Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lone Russian Lawmaker To Oppose Crimean Annexation Charged With Embezzlement

Lone Russian Lawmaker To Oppose Crimean Annexation Charged With Embezzlement

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Russian authorities have charged Ilya Ponomaryov, the lone State Duma representative to vote against the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, with embezzlement.

Biden Urges Honest, Direct Talks Between U.S., China

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Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued warnings about China’s behavior in cyberspace and in the South China Sea.

Court Rules Britain Spied on Rights Groups

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British intelligence agents spied on two foreign human rights groups, a special U.K. court found, in a rare glimpse into the government’s spying practices.

Islamic State Destroys Two Mausoleums in Palmyra

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Islamic State has destroyed two mausoleums in the historic central town of Palmyra, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus said.

WorldViews: The global cult of Edward Snowden keeps growing

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DRESDEN, Germany -- When tourist Lars Lewandowski passed Edward Snowden Square in the eastern German city of Dresden on Tuesday afternoon, it took him a few moments to realize there was something special about the name. German street or square names usually honor only long-dead figures.Read full article >>







France rebukes U.S. after leaked reports claim years of spying

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BERLIN — French President Francois Hollande convened high-level emergency meetings on Wednesday after the disclosure of purported top-secret reports showing that the United States has spied on him and two predecessors.Read full article >>







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WorldViews: Putin’s approval ratings hit 89 percent, the highest they’ve ever been 

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MOSCOW — Think Russians are tiring of conflict with the West? Not according to President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings, which  hit all-time highs of 89 percent Wednesday.Putin has been riding sky-high ever since the March 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which Russians embraced as a restoration of their place at the table of superpowers. Neither Western sanctions nor an economy in the doldrums nor NATO’s bolstering its presence along the borders have been able to dislodge Putin’s support ever since.Read full article >>







Queen And Duke Begin State Visit To Germany

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Later the Queen will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and lay a wreath at a memorial for the victims of war and dictatorship.

Islamic State's New Currency Is Monkey Nuts

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The terror group's new "Islamic Dinar" coin is just another way of garnering yet more publicity, writes Sky's Sam Kiley.

IS Destroys Ancient Burial Chambers At Palmyra

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The tomb of a Sufi scholar and a descendant of the Imam Ali are blown up by militants at the historic desert city in Syria.

Barack Obama tells Muslim Americans the US is ‘one big family’ – video 

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The US president, Barack Obama, has hosted an iftar dinner at which he told Muslim Americans they are all part of 'one big family'. At the annual White House's feast-breaking meal during Ramadan, Obama paid tribute to three Muslim students who were murdered in Chapel Hill, as well as the recent victims of the Charleston shooting. 'As Americans we insist that no one should be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, who they love, what they worship' Continue reading...

French ferry workers burn tyres on Eurotunnel tracks - video

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French ferry workers protest on Tuesday by burning tyres on the Eurotunnel train tracks, forcing the suspension of services between France and the UK in both directions. The protest has caused long traffic jams outside Calais and has allowed migrants to take the opportunity to break into stationary vehicles in an effort to make it across the channel to Britain Continue reading...

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Angela Merkel receives the Queen for a tour of the chancellery - video 

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The Queen continues her state visit to Germany with a visit to the chancellery in Berlin, where she is received by the chancellor, Angela Merkel. Merkel and the Queen pause on a terrace to admire a view of Berlin's famous buildings, while Merkel points out the site of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city until 1989 Continue reading...

Queen baffled by portrait gift as she asks German president: 'Is that supposed to be my father?' 

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President Gauck's official welcome for Queen gets off to distinctly awkward start when monarch reacts with disdain to her official present









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Grisly ISIS Video Seems Aimed at Quashing Resistance - New York Times

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New York Times

Grisly ISIS Video Seems Aimed at Quashing Resistance
New York Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Propagandists for the Islamic State released a video on Tuesday showing the group's fighters incinerating, drowning and blowing up men accused of helping the United States and American allies bomb its bases. The video was one of ...
Barbarism by the book: New ISIS video aims to show religious purityFox News
New ISIS execution video claims to show Iraqi prisoners being drowned in cage ...New York Daily News
ISIS drowns, decapitates 16 men accused of being spies in brutal new videoThe Straits Times
9news.com.auIJ Review- Wall Street Journal 
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ABC Online
all 105 news articles »

Cyber spying imperils US-China ties, officials warn - The Australian

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The Australian

Cyber spying imperils US-China ties, officials warn
The Australian
Top US officials have issued stern admonitions about China's behaviour in cyberspace, warning it could threaten one of the most important geopolitical relationships in the world. The blunt warning came as high-level officials from the two major economies ... 
America's options in AsiaThe Straits Times
U.S. airs deep concerns over cyber security in China meetings TODAYonline

all 261
 
news articles »

Hemingway's Havana Home to Get $900,000 in US Improvements 

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A U.S. foundation will ship nearly $900,000 in supplies to build a state-of-the-art facility to preserve Ernest Hemingway's books, letters and photos — the first major export of construction materials to Cuba since President Barack Obama loosened the trade embargo on the island.   The Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation has been trying for years to help Cuba stop thousands of pages of documents from slowly disintegrating in the baking heat and dripping humidity of the sprawling...

US Defense Chief Meets With NATO Counterparts

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U.S. Defense Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is due to meet with his NATO counterparts in Brussels Wednesday to discuss plans for dealing with Russia's actions in Ukraine. Secretary Carter is on a week-long tour of Europe focused on U.S.-Europe cooperation in the face of the evolving situation with Russia, which is accused of providing direct support to separatists in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies providing troops or arms to the rebels. Wednesday is the first of two days Carter... 

