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Swedish Foreign Minister Accuses Israel of Extrajudicially Killing Palestinias

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 15/01/2016 - 02:16
Swedish Foreign Minister Accuses Israel of Extrajudicially Killing Palestinians
by Stephen Lendman
Israel murders Palestinians with impunity, Western leaders largely turning a blind to high crimes demanding accountability.
On the phony pretext of combating nonexistent Palestinian terrorism, Israeli soldiers and police escalated state terror last October - committing daily murders, mass arresting innocent victims, systematically brutalizing an entire population, victimized by state-sponsored barbarism.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom urged conducting “credible (independent) investigations into (Palestinian) deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability” - suggesting Israeli responsibility for “extrajudicial killings.”
Sweden recognizes Palestinian self-determination, Wallstrom saying it’s “Israel’s friend and the Palestinians’ friend, and both states have a right to exist.”
Israel responded to her remarks as expected, calling them “irresponsible and delusional,” ignoring hard truths, wanting them suppressed, tolerating no criticism of its ruthless agenda.
Last month, Wallstrom accused Israel of extrajudicially executing alleged Palestinian assailants - without affording them due process and judicial fairness.
Anyone justifiably criticizing Israeli viciousness is automatically called anti-Semitic - Jewish critics labeled self-hating. On Wednesday, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said “Israel is closing its gates to official visits from Sweden.”
In 2014, Arab-hating ultranationalist extremist then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recalled Israel’s ambassador from Stockholm, protesting Sweden’s recognition of Palestinian self-determination.
On Wednesday, Israel summoned Sweden’s ambassador Carl Magnus in response to Wallstrom’s remarks.
Foreign Ministry director general for Western Europe Aviv Shir-On expressed the “fury of the Israeli government and the people of Israel over (what he called) a distorted view of reality, as well as (Wallstrom’s forthright comments) indicating her (wrongfully claimed) biased and hostile attitude toward Israel," according to ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“Given (her) harmful and baseless position…Sweden has excluded itself in the foreseeable future from any role with regard to Israeli-Palestinian relations,” he added.
Wallstrom “give(s) support to terror and thus encourag(es) violence.” Rogue states notoriously want their high crimes suppressed.
In a Wednesday address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, ideologically over-the-top Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold defended the indefensible - calling longstanding Israeli state terror self-defense, claiming regime critics “actively encourage…terror…”
Israel is one of the world’s most ruthless regimes. Democracy is pure fantasy. Institutionalized racism and state terror reflect official policy.
War without mercy rages against defenseless Palestinians. Extrajudicial killings and other atrocities occur daily. Torture is longstanding practice. 
The world community is largely indifferent to slow-motion genocide, an entire population at risk.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Are Terrorist Attacks in Turkey State-Sponsored?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 21:57
Are Terrorist Attacks in Turkey State-Sponsored?
by Stephen Lendman
Blaming recent terrorist attacks in Turkish cities on ISIS (or other non-state actors) is dubious at best. Erdogan supports Daesh. Why would it target a valued ally?
The latest incidents happened this week following earlier ones. An alleged suicide bomber killed 10 tourists in Istanbul’s historic district, mostly German nationals. At least 15 others were injured.
Erdogan’s “condemn(ation)” of what happened rang hollow. Angela Merkel blamed “international terrorism.”
Former Obama State Department counterterrorism coordinator Daniel Benjamin claimed ISIS is “determined to target more soft targets outside their areas…in Syria and Iraq” - without explaining what it could hope to gain strategically.
On Thursday, a huge blast largely destroyed a police headquarters building in Turkey’s Diyarbakir province. At least five deaths were reported, dozens injured.
Kurdish PKK militants were blamed despite no evidence proving it. Reports claimed eight “terrorists” were killed in clashes with police following the bombing.
What’s going on? Is Turkey especially vulnerable to terrorist attacks given their frequency in recent months? Or does responsibility lie elsewhere?
Were high-profile attacks in its cities state-sponsored? Erdogan supports terrorist groups while claiming to combat them. 
He heads a fascist police state. He’s an international criminal with megalomaniacal aims, wanting political opponents eliminated, waging war on freedom, tolerating no internal critics, charging them with treason.
Putin calls him an “accomplice of terrorists” - aiding ISIS, Al Qaeda and other groups complicit with Washington, waging war without mercy on Turkish Kurds, hugely responsible for regional violence and instability.
He seeks unchallenged tyrannical powers under the mantle of presidential rule, wanting Ankara’s constitution rewritten to oblige him.
Turkey enjoyed nearly 140 years of parliamentary governance - despite four military coups and execution of a prime minister. It never took steps to shift to iron-fisted one-man presidential rule.
Fear-mongering is longstanding US policy. Erdogan appears following the same strategy, aiming to overcome parliamentary opposition to his power-grabbing scheme - using alleged terrorist attacks to enlist support for iron-fisted presidential rule on the pretext of protecting national security.
As long as he remains Turkey’s leader, tyranny will substitute for democratic freedoms. His next moves to solidify power remain to be seen.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Deconstructing John Kerry's Latest Big Lies

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 21:46
Deconstructing John Kerry’s Latest Big Lies
by Stephen Lendman
Kerry is a notorious serial liar, a disgrace to the office he holds, an unindicted war criminal, indifferent to human suffering.
On Wednesday, he addressed the National Defense University in Washington on US foreign policy - concealing its global horrors.
He praised Obama’s State of the Union address, calling it “bold and ambitious,” ignoring his duplicity, demagoguery and ruthless agenda - Kerry complicit in his high crimes.
“(T)he demand for United States leadership…for what (Obama) called the most powerful nation in the world is as high as it has ever been,” he blustered.
No country is more feared and despised. Its endless war agenda threatens world peace. Its war on freedom heads America toward full-blown tyranny.
“The president’s primary responsibility…is…to protect…the American people,” Kerry claimed.
He’s done more harm to more people domestically and abroad than any of his predecessors - serving wealth and power interests exclusively, letting popular needs go begging, waging endless wars of aggression, supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups.
“…America will remain more engaged in more places around the world than at any other time in history,” Kerry asserted, without explaining its pure evil agenda - seeking global conquest, risking potential humanity destroying nuclear war.
“The goal of keeping our country safe” comes at the cost of threatening world peace. America seeks “way(s) to lay the groundwork for security and stability for decades to come,” Kerry duplicitously claimed.
Violence and chaos serve its agenda. Peace and stability defeat it. Kerry lied, saying he “see(s) a world…in critical areas…coming together” - ignoring endless US direct and proxy wars slaughtering millions, causing vast destruction, responsible for the greatest refugee crisis since WW II, appalling human misery he’s indifferent to.
So-called “progress” he claimed on vital issues is nonexistent. Today is the most perilous time in world history. America’s imperial agenda risks WW III - unthinkable with today’s super-weapons able to kill us all.
Washington bears full responsibility for global hot spots, conflicts without end, out-of-control violent extremism - creating and supporting terrorist groups, training its elements in the fine art of committing atrocities, recklessly confronting Russia and China.
Kerry’s claim about Washington “mobiliz(ing) (an) international coalition…to degrade and defeat…Daesh” is pure rubbish. Its so-called bombing campaign against it exclusively strikes Iraqi and Syrian infrastructure and government targets - serving as its air force, not adversary.
Kerry turned truth on its head, saying “progress we have already made towards…defeating (ISIS) is undeniable.”
US airdrops provide its fighters with weapons, munitions and other supplies. US special forces aid them. Pentagon terror-bombing targets hospitals and other civilian sites.
Kerry’s claim about America’s “best traditions” ignores endless horrors it inflicts globally. Peace is anathema. No nation in world history ever threatened humanity’s survival more greatly.
Kerry is a geopolitical front man for endless unspeakable high crimes, representing rogue state ruthlessness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Does Washington Plan Greater Middle East War?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 21:16
Does Washington Plan Greater Middle East War?
by Stephen Lendman
The region already is cauldron of endless violence and chaos. US imperial ruthlessness bears full responsibility.
Iranian naval commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi accused Washington of reckless moves, risking war with the Islamic Republic.
His remarks followed seizure of two small US vessels illegally operating in Iranian waters, briefly detaining their crew members.
Before their release, “the US navy and a US aircraft-carrier showed unprofessional behavior for about 40 minutes and made some moves in the air and the sea in the region,” said Fadavi - provocations risking direct confrontation.
America’s regional presence, including in Persian Gulf waters, is hugely destabilizing. No clashes occurred this time. Longstanding US hostility toward Iran suggests next time may be different.
Washington’s aim to replace Iranian sovereign independence with Western-controlled puppet governance risks direct confrontation.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top military aide Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi explained the formation of a Tehran, Moscow, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad anti-Washington, Israeli, Saudi coalition.
“The policies of the Al Saud are influenced by the Zionist regime and this regime is seeking to push the region towards insecurity, unrest, turmoil and chaos,” he stressed.
“A coalition comprising the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel (continue) massacring the people of Syria, Iraq and Yemen…”
“The Zionist regime is looking to stir tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and this issue needs the vigilance of the country's political officials because insecurity is in the interest of the Zionists and the Americans.”
On Wednesday, Putin and Obama spoke by phone. A Kremlin statement said both “leaders called for de-escalation of the tensions that arose in connection with the crisis in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
Putin responsibly seeks regional calm and stability, polar opposite Obama’s imperial agenda, supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups, stoking endless conflicts, allied with Riyadh, Israel and other regional rogue states, wanting Iranian sovereign independence eliminated.
Their brinkmanship moves risk greater Middle East violence and chaos than already - a reckless agenda threatening world peace.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Companies Should Resist Government Pressure and Stand Up for Free Speech

