 2009, when GCHQ launched a top-secret operation to collect intelligence about people using the Internet to listen to radio shows.

The agency used a sample of nearly 7 million metadata records, gathered over a period of three months, to observe the listening habits of more than 200,000 people across 185 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

A GCHQ graphic illustrating how KARMA POLICE worksA GCHQ graphic illustrating how KARMA POLICE works

summary report detailing the operation shows that one aim of the project was to research “potential misuse” of Internet radio stations to spread radical Islamic ideas.

GCHQ spies from a unit known as the Network Analysis Center compiled a list of the most popular stations that they had identified, most of which had no association with Islam, like France-based Hotmix Radio, which plays pop, rock, funk and hip-hop music.

They zeroed in on any stations found broadcasting recitations from the Quran, such as a popular Iraqi radio station and a station playing sermons from a prominent Egyptian imam named Sheikh Muhammad Jebril. They then used KARMA POLICE to find out more about these stations’ listeners, identifying them as users on Skype, Yahoo, and Facebook.

The summary report says the spies selected one Egypt-based listener for “profiling” and investigated which other websites he had been visiting. Surveillance records revealed the listener had viewed the porn site Redtube, as well as Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, Google’s blogging platform Blogspot, the photo-sharing site Flickr, a website about Islam, and an Arab advertising site.

GCHQ’s documents indicate that the plans for KARMA POLICE were drawn up between 2007 and 2008. The system was designed to provide the agency with “either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet.”

The origin of the surveillance system’s name is not discussed in the documents. But KARMA POLICE is also the name of a popular song released in 1997 by the Grammy Award-winning British band Radiohead, suggesting the spies may have been fans.

A verse repeated throughout the hit song includes the lyric, “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.”

The Black Hole

GCHQ vacuums up the website browsing histories using “probes” that tap into the international fiber-optic cables that transport Internet traffic across the world.

A huge volume of the Internet data GCHQ collects flows directly into a massive repository named Black Hole, which is at the core of the agency’s online spying operations, storing raw logs of intercepted material before it has been subject to analysis.

Black Hole contains data collected by GCHQ as part of bulk “unselected” surveillance, meaning it is not focused on particular “selected” targets and instead includes troves of data indiscriminately swept up about ordinary people’s online activities. Between August 2007 and March 2009, GCHQdocuments say that Black Hole was used to store more than 1.1 trillion “events” — a term the agency uses to refer to metadata records — with about 10 billion new entries added every day.

As of March 2009, the largest slice of data Black Hole held — 41 percent —was about people’s Internet browsing histories. The rest included a combination of email and instant messenger records, details about search engine queries, information about social media activity, logs related to hacking operations, and data on people’s use of tools to browse the Internet anonymously.

Throughout this period, as smartphone sales started to boom, the frequency of people’s Internet use was steadily increasing. In tandem, British spies were working frantically to bolster their spying capabilities, with plans afoot to expand the size of Black Hole and other repositories to handle an avalanche of new data.

By 2010, according to the documents, GCHQ was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day, and work was underway to double capacity to 100 billion. The agency was developing “unprecedented” techniques to perform what it called “population-scale” data mining, monitoring all communications across entire countries in an effort to detect patterns or behaviors deemed suspicious. It was creating what it said would be, by 2013, “the world’s biggest” surveillance engine “to run cyber operations and to access better, more valued data for customers to make a real world difference.”

 

A document from the GCHQ target analysis center (GTAC) shows the Black Hole repository’s structure.A document from the GCHQ target analysis center (GTAC) shows the Black Hole repository’s structure.

GCHQ is able to identify a particular person’s website browsing habits by pulling out the raw data stored in repositories like Black Hole and then analyzing it with a variety of systems that complement each other.

KARMA POLICE, for instance, works by showing the IP addresses of people visiting websites. IP addresses are unique identifiers that are allocated to computers when they connect to the Internet.

In isolation, IPs would not be of much value to GCHQ, because they are just a series of numbers — like 195.92.47.101 — and are not attached to a name. But when paired with other data they become a rich source of personal information.

To find out the identity of a person or persons behind an IP address, GCHQ analysts can enter the series of numbers into a separate system named MUTANT BROTH, which is used to sift through data contained in the Black Hole repository about vast amounts of tiny intercepted files known as cookies.

Cookies are automatically placed on computers to identify and sometimes track people browsing the Internet, often for advertising purposes. When you visit or log into a website, a cookie is usually stored on your computer so that the site recognizes you. It can contain your username or email address, your IP address, and even details about your login password and the kind of Internet browser you are using — like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

For GCHQ, this information is incredibly valuable. The agency refers to cookies internally as “target detection identifiers” or “presence events” because of how they help it monitor people’s Internet use and uncover online identities.

If the agency wants to track down a person’s IP address, it can enter the person’s email address or username into MUTANT BROTH to attempt to find it, scanning through the cookies that come up linking those identifiers to an IP address. Likewise, if the agency already has the IP address and wants to track down the person behind it, it can use MUTANT BROTH to find email addresses, usernames, and even passwords associated with the IP.

Once the agency has corroborated a targeted person’s IP address with an email address or username, it can then use the tiny cookie files associated with these identifiers to perform a so-called “pattern of life” analysis showing the times of day and locations at which the person is most active online.

the agency was extracting data containing information about people’s visits to the adult website YouPorn

In turn, the usernames and email and IP addresses can be entered into other systems that enable the agency to spy on the target’s emails, instant messenger conversations, and web browsing history. All GCHQ needs is a single identifier — a “selector,” in agency jargon — to follow a digital trail that can reveal a vast amount about a person’s online activities.

top-secret GCHQ document from March 2009 reveals the agency has targeted a range of popular websites as part of an effort to covertly collect cookies on a massive scale. It shows a sample search in which the agency was extracting data from cookies containing information about people’s visits to the adult website YouPorn, search engines Yahoo and Google, and the Reuters news website.

Other websites listed as “sources” of cookies in the 2009 document (see below) are Hotmail, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, WordPress, Amazon, and sites operated by the broadcasters CNN, BBC, and the U.K.’s Channel 4.

Blackhole-1

In one six-month period between December 2007 and June 2008, the document says, more than 18 billion records from cookies and other similar identifiers were accessible through MUTANT BROTH.

The data is searched by GCHQ analysts in a hunt for behavior online that could be connected to terrorism or other criminal activity. But it has also served a broader and more controversial purpose — helping the agency hack into European companies’ computer networks.

In the lead up to its secret mission targeting Netherlands-based Gemalto, the largest SIM card manufacturer in the world, GCHQ used MUTANT BROTH in an effort to identify the company’s employees so it could hack into their computers.

