MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.
No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.
I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.
If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel
• Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis • Only official US government communications protected • Agency insists it complies with rules governing privacy
Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill The Guardian, Wednesday 11 September 2013 10.40 EDT
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process "minimization", but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.
The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.
The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies "pertaining to the protection of US persons", repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.
But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive "raw Sigint" – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: "Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content."
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. "NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection", it says.
Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.
"This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law," the document says.
In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.
"Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA's surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights," the spokesperson said.
The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.
The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain "any files containing the identities of US persons" for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA's special liaison adviser when such data is found.
Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to "destroy upon recognition" any communication "that is either to or from an official of the US government". Such communications included those of "officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)".
It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on "the agency's attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip".
The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans' emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target. US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.
Moreover, with much of the world's internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency's surveillance programs.
The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will "regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons' identities". It also requests that the Israelis limit access only to personnel with a "strict need to know".
Israeli intelligence is allowed "to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA" on condition that it does so "in a manner that does not identify the US person". The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to "outside parties, including all INSU customers" with the NSA's written permission.
Although Israel is one of America's closest allies, it is not one of the inner core of countries involved in surveillance sharing with the US - Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This group is collectively known as Five Eyes.
The relationship between the US and Israel has been strained at times, both diplomatically and in terms of intelligence. In the top-secret 2013 intelligence community budget request, details of which were disclosed by the Washington Post, Israel is identified alongside Iran and China as a target for US cyberattacks.
While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigint sharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.
"Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge," states the report, titled 'History of the US – Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992'. "In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA's only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner."
In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US. "On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems," the official says. "A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US."
Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: "One of NSA's biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended."
The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with Israel. At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for Israeli personnel to protect US person information.
It is not clear whether or not this was because there had been problems up to that point in the handling of intelligence that was found to contain Americans' data.
However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: "Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [Israel] operations."
The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.
In its statement, the NSA said: "We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.
"NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ATTENTION: News/Science/Education/Section Reporters
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre reveals starring role in UFO hoax
Vancouver, BC, Sept. 10, 2013
– Is it a bird, a plane or proof that life exists on other planets? Recent close encounters reported by local UFO bloggers are actually the result of an elaborate hoax masterminded by the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
The image of a drone in the shape of the Space Centre was captured by web cams, camera phones and video in and around Vancouver locations such as Deep Cove, Jericho Beach, Burrard and Cornwall, and Nat Bailey Stadium, including during last night’s Vancouver Canadians game. The goal of the faux UFO was to create a buzz about the new planetarium viewer experience at Vanier Park. The Planetarium Theatre at the Space Centre underwent a half million dollar upgrade this summer.
The Space Centre worked with Vancouver ad agency MacLaren McCann in developing this “extreme teaser campaign” which consisted of strategically releasing web cam photos of the drone sightings through social media to UFO bloggers and Twitter and Facebook. A YouTube video of the Nat Bailey UFO captured more than 200,000 hits alone. http://youtu.be/irItgeBZ7ds. Rumour has it that the UFO presence led to the Canadians’ wins last night and week.
The campaign is complemented by the release of a charming new PSA, showing that same Space Centre-shaped UFO flying in and replacing the old with the new building. A slogan follows: “New and improved. H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Planetarium Theatre.” To view the PSA, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDRj2zGzvic&feature=youtu.be.
“We want to show Vancouver, BC and the world that you can truly have a rare experience by exploring the exciting new shows and state of the art projection system. The buzz we are creating seems to be working as attendance is up 65 per cent compared to this time last year,” said Rob Appleton, Space Centre executive director.
The attendance boost mirrors that of the Manitoba Museum whose planetarium also went digital a year ago and saw a 50 per cent increase in visitor volumes. Similar to its prairie counterpart, the Space Centre is destined to embrace unconventional uses of its revamped system. First on the docket is a new program debuting in November called Through the Lens: Building Vancouver’s History. The indoor digital walking tour will give the audience a chance to experience Vancouver streetscapes as they have evolved over the past century.