eff.org - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 06:40

EFF has been steadfast in its criticism of officials like FBI Director James Comey, who have implored tech companies to provide a backdoor to their customers’ encrypted communications. Now it appears as though the White House would like a backdoor to the First Amendment’s free speech protections by requiring private tech companies to monitor, censor, and automatically report speech on topics related to ISIS and terrorism.

EFF’s concerns come after White House officials held a high-level meeting with technology companies last week asking for help in addressing terrorists’ use of social media. The administration also announced a task force to fight terrorism online.

If the government directly censored the content of online speech about ISIS and other terrorist groups, it would be clearly unconstitutional. Private companies that host communications online, however, are normally not subject to the First Amendment and can set their own rules on the types of content and even viewpoints expressed on their services. Government officials know this and are now both subtly and not-so-subtly pressuring companies to achieve a result that the First Amendment prevents them from doing themselves.

The government’s current tactics threaten the robust free speech on platforms that users have come to expect and could result in arbitrary and excessive removal of lots of legitimate speech. The tactics also suggest the government holds the bizarre view that tech companies are well-suited to identify and deter terrorist speech and threats online, a job that seems more appropriate for numerous federal national security and law enforcement agencies. EFF’s concerns are not idle speculation, as it appears that some companies are caving to the pressure.

Twitter’s Terrorist-related and Hateful Speech Policies will Restrict Legitimate Speech

As EFF explained earlier this week, Twitter’s updated policies regarding prohibited speech include two problematic changes: (1) a new policy that prohibits individuals from “threatening or promoting terrorism” and (2) a new ban on any speech that threatens other people “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease” or incites harm toward others on the same bases.

These vague policies grant Twitter a great deal of discretion to determine what constitutes a terrorist threat or hateful speech, meaning that the policies will likely be applied arbitrarily and potentially discriminate against certain communities. The company also provides no transparency about when and how often it blocks or removes tweets that run afoul of its new policies.

The timing of the changes makes it appear as though Twitter is reacting to calls to prevent ISIS from using the platform to spread its message and recruit members.

EFF hopes that Twitter will modify its policies and that the company’s changes are the exception rather than the rule. It remains to be seen whether other companies will follow suit in light of the U.S. government’s increased pressure to help fight ISIS and other terrorist networks.

Elected Officials are Exerting Pressure on Tech Companies to Censor Speech

While the White House’s recent meeting with leaders of some of the biggest tech companies reportedly took a relatively friendly tone, it was just the latest development in an ongoing effort by the government to force these companies to do exactly what it wants at the expense of their users’ free speech and privacy.

In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein re-introduced legislation aimed at compelling social media companies to report their users. When Sen. Feinstein and her colleague Sen. Richard Burr first proposed the bill in July 2015, we pointed out that the bill had huge First and Fourth Amendment problems. Specifically, the bill’s language was vague as to what actually constituted “terrorism” that would trigger the mandatory reporting requirement, possibly resulting in companies reporting protected speech under the First Amendment to the authorities. The bill violated the Fourth Amendment by allowing the Government to skirt the warrant requirements for searching the contents of communications by forcing companies to hand over user communications and information as agents of the state. Given those problems, the legislation did not progress and is unlikely to get much traction in 2016.

That said, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that having had her clearly unconstitutional bill go nowhere when it was introduced last summer, Sen. Feinstein is using the bill’s recent reintroduction as leverage to pressure companies to change their policies in the wake of the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shootings.

Sen. Feinstein has given several interviews demanding that tech companies immediately change their policies and stop the spread of ISIS influence online. Although seeking to limit ISIS’ hateful message is an admirable goal as part of counterterrorism strategy, using private companies to bypass the First Amendment is not the way to do it.

When the government uses its power to coerce private companies into stifling speech, it is not only wrong, it’s unconstitutional. According to the Supreme Court as well as a recent unanimous opinion by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the First Amendment prohibits public officials from using their office to intimidate private parties, including tech companies, into taking particular actions.

Unfortunately, the threat of Sen. Feinstein’s bill to actively police users’ content seems to be working. If companies are already removing content in violation of their terms, added government pressure provides an incentive to implement an overbroad and censorious regime that infringes on users’ free speech.

Tech Companies are Not Created to Investigate Terrorism

Moving forward, EFF hopes that tech companies will resist efforts to become agents of the government. The promise of free speech on social networks is in part what allowed these companies to become the global leaders that they are, and we hope they’ll remember that.

Moreover, companies should resist government pressure because they are incredibly bad at policing their users’ content. Rather than enacting rational policies, they tend to over-censor. For instance, as part of Facebook’s efforts to remove content about the terrorist group ISIS on its network, the company also locked two women out of their account for having the name “Isis,” one of whom was already being bullied because of her name. Given these problems and companies’ arbitrary removal of user content in a number of other contexts, finding and investigating potential threats to our country should be left in the hands of the professionals.

Some even argue that if these companies remove or over-report content, it will harm legitimate intelligence gathering and terrorism investigations. A former undercover FBI agent quoted by The Intercept explains how over-reporting “creates this tidal wave of information… cast[s] suspicion on a lot of people unnecessarily, which is then impossible to remove.” Thus, the government’s call for greater reporting may actually be counterproductive to identifying actual terrorists online.

