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With Rule 41, Little-Known Committee Proposes to Grant New Hacking Powers to the Government

eff.org - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 08:06

The government hacking into phones and seizing computers remotely? It’s not the plot of a dystopian blockbuster summer movie. It’s a proposal from an obscure committee that proposes changes to court procedures—and if we do nothing, it will go into effect in December.

The proposal comes from the advisory committee on criminal rules for the Judicial Conference of the United States. The amendment [PDF] would update Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, creating a sweeping expansion of law enforcement’s ability to engage in hacking and surveillance. The Supreme Court just passed the proposal to Congress, which has until December 1 to disavow the change or it becomes the rule governing every federal court across the country.  This is part of a statutory process through which federal courts may create new procedural rules, after giving public notice and allowing time for comment, under a “rules enabling act.”1 

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure set the ground rules for federal criminal prosecutions. The rules cover everything from correcting clerical errors in a judgment to which holidays a court will be closed on—all the day-to-day procedural details that come with running a judicial system.

The key word here is “procedural.”  By law, the rules and proposals are supposed to be procedural and must not change substantive rights.

But the amendment to Rule 41 isn’t procedural at all. It creates new avenues for government hacking that were never approved by Congress.

The proposal would grant a judge the ability to issue a warrant to remotely access, search, seize, or copy data when “the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means” or when the media are on protected computers that have been “damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts.” It would grant this authority to any judge in any district where activities related to the crime may have occurred.

To understand all the implications of this rule change, let’s break this into two segments.

The first part of this change would grant authority to practically any judge to issue a search warrant to remotely access, seize, or copy data relevant to a crime when a computer was using privacy-protective tools to safeguard one's location. Many different commonly used tools might fall into this category. For example, people who use Tor, folks running a Tor node, or people using a VPN would certainly be implicated. It might also extend to people who deny access to location data for smartphone apps because they don’t feel like sharing their location with ad networks. It could even include individuals who change the country setting in an online service, like folks who change the country settings of their Twitter profile in order to read uncensored Tweets.

There are countless reasons people may want to use technology to shield their privacy. From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security. Millions of people who have nothing in particular to hide may also choose to use privacy tools just because they’re concerned about government surveillance of the Internet, or because they don’t like leaving a data trail around haphazardly.

If this rule change is not stopped, anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.

The second part of the proposal is just as concerning. It would grant authorization to a judge to issue a search warrant for hacking, seizing, or otherwise infiltrating computers that may be part of a botnet. This means victims of malware could find themselves doubly infiltrated: their computers infected with malware and used to contribute to a botnet, and then government agents given free rein to remotely access their computers as part of the investigation. Even with the best of intentions, a government agent could well cause as much or even more harm to a computer through remote access than the malware that originally infected the computer. Malicious actors may even be able to hijack the malware the government uses to infiltrate botnets, because the government often doesn't design its malware securely. Government access to the computers of botnet victims also raises serious privacy concerns, as a wide range of sensitive, unrelated personal data could well be accessed during the investigation. This is a dangerous expansion of powers, and not something to be granted without any public debate on the topic.

Make no mistake: the Rule 41 proposal implicates people well beyond U.S. borders. This update expands the jurisdiction of judges to cover any computer user in the world who is using technology to protect their location privacy or is unwittingly part of a botnet. People both inside and outside of the United States should be equally concerned about this proposal.

The change to Rule 41 isn’t merely a procedural update.  It significantly expands the hacking capabilities of the United States government without any discussion or public debate by elected officials. If members of the intelligence community believe these tools are necessary to advancing their investigations, then this is not the path forward. Only elected members of Congress should be writing laws, and they should be doing so in a matter that considers the privacy, security, and civil liberties of people impacted.

Rule 41 seeks to sidestep the legislative process while making sweeping sacrifices in our security. Congress should reject the proposal completely.

Read EFF and Access Now’s joint testimony on Rule 41.

 

  • 1. See 28 U.S.C. § 2073

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Community Groups Come Together Across the U.S. to Promote Digital Rights

eff.org - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 07:25

When setting out on a recent speaking tour in the wake of launching the Electronic Frontier Alliance (EFA) earlier this spring, I expected to encounter supporters of digital rights from all walks of life and backgrounds. My expectations, however, were vastly exceeded by what I witnessed in the nine cities that EFF visited over the course of this month.

From coast to coast, in communities large and small, Americans from across the political spectrum are coming together to champion the EFA's uniting principles: privacy, creativity, free expression, security, and access to the intellectual commons.