The system helped the agency analyze intercepted Facebook cookies it believed were associated with Gemalto staff located at offices in France and Poland. GCHQ later successfully infiltrated Gemalto’s internal networks, stealing encryption keys produced by the company that protect the privacy of cell phone communications.

Similarly, MUTANT BROTH proved integral to GCHQ’s hack of Belgian telecommunications provider Belgacom. The agency entered IP addresses associated with Belgacom into MUTANT BROTH to uncover information about the company’s employees. Cookies associated with the IPs revealed the Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn accounts of three Belgacom engineers, whose computers were then targeted by the agency and infected with malware.

The hacking operation resulted in GCHQ gaining deep access into the most sensitive parts of Belgacom’s internal systems, granting British spies the ability to intercept communications passing through the company’s networks.

Cryptome surveillance

In March, a U.K. parliamentary committee published the findings of an 18-month review of GCHQ’s operations and called for an overhaul of the laws that regulate the spying. The committee raised concerns about the agency gathering what it described as “bulk personal datasets” being held about “a wide range of people.” However, it censored the section of the report describing what these “datasets” contained, despite acknowledging that they “may be highly intrusive.”

The Snowden documents shine light on some of the core GCHQ bulk data-gathering programs that the committee was likely referring to — pulling back the veil of secrecy that has shielded some of the agency’s most controversial surveillance operations from public scrutiny.

KARMA POLICE and MUTANT BROTH are among the key bulk collection systems. But they do not operate in isolation — and the scope of GCHQ’s spying extends far beyond them.

GCHQ’s logo for the SOCIAL ANTHROPOID systemGCHQ’s logo for the SOCIAL ANTHROPOID system

The agency operates a bewildering array of other eavesdropping systems, each serving its own specific purpose and designated a unique code name, such as:SOCIAL ANTHROPOID, which is used to analyze metadata on emails, instant messenger chats, social media connections and conversations, plus “telephony” metadata about phone calls, cell phone locations, text and multimedia messages; MEMORY HOLE, which logs queries entered into search engines and associates each search with an IP address;MARBLED GECKO, which sifts through details about searches people have entered into Google Maps and Google Earth; andINFINITE MONKEYS, which analyzes data about the usage of online bulletin boards and forums.

GCHQ has other programs that it uses to analyze the content of intercepted communications, such as the full written body of emails and the audio of phone calls. One of the most important content collection capabilities isTEMPORA, which mines vast amounts of emails, instant messages, voice calls and other communications and makes them accessible through a Google-style search tool named XKEYSCORE.

As of September 2012, TEMPORA was collecting “more than 40 billion pieces of content a day” and it was being used to spy on people across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, according to a top-secret memo outlining the scope of the program. The existence of TEMPORA was first revealed by The Guardian in June 2013.

To analyze all of the communications it intercepts and to build a profile of the individuals it is monitoring, GCHQ uses a variety of different tools that can pull together all of the relevant information and make it accessible through a single interface.

SAMUEL PEPYS is one such tool, built by the British spies to analyze both the content and metadata of emails, browsing sessions, and instant messages as they are being intercepted in real time.

One screenshot of SAMUEL PEPYS in action shows the agency using it to monitor an individual in Sweden who visited a page about GCHQ on the U.S.-based anti-secrecy website Cryptome.

Domestic spying

Partly due to the U.K.’s geographic location — situated between the United States and the western edge of continental Europe — a large amount of the world’s Internet traffic passes through its territory across international data cables.

In 2010, GCHQ noted that what amounted to “25 percent of all Internet traffic” was transiting the U.K. through some 1,600 different cables. The agency said that it could “survey the majority of the 1,600” and “select the most valuable to switch into our processing systems.”

Many of the cables flow deep under the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. East Coast, landing on the white-sand beaches of Cornwall in the southwest of England. Others transport data between the U.K. and countries including France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway by crossing below the North Sea and coming aground at various locations on England’s east coast.

According to Joss Wright, a research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, tapping into the cables allows GCHQ to monitor a large portion of foreign communications. But the cables also transport masses of wholly domestic British emails and online chats, because when anyone in the U.K. sends an email or visits a website, their computer will routinely send and receive data from servers that are located overseas.

“I could send a message from my computer here [in England] to my wife’s computer in the next room and on its way it could go through the U.S., France, and other countries,” Wright says. “That’s just the way the Internet is designed.”

In other words, Wright adds, that means “a lot” of British data and communications transit across international cables daily, and are liable to be swept into GCHQ’s databases.

A map from a classified GCHQ presentation about intercepting communications from undersea cables.A map from a classified GCHQ presentation about intercepting communications from undersea cables.

GCHQ is authorized to conduct dragnet surveillance of the international data cables through so-called external warrants that are signed off by a government minister.

The external warrants permit the agency to monitor communications in foreign countries as well as British citizens’ international calls and emails —for example, a call from Islamabad to London. They prohibit GCHQ from reading or listening to the content of “internal” U.K. to U.K. emails and phone calls, which are supposed to be filtered out from GCHQ’s systems if they are inadvertently intercepted unless additional authorization is granted to scrutinize them.

However, the same rules do not apply to metadata. A little-known loophole in the law allows GCHQ to use external warrants to collect and analyze bulk metadata about the emails, phone calls, and Internet browsing activities of British people, citizens of closely allied countries, and others, regardless of whether the data is derived from domestic U.K. to U.K. communications and browsing sessions or otherwise.

In March, the existence of this loophole was quietly acknowledged by the U.K. parliamentary committee’s surveillance review, which stated in a section of its report that “special protection and additional safeguards” did not apply to metadata swept up using external warrants and that domestic British metadata could therefore be lawfully “returned as a result of searches” conducted by GCHQ.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, GCHQ appears to have readily exploited this obscure legal technicality. Secret policy guidance papers issued to the agency’s analysts instruct them that they can sift through huge troves of indiscriminately collected metadata records to spy on anyone regardless of their nationality. The guidance makes clear that there is no exemption or extra privacy protection for British people or citizens from countries that are members of the Five Eyes, a surveillance alliance that the U.K. is part of alongside the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

“If you are searching a purely Events only database such as MUTANT BROTH, the issue of location does not occur,” states one internal GCHQ policy document, which is marked with a “last modified” date of July 2012. The document adds that analysts are free to search the databases for British metadata “without further authorization” by inputing a U.K. “selector,” meaning a unique identifier such as a person’s email or IP address, username, or phone number.

Authorization is “not needed for individuals in the U.K.,” another GCHQ document explains, because metadata has been judged “less intrusive than communications content.” All the spies are required to do to mine the metadata troves is write a short “justification” or “reason” for each search they conduct and then click a button on their computer screen.