As the government continues to pressure tech companies, EFF stands ready to support those that resist, and we hope that they will publicly stand up for their users’ free speech rights.


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Protecting the Choice to Speak Anonymously Is Key to Fighting Online Harassment

eff.org - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 03:38
EFF Urges Department of Education to Uphold First Amendment Rights in University Anti-Harassment Policies

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the Department of Education today to protect university students’ right to speak anonymously online, warning that curtailing anonymous speech as part of anti-harassment regulations would not only violate the Constitution but also jeopardize important on-campus activism.

“Battling gender and racial harassment and threats on college campuses is vitally important,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “But some are calling for blanket bans on the use of platforms that allow anonymous comments, and that’s a counterproductive strategy. Online anonymity is crucial for students who fear retaliation for their political and social commentary. It helps many people avoid being targets of harassment in the first place.”

EFF’s letter to the Department of Education comes after a number of groups pressed for new federal guidelines for fighting online harassment. EFF agrees with the majority of the recommendations, including ensuring prompt reporting and investigation of all reports of harassment, and disciplining and/or prosecuting perpetrators. However, preemptively removing access to anonymous online speech platforms violates all students’ First Amendment rights—threatening projects like the USG Girl Mafia at the University of Southern California, where students anonymously map locations of assault reports on campus. Anonymity was also essential for student activists at Guilford College in North Carolina, who used an online form to collect anonymous testimonials about racial violence from those who felt unsafe revealing their identities.

Additionally, online speech bans are problematic because any technical restriction—like blocking on-campus access through the university’s wireless network, or limiting where students can access particular mobile applications or websites—will not prevent any student from going off-campus or joining another wireless network to comment anonymously.

“The Internet has an unmatched ability to help groups of people organize and communicate and be a force for positive social change,” said EFF Frank Stanton Legal Fellow Aaron Mackey. “Taking away choices for anonymous speech will curtail these activities without meaningfully preventing illegal harassment and threats. We urge the Department of Education to find solutions that protect all students.”

For the full letter to the Department of Education:
https://www.eff.org/document/effs-letter-office-civil-rights

Contact:  RebeccaJeschkeMedia Relations Director and Digital Rights Analystpress@eff.org
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The State of the Union, Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

eff.org - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 02:44

The President’s State of the Union address examined a great many pressing issues confronting our nation and the world. One of the most dire, however, somehow escaped his attention: the continuing threat to democracy presented by unaccountable, secret mass surveillance in violation of the Constitution.

The President’s promise to rethink security policies hastily adopted under his predecessor was a significant part of his platform when he ran for the White House. During his first presidential campaign back in 2008, President Obama made a written promise to:

conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

But even after the Snowden revelations, mass surveillance by the National Security Agency remains largely unchecked. With a year remaining in its final term, the Obama administration has failed to implement the wide-ranging reforms necessary, as the President eight years ago promised in writing, "to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future."

On the one hand, President Obama did order a review of signal intelligence programs soon after he entered office, and then convened a Review Group on Global Signals Intelligence after the Snowden revelations in 2013. It produced a 300 page report that deeply explored the issues and made 46 specific recommendations. The review group’s proposed reforms were impressive, but they left much to be desired and, in any case, only a minuscule fraction have found their way into policy.

Meanwhile, during President Obama’s tenure, the Justice Department has continued to respond to court challenges asserting the privacy rights of Americans—including cases filed by EFF—with delay and obfuscation, avoiding judicial review on the merits and hiding behind essentially lawless claims of unfettered executive secrecy.

The administration's claims in court, alongside its unprecedented and relentless persecution of journalists and government whistleblowers who risk their careers to empower the public, fly in the face of the transparency to which the president has repeatedly recommitted himself and his administration.

In 2013, the nation's top intelligence official offered false statements in response to direct congressional questions about whether millions of Americans are being monitored by our government. Despite being discredited by the Snowden revelations, James Clapper continues to enjoy the President's confidence and to serve in the administration.

To his credit, President Obama supported an initial set of important yet incomplete reforms enacted into law last year. It was the first time in 40 years that Congress had moved to restrain recurring—and ongoing—domestic abuses by our nation’s intelligence agencies.

If America is to truly be a land of the free, Congress must continue to explore what the executive branch has refused to reveal, reform the broken classification system, and then go beyond transparency to impose meaningful protections for privacy, dissent, and civil liberties. Having recently learned that their own communications were subjected to lawless government monitoring, perhaps members of Congress will see fit in 2016 to finally ask the questions that no one has yet answered in public.


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Erdogan's Big Lies About Russia and Iran

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 01:39
Erdogan’s Big Lies About Russia and Iran
by Stephen Lendman
Erdogan is a world-class thug, heading a fascist police state, a valued NATO member, complicit with Washington, supporting ISIS and other regional terrorist groups.
His deplorable habits include blaming others for his high crimes and proliferating Big Lies. Russia and Iran go all-out for regional peace and security.
Erdogan lied claiming otherwise, irresponsibly accusing both countries of regional destabilization. Turkey’s state-controlled Hurriyet Daily News (HDN) headlined “Russia, Iran on dangerous path: Turkish president.”
Instead of debunking his Big Lies HDN repeated them, claiming both countries fuel regional tensions - quoting him saying “(t)he dangerous course that Russia is now on constitutes a very big problem, not only for itself and the region but also for the world.”
“Russia’s operations in Syria, the real purpose of which is to keep (Assad) in power, are making regional problems deeper.”
“Russia is not fighting against DAESH…(I)t’s creating an environment for the establishment of a boutique Syria state around Latakia.” 
It’s “hitting our Turkmen brothers in that region. In such situation, the issue of (shooting down) the Russian jet was not a result, but a pretext for the point to which Russia has brought our bilateral relations.”
Fact: It bears repeating. Russia and Iran are the leading regional forces for peace and stability.
Fact: Erdogan is a war criminal, attacking regional neighbors, raping Turkish Kurds, defiant of rule of law principles and fundamental human rights.
Fact: He’s complicit with Washington’s support for ISIS and other terrorist groups, arming and training their fighters, letting them move freely back and forth across Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq, selling their stolen oil - he, his family and other top regime officials profiting hugely.
Fact: Complicit with Washington, he downed Russia’s Su-24 bomber in Syrian airspace, a deliberate act of war, destroying normal relations with Moscow while he’s in power. Putin wants nothing to do with him.
He lied about Iran’s regional agenda, claiming it’s “trying to ignite a new and dangerous process with its approach, turning sectarian divisions into confrontation - straining its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries deliberately as part of this strategy.”
Moscow dismissed Erdogan’s hostile claims, calling them “complete nonsense,” stressing Russia seeks a “sovereign, democratic, secular and united Syria” - its citizens alone deciding who’ll lead them, free from outside interference.
Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria are enemies of Daesh - Erdogan its supporter, complicit with Washington and other rogue allies, creating an endless cycle of regional violence and instability.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Palestinian Hunger Striker Close to Death