There are also plans to make the projection space available to corporations, foundations and other organizations for unique presentation purposes, including potentially for medical schools wanting to demonstrate surgeries with an immersive and close-up perspective.
“Thanks to these recent changes and innovations, the Space Centre has gone from being a kind of beloved and well-respected Vancouver time capsule to a timeless expression of this new technological age. The possibilities are endless. If you can digitize it, we can show it,” added Appleton.
The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is a non-profit community resource that brings the wonders of space to Earth, while providing a personal sense of ongoing discovery. Through innovative programming, exhibits and activities, our goal is to inspire sustained interest in the fields of Earth science, space science and astronomy from a Canadian perspective.
Media Contacts: Michele Penz, Calico Communications for H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Telephone: (778) 888-2249 E-mail: email@example.com
VIENNA (AP) — Vienna's a fabled city for spying — and now its cloak-and-dagger legend has a 21st-century twist.
A stately villa in a leafy district of the Austrian capital is at the center of a ruckus over whether the NSA is snooping on the city's residents, with allegations flying that the building serves as a sophisticated a U.S. intelligence listening post.
Both the U.S. and Austrian governments deny reports claiming to expose a major surveillance operation by the National Security Agency from within the towers of the sprawling manor. The U.S. Embassy says the building is an "Open Source Center" evaluating information freely available in newspapers and on the Internet. Such centers are run by the CIA.
Many are skeptical in a country shocked by revelations by NSA leaker Edward Snowden that the organization has been able to spy on the online activities of millions around the world. The Viennese are also mindful of the city's Cold War reputation as the spying capital of the world — an outpost for eavesdropping by both sides of the divide.
With passions high over the NSA, Austrians question the need for any kind of U.S. intelligence gathering in their capital, including open source centers.
"Whatever it is, it's confirmation of intelligence agency activity in Vienna," said activist Rudolf Fussi, whose recently organized demonstration in front of the building drew over 200 people.
He said the government is guilty of cooperating with a foreign intelligence service, a crime punishable by a prison term, by allowing such activities and protecting the building with police.
Austria's Kurier newspaper reported this week that the U.S. government had decided to end operations at the site within a year or two — and suggested that was because its cover was blown. CIA spokesman Edward Price refused comment in an email to The Associated Press Thursday.
Meanwhile, the allegations have turned into an Austrian affair of state.
Green party member Peter Pilz says Austria's National Security Council will convene in the next few weeks to discuss what went on inside the building after opposition parties and even some government coalition members called for such a meeting.
The affair is also straining the government coalition, comprised of center-right and center-left forces. The conservative-run Interior Ministry denies cooperation with the NSA and suggests that — if there is any such collaboration — it must come from the Defense Ministry, run by the rival party.
Defense Minister Gerhard Klug has yet to comment on the allegations. But Pilz, who sits on Parliament's security and intelligence committee, asserts that intelligence services run by both ministries work with and protect the NSA.
The villa is "clearly a U.S. intelligence center and according to our information NSA," he says, citing unnamed Austrian government officials as his source.
You are one of many researchers hoping to uncover enough evidence of the UFO phenomenon that the world must at long last believe.
I am, I am. But what can I do?
In the board game UFO Hunter, each player travels across the globe looking for tangible, extra-terrestrial evidence. In order to beat the competition to this acclaim, players must carefully choose the best time to travel, buy just the right equipment, conduct the proper research, and publish rumors of new sightings. Rumors may turn out to be nothing, or even a trap set by governments or private individuals. Even exposing hoaxes can be beneficial to leading you to the truth and ultimately to victory.
Researchers and publishers may choose to back their own discoveries by placing a “stake” or amount of money on their rumor. In this way they may share in the evidence that may be discovered by another player. Or it may be possible that they are leading other players into danger.
Players keep a stable of contacts in case they run into problems.
Benefactors can help them get back to business if they become stranded.
Aviators help them travel farther.
Inventors help them build more and better detection equipment.
UFO Hunter is a game for 3 to 6 adventurers, ages 12 and up, designed by Mark Hanny, designer of Joe Magic Games since 1990.