Intelligence GCHQ collects on British persons of interest is shared with domestic security agency MI5, which usually takes the lead on spying operations within the U.K. MI5 conducts its own extensive domestic surveillance as part of a program called DIGINT (digital intelligence).

We think and behave differently based on the assumption that people may be watching.

GCHQ’s documents suggest that it typically retains metadata for periods of between 30 days to six months. It stores the content of communications for a shorter period of time, varying between three to 30 days. The retention periods can be extended if deemed necessary for “cyber defense.”

One secret policy paper dated from January 2010 lists the wide range of information the agency classes as metadata — including location data that could be used to track your movements, your email, instant messenger, and social networking “buddy lists,” logs showing who you have communicated with by phone or email, the passwords you use to access “communications services” (such as an email account), and information about websites you have viewed.

GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, England.GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, England.
www.gchq.gov.uk

Records showing the full website addresses you have visited — for instance,www.gchq.gov.uk/what_we_do — are treated as content. But the first part of an address you have visited — for instance, www.gchq.gov.uk — is treated as metadata.

In isolation, a single metadata record of a phone call, email, or website visit may not reveal much about a person’s private life, according to Ethan Zuckerman, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media.

But if accumulated and analyzed over a period of weeks or months, these details would be “extremely personal,” he told The Intercept, because they could reveal a person’s movements, habits, religious beliefs, political views, relationships, and even sexual preferences.

For Zuckerman, who has studied the social and political ramifications of surveillance, the most concerning aspect of large-scale government data collection is that it can be “corrosive towards democracy” — leading to a chilling effect on freedom of expression and communication.

“Once we know there’s a reasonable chance that we are being watched in one fashion or another it’s hard for that not to have a ‘panopticon effect,’” he said, “where we think and behave differently based on the assumption that people may be watching and paying attention to what we are doing.”

Light oversight

A GCHQ spokesman declined to answer any specific questions for this story, citing a “longstanding policy” not to comment on intelligence matters. The spokesman insisted in an emailed statement that GCHQ’s work is “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight.”

It is unclear, however, whether there are sufficient internal checks in place in practice to ensure GCHQ’s spies don’t abuse their access to the troves of personal information.

According to agency’s documents, just 10 percent of its “targeting” of individuals for surveillance is audited annually and a random selection of metadata searches are audited every six months.

When compared to surveillance rules in place in the U.S., GCHQ notes in one document that the U.K. has “a light oversight regime.”

The more lax British spying regulations are reflected in secret internal rules that highlight greater restrictions on how NSA databases can be accessed. The NSA’s troves can be searched for data on British citizens, one document states, but they cannot be mined for information about Americans or other citizens from countries in the Five Eyes alliance.

No such constraints are placed on GCHQ’s own databases, which can be sifted for records on the phone calls, emails, and Internet usage of Brits, Americans, and citizens from any other country.

The scope of GCHQ’s surveillance powers explain in part why Snowden told The Guardian in June 2013 that U.K. surveillance is “worse than the U.S.” In an interview with Der Spiegel in July 2013, Snowden added that British Internet cables were “radioactive” and joked: “Even the Queen’s selfies to the pool boy get logged.”

In recent years, the biggest barrier to GCHQ’s mass collection of data does not appear to have come in the form of legal or policy restrictions. Rather, it is the increased use of encryption technology that protects the privacy of communications that has posed the biggest potential hindrance to the agency’s activities.

“The spread of encryption … threatens our ability to do effective target discovery/development,” says a top-secret report co-authored by an official from the British agency and an NSA employee in 2011.

“Pertinent metadata events will be locked within the encrypted channels and difficult, if not impossible, to prise out,” the report says, adding that the agencies were working on a plan that would “(hopefully) allow our Internet Exploitation strategy to prevail.”

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Documents published with this article:

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US Preparing for “Hybrid War” with Russia?

NOVANEWS

Positioning US-NATO Forces on Russia’s Doorstep

Global Research
NATO-Russia

America is a warrior state, waging direct and/or proxy wars at home and abroad throughout its entire history – today on a global scale, with an arsenal of weapons of unimaginable destructive power able to end life on earth, and lunatics in charge perhaps planning to use them.

In September 2010, Stop NATO editor Rick Rozoff said the Pentagon is using the Baltic states as “training grounds for Afghan and future wars.”

After NATO expanded from 16 – 28 members from 1999 – 2009 by adding all former Warsaw Pact countries, including former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Washington used their territory for military bases, troop and weapons deployments, regional “air patrols and the initial stages of a continent-wide anti-ballistic missile system beyond” NATO plans for an Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Programme.

Positioning US and other NATO forces near Russia’s border violated the 1991 (ratified) Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), limiting “several categories of conventional military equipment in Europe,” Rozoff explained.

New NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland were “transformed into training grounds for the Pentagon’s and NATO’s wars abroad” – including potential confrontation with Russia, regular large-scale military exercises conducted for this purpose, literally readying for possible WW III.

Large numbers of US-led NATO troop deployments and provocative military exercises close to Russia’s borders should scare everyone. Last spring, US-installed NATO Secretary-General Jens Stolenberg said dealing with Russia requires “a strong collective alliance” – code language for preparing for military confrontation?

He, US officials and other Western ones consistently lie about nonexistent “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, as well as deploying troops and warplanes in Syria.

Moscow threatens no one. It’s the continent’s leading peacemaker. Washington threatens world peace, security and stability. Its permanent war agenda risks the unthinkable – possible nuclear armageddon.

On September 25, Sputnik News and RT International both discussed German newspaper Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten’s (DWN) report about Washington preparing for possible hybrid war with Russia in the Baltics region – focusing on irregular troop deployments, destabilization, provocative rallies and cyber attacks.

Former US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy was quoted, saying “Russia’s (nonexistent) invasion of Eastern Ukraine urged the US to dust off its emergency plans. They were pretty outdated.”

Washington’s coup followed by orchestrated Kiev aggression on Donbass is used as a pretext to blame Moscow for their crimes – the Big Lie repeated ad nauseam by Western officials and media scoundrels, knowingly and willfully turning truth on its head as part of a longstanding plan to marginalize, weaken, contain, isolate, destabilize and weaken Russia, America’s key rival along with China.

DWN said hyping a “Russian threat” is used to justify deploying large numbers of heavily armed US troops in Eastern Europe, hold large-scale provocative war games near its borders and get NATO nations to increase military spending.

German ZDF television reported US plans to position powerful B61 thermonuclear bombs at the Luftwaffe’s Buchel Air Base. It’s Germany’s only military base with US nuclear weapons already – 20 since 2007.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded, calling Washington’s intention a “violation of the strategic balance in Europe…And without a doubt, it would demand that Russia take necessary countermeasures to restore the strategic balance and parity.”