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Gory IS Video Sends Message to Possible Defectors

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Islamic State extremists posted online another gruesome video broadcasting the brutal killings of accused spies and alleged apostates. This time death by drowning, being blown up by a rocket propelled grenade or an explosive attached to the neck were added to the catalog of the group’s ways of slaughtering enemies.   The seven-minute-long video using underwater cameras to film a group of men being drowned in a swimming pool while trapped in a cage, is yet another one of the shock...

Eurotunnel says Channel tunnel traffic resumes after strike - Reuters

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Mirror.co.uk

Eurotunnel says Channel tunnel traffic resumes after strike
Reuters
PARIS, June 24 Traffic through the Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France has resumed, a spokesman for operator Eurotunnel said on Wednesday. "Traffic is totally normal in both directions since last night at 1830 (French time)," he said. Traffic was ...
Migrants Jump on Trucks as Under-Channel Traffic ResumesABC News
Calais crisis: Migrants 'have knives and are not afraid to use them' - liveTelegraph.co.uk
Migrants try to board vehicles after Calais strike endsBBC News
Fox News -NDTV -Irish Times
all 750 news articles »

Why the Arrest of Rwanda’s Intelligence Chief in the U.K. Is Causing Waves 

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The arrest of Rwanda’s intelligence chief Karenzi Karake on Saturday in connection with war crimes threatens to disrupt the U.K.’s relationship with Rwanda.
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, said the arrest was an outrage, adding: “Western solidarity in demeaning Africans is unacceptable. It is an outrage to arrest #Rwandan official based on pro-genocidaires lunacy!”
The Metropolitan Police released a statement to Reuters saying: “Karenzi Karake, 54, a Rwandan national appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court … after being arrested on a European Arrest Warrant on behalf of the authorities in Spain, where he is wanted in connection with war crimes against civilians.”
The spy chief and 39 other Rwandan officials were indicted in 2008 by a Spanish court on charges of genocide and the killing of three Spanish nationals working for Medicos del Mondo.
Andrew Mitchell, the former U.K. minister for international development, claimed Karake was arrested for political reasons rather than judicial ones. “It’s politically motivated and acted by supporters of the genocidal regime in Rwanda,” Mitchell told the BBC. “The warrants were originally set up in 2008 against 40 officials… but a Spanish high court suspended these indictments in March 2014. I think it is a misuse of the European Arrest Warrant system.”
This sentiment is shared by a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable in 2008 from the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. In the cable, the U.S. ambassador at that time described the Spanish indictment as “outrageous and inaccurate.”
Christoph Wille, Africa analyst at the consultancy firm Control Risks, says that Rwanda and the U.K. have had good relations in recent years. “British and Rwandan officials lashed out because they feel it (the arrest warrant) may not hold and may simply strain relations between Rwanda and the U.K. which has historically been very good, arguably too good. I think the UK is keen to maintain that relationship, ” he says.
Wille drew parallels between Karake’s case and 2008 arrest of the Rwandan politician Rose Kabuye in Frankfurt, Germany. The charges were eventually dropped in 2009, but not before Rwanda expelled the German ambassador and recalled Rwanda’s envoy from Berlin.
Karake was a part of the Tutsi-led rebel movement known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which is still Rwanda’s ruling party after deposing the the Hutu government in July 1994 and ending the genocide that took the lives of 800,000 people, mainly from the minority Tutsi tribe.
The government, which is headed by Paul Kagame has been accused of human rights abuses, including responsbility for massacres in both Rwanda and Congo after the 1994 genocide.
“It’s a period during which the Rwandan army killed hundreds if not thousands of civilians in both Rwanda and the Congo (DRC), particularly in the late 90s. He (Karake) was one of the key figures and many victims and witnesses and often cites his name in serious crimes,” says Carina Tertsakian, a senior researcher on Rwanda at Human Rights Watch.
Phil Clark, lecturer on Africa’s Great Lakes Region at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told the BBC there were concerns about the evidence in the Spanish indictment. “There’s a sloppiness I think in much of the investigation that underpins this and even very critical human rights groups, that have tended not to be very friendly to Rwanda in the past, have raised questions about the quality of the Spanish arrest warrants.”
Karake will remain in custody till his court hearing in London on Thursday.
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NATO Chief: Alliance Won't Be 'Dragged Into Arms Race' With Russia

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the alliance will not engage in an arms race with Russia but must counter Moscow's "aggressive actions" in Ukraine.

EU Plans To Step Up Fight Against Russian Propaganda

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The European Union aims to counter Russian propaganda by boosting support for independent media in "Eastern Neighborhood" countries and increasing awareness of "disinformation activities by external actors," according to a strategic communications action plan seen by RFE/RL. 

Trade Accord, Once Blocked, Nears Passage

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President Obama’s ambitious trade push is back on track, after several near-death moments, in large measure because top Republicans stood by him.
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AP Exclusive: Document outlines big-power nuke help to Iran

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VIENNA (AP) -- A confidential document obtained by The Associated Press shows that the U.S. and others negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran are ready to offer high-tech reactors and other equipment to Tehran if it crimps programs that can make atomic arms....

Valerie Jarrett - Google Search

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Valerie Jarrett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/" rel="nofollow">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/</a>Valerie_Jarrett
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Valerie June Bowman Jarrett (born November 14, 1956) is a Senior Advisor to the President of the United States and Assistant to the President for Public ...