UFO Hunter will not be available in retail stores. Only Kickstarter supporters will own it.
DARPA’s Plan to Flood the Sea With Drones, Carrying More Drones
By Allen McDuffee 09.13.13 6:30 AM
DARPA, the Pentagon’s research agency, has recently revealed its plans to boost the Navy’s response to threats in international waters by developing submerged unmanned platforms that can be deployed at a moment’s notice.
Hydra, named after the serpent-like creature with many heads in Greek mythology, would create an undersea network of unmanned payloads and platforms to increase the capability and speed the response to threats like piracy, the rising number of ungoverned states, and sophisticated defenses at a time when the Pentagon is forced to make budget cuts. According to DARPA, the Hydra system ”represents a cost effective way to add undersea capacity that can be tailored to support each mission” that would still allow the Navy to conduct special operations and contingency missions. In other words, the decreasing number of naval vessels can only be in one place at a time.
“The climate of budget austerity runs up against an uncertain security environment that includes natural disasters, piracy, ungoverned states, and the proliferation of sophisticated defense technologies,” said Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager, in a statement. “An unmanned technology infrastructure staged below the oceans’ surface could relieve some of that resource strain and expand military capabilities in this increasingly challenging space.”
The Hydra system is intended to be delivered in international waters by ships, submarines or aircraft with the integrative capability of communicating with manned and unmanned platforms for air, surface, and water operations.
Unlike the Upward Falling Payloads (UFPs) program DARPA announced in January that would submerge massive waterproof containers intended to store weapons, drones and supplies for years at a time, Hydra is a highly mobile platform that can be deployed for a few weeks or months in relatively shallow international waters.
“By separating capabilities from the platforms that deliver them, Hydra would enable naval forces to deliver those capabilities much faster and more cost-effectively wherever needed,” said Littlefield. “It is envisioned to work across air, underwater, and surface operations, enabling all three to perform their missions better.”
Proposals are due October 22, but it may well 2018 before Hydra lands in the ocean.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. September 13, 2013 (AP) By RODRIQUE NGOWI Associated Press
An experiment that proved people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive and another that showed lost dung beetles can use the Milky Way to find their way home were among the winners at this year's Ig Nobel awards ceremony held Thursday.
This is the 23rd year for the award, sponsored by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research and given out to honor weird and humorous scientific discoveries. The winners come from all over the world.
Actual Nobel laureates announced the winners during a ceremony at Harvard University.
Editor Marc Abrahams, who organized the ceremony, said the point is to make people laugh and then think.
"The combination of science that is funny on its own — not because someone is making a joke, but it is funny — that's an unusual notion in the United States," he said. "It is becoming more acceptable again."
For the first time, the winners received cash prizes — $10 trillion, but in Zimbabwe dollars. So they'll each get about four U.S. dollars.
The awards ceremonies are usually silly, and this year's was no different. It included a mini-opera and a contest to win a date with a Nobel laureate.
The winners will give short speeches Saturday at MIT.
The psychology prize went to the experiment that found people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive, done by Laurent Bčgue, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra and Medhi Ourabah of France and Brad Bushman, a professor at Ohio State University who also teaches in the Netherlands.
The dung beetle navigation experiment won the joint prize in biology and astronomy, given to Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz and Eric Warrant, who work in Sweden, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Other winners included Brian Crandall of the U.S. and Peter Stahl of Canada and the U.S., who parboiled a dead shrew, then swallowed it without chewing so they could examine their excrement to see which bones would dissolve in the human digestive system and which would not.
Apple’s Fingerprint ID May Mean You Can’t ‘Take the Fifth’
By Marcia Hofmann 09.12.13 9:29 AM
There’s a lot of talk around biometric authentication since Apple introduced its newest iPhone, which will let users unlock their device with a fingerprint. Given Apple’s industry-leading position, it’s probably not a far stretch to expect this kind of authentication to take off. Some even argue that Apple’s move is a death knell for authenticators based on what a user knows (like passwords and PIN numbers).
While there’s a great deal of discussion around the pros and cons of fingerprint authentication — from the hackability of the technique to the reliability of readers — no one’s focusing on the legal effects of moving from PINs to fingerprints.