An unnamed Russian “military-diplomatic” source said Moscow may respond by deploying Iskander-M tactical missiles in Kaliningrad, its Eastern European enclave bordering Lithuania and Poland.

“The issue is being studied,” the source said. “A final decision will be made after a detailed analysis of the potential threats.”

In 2010, Bundestag opposition members called for removing US nuclear weapons from German territory entirely. At the time, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “(t)he time is right for a new beginning on nuclear disarmament.” Polls show strong anti-nuclear public sentiment.

Former German Defense Ministry Parliamentary State Secretary Willy Wimmer told ZDF television Washington’s plan to deploy B61s to Buchel gives it “new attack options against Russia.” It’s “a conscious (anti-Russian) provocation…”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told ZDF “(t)he comprehensive analysis of the situation points to the threat posed by the increasing military capability of NATO and its endowment with global functions, which it performs in violation of the international law, as well as the encroachment of the military infrastructure of NATO members on the borders of the Russian Federation.”

America positioning nuclear weapons on European territory breaches NPT’s letter and spirit – prohibiting the transfer of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states.

Washington’s claim about them being under US control doesn’t wash. Most important is their potential use, the risk of nuclear war, the top priority for world leaders to avoid at all costs.

 

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Labour Party Backs Jeremy Corbyn against British Air Strikes in the Middle East

NOVANEWS
Global Research

Jeremy Corbyn has a huge mandate from Labour members to oppose British bombing in the Middle East, a new poll showed yesterday.

Results of a Labour List survey of 2,453 supporters found that 63 per cent support the party leader’s opposition to air strikes in Syria.

Just 29 per cent said they wanted the party to support Tory PM David Cameron’s plan to use “hard military force” against Isis in Syria.

Stop the War Coalition chair Lindsey German said it showed most Labour members were “in tune with new leader Jeremy Corbyn.”

She told the Star: “The solution to every problem in the Middle East seems to be bombing, if you listen to the Prime Minister.

But the proposed bombing of Syria will only worsen the problem it is     supposed to solve. It will worsen the refugee crisis and would help to   create more terrorism. Most people understand this better than the politicians.

The poll will give confidence to Mr Corbyn and left activists before a possible vote on Syria air strikes at Labour conference next week.

An emergency motion is set to be debated that demands Labour MPs vote against bombing in Parliament unless it is authorised by the UN.

Not only do Labour members oppose a new intervention, they also want an end to British bombing in Iraq.

A squadron of more than 80 RAF Tornado jets are already bombing Isis targets in Iraq and the strikes are scheduled to continue until at least 2017.

But 56 per cent of Labour supporters polled are opposed to those air strikes,compared with 39 per cent who support the intervention.

Posted in Middle East, UKComments Off on Labour Party Backs Jeremy Corbyn against British Air Strikes in the Middle East

US Exploited Assad’s Fight Against Al-Qaeda

NOVANEWS
Assad président

The US government has been relying on its standard narrative that the Syria crisis emerged spontaneously after an “Arab Spring” inspired protest was violently suppressed by the Syrian government. The entire US intervention was justified on these grounds. Thus the Obama Administration, as it did in Ukraine, has attempted to disavow any role in fomenting the uprising and thus any responsibility for the violence that ensued.

But like much else in US foreign policy the narrative is wholly false, constructed to propagandize the American people in favor of US intervention and shield the US government from any fallout.

In fact the US government had long had its sights on regime change in Syria, starting at least with the Project for a New American Century’s plan peddled to George W. Bush to overthrow five countries in five years and remake the entire Middle East. The neocons always like to think big, but like any slimy salesman they never deliver as promised. Their Iraq “cakewalk” proved a deathwalk.

In 2006, according to a secret State Department cable made public by Wikileaks, US Embassy Damascus drafted an extensive memo outlining nine “vulnerabilities” of the Syrian government with corresponding “possible actions” on how the US can exploit these “vulnerabilities” to destabilize the government of Syria.

The State Department cable was authored by William V. Roebuck, who was at the time the Political Counselor at the US Embassy in Damascus. Roebuck has since been rewarded for his “good work” on destabilizing Syria and now serves as US Ambassador to Bahrain, where one presumes his role is rather the opposite of what it was in Syria.

Roebuck’s bio suggests he has been somewhat of a regime change rock star: He managed the fallout from US regime change operations in Egypt, Libya, and Iraq, with a stint at the US Embassy in Israel as well.

What did Roebuck advise the US to do to Syria in 2006? Exploit the Syrian government’s fight against Islamist extremists in attempt to undermine Assad’s position in the region.

That’s right: use Syria’s fight against al-Qaeda against it.

Perhaps it’s best to let Roebuck speak for himself. The Syrian government’s “vulnerability” is:

Extremist elements increasingly use Syria as a base, while the SARG (ed: Syrian government) has taken some actions against groups stating links to Al-Qaeda. With the killing of the al-Qaida leader on the border with Lebanon in early December and the increasing terrorist attacks inside Syria culminating in the September 12 attack against the US embassy, the SARG,s policies in Iraq and support for terrorists elsewhere as well can be seen to be coming home to roost.

How to exploit that vulnerability? In Roebuck’s own words:

Possible Actions: — Publicize presence of transiting (or externally focused) extremist groups in Syria, not limited to mention of Hamas and PIJ. Publicize Syrian efforts against extremist groups in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback. The SARG,s argument (usually used after terror attacks in Syria) that it too is a victim of terrorism should be used against it to give greater prominence to increasing signs of instability within Syria. (emphasis added).

The US had long planned to overthrow Assad well before 2011 and had obviously spent a great deal of time, effort, and money cooking up plans to exploit whatever “vulnerabilities” he may have had to help make that overthrow happen. Roebuck captures that essence in the summary of his 2006 US Embassy Damascus secret cable:

The bottom line is that Bashar is entering the new year in a stronger position than he has been in several years, but those strengths also carry with them — or sometimes mask ) vulnerabilities. If we are ready to capitalize, they will offer us opportunities to disrupt his decision-making, keep him off-balance, and make him pay a premium for his mistakes.

If we are ready to capitalize…

Yes, they were ready to capitalize. And more than 200,000 people have been killed as the US “capitalized” on vulnerabilities produced by Assad’s fight against terrorists unleashed on his country by the US attack on Iraq. At this point, US foreign policy toward Syria has become too grotesque to even contemplate. In another time there would be a Nuremberg readying the dock for Roebuck and anyone else associated with this mass murder. These days the media just keeps churning out a steady diet of US regime propaganda.