OPM vs. FBI on government hacking numbers

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Story highlights

  • OPM is dealing with an unprecedented breach
  • The total number of records affected remains unknown
Washington (CNN)The cyber-breach at the Office of Personnel Management uncovered in recent months was bad.
How bad is a matter of some dispute, as a Tuesday closed-door briefing for senators showed.
A brief dispute flared between senior officials from OPM and the FBI, laying bare a simmering behind-the-scenes debate over the handling of what U.S. officials say is the worst ever breach of U.S. government data. U.S. officials believe Chinese government hackers are to blame.
OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, responding to questions from senators, disputed a CNN report that that hackers may have compromised the personal information of as many as 18 million current, former and prospective government workers.
Archuleta suggested the number was inaccurate and that she didn't know the source of the data, U.S. officials briefed on the Senate meeting said. She stuck by OPM's initial estimate that 4.2 million people were affected.
That prompted James Trainor, acting assistant director for the FBI's cyber division, to stand up and dispute Archuleta's assertion.
FBI Director James Comey provided the 18 million estimate in an earlier briefing to a group of senators. It was based on an internal estimate prepared by OPM officials, CNN reported Monday.
Trainor wasn't scheduled to speak at the Tuesday briefing, but told senators he felt compelled to defend Comey's testimony.
He held up a copy of OPM's own internal report that was the source of the 18 million figure.
OPM officials say the 18 million number is a raw estimate and that their investigation continues.
U.S. security breach larger than estimated
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It was an unusual piece of drama in an otherwise dry briefing that left senators scratching their heads and doubting that OPM was up to the job of defending its computer networks even now.
"I have absolutely no confidence that this could not happen again tomorrow," Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said after leaving the briefing, noting OPM was still grappling with the size of the breach.
"When they don't even know the scope for certain, that doesn't give me a lot of confidence."
Archuleta is set to answer questions in public at a hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee. As frustrations among lawmakers builds, some administration officials believe she won't likely survive the growing calls for her to resign.
The brief dispute Tuesday illustrated the internal wrangling over the Obama administration's response to the OPM hack.
Some investigators believe the administration has been slow to acknowledge the severity of the breach, leading to a drip-drip of negative headlines and hampering the ability of citizens affected to do what they have to protect themselves.
But the critics also acknowledge that OPM is dealing with an unprecedented breach that officials still don't fully understand.
The hackers accessed separate databases that house personnel records and those that contain sensitive data from security clearance records -- known as SF86 forms, OPM has said.
The total number of records affected remains unknown -- and may never be, OPM and its critics acknowledge.
That's in part because suspected Chinese hackers managed to roam the OPM databases for a year before being detected, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. Once inside OPM's networks, hackers created high-level security credentials to give themselves complete access, the officials say. What they stole may never be fully assessed, the officials say.
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FBI investigations targeted Valerie Jarrett’s family

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President Obama and Valerie Jarrett
President Obama and Valerie Jarrett
Valerie Jarrett has been one of Barack Obama’s closest advisers in the Oval Office and it’s no secret her family history is checkered with adherents to Communism, but a new report from Judicial Watch,the Washington watchdog group, reveals the FBI even investigated several of her relatives.
For example, files obtained by Judicial Watch and posted online show that her father, James Bowman, was in 1950 in communication with a “paid Soviet agent named Alfred Stern, who fled to Prague after getting charged with espionage.”
The files also reveal, JW reported, “Bowman was … a member of a Communist-sympathizing group called the Association of Internes and Medical Students.”
Another document in the files was a note from J. Edgar Hoover to FBI officials in Denver instructing them to investigate “James Edward Bowman” for his connections to other suspects.
“It is incumbent upon you to resolve the question which prompted CSC to refer instant case. It is also necessary to determine the degree of association between the applicant and any individual on whom the CSC has furnished derogatory information,” the note said.
It apparently was in connect with Bowman’s possible involvement with the “European Recovery Program and was dated 1955.
The document shows that Jarrett’s grandfather, Robert Taylor, was thought also to have been “in contact with Stern on a number of occasions.”
Bowman moved to Iran to work after his release from the Army Medical Corps in 1955.
The report explained, “According to Bowman’s government file the Association of Internes and Medical Students is an organization that ‘has long been a faithful follower of the Communist Party line’ and engages in un-American activities. Bowman was born in Washington, D.C., and had deep ties to Chicago, where he often collaborated with fellow Communists.”
“JW also obtained documents on Bowman from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) showing that the FBI was brought in to investigate him for his membership in a group that ‘follows the communist party line.’ The Jarrett family Communist ties also include a business partnership between Jarrett’s maternal grandpa, Robert Rochon Taylor, and Stern, the Soviet agent associated with her dad.”
Then, the files reveal, Jarrett’s father-in-law, Vernon Jarrett, “was also another big-time Chicago Communist.”
The files were obtained by Judicial Watch as part of its probe “into the Jarrett family’s Communist ties,” the group reported.
“For a period of time Vernon Jarrett appeared on the FBI’s Security Index and was considered a potential Communist saboteur who was to be arrested in the event of a conflict with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). His FBI file reveals that he was assigned to write propaganda for a Communist Party front group in Chicago that would ‘disseminate the Communist Party line among … the middle class,’” the report said.
Judicial Watch called Valerie Jarrett, “a liberal extremist who wields tremendous power in the White House. Faithful to her roots, she still has connections to many Communist and extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Jarrett and her family also had strong ties to Frank Marshal Davis, a big Obama mentor and Community Party member with an extensive FBI file.”
She previously has been exposed for her role in the Department of Justice gun-running scandal called “Fast and Furious,” and also when she was, according to JW, a “key player in the effort to cover up that “Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress about the Fast and Furious.”
Under that program, the government let guns be smuggled illegally to drug cartels in Mexico. The purported goal was to trace the guns and their use, but the government simply lost track of them.
“In 2008 JW got documents linking Valerie Jarrett, who also served as co-chairman of Obama’s presidential transition team, to a series of real estate scandals, including several housing projects operated by convicted felon and Obama fundraiser/friend Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko,” JW reported.
WND reported two years ago that a New York Times profile of Valerie Jarrett, “glossed over her family’s radical history.”
The profile, from September 2012, received another round of media attention when <a href="http://BuzzFeed.com" rel="nofollow">BuzzFeed.com</a> reported the White House tried to defend Jarrett behind the scenes by circulating glowing talking points about her to other administration officials who were candidates to be interviewed for the Times piece.
The resulting piece essentially ignored much of her family’s history.
For example, regarding Jarrett’s mother, the Times said only that “her mother had a Chicago street named after her for her work in early childhood education.”
But WND was first to report, Jarrett’s mother, Barbara Taylor Bowman, founded an education initiative alongside the family of unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers’ that was funded by Ayers, Obama and ultimately the 2009 “stimulus” legislation.
The Chicago school, the Erikson Institute, focuses on training people who work in early childhood development.
WND also reported earlier Valerie Jarrett in 1987 got her start in politics, working for Washington as deputy corporation counsel for finance and development. She was deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard Daley, during which time she hired Michelle Robinson, then engaged to Obama.
WND reported just recently that Obama critics have suspected that the president’s “tilt toward Iran” in negotiations over that rogue nation’s nuclear program is because of the influence of Valeria Jarrett, who was born there.
Retired Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence under President George W. Bush, spotlighted Jarrett’s influence in a Fox News interview in February.
“There are many who are now saying that [Jarrett] is really the architect of this non-treaty with the Iranians,” he said, “which ultimately will result in the Iranians having a nuclear program, and America having to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted in a 2011 National Review article Jarrett was born and raised in Iran for the first five years of her life.
“In explaining how she first grew close to Obama, Jarrett says they traded stories of their youthful travels,” he wrote.
Kurtz said Jarrett has affirmed that she and Obama “reject traditional American exceptionalism.”
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Report: Islamic State Winning Propaganda War Against U.S.