Because the constitutional protection of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” may not apply when it comes to biometric-based fingerprints (things that reflect who we are) as opposed to memory-based passwords and PINs (things we need to know and remember).
The privilege against self-incrimination is an important check on the government’s ability to collect evidence directly from a witness. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the Fifth Amendment broadly applies not only during a criminal prosecution, but also to any other proceeding “civil or criminal, formal or informal,” where answers might tend to incriminate us. It’s a constitutional guarantee deeply rooted in English law dating back to the 1600s, when it was used to protect people from being tortured by inquisitors to force them to divulge information that could be used against them.
For the privilege to apply, however, the government must try to compel a person to make a “testimonial” statement that would tend to incriminate him or her. When a person has a valid privilege against self-incrimination, nobody — not even a judge — can force the witness to give that information to the government.
But a communication is “testimonial” only when it reveals the contents of your mind. We can’t invoke the privilege against self-incrimination to prevent the government from collecting biometrics like fingerprints, DNA samples, or voice exemplars. Why? Because the courts have decided that this evidence doesn’t reveal anything you know. It’s not testimonial.
Take this hypothetical example coined by the Supreme Court: If the police demand that you give them the key to a lockbox that happens to contain incriminating evidence, turning over the key wouldn’t be testimonial if it’s just a physical act that doesn’t reveal anything you know.
However, if the police try to force you to divulge the combination to a wall safe, your response would reveal the contents of your mind — and so would implicate the Fifth Amendment. (If you’ve written down the combination on a piece of paper and the police demand that you give it to them, that may be a different story.)
The important feature about PINs and passwords is that they’re generally something we know (unless we forget them, of course). These memory-based authenticators are the type of fact that benefit from strong Fifth Amendment protection should the government try to make us turn them over against our will. Indeed, last year a federal appeals court held that a man could not be forced by the government to decrypt data.
But if we move toward authentication systems based solely on physical tokens or biometrics — things we have or things we are, rather than things we remember — the government could demand that we produce them without implicating anything we know. Which would make it less likely that a valid privilege against self-incrimination would apply.
Biometric authentication may make it easier for normal, everyday users to protect the data on their phones. But as wonderful as technological innovation is, it sometimes creates unintended consequences — including legal ones. If Apple’s move leads us to abandon knowledge-based authentication altogether, we risk inadvertently undermining the legal rights we currently enjoy under the Fifth Amendment.
Here’s an easy fix: give users the option to unlock their phones with a fingerprint plus something the user knows.
'Follow the Money': NSA Spies on International Payments
September 15, 2013 – 10:16 AM
The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL.
The information from the American foreign intelligence agency, acquired by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called "Follow the Money" (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA's own financial databank, called "Tracfin," which in 2011 contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions.
Further NSA documents from 2010 show that the NSA also targets the transactions of customers of large credit card companies like VISA for surveillance. NSA analysts at an internal conference that year described in detail how they had apparently successfully searched through the US company's complex transaction network for tapping possibilities.
Their aim was to gain access to transactions by VISA customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to one presentation. The goal was to "collect, parse and ingest transactional data for priority credit card associations, focusing on priority geographic regions." In response to a SPIEGEL inquiry, however, a VISA spokeswoman ruled out the possibility that data could be taken from company-run networks.
The NSA's Tracfin data bank also contained data from the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a network used by thousands of banks to send transaction information securely. SWIFT was named as a "target," according to the documents, which also show that the NSA spied on the organization on several levels, involving, among others, the agency's "tailored access operations" division. One of the ways the agency accessed the data included reading "SWIFT printer traffic from numerous banks," the documents show.
But even intelligence agency employees are somewhat concerned about spying on the world finance system, according to one document from the UK's intelligence agency GCHQ concerning the legal perspectives on "financial data" and the agency's own cooperations with the NSA in this area. The collection, storage and sharing of politically sensitive data is a deep invasion of privacy, and involved "bulk data" full of "rich personal information," much of which "is not about our targets," the document says.