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Russia Returns to the Middle East

NOVANEWS
middle-east-map

These autumn days are the most important in the Middle East calendar. The Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice; the Jews fast at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement; and the Eastern Orthodox Christians rejoice at Nativity of Our Lady Mary. It appears, surprisingly, the best place to be at this time is Moscow, where Putin received in quick succession the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Turkish ruler Recep Erdogan.

They did not come for the lovely Indian summer that blessed Moscow this week, not for the yellow and red leaves covering the maple and birch trees, though this sumptuous new Xanadu is quite fetching this time of the year; its streets refashioned at enormous expense, parks tended by best gardeners; bicycle paths and sidewalks repaved and even its feared traffic jams abated somewhat.

Ostensibly, Abbas and Erdogan came to unveil, together with Putin, the grand new Cathedral Mosque of Moscow, a vast and opulent structure where ten thousand worshippers can pray at once. This city has more Muslims than many a Muslim city has; about two millions of its 14 million dwellers are nominal Muslims.

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Times of IsraelVladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Times of Israel

They unveiled the mosque all right, and used this occasion for a good lengthy talk with Putin. So did Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, who gave a miss to the mosque. And he came with his top brass: the head of staff and the head of military intelligence, after a long-time no-see.

This sudden interest to Moscow is a sign that the Russian entry into the Syrian fray has been playing to a full house. When, some three weeks ago I reported on this decision of Kremlin, my report has been met with great doubt, to say the least. Could it be that Russia, after being licked in the Ukraine, will venture that far from home? They were supposed to sulk in the Kremlin under the heavy load of sanctions, not roam around. Now the facts on the ground had justified my previous report. Russian soldiers and marines, Russian weapons, jets and boats are seen on the shore; they are building a new base and fighting the enemy, giving a new lease of life to the embattled Syrian state.

The rumours of Russian demise and of Syrian collapse has been somewhat premature. Putin’s push for peace in the Ukraine (so condemned by hotheads) allowed him to stabilise Donbass. Half a million refugees poured back into this fertile and developed region, the Russian Ruhr. After calm in Donbass was established, Putin’s hands were free to act elsewhere, and he did.

Resilient Russia came back into the Middle East, and that’s an unexpected fact. Unexpected, as for a few years it seemed that the Russians lost interest in the Middle East. They were busy elsewhere: trying to make friends with Europe, staging the Olympics, and then keeping out of the Ukrainian trouble as much as they could. And then the US troops and tanks were stationed on the Russian border in the Baltic states, a few hours’ drive to St Petersburg. Only in the last moment, when the Syrian collapse seemed a matter of weeks if not days away, the Russians woke up and rode to save their ally Bashar al-Assad.

This move has changed the rules of the game. The US became interested in Russia again, and President Obama asked for a meeting with President Putin during his visit on September 28, 2015 to New York for the UN General Assembly Jubilee 70th Session. Just a few days ago such a meeting was completely out of consideration.

The US plans to dispose of Syria as they find fit were thrown to disarray by the Russian involvement. So were plans of Qatar and the Saudis. A new reality began to be informed, not a moment too early.

Turkey

Putin’s meeting with Recep Erdogan of Turkey came in a crucial moment. Turkey is a net victim of the Syrian crisis, despite being a contributor to its gravity. Erdogan believed the Americans and the Europeans who told him that Bashar Assad will fall in a few weeks. He accepted and invited Syrian refugees to his country, established huge camps for refugees, provided for them. Now Turkey has 2 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees and has spent eight billion dollars caring for them. This burden is a main reason for recent electoral defeat of Erdogan and his party: the refugee operation is just too costly and ruinous for the not-too-robust Turkish society.

The US proposal for Turkey to join the US-led coalition has been hesitantly accepted, but quickly it became clear that this road leads nowhere. The Turkish plans to establish a no-fly zone near the Syrian-Turkish border triggered the Russian involvement, for after its implementation, Bashar Assad and the Syrian state would be beyond saving. After the Russian decision, the Turks lost any way out.

They reacted by letting loose the wave of refugees upon Europe. The Europeans were rather upset, but they have to regret their own actions. They pushed for removal of Bashar Assad, supported anti-Assad fractions, and did not want to pay for the refugee stay in Turkey. The Turks could not keep all two million refugees pent up in their country without considerable support of Europe, and such support was not forthcoming. So the Turks allowed the Europeans to feel the stream of refugees on their own skin.

Probably we can add that the US did not object to the Turkish letting off the steam. The US ruling elites always thought that European countries are too homogeneous, and some dilution by immigrants will make them more similar to the US in their composition.

While in Moscow, President Erdogan called President Putin his “dear brother”, a title usually reserved to the kings of the region and close allies. His officials for the first time ever mouthed the main idea of Putin: any arrangement in Syria should be made with President Bashar Assad. Please remember that even a few days ago, before the Russians stepped in, the Turks were adamantly sticking to the American mantra “Assad must go”.

Now this important mental barrier was taken; Erdogan and Putin renewed their discussion of the South Stream gas pipeline that was frozen for a few months. The negotiations weren’t completed, but it seems that things began moving.

Israelis and Palestinians

For Israel the Russian involvement meant that their old freedom of bombing whomever they feel like is over, or at least has been restricted. It is one thing to bomb practically defenceless Syrians, as Israelis did a dozen times for last year, and quite a different thing to operate jets within lidless eyesight of the S-300 radar and Su-27 interceptors with the Russian aces in the cockpits. That’s why Netanyahu took himself to Moscow on the eve of Yom Kippur.

Netanyahu came to deliver an ultimatum of his own. The Russians, and their allies, Assad, Iran and Hezbollah have to choose whether they intend to save Bashar Assad or to fight Israel. Both missions can’t be accomplished. If they fight Israel, Israel will destroy Assad.

Putin said that they do not intend to fight Israel. Assad is in such a poor shape that he can’t fight Israel. Even saving him alone is hard enough as he controls between 20% and 30% of the national territory, though it is most populated part of Syria, while the rest of the territory is mainly desert.

Netanyahu claimed his freedom to bomb Iranians and Hezbollah wherever it suits him. He is still obsessed with Iran, as Iranians, in his view, re-arm Hezbollah, modernise Hezbollah’s weaponry, and plan to open a second front against Israel on the Golan Heights. While first two claims may be true, the third one is a sheer invention.

Netanyahu is worried that the advanced Russian weapons may find its way to Lebanon, and this will limit Israel’s God-given right to bomb Lebanon. The Russians do not want their advanced weapons to leak out of Syria, either, so there is no great disagreement between them and the Israelis. However, while Israelis say such leakage occurs, the Russians deny that vehemently. Now, and at their previous encounter, the Israeli leader claimed he knows (“trust me!”) that the most advanced Russian weapons found its way to Lebanon, while Putin dismissed the claim as an unproven one.