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A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul
A fighter of the Islamic State holds an IS flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul / Reuters
BY: Bill Gertz 
The U.S. government is losing the propaganda war to Islamic State terrorists who are recruiting jihadists and inspiring more lone-wolf attacks, according to a report by a crowd-sourced global consulting group.
The Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) is using sophisticated information operations that include videos and innovative outreach on social media such as Twitter, the report produced by a network of specialists for the firm Wikistrat states.
“The group’s leap forward in reaching its various target audiences is of great concern,” says the report, “The Winner’s Messaging Strategy of the Islamic State: Technically Excellent, Vulnerable to Disruption.”
“Through the strength of its communications, ISIS has drawn unprecedented numbers of young Muslims from across the globe to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq to fight on the group’s behalf,” says the nine-page report based on an analysis of the group’s activities. “ISIS has provoked a wave of lone wolf terrorist attacks, raising legitimate questions about whether extremists’ savvy use of social media might produce a permanent rise in such attacks.”
The report identifies a key vulnerability in IS information operations, noting that increasing international efforts against the ultra-violent Muslim extremist group have made it more dependent on propaganda programs, which can be disrupted.
The group’s information strategy is described as a “winner’s message” that is described by Wikistrat analysts as a central vulnerability.
“ISIS’s messaging depends on the group projecting the image of strength and momentum—and if ISIS’s narrative is undermined or disrupted in this regard, then the group risks becoming unattractive to its target audience,” the report says.
Based on the comments of current and former U.S. officials, the report says the IS propaganda machine is so proficient that it could take the United States “years” to develop a counter-narrative against the group’s growing appeal.
The Islamic State emerged as a powerful terrorist force last year after seizing large areas of Iraq and maintaining control over part of Syria. The battlefield successes brought a large number of jihadists to its ranks.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a co-author of the Wikistrat report, could not say why U.S. government efforts against IS propaganda have been unsuccessful, but he noted that it is not clear who in the U.S. government is in charge of such programs that have been hampered by bureaucratic restraints.
The State Department has a small counter-IS information program that seeks to promote counterterrorism Twitter hashtags. Critics have said the program has been ineffective against the group.
The ODNI Counterterrorism Center also is conducting secret counter-terrorism propaganda operations; the CIA is also conducting limited operations.
“But regardless of the reason why the U.S. government hasn’t been more effective, we are in a position where ISIL has been effectively using its messaging to mobilize supporters at an unprecedented scale,” said Gartenstein-Ross.
“Our report provides a framework for attacking the heart of this group’s ability to mobilize supporters. It is intended as a benchmark against which future U.S. efforts can be measured and evaluated.”
Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist, said the Wikistrat report has some flaws, including the notion that highlighting Islamic State battlefield failures will undermine its propaganda.
“Highlighting military losses on the ground is not a panacea as it helps recruit more jihadis: ‘Look the infidel Romans are winning, this is the judgment day jihad, all true Muslims must enlist!’” said Gorka, the Horner chair of military theory at Marine Corps University.
Also, focusing on IS weak governance is a case of western mirror imaging. “ISIS is not trying to create a nation state,” Gorka said. “Its whole message is one of rejecting the Westphalian model as un-Islamic.”
“I agree that government is not the obvious face to be put on the counter ideology effort,” Gorka said. “But neither is the distribution of U.S. government talking points to the media.”
Instead, Gorka recommends launching a “massive-scale black [information operations] campaign that cannot be connected to the government which covertly supports the brave Muslim reformers around the world as well as widespread support for private sector initiatives which will be infinitely more efficient than government ones.”
“This is what we did against the U.S.S.R. and this is what we have to do against the new totalitarian ideology of jihadism.”
President Obama, in announcing a new strategy last year against IS, said the United States would seek to attack the ideology of the group. However, the program has produced little in the way of ideological results.
The annual State Department report on terrorism, made public last week, bolsters the findings of the Wikistrat report.
The State Department report shows that the influence of IS is spreading as the group sets up affiliates outside of Syria and Iraq. Also, the numbers of terrorist attacks increased 35 percent and resulting fatalities increased sharply last year.
For example, in 2014 there were 20 attacks that killed more than 100 people, compared with only two such attacks the previous year.
In a briefing on the report, Tina S. Kaidanow, a State Department counterterrorism coordinator, would not answer publicly when asked by a reporter how she can describe administration counterterrorism policies as a success considering the increased attacks.
On IS propaganda efforts, the report said: “ISIL showed a particular capability in the use of media and online products to address a wide spectrum of potential audiences: local Sunni Arab populations, potential recruits, and governments of coalition members and other populations around the world, including English-speaking audiences.”
“ISIL has been adroit at using the most popular social and new media platforms (YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter) to disseminate its messages broadly, with near-instantaneous reposting and the generation of follow-on links and translations into additional languages following ISIL’s initial publication of online propaganda,” the State report added.
Among its propaganda were images of hostage beheadings and showing its slave market of ethnic Yazidi girls and women.
The group also produced propaganda showing false portrayals of life under its rule and efforts to develop institutions of a state.
“ISIL’s use of social and new media also facilitated its efforts to attract new recruits to the battlefields in Syria and Iraq, as ISIL facilitators answered in real time would-be members’ questions about how to travel to join the group,” the State report said.
The report made no mention of U.S. or allied counter-propaganda efforts but said there is a “need for comprehensive counter-messaging and early engagement with a variety of communities to dissuade vulnerable individuals from traveling to join the conflict.”
A State Department spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.
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US Federal agencies are wide open for hackers and cyberspies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Passwords written down on desks. Outdated anti-virus software. "Perceived ineptitude" in information technology departments.