After meeting several organizers of EFA allied groups at RightsCon at the end of March, I started April in New York, where I had a chance to speak to the Students for Liberty Tech Freedom conference at NYU on April 2. The next day, we co-facilitated a workshop on digital security at the Brooklyn Commons, alongside Cryptoparty Harlem and the Black Movement Law Project (BMLP).

    

Participants came from each of New York City's five boroughs. We explored simple-yet-powerful tools to help ensure the privacy and security of digital communications in a workshop tailored to meet the needs of social movement activists.

On April 5, Penn for Privacy organized a pair of events at the University of Pennsylvania, including a discussion with roughly 50 engineering and other students and a roundtable following a documentary screening of an episode from the Truth and Power series. The photo below reflects some of the students who indicated after our discussion that they'd learned something from it:

The next day, we hosted another digital security workshop, this time in Baltimore, co-hosted by BMLP and Baltimore United for Change. Participants included students, lawyers, and some organizers from the Baltimore Uprising.

Returning to Washington, D.C. gave me a chance to live tweet the historic Color of Surveillance conference at Georgetown University Law Center on April 8. Video of the day's events was broadcast on C-SPAN, which continues to host a complete archive of the day's in four parts (1, 2, 3, and 4).

Two days later, we co-hosted another digital security workshop, in partnership with the Georgetown student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

From the mid-Atlantic, we moved to the Midwest, starting with a workshop at St. Louis University (SLU) Law School on April 15 with PLEA for Justice and the SLU chapters of the National Lawyers Guild and American Constitution Society. The event at SLU presented a particular opportunity to connect with activists in the movement for black lives, particularly after our session at separate events organized by attendees who participated in the Ferguson protests responding to death of Mike Brown.

  

The next day, we co-facilitated a workshop in Chicago in which nearly 100 people participated from across the city. The Chicago GNU/Linux Users Group, Restore the Fourth-Chicago, and Chicago NLG chapter came together to officially co-sponsor the workshop, and we also heard from speakers at Lucy Parsons Labs, which is doing remarkable work investigating Chicago Police Department surveillance. 

After a week back in the Bay area at EFFs headquarters, I wrapped up the month with two events in Colorado.

First, I had a chance to speak on April 26 at the first inaugural Cybersecurity Forum organized by the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. My comments addressed the vital role of democratic transparency in legitimating national security efforts, the constitutional rights that military servicemembers swear an oath to protect, and the disturbing trends visible in the 55 years since President Dwight Eisenhower warned us that a military industrial complex would threaten democracy in America. In the wake of our panel, I was quite frankly stunned by the level and breadth of support I received from military cadets, veterans, and former intelligence professionals.

The next day, I was pleased to attend an event in Denver focusing on the intersection of copyright and freedom of expression, especially for security researchers. Activists from as far away as Fort Collins attended, including several students organizing at Colorado State University. 

In every one of the cities we visited, we helped connect EFF supporters who had not previously encountered each other. Gathering digital rights activists together offline presents enormous opportunities that we look forward to developing in the months ahead.

In some cities, EFA member groups will be hosting teach-ins, workshops, discussions, and other public education events. In others, they'll be pursuing grassroots campaigns to shift local, state, and federal policy. In others, they'll be developing open source software projects, while others may consider organizing creative local actions to reach and engage new allies.

If you're part of a community organization, hacker space, student club, or affinity group concerned about digital rights, we invite you to join the Alliance! If you're working alone for now, sign up for updates to learn how to build a presence for digital rights in your community.