It seems that Netanyahu still smarts for a fight. The American president refused him his innocent wish to destroy Iran and made the agreement with his archenemy. Even worse, as we learned from his former Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s generals also rebelled against Bibi’s plans to attack Iran. But Netanyahu does not give up. He seeks to destroy Iran or at least Hezbollah, the most potent fighting force in the area.

Israel is much stronger than Hezbollah, and it has no reason to be afraid of Hezbollah’s attack. If Israel does not attack, nobody attacks Israel. But this MAD-like equation is not acceptable for Netanyahu: he seeks immunity and impunity for his strikes. Hezbollah denies him this impunity and can demand a heavy price for a new bombing campaign.

A Hotline

At Netanyahu’s request, the Russians and the Israelis agreed to establish a hotline between their militaries in order to minimise the chance of their hostile encounter. This is a normal practice: such a hotline functioned in 1974 between warring Israel and Egypt during the cease-fire so a local shoot-out will not escalate into an unwanted general conflagration.

This is not cooperation, not joint planning, not an arrangement between the allies. Just a device to prevent unwanted firefights. And it is a good thing. Israel and Russia can’t be allies: they pursue mutually opposing aims and their allies are quite different. Israel befriended Jabhat an Nusra, a Syrian branch of al Qaeda, an extremist Sunni group. Two thousand Nusra fighters received medical treatment in Israel and returned to fight Assad. Israel is moderately hostile to Bashar Assad, bombed the Syrian Army’s positions and attacked their bases with the help of the Nusra. Israel is implacably hostile to Russia’s allies in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, and is quite indifferent to Da’esh (ISIS). That’s why the talk of Russian-Israeli alliance in Syria is just an attempt to mislead you.

However, President Putin is very friendly to Israel and to Jews. His friendship will not cause him to surrender Syria or to break up with Iran, but even the greatest friend of Israel on this planet, the US, is mindful of its own interests. At many occasions Putin promised to save the Jews if things will go utterly wrong for them. It seems he has in mind a mass evacuation of Israeli Jews to Russia as the last resort, like Russia did for the Polish Jews in 1939 thus saving millions of them from the Nazi fury. Needless to say we are very far away from such an apocalyptic scenario.

It seems Putin has some close personal friends among the Russians in Israel, for he often stresses that the 1.5 million strong Russian community in Israel (actually, about 0.5 million at the best) is the bridge and the guarantee of their friendship. He made a generous present of some 5 billion roubles (90 million dollars) per annum to the Russian Jews in Israel for their pension fund. (The US gives much more, but mainly for weapons, and it goes to Israeli generals).

Putin received Netanyahu warmly, as his old-time friend. So was Netanyahu, who indicated that he is tired of Americans. Putin did not take this ball: he did not believe Netanyahu is likely to ditch the US and run away with the Russkies to the hayloft. But both enthused in their friendly vibes. Putin wished Bibi to be inscribed in the Book of Life, showing an unexpected knowledge of Jewish customs.

Putin and Jews

Putin is so friendly with the Jews in Russia that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the Russian Jews never had it that good. He allows the Chabad Hassids to build anew the Jewish community in Russia, as the old one disintegrated after mass emigration to Israel and as a result of assimilation and intermarriage. In Moscow alone, they build thirty synagogues (comparing with just two mosques and some three hundred churches), though there are just a few hundred synagogue-going Jews in the whole of Moscow, at best.

The Chabad imports Jewish families from Israel, from the US and from Europe, and they are frequently seen around town in their distinctive garb. It remains to be seen whether they plan to establish a new Jewish community, or use it for a big-time real estate grab, as some people claim. Practically in every Russian city there is a synagogue and a community centre on the most desirable and expensive plot of land established and run by the Chabad, while traditional Jewish communities were dispossessed by the Chabad and disappeared.

Is Putin so Jews-friendly because he thinks it is a good strategy? Perhaps. Even now he is often described in the Western media as a new Hitler, how much worse it would be if the Jews in Russia or Israel would consider him an enemy. On the other hand, he can be sincere, as he read law in St Petersburg U and had had many Jewish friends. He also worked with the mayor of St Petersburg who had many Jews in his entourage. His choice of Chabad is not so easy to justify, but perhaps they were prepared to build Jewish life while staying away from politics.

Judo Master

His good relations with Netanyahu cause him no harm, either. Netanyahu is still a very powerful man, able to summon a majority in the US Senate, and an ally of Saudi Arabia, the strongman of the Arab world. Putin’s manners are non-confrontational; a Judo master, he does not argue with his opponent, rarely voices his disagreement. Thus he agreed with Netanyahu’s proposal of the hotline, or a joint commission of the military. I doubt this commission will be fruitful. If Bibi will forewarn the Russians of his planned attacks on the Syrian positions, the attacks will be useless; still the commission and the hotline will reduce the danger of unintentional confrontation.

Almost immediately after meeting with Netanyahu, Putin also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This meeting was also very friendly. Abbas told him of the trouble around Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where Jewish religious fanatics play havoc and cause confrontations. He mentioned the seizure of Christian lands near Beit Jalla and other multiple troubles, including new Israeli licence to shoot Palestinian children with live fire of 0.22 calibre. Abbas encouraged Putin to save Syria from disintegration, and heard Putin’s explanation of Russian plans. It appears that Mahmoud Abbas will not retire and return the keys of the PNA at the UN General Assembly in a few days, as some observers expected, though this is not final yet.

This double meeting raised the Russian diplomacy to a new level. Until now, only American presidents were able to meet both Israeli and Palestinians in a friendly way and extend their patronage. Now Russia graduated to this supreme position, and that is certainly a great achievement of Putin, already justifying his decision to engage in Syria.

In the follow up, we shall deal with Russian-American discussion of Syrian crisis and see what they say to each other.

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“Train and Equip”… The Terrorists: Pentagon Confirms US-Trained Syria Rebels Gave Weapons to Al-Nusra

NOVANEWS
Pentagon

After repeated denials, CENTCOM says it learned that US-trained rebels did in fact give weapons to al-Nusra in exchange for safe passage 

The Pentagon on Friday said a group of US-trained Syrian rebels had handed over ammunition and equipment to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country, al-Nusra Front, purportedly in exchange for safe passage.

The startling acknowledgement contrasted with earlier Pentagon denials of reports that some fighters had either defected or handed over gear.

“Unfortunately, we learned late today that the NSF (New Syrian Forces) unit now says it did in fact provide six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected al-Nusra Front (group),” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.

Fighters from al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front drive in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as they head to a frontline, on 26 May 2015 (AFP)

Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for Central Command (CENTCOM), which is overseeing efforts against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria, said the fighters had handed over the gear in exchange for safe passage in the al-Nusra operating area.