The federal government, which holds secrets and sensitive information ranging from nuclear blueprints to the tax returns of hundreds of millions of Americans, has for years failed to take basic steps to protect its data from hackers and thieves, records show.
In the latest example, the Office of Personnel Management is under fire for allowing its databases to be plundered by suspected Chinese cyberspies in what is being called one of the worst breaches in U.S. history. OPM repeatedly neglected to implement basic cybersecurity protections, its internal watchdog told Congress.
But the departments of Treasury, Transportation, State and Health and Human Services have significantly worse records, according to the most recent administration report to Congress under the Federal Information Security Management Act. Each of those agencies has been hacked in the last few years.
"Last year, across government, we the American people spent almost $80 billion on information technology, and it stinks," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "It doesn't work."
Congress can hardly escape all blame. While President Barack Obama's latest budget plan called for a $14 billion increase for cyberdefenses, the House proposed a budget in March that didn't include specific funding for cybersecurity. Nor has Congress imposed much accountability on agencies that suffer breaches.
cybersecurityKristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty ImagesU.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on January 13, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia.
The security lapses have persisted even as cyberattacks on government networks have increased. The federal government dealt with 67,196 cyber incidents in the last fiscal year, up from 57,971 incidents the year before, according to the White House report card, which was published in February. Missing from that document is an accounting of how many hacks were successful and what was stolen.
It's not a new problem. The Government Accountability Office has labeled federal information security a "high-risk area" since 1997. In 2003 it expanded the high-risk designation to include computer networks supporting the nation's critical infrastructure. This year, it added "personally identifiable information" to the list, just in time to see hackers steal the Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly every federal worker.
But agency managers haven't been punished for failing to secure their networks, and little sustained attention has been paid to the many intrusions.
"No one is ever held accountable," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Unlike in the corporate world, where the CEO of Target resigned last year after a breach of customer data, "it's been penalty free, and senior leadership doesn't really care about this."
The OPM debacle may change that. It has dealt the United States a major national security blow, experts say, by exposing the personal information, and foreign contacts, of millions of people with security clearances. OPM's director, Katherine Archuleta, told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that an "adversary" gained access to the agency's records with a credential used by a federal contractor.
Georgia Guardsmen train Cyber warfare 2Flickr/Georgia National GuardThe US Army’s ‘Cyber Center of Excellence’, Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, hosting a multi-service ‘NetWar’ to show, and build, cyber Warrior capabilities on June 10, 2014.
After the OPM attack, the federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, ordered agencies to speed implementation of new security measures and fix vulnerabilities.
But many agencies seem incapable of good security practices, say industry experts, who call for a new approach that moves beyond perimeter defenses and into sophisticated analysis of network behavior.
Scott embraces that idea. But as the government deploys new technology to discover hacks, he said in an interview, "we're going find out some things previously unknown. It's going to feel like the problem is getting worse, but it's actually getting better."
If so, evidence is thin on the ground. Last year, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee published a scathing report chronicling the sorry state of federal computer defenses.
"Data on the nation's weakest dams, including those which could kill Americans if they failed, were stolen by a malicious intruder. Nuclear plants' confidential cybersecurity plans have been left unprotected. Blueprints for the technology undergirding the New York Stock Exchange were exposed to hackers," the report began.
All of that was due to government lapses, the report said. In many cases, the negligence was incredibly basic. The report chronicled a failure to use sophisticated passwords, to patch software and to keep anti-virus software up to date.
US Cyber Attack ChinaScreenshot/map.ipviking.com
While anti-virus software alone won't stop hackers from a foreign intelligence agency, the government often has also failed to take the harder steps that could deter those intruders, such as requiring a combination of smart cards and passwords for network access, and encrypting sensitive data. OPM stored Social Security numbers in unencrypted form.
Yet OPM's poor cyber hygiene is part of a government-wide pattern. One of the agencies that rank lowest on the annual cyber report card holds some of the most sensitive data — the Department of Health and Human Services, which keeps records on health care billing, anti-poverty benefits and child abuse.
In April, an audit found that the agency's main information technology office didn't track and manage its computer inventories effectively, failed to patch software vulnerabilities, lacked a policy to secure USB port control access, and didn't manage its anti-virus security controls effectively.
A separate audit last year found security lapses were on the rise among Medicare contractors. A third report warned of "high-risk security vulnerabilities" at 10 state Medicaid agencies.
Another potential cyber disaster area is the State Department, which had to shut down its email system this year in an attempt to clean out spyware linked to Russia. State's inspector general said in a heavily redacted report that the department is consistently failing to comply with minimum cyber standards.
The Russian spyware may be impossible to fully remove without replacing all department computers, according to a former federal law enforcement official and a private expert briefed on the situation, both of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
"We continue to find security control deficiencies in multiple information security program areas that were previously reported" each year since 2010, the State IG report says. "Over this period, we consistently identified similar control deficiencies in more than 100 different systems."
The IRS, which holds data on Americans' income and spending habits, met federal standards in just 5 of 11 cyber security areas, the Treasury Department's inspector general latest audit concluded.
"Until the IRS takes steps ... taxpayer data will remain vulnerable to inappropriate use, modification or disclosure, possibly without being detected," the report said.
That was September. In May, the agency disclosed that hackers breached the IRS website and gained access to about 100,000 tax accounts. The intruders stole Social Security information, dates of birth and street addresses.
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WikiLeaks: NSA Eavesdropped on Last 3 French Presidents