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 14/01/2016 - 00:50
Palestinian Hunger Striker Close to Death
by Stephen Lendman
Israel considers independent journalists criticizing its rogue agenda terrorists - especially Palestinians reporting its high crimes.
Last November, Israeli forces lawlessly arrested Mohammed Elqeiq violently, denied him family and legal council contacts for days - accusing him of “journalistic incitement” without issuing formal charges.
He’s administratively held in detention for doing his job, brutally tortured during grueling interrogations - beaten, sleep deprived, kept blindfolded, exposed to extreme cold and other forms of abuse.
Hunger-striking for justice for 50 days has him close to death. He’s hospitalized in critical condition. Palestinian Detainees Committee head Issa Qaraqe said numerous “serious health issues” threaten his life.
“We are worried that Israeli prison authorities will force-feed him,” a prescription for murder in his frail condition, the pain likely to kill him.
Last weekend, he slipped into a coma. International organizations and human rights were asked to intervene to save his life.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) issued a statement, demanding his release.
It called on “all international human rights and freedom of expression organizations to put pressure on Israeli Occupation Government…” Otherwise he’ll likely die.
He’s vomiting and urinating blood, his father explained. His life hangs in the balance - one of many Palestinian victims of Israeli barbarism.
His wife Faiha’a Shalash called his arrest unjustifiable, explaining his horrific treatment in detention - tortured and confined under conditions unfit for human habitation before being hospitalized.
He was detained for reporting Israeli high crimes against humanity, its unrestrained viciousness, wanting all negative news about its rogue regime suppressed.
His lawyer warned about force-feeding “hav(ing) a lethal outcome.” Israel’s war on Palestine continues relentlessly. Deaths mount daily, an entire population targeted. 
Extreme brutality is Israel’s strategy of choice, endless crimes of war and against humanity - with full support and encouragement from Washington.
Elqeiq committed no crimes, deplores violence, remains committed for Palestinian rights. Israel targeted him for doing his job.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Iran Briefly Detains US Naval Personnel Operating Illegally in its Waters

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 21:48
Iran Briefly Detains US Naval Personnel Operating Illegally in Its Waters
by Stephen Lendman
Fars News reported Iranian military forces seized two small US naval vessels on Tuesday, detaining 10 crew members - “trespassing (provocatively three nautical miles within) Iran’s territorial waters.”
Pentagon and State Department officials made dubious claims about one boat experiencing mechanical problems, contact lost with both vessels before entering Iranian waters.
Washington spies intensively on Iran, both vessels likely involved in surveillance, conducting operations illegally in Iranian waters, caught red-handed. GPS devices taken from crew members confirmed their illegal presence in Iranian waters.
On Wednesday, Fars News reported Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) issuing a statement, saying “it has released the US marines and their vessels in international waters” after determining no harm done by entering Iranian waters.
Crew members were treated humanely. “The Americans have undertaken not to repeat such mistakes.”
The IRGC blamed Washington for “excited and unprofessional moves,” saying it prioritizes regional calm.
John Kerry was in contact with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He requested a formal apology, Kerry extending it, according to Fars News.
On Wednesday, Iranian Armed Forces' Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said “(w)e hope the incident…which will not probably be the American forces’ last mistake in the region, will be a lesson to (US congressional members) seeking to sabotage” last year’s nuclear deal.
He stressed Iranian vigilance in confronting provocative regional moves. Following the seizure of US vessels, Iranian naval commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said “the US Navy and (a nearby) aircraft carrier resorted to unprofessional behavior as well as aerial and seaborne provocations in the area, which were deflected through the IRGC’s timely action.”
“Any country’s territorial waters are where the presence of vessels should come with prior notification and permission.”
IGRC forces acted responsibly, calm restored in short order. Washington considers global waters its own.
Last October, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asserted America’s right to “fly, sail and operate” anywhere it wishes globally, governed solely by its own rules, risking world peace and stability.
Provocations repeat with disturbing regularity. Was Tuesday’s incident the result of a mechanical problem as Washington claims or a spying mission caught red-handed?
Iranian authorities diplomatically downplayed it, choosing calm over confrontation - polar opposite how America operates.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

The Deplorable US State of the Union

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 20:41
The Deplorable US State of the Union
by Stephen Lendman
America represents the greatest pure evil force in world history. Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead blasted Obama’s deplorable agenda, calling it:
“more bureaucratic, more debt-ridden, more violent, more militarized, more fascist, more lawless, more invasive, more corrupt, more untrustworthy, more mired in war, and more unresponsive to the wishes and needs of the electorate.” 
“Most of all, the government, already diabolical and manipulative to the nth degree, has mastered the art of ‘do what I say and not what I do’ hypocrisy.”
Annual US presidential State of the Union Addresses are exercises in duplicity, hyperbole, self-aggrandizement, promises made to be broken and bald-faced lies.
Obama’s final annual address to Congress and the US public was like his earlier ones, beginning-to-end demagoguery - a con man concealing his ruthless agenda, exclusively serving wealth and power interests, waging endless wars on humanity at home and abroad, an imperial agenda threatening life on earth.
His remarks make painful listening, ignoring America’s deplorable state. Economic recovery is pure fantasy. 
Protracted Main Street Depression conditions persist, Washington failing to address them. The vast majority of households are worse off today than when Obama took office.
America was systematically thirdworldized, a nation governed by police state laws, subverting constitutional and international law protections, benefitting the elite few at the expense of the vast majority, nearly one-fourth of its working-age population unemployed, millions more underemployed. 
Phony government data conceal reality. America’s privileged class never had it better. Half the population is impoverished or bordering it. Most households need two or more jobs to survive. 
Most available ones are insecure rotten low-wage, poor-or-no-benefit part-time or temp ones. The struggle for ordinary people to survive is greatest in modern times. So is the unprecedented wealth disparity, revealing oligarchy, not democracy - a gangster state run by a bipartisan criminal class at the federal, state and local levels.
Obama willfully broke every major promise he made throughout his tenure. Hope and change became dirty business as usual without mercy on steroids.
America run by crooks, thugs, scoundrels and war criminals is too debauched to fix. Its agenda threatens life on earth. Endless imperial wars risk the unthinkable.
An economy benefitting its privileged class exclusively is no fit place to live in. Full-blown tyranny is a hair’s breadth away.
Obama will be remembered as a leader who took the world to the brink, risking global war for unchallenged dominance, waging phony war on terrorism, supporting the scourge he claims to oppose.
He allies with a rogue’s gallery of despotic regimes, wants all sovereign independent governments eliminated, recklessly challenges Russia and China, supports Israeli genocidal crimes in Palestine.
Arguably he’s America’s worst ever president, a war criminal belonging in prison, not high office, achieving the impossible, exceeding the worst of George Bush, air-brushing his high crimes from reality.
Oligarchs enjoy enormous wealth and power. Criminality in high places is rewarded, not punished. Ordinary people are exploited, essentials to life largely dependent on their ability to afford them.
America spends countless trillions of dollars on militarism and endless wars. People needs increasingly go begging. 
Hunger and homelessness in the world’s richest nation are at unprecedented levels. Democracy is pure fantasy. 
Rule of law principles are quaint artifacts. Washington rules alone apply, justifying the unjustifiable.
Mark Twain once said he opposed “the eagle put(ting) its talons on any other land,” subjugating nations, plundering them, exploiting their people.
Things in his day paled compared to endless new millennium horrors - risking life on earth ending nuclear war, Obama a front man for imperial madness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