“If accurate, the report of NSF members providing equipment to al-Nusra Front is very concerning and a violation of Syria train-and-equip programme guidelines,” Ryder said.

Ryder added that the pickup vehicles and ammunition represented about 25 percent of the equipment issued to the group by the US-led coalition.

“We are using all means at our disposal to look into what exactly happened and determine the appropriate response,” Ryder said.

A defence official told AFP that according to the rebels, there had not been any defections, but he stressed: “We only know what they have told us.”

CENTCOM says it learned around 1pm on Friday that the weapons and supplies had been handed over to al-Nusra. Ryder had reiterated earlier in the day that no supplies had been handed over, despite reports, according to Reuters.

The initial denial had come on Wednesday, when CENTCOM issued a statement, saying: “All Coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of NSF [New Syrian Forces] fighters.”

A new setback

The development is another embarrassing setback for the US effort to “train and equip” moderate Syrian rebels to fight IS in Syria.

The $500mn programme originally aimed to ready around 5,400 vetted fighters a year for three years, but problems finding suitable candidates have seen only a fraction getting trained.

The first graduates, who made up a group of 54 fighters, were attacked by al-Nusra in July and the Pentagon isn’t sure what happened to them all. At least one was killed.

The second group, consisting of about 70 rebels, were sent back to Syria last weekend and reports began circulating on Twitter soon after that they had either defected or handed over equipment.

Last week, before the insertion of the new fighters, the US general overseeing efforts against IS drew disbelief from senior lawmakers when he told them only “four or five” US-trained rebels were on the ground fighting in Syria.

And on Monday, reports surfaced that a group of US-trained rebels had been arrested by another group of Syrian rebels, the Shamiya Front (also known as the Levant Front), a mostly Islamist coalition backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

“They were investigated and then released,” Shamiya Captain Mohammad Ahmad said in a statement. “The Shamiya Front has no problem fighting alongside any group that wants to fight IS. But 30th Division [the US-trained group that was arrested] aren’t fighting IS. Their war is just in the media.”

Unwilling to commit US ground troops in the region, the Obama administration in January launched the train-and-equip mission for Syrian opposition fighters as part of a broader push to work with locals there and in Iraq.

The programme has faltered, with many would-be fighters failing the strict screening process. The troops are being trained as part of the US-led fight against IS in the region.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on “Train and Equip”… The Terrorists: Pentagon Confirms US-Trained Syria Rebels Gave Weapons to Al-Nusra

Syrian Government Forces Start Crushing ISIS, Military and Intelligence Assistance from Russia

NOVANEWS
Russian-Airborne-Troops

The army of Bashar al-Assad has reportedly started crushing Islamic State militants that had previously seized the cities of Palmyra and Homs. Western experts and journalists believe that the Syrian troops receive substantial military assistance from Russian military men at the base in Latakia.

In addition, Russia has deployed modern weapons, including air defense, missile systems and aviation, having turned the area of the Russian base into a strong fortress. To crown it all, Russia still ships weapons to the government of Bashar Assad under previously concluded contracts.

Russia’s TV channel “Zvezda” (“Star”) reports that the Syrian army forced ISIS militants to retreat from Palmyra, although they hide in residential areas and use ancient monuments as a cover.

Russian Army starts destroying Islamic State in Syria. Russian troops in SyriaSource: Pravda.Ru photo archive

“The militants, who had been keeping the city under control and destroying priceless ancient monuments for months, are being killed in the air raids of the Syrian Air Force. During the most recent attack, 40 terrorists were destroyed in the province of Homs,” Zvezda reporters say. It was also said that many militants of the Islamic State lay down their arms and surrender.

“On September 20, in the village of Kanaker (province of Damascus) more than 500 fighters of the Islamic State and so-called moderate opposition laid down their arms,” Syrian agency SANA reports, adding that there is a video of ISIS militants yelling to government troops. The militants were said to be mercenaries from Iran, Turkey and Sudan. They received weapons from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. There are also many US-made weapons and heavy equipment,  reporters say.

The US does nothing to destroy ISIS in Syria. Why?

Representatives of the central command of US armed forces said that there were 70 fighters sent to Syria to fight against Assad and the Islamic State together with selected opposition groups. Previously, it was reported that the United States was providing military assistance to the Syrian opposition and ISIS militants to overthrow the Assad regime, similarly to how the US was supporting al-Qaeda during Soviet times to suppress Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Many experts and journalists say that ISIS is a “product of the USA. Many recall the notorious reply that President Obama gave to the question of “Who are we bombing in the Middle East?” “That’s not quite right, but that’s OK,” Obama said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also wonders why the USA does not destroy ISIS, even though the US knows everything about the whereabouts of ISIS bases.

The Russian military have deployed a layered defense system and continue fulfilling contracts for the delivery  of modern weapons to Syria. That’s all I can say officially. I have no right to either deny and confirm whether the Russian aviation is involved in the military actions,” a high-ranking source in the General Staff of the Russian Federation told Politonline.ru. He added that Russian troops have already repulsed terrorists’ attacks before, quite successfully.

Russia has already deployed multi-purpose Su-30CM fighter aircraft, Pantsir-S1 mobile missile complexes, Mi-24 attack helicopters, multi-purpose Mi-17 helicopters, as well as Sukhoi Su-24M bombers to Syria.

Over the past few weeks, a large number of military advisers have arrived in Syria. Syria has received six MiG-31 jets – these are the best interceptor aircraft in the world. For the first time, the Russian army has provided satellite intelligence data to Syria.

Previously, Jihadists managed to avoid attacks from government forces because NATO was providing them with satellite information on time. Now, it appears that NATO no longer shares the intelligence data with the Islamic State, although the alliance still continues providing this information to Frente al Nosra, Russian publications said.

Russia and Iran have achieved agreements on joint activities in Syria. Should Iran officially start a  military operation in Syria for the destruction of the Islamic State, many predict complete destruction of the terrorists and mass destruction of Syrian opposition fighters.

Israel has already held high-level talks with Russia to exclude possible collisions between Russian and Israeli troops. To crown it all, US officials declared readiness for immediate negotiations with Russia on Syria, although they previously excluded such a possibility.

Politonline.ru

Read article in Russian on politonline.ru

VIDEO (ENGLISH)



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Despotic Saudi Arabia Chosen to Head UN Human Rights Panel

NOVANEWS
Global Research
The United Nations Security Council:  An Organization for Injustice

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most ruthless regimes, a crime family dictatorship masquerading as legitimate governance. It’s notorious for public beheadings, whippings, torture, wars of aggression and other lawless actions.

Despotic rule is absolute, no opposition tolerated, no civil or human rights afforded ordinary Saudis – no freedom of expression, assembly, association, internal movement, foreign travel, or religion.