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(PARIS) — WikiLeaks published documents late Tuesday that it says show the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the last three French presidents, releasing material which appeared to capture officials in Paris talking candidly about Greece’s economy, relations with Germany — and, ironically, American espionage.
There was no instant confirmation of the accuracy of the documents released in collaboration with French daily newspaper Liberation and investigative website Mediapart, but WikiLeaks has a track record of publishing intelligence and diplomatic material and the release appeared serious enough to prompt an emergency meeting of President Francois Hollande’s defense council, according to a presidential aide. The council, meeting Wednesday morning, includes France’s top security officials.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told The Associated Press he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks’ previous mass disclosures — including a large cache of Saudi diplomatic memos released last week — have proven to be accurate.
The timing of the release was not accidental: It came a day before the French Parliament is expected to definitively pass a controversial security bill legalizing broad surveillance, particularly of terrorism suspects.
Hollande’s office did not comment on the reports other than to announce the security meeting.
An aide to Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy told the AP that the former president considers these methods unacceptable, generally speaking and especially from an ally. The aide was not authorized to be publicly named.
There was no comment Tuesday from former President Jacques Chirac, also reportedly targeted by the eavesdropping.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the American government would not comment on the specifics of the leak.
“As a general matter, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike,” he said.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the cellphone of Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the U.S. had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians. The new revelations are bound to cause diplomatic embarrassment for the Americans, even though friends have been spying on friends for thousands of years.
Late on Tuesday, several French politicians posted messages to social media voicing their disgust with the reports.
“And one more time we find out that the U.S. has no allies, they only have targets or vassals,” Socialist lawmaker Jean-Jacques Urvoas said in messages posted on Twitter in both French and English.
Hollande said last year that he discussed his concerns about NSA surveillance with President Barack Obama during a visit to the U.S., and they patched up their differences.
After the Merkel disclosures, Obama ordered a wholesale review of NSA spying on allies, after officials suggested that senior White House officials had not approved many operations that were largely on auto-pilot. After the review, American officials said Obama had ordered a halt to spying on the leaders of allied countries, if not their aides.
WikiLeaks, on its website, listed the contents of what it said were five selected “top” intercepts of communications involving French presidents — on subjects including a top U.N. appointment, the Middle East peace process, and the handling of the euro crisis — between 2006 and 2012.
The site also listed in a chart what were said to be phone numbers listed by NSA as top French official “intercept targets,” including that of the French president’s own cellphone, with some digits crossed out.
Hrafnsson refused to comment on how WikiLeaks had obtained the documents and declined to go into specifics about what else might be appearing in the French press, but said that “they can expect more revelations in the near future.”
Privacy advocates and human rights groups have protested the new French surveillance bill, which allows intelligence services to vacuum up metadata in hopes of preventing imminent attacks. But the government argues that it is just updating a 1991 law to grapple with modern threats and has tried to distance itself from U.S.-style mass surveillance.
The bill was proposed last year but deadly Paris attacks by Islamic extremists in January gave it added urgency for the government.
___
Satter reported from Istanbul. Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Julie Pace and Ken Dilanian in Washington contributed to this report.
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Online:
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U.S. Power Grid Being Hit With ‘Increasing’ Hacking Attacks, Government Warns