Originally published Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 3:50 PM
An embryo’s journey: frozen for 19 years, now adopted baby boy
In 1985, there were 285 frozen embryos in the nation. Now, 400,000 to 600,000 human embryos live as souls on ice, carefully held in liquid-nitrogen tanks.
By Lisa M. Krieger San Jose Mercury News
Baby Liam Burke is just learning to crawl. But he was conceived when Bill Clinton was president, the World Trade Center stood tall and home computers had the newfound ability to dial into something called the World Wide Web.
Suspended 19 years in deep freeze, Liam is the beloved new son of Kelly Burke — and one of the oldest embryos ever thawed and restored to life.
“He is the most awesome baby there is,” said Burke, 45. “He is a happy, healthy baby, a little bundle of joy, smart and interactive.”
What’s more intriguing, Liam is adopted. An Oregon couple who had twins two decades ago through the Reproductive Science Center in San Ramon, Calif., kept his embryo frozen for years, keeping open the option of expanding their family. Ultimately, they decided to donate the embryo to Burke for her pregnancy, an example of technology’s extension of life.
Like Liam, about 10,000 embryos a year are thawed and join families, thanks to advances in the field of cryopreservation. Others linger, sometimes for a decade or more, raising medical and ethical dilemmas.
Fertility specialists help infertile couples create embryos using in-vitro fertilization, which joins eggs and sperm in a petri dish. Doctors typically create as many as possible to maximize the chances for a successful result, but if the first attempt results in a baby, other embryos are left over.
In 1985, there were 285 frozen embryos in the nation. Now, 400,000 to 600,000 human embryos live as souls on ice, carefully held in liquid-nitrogen tanks.
Of these, about half will eventually be implanted into their mothers, according to ReproTech, a company that specializes in long-term storage of embryos for $400 a year in facilities in Nevada, Minnesota, Texas and Florida.
Most of the rest are discarded or donated to research.
A lucky few — 1.5 percent — are, like Liam, given to women like Burke.
The research scientist at NASA in Hampton, Va., has five university degrees: two bachelor’s, two master’s and a doctorate. Education deferred her dream of motherhood and then her attempts at in-vitro fertilization ended in two heartbreaking miscarriages.
But she’s a big believer in the power of science to solve problems, and she held out hope.
“Technology is my world,” she said.
“A chance at life”
Locating Liam proved much harder. Doctors say that for emotional reasons, few couples are willing to surrender their embryos.
Burke was pursuing adoption when her attorney discovered the Oregon couple — with college-age twins — had decided not to use their saved embryos. The couple are not named to protect their confidentiality.
“They decided they wanted to give those embryos a chance at life,” Burke said.
She began an application process, assembling a portfolio — describing herself and her struggle to create a family — that she hoped would make her stand out among the many applicants. Then, for four months, by email and phone, she answered questions about politics, spirituality and her views on education. She and the couple agreed to an open adoption, which means Liam will get to know the couple who gave him life and his siblings.
Last year, Burke flew from Virginia to San Ramon for the procedure.
It ended in joy: Liam, born last November in a natural birth, weighed a robust 8 pounds, 5 ounces.
“I was so grateful,” she said. “One of the reasons I’ve gone public is to give people hope. I hope to help people consider the option of donation.”
Freezing embryos has gained popularity because of its many advantages, said Seattle Reproductive Medicine lab director David Ball, a spokesman for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
Rather than subjecting women to surgery each time they need to get an egg, doctors now retrieve a dozen or more eggs at once. They can be implanted in the womb one or two at a time — or saved indefinitely. The San Ramon center has one embryo it estimates is 27 years old.
What transformed the practice is a flash-freezing innovation, vitrification, which cools the embryos so quickly that their water molecules don’t have time to form ice crystals, which could slice delicate cells like a knife, said Burke’s physician, Dr. Deborah Wachs, a reproductive endocrinologist.
Scientists also have discovered the optimal age for freezing: five days after fertilization, when the embryo has grown to 150 to 200 cells.
The embryos are transferred into thin straws that are suspended in liquid-nitrogen freezers and preserved at minus-196 degrees Fahrenheit, Wachs said. At this temperature, growth freezes to a halt.