NYT Editors Support America's Deplorable State of the Union

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 20:15
NYT Editors Support America’s Deplorable State of the Union
by Stephen Lendman
The Times exclusively serves wealth and power interests, endorsing America’s most destructive policies. 
It praised Obama’s deplorable State of the Union address, willfully lying to readers - regurgitating his phony claims of “a resurgent economy and better (US) standing in the world…”
Its editors headlined “President Obama’s Call to America’s Better Nature,” saying he “reflect(ed) on what the nation has endured and achieved since he took office in the midst of a dire recession.”
He claimed hellish agenda “accomplishments,” citing “unique strengths,” making America a pariah state, rampaging out-of-control globally, threatening world peace.
Times editors turned truth on its head saying his “resilience…helped the nation weather economic and global crises over the past seven years…position(ing) it best for the future.”
Truth is polar opposite. Protracted Main Street Depression conditions exist. Poverty and human misery are growth industries.
Global crises on Obama’s watch rage out-of-control. His ruthless agenda bears full responsibility.  Hard truths belie his claim about “America (not being) the world’s policeman.”
The nation’s so-called “best values” don’t exist. His Affordable Care Act was a giveaway to health industry interests at the expense of vitally needed universal care - treatment for those in need increasingly dependent on the ability to afford it.
Times editors ignored duopoly power running America, a one-party state with two wings - in lockstep on oligarchs running things, ordinary people having no say, farcical elections when held, imperial madness, corporate favoritism and police state crackdowns on nonbelievers.
Obama’s violent agenda, causing unspeakable human suffering at home and abroad went unmentioned. Instead his phony efforts “to curb gun violence” were praised - belying America’s sordid history of mass slaughter and destruction, notably on his watch, responsible for millions of lost lives.
His executive action to make US communities safer is a complete hoax, a thinly veiled PR stunt. Unprecedented numbers of deportations define his immigration reform agenda.
Times editors support his wanting authorization for unlimited war - on the phony pretext of combating ISIS, the scourge he supports.
The Iran nuclear deal belies longstanding US hostility toward the Islamic Republic, intending new sanctions in flagrant breach of terms reached last year.
“Another foreign policy milestone was Mr. Obama’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba,” Times editors claimed - ignoring US intentions to dominate and exploit the island state, an agenda Cubans won’t tolerate.
Embargo conditions remain, despite Obama’s considerable executive discretion to limit it, short of congressional authorization required to end it entirely.
“(T)he administration achieved an impressive environmental record,” Times editors claimed. Nothing substantive changed on Obama’s watch. Big Oil operates unrestrained.
Sham US-led Paris climate talks ended with no constructive action, hype and deception substituting.
“On jobs and the economy, the president pointed to a 5 percent unemployment rate and sustained growth,” Times editors blustered.
Real unemployment is 23% based on accurately calculating it, rigged numbers substituting for reality - concealing protracted economic crisis conditions for most Americans, things getting worse, not better.
Times editors didn’t explain - instead calling Obama’s litany of State of the Union speech lies and deception “inspiring words.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

You Can't Destroy the Village to Save It: W3C vs DRM, Round Two

eff.org - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 09:27

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the nonprofit body that maintains the Web's core standards, made a terrible mistake in 2013: they decided to add DRM—the digital locks that train your computer to say "I can't let you do that, Dave"; rather than "Yes, boss"—to the Web's standards.

At the time, we fought the proposal on a principled basis: DRM has no place in the open Internet because of the many ways it shuts down legal, legitimate activities.

We lost.

So we came back with a new proposal: the W3C could have its cake and eat it too. It could adopt a rule that requires members who help make DRM standards to promise not to sue people who report bugs in tools that conform to those standards, nor could they sue people just for making a standards-based tool that connected to theirs. They could make DRM, but only if they made sure that they took steps to stop that DRM from being used to attack the open Web.

This is nowhere near as good as the W3C rejecting DRM altogether, but it's much better than nothing. If the W3C is going to create new DRM standards, let them make them in a way that minimizes the risk to security researchers and standards-implementers, the people that the W3C exists to serve.

We've asked the W3C to make this into their policy. The only W3C group presently engaged in DRM standardization is due to have its charter renewed in early 2016. The W3C called a poll over that charter during the Christmas month, ending on December 30th.

Despite the tight timeline and the number of members who were unavailable over the holidays, a global, diverse coalition of commercial firms, nonprofits and educational institutions came together to endorse this proposal. More than three quarters of those who weighed in on our proposal supported it. Those supporters include Stanford University, the Open University, the University of Southampton, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Ripple (a payments company), the Hypothes.is project and several others all said that they would not agree with the group being rechartered at all unless EFF's covenenant were made a condition of participation.

The proposal is now in the hands of the W3C's executive, specifically W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe and Director Tim Berners-Lee. They have it in their power to substantially mitigate some of the worst potential effects of DRM at the W3C. If the W3C adopts EFF's proposal, they will be saying to the companies that push for DRM: "You are welcome to standardize any technology in our group, but you must promise not to use that work to sue programmers for doing normal things that are important to the Web's openness and survival."

To understand why DRM is a bad technology for open standardization, you need to understand the laws that protect it.

Around the world, laws like the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Canada's C-11, New Zealand's Bill 92A; and accords like the European EUCD, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the US-Australian and US-Korean Trade Agreements establish special legal protections for DRM. These governments (and many others) give legal backing to companies that try to lock you out of devices, software, and media that you own, and this interferes with activities like repairing your own electronics or your car, making backups or remixes of videos, auditing the security of medical devices, and many more legitimate and otherwise-lawful activities.

It gets worse. In practice, it's not hard to break DRM, so to slow the spread of information about how to remove the locks on the stuff you own, laws like the DMCA also has been used to punish disclosure of bugs and defects. This doesn't mean that bad guys—enemy spies, cyber arms-dealers, voyeurs, identity thieves, and griefers—don't discover and weaponize these bugs. It just means that you don't get to learn about them until they are used in a high-profile attack, or until a brave security researcher risks a lawsuit to come forward.

While DRM has many other failings, these two are especially pointed in the context of Web standards:

1. DRM is incompatible with interoperability

Interoperability—plugging one thing into another—is why standards exist. Sometimes, vendors welcome interop, offering APIs and other hooks for follow-on tools to plug into. Sometimes, manufacturers don't bother, or actively try to block third party equipment from playing nice with their own (think of inkjet printer cartridges). In the absence of DRM, it's perfectly legit (and common) for manufacturers to figure out how to let you plug something they make into something you own, even when this goes against the wishes of the original manufacturer. You bought it, you own it, you get to decide what you plug into it.

DRM exists to stop users from doing things they want to do and to stop innovative companies from helping users do things they want to do -- or would want to do, if they had the option. Your cable box, for example, will be designed to stop you from recording your favorite shows for long-term storage and viewing on the go.

But if you could just plug any digital video recorder into your cable box, you could record those shows, move them to your laptop, and watch them ten years from now. DRM locks up the data coming out of your cable box with encryption that is arguably unlawful to break, even to do something legal, like make a copy for personal use.

That's not unusual: tech companies have dreamed of the "toaster-maker gets to sell you the bread" business since forever. The common response to this is for a competing manufacturer to design a widget that converts the proprietary, locked output from your gadget into a standard, open one, that can accept a variety of apps, recorders, lightbulbs, bread, etc.

DRM laws put a roadblock in the way of this innovation. So DRM only exists to prevent compatibility without explicit permission—the opposite of a standard.

2. DRM is a security disaster

The prohibition on reporting bugs in systems with DRM makes those bugs last longer, and get exploited harder before they're patched. Last summer, the US Copyright Office collected evidence about DRM interfering with reporting bugs in tractors, cars, medical implants, and critical national infrastructure. The W3C's roadmap for HTML5 is for it to have the flexibility and power to replace apps as the default way to control all those devices and more. If standards-compliant browsers have legal barriers to reporting vulnerabilities in them, it exposes the whole technological world and everything we do in it at risk of attacks that can't be headed off until it's too late.