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AP
AP
BY: Adam Kredo 
Major attacks on the U.S. power grid system are “increasing,” with hackers stepping up efforts to penetrate critical systems and to implant malicious software that could compromise the power grid and result in a nationwide crisis, according to a government report.
While experts have long signaled that the U.S. power grid and related systems are vulnerable to physical attacks by terrorists and other individuals, the U.S. government is now warning that sensitive computer systems that maintain the grid are increasingly being attacked, according to aCongressional Research Service (CRS) report that was not made public until the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) disclosed it this month.
The report warns that hackers potentially affiliated with terrorist groups or rogue nations have the ability to insert harmful malware into the internal systems governing the U.S. grid, which increasingly are being hooked into the Internet.
These types of computer viruses are able to comb internal systems for private information in a clandestine manner; they can also be used to wrest control of certain computers away from their owners.
“In recent years, new threats have materialized as new vulnerabilities have come to light, and a number of major concerns have emerged about the resilience and security of the nation’s electric power system,” the report says. “In particular, the cyber security of the electricity grid has been a focus of recent efforts to protect the integrity of the electric power system.”
The threat is compounded by the revelation that many power companies are only living up to the “minimum standards” set for cyber security by the U.S. government.
“Although malware intrusions may not have resulted in a significant disruption of grid operations so far, they still have been possible even with mandatory standards in place,” the report states.
Cyber attacks on the U.S. grid and power companies are becoming more prevalent.
“Incidents of reported cyber intrusions and attacks aimed at undermining the U.S. grid appear to be increasing,” according to the report. “While parts of the electric power subsector have mandatory and enforceable cyber and physical security standards, some have argued that minimum, consensus-based standards are not enough to secure the system.”
The report continues: “Further, the electric grid is not isolated from attacks on other critical infrastructure sectors on which it depends (i.e., the natural gas subsector, water, and transportation), and mandatory and enforceable cyber security standards apply to only a few of the critical infrastructure sectors,” the report states.
Experts and government authorities remain concerned about attacks on “critical infrastructure.”
“The increasing frequency of cyber intrusions on industrial control systems of critical infrastructure is a trend of concern to the electric utility industry,” the report warns “The National Security Agency reported that it has seen intrusions into [industrial control] systems by entities with the apparent technical capability ‘to take down control systems that operate U.S. power grids, water systems and other critical infrastructure.’”
The report documents a number of recent attacks on U.S. power grid computer systems.
In October 2014, for instance, the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) revealed that “several industrial control systems has been infected” by a virus capable of gathering information about how the grid system functions.
“Hackers are reported to have used the BlackEnergy Trojan horse to deliver plug-in modules used for several purposes, including keylogging, audio recording, and grabbing screenshots,” according to the report. “Researchers looking at the BlackEnergy malware are reported to have identified a plug-in that can destroy hard disks, and believe that the attackers will activate the module once they are discovered in order to hide their presence.”
Another virus named HAVEX has been used to open so-called “back doors” into computer systems.
“The cyberattack leaves the company’s system in what appears to be a normal operating condition, but the attacker now has a backdoor to access and possibly control the company’s” control systems.
These threats, the report warns, are only growing more sophisticated as the industry struggles to combat such attacks.
“The threats facing the grid are evolving, and with each new intrusion or cyber attack, priorities to protect the system can shift,” the report explains. “But that does not mean previous attacks can be considered past issues.”
While nation-states may use such attacks to gather data, experts believe they are less likely to launch an attack due to the prospect of likely retaliation by the United States.
However, terrorists have no such concern, the report says.
“A terrorist or similar organization would likely be undeterred by such a consequence [of potential retaliation], and may use the worm for its own purposes,” according to the report. “Given the potential for damage to the nation’s economy from a major cyberattack on the grid, some might suggest a greater focus on recovery is needed and should become as much a part of a cybersecurity strategy as are efforts to secure the system.”
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Accidental Drowning Blamed in Death of Ex-White House Chef