“It’s not generating, it’s not degrading, it is suspended in time,” Wachs said. When thawed, “it becomes big and plump.”
Scientists can also cull the weak from the strong, selecting those embryos whose cells are most tightly packed, boosting the odds that it will survive the nine months to birth.
Extensive paperwork is completed before the fertilization, to answer tough questions: If a couple divorces, should the embryos be divided up, like silverware? What if the parents die, move away or declare bankruptcy?
Embryo abandonment is a problem every clinic faces. As long as the freezer bill is paid, the embryo is safe — for years, decades, maybe generations.
That growing longevity on ice raises an ethical issue. “Imagine in a thousand years someone doing IVF with a long-frozen embryo just to see what a 21st-century — or, in this case, 20th-century — human being was like,” said Hank Greely, director of Stanford University’s Center for Law and the Biosciences.
“Just keeping them frozen — kicking the can down the road a little farther — seems wrong to me. Use them, destroy them, donate them for research, or donate them for adoption. But make a decision. If you keep putting it off by keeping the embryos in liquid nitrogen limbo, who knows how they may eventually be used?”
Someday, Liam will be told about his fortunate journey, “when he’s old enough to understand,” Burke said.
He’ll meet his siblings, 19 years his senior. And perhaps one day he’ll meet a younger sibling or two. Two of the couple’s leftover embryos remain frozen in San Ramon, preserved for an unknown future.
WASHINGTON – Debate is back on in Washington on “Net neutrality” regulations that bar Internet broadband providers from blocking or discriminating against services or content.
Arguments were held earlier this month in a court case brought by Verizon, one of the largest Internet service providers, challenging the “Open Internet” rule approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.
The seemingly arcane rule, or changes to it, could have an important impact. Some say it may determine whether fixed broadband providers can control what services flow through their networks.
“These rules provide an important safeguard both for innovation and investment on the Internet,” said David Sohn, an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology, which backs the FCC rules.
If Verizon had its way, Sohn said, it and providers such as Comcast or AT&T could “play favorites” by blocking or degrading services such as YouTube or Netflix to promote their own offerings or that of their partners. “Every user, every day, benefits from this rule for the services they use, whether it’s YouTube or Twitter or something else,” Sohn said.
However, Verizon and its allies argue that the FCC lacks authority to interfere with their business, and that Congress never decided these companies were regulated utilities or “common carriers.”
“It is not up to the FCC to decide these issues on its own,” said Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker, arguing the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. “It has no implied authority, no express authority . . . and it’s highly unlikely that Congress would have delegated authority in such a convoluted way.”
The FCC, in a 3-2 majority decision December 2010, said it imposed the rules to ensure that the Internet “has no gatekeepers limiting innovation and communication through the network.”
But participants at the appeals court hearing said two of the three judges appeared inclined to overturn the FCC rules, although the decision could stem from either jurisdictional or fundamental legal arguments.
Whatever the appeals court decides, the debate is likely to continue. Either side could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the issue could end up in Congress, which has been divided on the issue.
Amid the U.S. debate, the European Commission this month adopted a similar Net neutrality provision barring any blocking or throttling of competing or data-heavy services.
With the stakes high, Washington lobbying groups on both sides have been ramping up their efforts.
“This affects most Americans who watch a movie on Netflix or who make a phone call on Vonage,” said Pantelis Michalopoulos, a lawyer for parties arguing in support of the FCC rules.
Michalopoulos said companies such as Verizon “have the incentive and ability to discriminate” against service and could, for example, degrade Netflix to the point where viewers would see blank screens.
However, another Washington lawyer who works on technology issues, and who requested not to be cited because of clients he represents in the sector, said he did not believe service providers would try to dramatically reshape what flows through their networks.
“It would be commercially infeasible to offer an Internet service if you couldn’t get to the big sites,” the lawyer said.
More likely, the attorney said, would be deals mirroring what is taking place in the wireless space, which are not subject to the same rules, and where providers offer premium packages on an exclusive basis, such as NFL football games.