Many of the eminent security researchers who participated in the Copyright Office's latest rulemaking to consider exemptions to Section 1201 of the US DMCA have endorsed EFF's proposal for a nonagression covenant, including Bruce Schneier, Matthew Blaze and Matthew Green.

This isn't the first collision between proprietary rights and the W3C. In 1999, the W3C had to decide what to do about software patents. These patents were and are hugely controversial, and the W3C was looking for a way to be neutral on the question of whether patents were good or bad, while still protecting the Web's openness to anyone who wanted to develop for it.

They came up with a brilliant strategy: a patent nonaggression policy—a policy we modelled our DRM proposal on. Under this policy, participation in a W3C group meant that you had to promise your company wouldn't use its patents to sue over anything that group produced. This policy let the W3C take a position on the open Web (the Web is more open when your risk of getting sued for making it better is reduced) without taking a policy on whether patents are good.

The DRM covenant does the same thing. Without taking a position on DRM, it takes the inarguable position that the Web gets more open when the number of people who can sue you for reporting bugs in it or connecting new things to it goes down.

The World Wide Web Consortium is at a crossroads. Much of the "Web" is disappearing into apps and into the big companies' walled gardens. If it is to be relevant in the decades to come, it must do everything it can to keep the Web open as an alternative to those walled gardens. We're trying hard to help them do that. But if the W3C executive won't take the lead on keeping the Web open, they must, at a minimum, not impede those who haven't given up the fight.

(Image: HAL's camera eye, Cryteria, CC BY 3.0)


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House Grills State Department Over Wassenaar Arrangement

eff.org - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 09:18

Congressional Representatives grilled the parties responsible for the U.S. implementation of controversial changes to the Wassenaar Arrangement in a joint hearing before subcommittees of the House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees today. Witnesses included officials from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State, as well as representatives of the tech industry, including Symantec, Microsoft, VMWare, and the Information Technology Industry Council.

Today’s hearing was a response to the overwhelmingly negative reception to the Commerce Department’s proposed implementation of the Wassenaar Arrangement. Not only did civil society organizations, including EFF, voice their concerns about the overbreadth of the proposed language and its potential effects on security research, but the tech industry also rose in opposition. The companies argued—and we agree—that the proposed rules would not only weaken our entire digital infrastructure, but hamper U.S companies’ competitiveness in the global security market.

In addition to calling for this hearing, Representatives McCaul and Langevin sent a letter to Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, urging the administration to greatly narrow the current proposed rule, or risk grave harm to both research and industry.

Members of Congress and witnesses from the tech industry appear to be largely united against the rulemaking. Iain Mulholland, speaking for VMWare said, “Ultimately, the U.S. should return to Wassenaar and renegotiate the 2013 agreement.” Cristin Flynn Goodwin, speaking for Microsoft, suggested that “the administration should suspend any further rulemaking until a new agreement can be reached.” Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA) put it even more succinctly, “BIS should reconsider the rulemaking.”

Everyone at today’s hearing agreed that the initial proposed rule needs revision. Kevin Wolf, the Assistant Secretary for Export Administration at the Department of Commerce came right out and said that “the next step will not be a final rule.” But exactly what the next step will be remains unclear.

While we were heartened that both the committee members and the industry representatives were in agreement that the U.S. needs to go back and renegotiate the Wassenaar Arrangement's language, we didn’t hear the administration actually commit to doing so. State Department officials at the hearing openly admitted that the first version of the U.S. proposal “missed the mark” and that they were “surprised” by the tech industry’s negative reaction. However, the State Department refrained from making any promises, merely placating Representatives by saying “all options are on the table.”

From EFF’s perspective, there is only one option: the 2013 changes to the Wassenaar Arrangement must be renegotiated. Either rolled back entirely, or at a minimum, greatly narrowed to reduce their negative impact on security research.


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Keys Case Spotlights Flaws of Computer Hacking Law

eff.org - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 06:28

Old laws can cause confusion and unduly harsh consequences, particularly when courts confront situations Congress did not anticipate. This is particularly true for the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030—the federal "anti­hacking" statute prompted in part by fear generated by the 1983 techno­thriller "WarGames." The CFAA was enacted in 1986, and the government's current prosecution of journalist Matthew Keys—who faces sentencing on Jan. 20 for three counts of violating the CFAA—illustrates the 30-­year­-old statute's many problems.

The CFAA makes it illegal to intentionally access a "protected computer"—which includes any computer connected to the Internet—"without authorization" or in excess of authorization. But the CFAA does not define "without authorization." This has given overzealous prosecutors broad discretion to bring criminal charges against individuals for behavior that simply doesn't rise to the culpability Congress had in mind when it passed this serious criminal law, such as doing something on a computer network that the owner doesn't like. (There is currently a circuit split on whether violations of employer­imposed use restrictions can give rise to CFAA liability, with the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Second, Fourth and Ninth Circuits finding that they cannot, and the First, Fifth, Seventh and Eleventh finding that they can.)

The Keys case centers on behavior that essentially amounts to Internet vandalism. After being fired from the Tribune Company, Keys shared the username and password of the Tribune Company's content management system in an online chat room. Another individual then used the credentials to log into the CMS and make some juvenile but relatively innocuous changes to a Los Angeles Times article, including modifying the title of the article to read "Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337" (from "Pressure builds in house to pass tax­cut package"). The changes were live for only about 40 minutes, after which the Tribune Company restored the original article and effectively blocked outside access to its CMS.

The government charged Keys with three felony counts under the CFAA: (i) conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer; (ii) transmission of computer code that resulted in unauthorized damage; and (iii) attempted transmission of malicious code to cause unauthorized damage. Keys was convicted on all three counts and now faces a maximum 25­year prison sentence—10 years each for the first two offenses and 5 years for the third.

The case is a stark example of how prosecutors are using the CFAA to get harsher punishments than they could get for analogous crimes in the physical world. One reason the Second Circuit recently joined the Fourth and Ninth Circuits in holding that the CFAA does not apply to violations of employer­-imposed use restrictions was the court's recognition that prosecutors should not have such broad discretion: "A court should not uphold a highly problematic interpretation of a statute merely because the government promises to use it responsibly." United States v. Valle, __ F.3d __, 2015 WL 7774548, *19 (2d Cir. Dec. 3, 2015).

To truly rein in prosecutorial discretion under the CFAA—and to avoid "transform[ing] the CFAA from an anti­-hacking statute into an expansive misappropriation statute[,]" United States v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854, 857 (9th Cir. 2012)—courts must observe the rule of lenity and limit application of the phrase "without authorization" in a way that captures Congress' "anti­-hacking" intent.

Compounding the problem, the CFAA has a disproportionately harsh penalty scheme. First time offenses are currently punishable by up to five years in prison, plus fines. Other violations are punishable by up to ten years, twenty years, or even life in prison. Maximum punishments are sometimes just a ploy to induce a defendant into a plea bargain or capture the public's attention, as we saw in the government's tragic case against Aaron Swartz. Aaron, facing up to 35 years in prison pursuant to the CFAA's harsh penalty scheme, took his own life. But maximums also impact the ultimate sentence imposed, as they are viewed as a sign of the severity of the crime.