No right to choose their government or have easy access to education, healthcare, public housing, legal services or social ones. Political parties are forbidden. So are collective bargaining rights. Internet and academic freedom are prohibited.

Arbitrary arrest and detention are commonplace. So are state-sponsored kidnappings and disappearances – due process and judicial fairness denied. Torture and other abuses substitute.

Since March, US orchestrated Saudi terror bombing and blockade continue mass slaughtering Yemenis, mostly civilians, committing willful genocide, millions of people at risk.

None of this matters. It’s swept under the rug, ignored. In June, Riyadh’s UN ambassador in Geneva, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, was quietly chosen head of a five-member UN Human Rights Council panel charged with reporting on abuses worldwide – mocking the legitimacy of the initiative.

In 2013, Saudi Arabia disgracefully became a UN Human Rights Council member. Its bid to head HRC failed. Perhaps choosing Trad to chair the five-member panel was a consolation prize – maybe arranged by Washington.

Its other members include Algeria, Chile, Greece and Lithuania – all human rights abusers.

With rare exceptions, the Human Rights Council serves US and other Western interests. Michel Chossudovsky calls it “a mouthpiece for NATO’s ‘Humanitarian Interventions’ under the doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect (R2P).”

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (2008 – 2014) was a reliable imperial tool, one-sidedly supporting US-led Western interests.

Her successor, Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein represents business as usual, continuing the same policies as Pillay, paying lip service to human rights, ignoring horrendous abuses committed by Western and allied countries – including naked aggression against nations threatening no others.

Appointing human rights violating countries like Saudi Arabia to head a panel judging the records of other nations mocks the legitimacy of the initiative.

Posted in Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Despotic Saudi Arabia Chosen to Head UN Human Rights Panel

What Will Obama and Putin Talk about?

NOVANEWS

In this final week before Vladimir Putin addresses the UN General Assembly, there has been a flurry of contact between Washington and Moscow. And by that I don’t just mean the Sept. 18 telephone call between the defense ministers of Russia and the US. Russia’s beefed up military presence in Syria has clearly sparked a whole series of informal consultations, the culmination of which should be a meeting between the leaders of Russia and the United States on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The key topics during their talks will undoubtedly be the refugee crisis and the fight against the Islamic State, the latter having about as much to do with Islam as ‘Russian dressing’ has to do with Russia.

The “war” refugees

There is no question that it is the US and her NATO allies who must provide the refugees from Syria and other destabilized regions with political and economic refuge within the borders of those Western nations – even if their numbers grow to tens of millions. That means providing them with what they need to survive, including a roof over their heads, appropriate health care, and any other assistance they may need.

But meanwhile there is also the issue of the approximately one million people who are fleeing the wars and armed conflicts that have erupted as a result of various “color revolutions” that have been staged and sponsored by Washington and many other Western capitals. As soon as this group of countries stops supporting and expediting terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, the wave of “war” refugees converging on Europe will immediately subside.

The United States and her NATO allies should spend less money on large-scale military training, introducing surplus nuclear and conventional weapons throughout Europe and other regions of the world, and deploying a global missile-defense system, as well as supporting Kiev’s undeclared but ongoing war – which includes the use of heavy weapons – against its own citizens in the Donbass. The large sums of money that could be saved by following this advice could be used to provide shelter for refugees from the Middle East and North Africa within the borders of those states that are both EU and NATO members.

The US has announced her readiness to raise her own refugee quota to 100,000 in 2017, which seems unachievable. Throughout the many years of the Syrian conflict, the United States has only taken in about 1,500-2,000 refugees, which is approximately how many arrive each day on the Greek island of Lesbos. In 2014, 105 of these “lucky ones” made it to the US. Washington also takes far too long to make a decision about whether to grant or deny refugee petitions for asylum – from 18 to 24 months. But one must keep in mind that nearly 12 million people have already fled Syria, and this torrent continues unabated. Importantly, the US budgetary spendings for asylum seekers are constantly decreasing (e.g. down to $2,45 billion in fiscal year 2015 from $3,05 billion in 2014) and there is no indication the federal government would ever comply with its commitment to receive extra refugees from the Middle East.

Refugees from Yemen delivered by a Russian emergency flight to Moscow, July 2015Refugees from Yemen delivered by a Russian emergency flight to Moscow, July 2015

Russia was the first country to organize a large-scale evacuation – without considering the nationality of the displaced – from war-torn Syria and Yemen, at times even putting the lives of Russian flight crews at risk. According to immigration officials in Moscow, approximately 12,000 Syrian refugees have found a haven in Russia. In addition, Russia has taken in over a million Ukrainian citizens who have fled the genocide and civil war that have been unleashed by the new regime in Kiev. Furthermore, Russia has not asked anyone to provide outside assistance with these tasks and is dealing with that problem on her own.

The “coalition” vs. ISIS?

There are many reasons to question whether the US would prove a reliable partner in a viable, effective, anti-terror coalition.

The fact is that Washington itself created this terrorist pseudo-caliphate, actively arming andgenerously funding it and sending its “fighters” to do battle against the elected Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. In addition, the White House has openly advocated for the armed overthrow of the current Syrian regime, and has never renounced that goal. It would be interesting to know how the current US administration intends to both utilize jihadists to depose the Syrian president while also battling against them.

Washington’s “contribution” to this matter has been laughable: at first, the Pentagon planned to train 75 fighters to battle IS, and then reduced its proposal to 60, eventually managing to instruct no more than five, which was recently acknowledged at a US Congressional hearing. On Sept. 16, General Lloyd Austin admitted to the Senate that a special military program with a budget of $500 million to train more than 5,000 Syrian fighters has ended up with only “four or five” combatants who are actively battling IS. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, called the program “an abject failure” and also pinned the blame on the Pentagon for the refugee crisis that has erupted in Europe.

The frenzy of activity on the part of Washington and the members of NATO, criticizing Russia for fulfilling her military and technical contracts with Syria, has also attracted notice.

Furthermore, one must take into account Russia’s previous negative experiences with the US and Great Britain on the anti-terror front. Russia has discovered that her Western counterparts in the quest to fight terrorism have not been nearly as willing as she is to fully share “sensitive” information, often providing Moscow with only outdated information about terrorist activity and under various pretexts reducing the number of meetings between counter-terrorism experts, even (as was the case with Great Britain) completely severing those contacts.

One gets the impression that the primary, secret purpose of Washington’s interest in talking to Moscow about ways to resolve the Syrian conflict is actually to block any expansion of the military-technical cooperation between Russia and Syria, thus depriving Russia of some of her best leverage in her efforts to defeat ISIS.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on What Will Obama and Putin Talk about?

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