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New Mexico medical investigator rules death of ex-White House chef was accidental drowning

Britain Struggles to Stem Flow of Radicalized Youth to Islamic State 

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In front of banks of TV cameras last week, three men pleaded for their wives and children to come home.  Earlier this month, the wives, who are sisters, disappeared with their nine children on the way back from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. It’s believed they crossed from Turkey into Syria to join the Islamic State terror group. One of the husbands, Mohammed Shoaib, made an emotional appeal: “They are young kids, 7 and 5, and you know I love you so much.” Three British schoolgirls...

The Kurds Are Building a Country with Every Victory Over ISIS

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Ethnic Kurds—who on Tuesday scored their second and third significant victories over ISIS in the space of eight days—are by far the most effective force fighting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. But they appear to intent on keeping all the ground they’ve taken from the militant group for their own national project, endangering the larger cause of keeping these two battered nation-states in one piece, and raising the prospect of another war patiently waiting at the conclusion of the current one.
The recent run of victories in Syria illustrates the Kurds’ battlefield capabilities. Six months after winning in Kobani, the Turkish border town where as many as 1,000 ISIS fighters died, Syrian Kurd fighters on June 15 took another border town, Tel Abyad, creating a corridor on Syria’s northern border and—far more important—cutting off the main supply line to Raqqah, ISIS’s capital 60 miles due south. On Tuesday, the Kurd forces—a Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK—seized a military base known as Brigade TK, as well as the town adjoining it, Ain Issa. The victories put them within 30 miles of Raqqah.
The Kurds fight so well largely because, in addition to trying to defeat an extremist enemy, they’re fighting for something—a country of their own. The future Kurdistan may be severely buffeted across Arab portions of the Middle East—neither Yemen nor Libya have functioning central governments, and both Syria and Iraq exist largely as shards of sect, tribe and ethnicity. But the Kurds, despite their large numbers (about 30 million worldwide), as well as their shared language, culture and identity, have never had a nation. But they’re getting closer to one with every battle.
In Iraq, Kurdish forces armed by both Iran and the U.S. have taken perhaps 10,000 square miles from ISIS since last fall. They also snapped up the disputed city of Kirkuk, rich in oil and cultural significance to Kurds and Arabs alike—and are preventing Arabs from returning to some villages. Houses are marked “Reserved for Kurds,” and Kurdish checkpoints declare, “No Arabs Allowed.”
These acts on the ground are clearly intended to create “facts on the ground,” A political reality that Kurdish leaders will point as they navigate their relationship with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, to which they are currently bound by oil-revenue contracts, if little else. As valiantly as the Kurds have fought, losing an estimated 1,000 men and women over the last year against ISIS, they see the conflict in terms of national liberation. Massoud Barzani, who leads the Kurdistan Regional Government, has repeatedly said Kurds will not fight for the rest of Iraq, or for the idea of it.
“Relying on Iraqi Kurds to act as coalition boots on the ground may eliminate some [ISIS] safe havens, but it is fueling Kurdish land grabs,” warns Denise Natali, a senior research fellow at National Defense University in Washington. “Iraqi Kurds are using U.S. airstrikes and the political vacuum in northern Iraq not only to push back ISIS, but also to recapture disputed territories and oil fields—some of the very measures that have fueled Sunni Arab resentment since 2003.”
Human Rights Watch documented instances of Kurds confining Sunni Arabs to specific areas to prevent their return, actions that Natali says undermine the attempts by the U.S. and Baghdad to lure Iraq’s Sunni Arabs away from the orbit of ISIS and back into Iraq’s national enterprise: “It’s all about addressing the Sunni Arabs’ grievances,” she tells TIME.
Iraq’s Kurds have tried this before, but more gently. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq removed Saddam Hussein, Kurds left the autonomous region that had been protected by U.S. warplanes for the previous decade, and moved into the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk—not with armor, which they don’t have, but with garbage trucks and street cleaners. The idea was to start providing essential government services to the oil-rich city, which is also claimed by Iraq’s Sunni population, and thereby assume control in the softest possible manner.
Kurdish leaders wanted everyone on their best behavior: They ordered looters to return 300 cars looted after the fall of the city, and fretted openly about acts of revenge, including rapes, being perpetrated against Arabs who had pushed them off their land.
It didn’t work. U.S. forces ordered the garbage trucks sent home, and for the next decade Iraq’s Kurds were forced to employ more gradual methods, mostly moving their people into the city, in order to win any referendum on its future. Then ISIS made its blitzkrieg, taking Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul a year ago, then Tikrit and moving toward Kirkuk. But the Kurds got there first, and aim to hold on to it, and every other square mile they’ve won—including territory claimed by Arabs.
“We have to be careful that in our pushing back ISIS, we are not setting the stage for the next conflict,” says Natali. So far, the U.S. has had the leverage to hold the situation together, with help from Turkey, home to half the world’s Kurds. The maddening paradox is that the situation grows more difficult to manage with every gain against ISIS, the shared enemy.
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WikiLeaks: NSA Eavesdropped on Last 3 French Presidents

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(PARIS) — WikiLeaks published documents late Tuesday that it says show the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the last three French presidents, releasing material which appeared to capture officials in Paris talking candidly about Greece’s economy, relations with Germany — and, ironically, American espionage.
There was no instant confirmation of the accuracy of the documents released in collaboration with French daily newspaper Liberation and investigative website Mediapart, but WikiLeaks has a track record of publishing intelligence and diplomatic material and the release appeared serious enough to prompt an emergency meeting of President Francois Hollande’s defense council, according to a presidential aide. The council, meeting Wednesday morning, includes France’s top security officials.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told The Associated Press he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks’ previous mass disclosures — including a large cache of Saudi diplomatic memos released last week — have proven to be accurate.
The timing of the release was not accidental: It came a day before the French Parliament is expected to definitively pass a controversial security bill legalizing broad surveillance, particularly of terrorism suspects.
Hollande’s office did not comment on the reports other than to announce the security meeting.
An aide to Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy told the AP that the former president considers these methods unacceptable, generally speaking and especially from an ally. The aide was not authorized to be publicly named.
There was no comment Tuesday from former President Jacques Chirac, also reportedly targeted by the eavesdropping.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the American government would not comment on the specifics of the leak.
“As a general matter, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike,” he said.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the cellphone of Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the U.S. had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians. The new revelations are bound to cause diplomatic embarrassment for the Americans, even though friends have been spying on friends for thousands of years.
Late on Tuesday, several French politicians posted messages to social media voicing their disgust with the reports.
“And one more time we find out that the U.S. has no allies, they only have targets or vassals,” Socialist lawmaker Jean-Jacques Urvoas said in messages posted on Twitter in both French and English.
Hollande said last year that he discussed his concerns about NSA surveillance with President Barack Obama during a visit to the U.S., and they patched up their differences.
After the Merkel disclosures, Obama ordered a wholesale review of NSA spying on allies, after officials suggested that senior White House officials had not approved many operations that were largely on auto-pilot. After the review, American officials said Obama had ordered a halt to spying on the leaders of allied countries, if not their aides.
WikiLeaks, on its website, listed the contents of what it said were five selected “top” intercepts of communications involving French presidents — on subjects including a top U.N. appointment, the Middle East peace process, and the handling of the euro crisis — between 2006 and 2012.
The site also listed in a chart what were said to be phone numbers listed by NSA as top French official “intercept targets,” including that of the French president’s own cellphone, with some digits crossed out.
Hrafnsson refused to comment on how WikiLeaks had obtained the documents and declined to go into specifics about what else might be appearing in the French press, but said that “they can expect more revelations in the near future.”
Privacy advocates and human rights groups have protested the new French surveillance bill, which allows intelligence services to vacuum up metadata in hopes of preventing imminent attacks. But the government argues that it is just updating a 1991 law to grapple with modern threats and has tried to distance itself from U.S.-style mass surveillance.
The bill was proposed last year but deadly Paris attacks by Islamic extremists in January gave it added urgency for the government.
___
Satter reported from Istanbul. Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Julie Pace and Ken Dilanian in Washington contributed to this report.
___
Online:
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