Here, Keys faces up to 25 years in federal prison, even while a prosecutor on the case publicly acknowledged that "[t]his is not the crime of the century." The government has in fact signaled—but not promised—that it will "likely" seek less than five years, but even that seems too much for a 40­ minute prank. A recent public survey measuring people's beliefs about authorization and appropriate punishments for a variety of computer misuse activities confirms that the CFAA's penalties are drastically out of touch with lay instincts about the culpability of "unauthorized" computer access. While those surveyed generally thought of checking a weather report at work as "unauthorized," 60 percent nevertheless thought it should not be punished at all, while 32 percent thought it should be punished with the equivalent of a parking ticket. See Matthew Kugler, "Measuring Computer Use Norms," Geo. Wash. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016). And without sensible judicial interpretations of the CFAA's broad language, the law will keep drifting further from how we use computers today.

Sadly, some courts have gone in the wrong direction, paving the way for exorbitant punishments. For example, certain provisions of the CFAA require a showing of loss or damage. The statute defines "damage" as "any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information," and "loss" as "any reasonable cost to any victim, including the cost of responding to an offense, conducting a damage assessment, and restoring the data, program, system, or information to its condition prior to the offense, and any revenue lost, cost incurred, or other consequential damages incurred because of interruption of service[.]" See 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(8), (11). Courts have interpreted "cost of responding to an offense" and "conducting a damage assessment" to include costs associated with investigation of an offense and subsequent remedial measures—with no requirement that these be reasonable or proportionate to the type of unauthorized access alleged. Both prosecutors and civil plaintiffs have taken advantage of this. And because the amount of damage or loss claimed can impact the severity of a sentence, the abusive use of trumped­-up loss claims is particularly problematic when paired with the CFAA's already unduly harsh penalties.

In the Keys case, for instance, the government has argued that the Tribune Company incurred losses of $929,977.00. This includes fees for a lawyer who, according to WIRED magazine, was told by a Tribune Company manager, "if you bill $1,000 an hour, that would help us get this prosecuted." At trial, the manager claimed that this was just a joke about the lawyer's high billing rates. Either way, it seems dubious that it legitimately cost the Tribune Company almost a million dollars to deal with an article that was "defaced" for approximately 40 minutes.

Internet vandalism, while not commendable, should not give rise to charges that carry the potential of a 25­-year prison sentence. The Keys case shows what many of us have known for years: it's time for courts to take serious steps to ensure that the CFAA is consistently interpreted narrowly, in line with the rule of lenity, and, if they do not, for Congress to take up the task of CFAA reform.

Reprinted with permission from the January 11, 2016 edition of the Recorder © 2016 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved. 

Related Cases: United States v. Matthew Keys
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In Patent Litigation, Justice Delayed Ensures the Entire Public Can Be Denied

eff.org - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 04:34

When courts fail to quickly address serious defects in a patent litigation complaint, it can harm not only the parties to the case, but also the public at large. Yesterday, EFF and Public Knowledge filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in a case where the Eastern District of Texas is allowing expensive litigation to drag on even though the defendant has already fully briefed validity issues that almost surely will dispose of the case, and stop the patent owner from suing on them in the future.

Eclipse IP, the patent owner in this case, is a repeat patent assertor. It’s brought over 160 cases in recent years. (Eclipse IP recently changed its name to Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC, but the named party in this case is still Eclipse IP.) The defendant in this case, Marten Transport, is a trucking company based in Wisconsin.

Last April, Eclipse IP sued Marten Transport in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly infringing two of its patents: U.S. Patent No. 7,876,239 and U.S. Patent No. 7,479,899. This wasn’t the first time Eclipse IP has sued on one or both of these patents. Lex Machina (a patent litigation data reporting service) reports that the former patent has been involved in 109 lawsuits and the latter in 91.

Despite the remarkable number of cases involving these patents, Lex Machina also reports that there has never been any substantive ruling as to these patents or the validity of Eclipse IP’s claims of infringement. Cases seem to have a general pattern of quickly settling after the lawsuit has been filed. Unfortunately, because settlement information is usually not public, we don’t know whether or exactly how much money changed hands. (We do know that in one case, Eclipse IP asked for $95,000 from the defendant and that it has sent letters demanding payment of $45,000, amounts well below the cost of litigation.)

Recently, however, many defendants have been filing “Alice” motions when faced with particularly bad patents like Eclipse IP’s. These motions ask the court to find that the patents are facially invalid because they claim “abstract ideas,” which aren’t patentable under the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. Generally, these motions have been pretty successful across the country in getting courts to more quickly and efficiently weed out bad patents.

In this particular case, a dozen defendants had been consolidated into one case and nine of these defendants each filed an Alice motion. This was not surprising. As we noted in a previous post, Eclipse IP had claims from three related patents invalidated by a court in California. The court in California did this on the pleadings, meaning it avoided expensive discovery and limited the costs imposed on the defendants (the judge in those cases explained that he was concerned that Eclipse IP was “leveraging the cost of litigation, rather than the strength of its patents” to get settlements). If there was ever a case that the court could and should rule early and quickly, Eclipse’s case against Marten Transport was it. (One of the patents, U.S. Patent No. 7,119,716, has now-invalidated claims that are strikingly similar in scope to the patents being used against Marten Transport.)

Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Despite nine defendants filing Alice motions, the Eastern District of Texas has not ruled on a single one. In fact, while the motions were pending, all of the defendants except Marten Transport settled. It has now been over six months since Marten filed its original Alice motion (Marten Transport had to refile it a month after originally filing in virtually the same form when Eclipse IP filed a new complaint). Since that time, Marten Transport has had to bear significant litigation costs. Marten Transport has repeatedly asked the court to rule on its Alice motion (as well as a motion to transfer) but the court has not acted.

Last Friday, Marten Transport asked the Federal Circuit to order the Eastern District of Texas to rule on its Alice motion and its motion to transfer. In a “petition for writ of mandamus,” Marten Transport highlights that the case should not be in the Eastern District of Texas in the first place (Eclipse IP is based in Florida, Marten Transport is based in Wisconsin, making it clear the case should not be in Texas); and that the Court should rule on its Alice motion.

We agree. In our friend-of-the-court brief, we note how failing to rule allows a case to continue that almost surely should not. The defendant has to spend time and money on issues that are unnecessary to fully resolve the case. What’s more, there’s evidence that improper patent assertion harms innovation by making the defendant and others less likely to innovate for fear of more patent assertion.   

But more importantly, failing to rule allows Eclipse IP to continue asserting its patent against countless others. So long as a court never actually looks at Eclipse IP’s patent to determine its validity, Eclipse IP can keep suing and demanding quick settlements. Thus not only is Marten Transport harmed by litigating a case it should never have been dragged into, so is the public at large.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized the public policy of having patent validity determined by the courts when it is raised. Otherwise, it increases “the opportunities for holders of invalid patents to exact licensing agreements or other settlements from alleged infringers.”

We think it is especially important in cases brought by entities like Eclipse IP.  While we understand courts are busy and it may not be possible to quickly rule on motions, a better course of action would be to stay expensive discovery until that motion is decided (one way or the other). Patent owners should not be allowed to exploit a court’s failure to rule on a motion to bring hundreds of lawsuits where they use the cost of litigation to extract settlements.

 


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EFF To Court: Cisco Must Be Held Accountable For Aiding China’s Human Rights Abuses

eff.org - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 03:19
Company Built Customized ‘Golden Shield’ System to Identify Falun Gong Members Who Were Later Tortured

San Francisco—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit seeking to hold Cisco Systems accountable for aiding in human rights abuses by building the Chinese government a system that Cisco officials knew was intended to identify—and facilitate the capture and torture of—members of the Falun Gong religious minority.

In an amicus brief filed Monday with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, EFF and the groups ARTICLE 19 and Privacy International argue that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that Cisco understood that the “Golden Shield” system (also known as The Great Firewall) it custom-built for China was an essential component of the government’s program of persecution against the Falun Gong—persecution that included online spying and tracking, detention, and torture.

In Doe v. Cisco Systems Inc., Falun Gong victims and their families sued Cisco under a law known as the Alien Tort Statute, which allows noncitizens to bring claims in U.S. federal court for violations of human rights laws.  A federal judge dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs didn’t offer enough support for their claim that Cisco knew the customized features of the Golden Shield enabling the identification and apprehension of Falun Gong practitioners specifically would ultimately lead to torture.

As EFF explains in its brief, the judge misapplied the law.

“The facts alleged by the plaintiffs are sufficient to proceed with a lawsuit claiming Cisco knew that technologies it designed from its offices in San Jose, California, would facilitate human rights abuses, and purposefully built its products to help the Chinese government carry out its program of repressing, capturing, and abusing Falun Gong members,” said EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope. “Company officials didn’t have to be present in China in order to assist human rights violations, and victims have a right to their day in court.’’

The Golden Shield system included a library of Falun Gong Internet activity enabling the Chinese government to identify Falun Gong members online, according to the lawsuit. The case also contains strong evidence that Cisco created systems for storing and sharing information about “forced conversion”—i.e. torture—sessions for use as training tools. The cooperation was also documented in internal marketing literature, where a Cisco engineer described the company’s commitment to China’s security objectives, including the “douzheng” of Falun Gong practitioners. Douzheng is a term describing abuse campaigns against disfavored groups comprising of persecution and torture.

“Cisco’s conduct is part of a growing trend of U.S. and European technology companies helping repressive governments become highly efficient at committing human rights violations,” said Cope. “We are asking the Ninth Circuit to recognize that victims of such abuses can seek to hold accomplices like Cisco accountable for their role in brutal persecutions.”

Contact:  SophiaCopeStaff Attorneysophia@eff.org
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Categories: Aggregated News

Longstanding NYT Iran Bashing

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 02:37
Longstanding NYT Iran Bashing
by Stephen Lendman
Times management and editors march in lockstep with Washington’s imperial agenda - supporting its aim to replace all independent governments with Western-controlled puppet ones.
International law prohibits interfering in the internal affairs of other countries except in self-defense if attacked. 
The General Assembly's 1974 Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States says no nation may use or encourage use of economic, political or other measures to coerce another country to subordinate its sovereign rights in any way. 
Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Its military development and activities are solely for self-defense. Nothing suggests otherwise. 
Iran hasn’t attacked another country in centuries. It threatens none now. Sanctions imposed on its nuclear program were entirely for political reasons.
Annual US assessments explained no evidence of a military component or intention to have one.
Self-defense is a universally recognized right. International law affirms it. Iran is the leading proponent of regional peace and stability, free from nuclear weapons.
Instead of praising its agenda, Times editors bash it, making outrageous accusations - the latest on what they call “Iran’s Other Scary Weapons Program,” saying:
“The Obama administration is wisely planning (to impose) new sanctions in response to Iran’s two recent tests of ballistic missiles, which violated United Nations resolutions.”
False! Security Council Resolution 1929 only prohibits Iranian development of missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. 
Tehran has none, has no plans to develop any. No evidence suggests otherwise. It’s ballistic missile tests are entirely legitimate.
Imposing new sanctions will constitute a flagrant breach of last year’s nuclear deal, showing Washington intends dirty business as usual with Tehran - agreeing to terms in principle with intent to violate them unilaterally.
Times editors lied, claiming Iran’s nuclear program was its greatest threat until last year’s agreement was consummated. They urge addressing its “missile tests,” saying:
It’s “advancing the range and mobility of its ballistic missiles and vowing to accelerate production” - its legitimate right left unexplained.
They railed against what they call its “worrisome…collaboration with North Korea” - citing a Congressional Research Service report, calling their cooperation “significant and meaningful.”
They falsely claim Tehran rejects Security Council “attempts to curb (its) ballistic program” - entirely legitimate development violating no international laws or SC resolutions.
They urge new sanctions - to punish Tehran for its right of self-defense, calling imposition “an important and necessary way of keeping pressure on Iran to cease its (nonexistent) unacceptable activities.”
The Times exclusively represents Western wealth and power interests - supporting US hostility against invented enemies, its endless wars on humanity at home and abroad, the greatest threat to world peace.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israel's Endless War on Hamas

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 13/01/2016 - 02:29
Israel’s Endless War on Hamas
by Stephen Lendman
Israeli political, economic and three hot wars on Hamas followed its 2006 legislative victory. 
It remains Palestine’s legitimate government, the Abbas-led PA a longtime Israeli collaborator/complicit in enforcing occupation harshness, betraying the people it’s sworn to serve, benefitting at their expense.
Lawless mid-2007 blockade followed Israeli-imposed 2006 embargo - unrelated to security concerns, solely for political reasons, holding 1.8 million Gazans hostage, slowly suffocating them, finding new ways to inflict state terror.
Shin Bet lied, claiming it uncovered three Hamas West Bank and East Jerusalem terror cells in recent weeks, individuals planning attacks on Israelis.
No verifiable evidence suggests it. No suicide attacks or others with guns and explosives occurred. Nothing suggests they’re planned. 
What could Hamas strategically gain by attacking Israel? Thousands more Gazans could die. Remaining areas of the Strip intact post-Operation Protective Edge could be turned to rubble.
Are Israeli accusations prelude to more war? It claims Hamas rebuilt its cross-border infrastructure, investing considerable resources into the project. 
Since elected in January 2006, it never preemptively attacked Israel, responding only to its state terror after repeated provocations - its legitimate right of self-defense. 
Israel invents threats to justify state-sponsored terrorism, blaming victims for its high crimes.
Ludicrous claims about Hamas inciting conflict don’t wash - fear-mongering to enlist public support, to justify daily lethal shootings, kidnappings, mass arrests and collective punishment.
On January 11, AIPAC turned truth on its head, “(u)pdat(ing)” what it called “Palestinian and Arab Terrorism Against Israel,” - outrageously blaming a defenseless population for relentless daily state terror, substituting hate-mongering for cold, hard facts.
Since October 1, around 150 Palestinians were extrajudicially executed, well over 10,000 injured, thousands more from toxic tear gas, around 3,000 arrested and detained, nearly 700 held administratively uncharged - including young children, all held for political reasons.
Patients are pulled from hospital beds pre-dawn, residential communities, mosques, schools and universities attacked - Borzeit University the latest on Monday, an overnight raid targeting its campus, confiscating and damaging its equipment.
Scores of soldiers rampaged after midnight, breaching the school’s western gate, storming the university’s student council and faculty of science.
An administration statement “condemn(ed) the attack and direct violation of the sanctity of the university campus” - creating “havoc.”
“This is a blatant attack on our student council and the sanctity of democratic values,” it said. “This violation of the campus is a part of a blatant and systematic attack on the right of education and freedom of expression.”
University officials blasted Israel for lawlessly detaining around 80 of its students earlier, saying “(s)tealing our students’ lives and working to destroy the sanctity of our university campus and our right to education is an atrocious and obvious attempt to destroy the will of the Palestinian people.”
War without mercy on Palestine continues - slow-motion genocide, targeting an entire population, victims of Israeli ruthlessness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

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