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Categories: Aggregated News

America's Rape of Iraq

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 02:24
America’s Rape of Iraq
by Stephen Lendman
Complicit with Israel, America’s plan to redraw the Middle East map bears full responsibility for raping and destroying Iraq.
From September 1980 to the present, Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama committed the highest of high crimes against peace. 
Millions of Iraqis perished from war, conflict related violence, preventable diseases, starvation, overall deprivation and US-sponsored terrorism. 
Millions today endure unspeakable misery - living in an endless war zone, security and stability entirely absent.
Puppet governance runs things, serving its US master, officials enriching themselves through massive corruption, ignoring humanitarian crisis conditions affecting millions of impoverished, unemployed and internally displaced Iraqis.
Protests demanding reform raged intermittently in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities since July 2015. They escalated in mid-March over parliament’s failure to act, ebbed after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proposed new cabinet members, intensified when legislators rejected his choices.
When political insiders were then chosen, violent protests followed, voting on Abadi’s ministers postponed three times.
On Saturday, things came to a head. After lawmakers again failed to vote on government reforms, thousands took to the streets of Baghdad.
Hundreds stormed the heavily fortified, four-square-mile, fortress-like Green Zone - home to Iraq’s parliament and foreign embassies.
Some made it into the parliament building. MPs fled for safety. Embassy compounds were in lockdown. Reuters said hundreds of protesters “stormed into Baghdad’s Green Zone and entered parliament” after legislators “fail(ed) to reform a political quota system blamed for rampant corruption.”
They chanted “(t)he cowards ran away,” referring to lawmakers leaving the premises. No curfew was imposed. No clashes with security forces were reported.
Heavily armed security forces were deployed around sensitive sites. Entrances to Baghdad were shut. Earlier in the day, a car bomb killed 18 and wounded dozens more in suburban Nahrawan.
Reuters called Saturday’s Green Zone breach “unprecedented,” a heavily protected fortress, “symbolizing the isolation of Iraq’s leadership” and its US master from long-suffering people.
Thousands protested nonviolently. Shia clerical leader Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to bring down the entire government.
In a televised speech from Najaf, he announced a two-month withdrawal from public life while “waiting for the great popular uprising and the major revolution to stop the march of the corrupt.”
“If the nation lets me, I can end the current government and form a new one without any corruption,” he added.
So far things are largely nonviolent. They could explode any time if public sentiment is ignored.
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.

Palestinians Protecting Islam's Third Holiest Site Risk Imprisonment

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 02:13
Palestinians Protecting Islam’s Third Holiest Site Risk Imprisonment
by Stephen Lendman
Israel kidnaps and brutalizes Palestinians for any reason or none at all. Multiple community intrusions occur daily - families terrorized, children traumatized. 
On April 14, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said soldiers abducted 16 Palestinians, aged 45 - 70, after violently raiding their homes pre-dawn.
On April 29, seven were indicted for “joining a hostile organization.” Sa’adi Rajabi, Anwar al-Qaaq, ‘Adli Abu Ermeila, Mohammad Taher Arafa, Jamal Natsha and Khader Abu Sneina face criminal prosecution for protecting Islam’s third holiest site. 
Israel calls it incitement, charging the men for involvement with Murabitun - outlawed last year for protecting Al-Aqsa, demonstrating against increasing Israeli intrusions and attempted control over Islam’s third holiest site.
Extremist Jews want it for a third Jewish temple. They want prohibition against non-Muslim prayer lifted.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s office shamelessly called banning the group along with its female Murabitat counterpart necessary “to defend the security of the state, the well-being of the public and public order.”
It called both groups “a main factor in creating tension and violence” at the site, ignoring Israel’s full responsibility.
“They engage in incite(ment) and dangerous activity against tourists, visitors and worshipers at the site, which leads to violence…striving to undermine Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount,” Ya’alon’s office said, adding:
“They are linked to, and frequently guided by, hostile Islamic organizations.” Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem director Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib called Israel’s decision “totally unacceptable.”
“The occupation regime has no right to intervene in Al-Aqsa’s matters,” he said. “Any Muslim who enters Al-Aqsa mosque and prays is a protector of the mosque. Nobody has a right to prevent a Muslim from entering their holy site and praying.”
Anyone involved with either group risks arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. Israeli soldiers provocatively let extremist Jews storm Al Aqsa, at times responsible for instigating clashes.
Israel considers protecting Islam’s third holiest site a criminal offense.
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.

Stupid Patent of the Month: Voice2Text Trolls VoIP Providers

eff.org - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 01:45

This month, a company called Voice2Text Innovations filed patent infringement lawsuits against two voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services, Phone.com and Vitelity. Voice2Text has no website or any other information online; its sole asset appears to be US Patent No. 8,914,003—unsurprisingly, a patent on using voice recognition to convert a voicemail into a text message. Equally unsurprisingly, it’s filed those suits in the Eastern District of Texas, whose patent-troll-friendly practices we’ve thoroughly documented on this blog. The Voice2Text patent is so absurd that we had to honor it with our Stupid Patent of the Month award.

Here’s the Voice2Text patent’s first claim:

1. A system, comprising:

a voice mail system receiving and storing a voice mail for a user;

a speech-to-text conversion module converting the voice mail from audio data into text data; and

a delivery module transmitting the text data in an email message in an email format to an email address associated with the user and in a Short Message Service (SMS) message in an SMS format to an SMS address associated with the user.

It goes on to detail the general process of receiving a voicemail, using a speech recognition “module” to convert the audio to text, and delivering the text as an email and as an SMS message. Keep in mind that it says nothing about how the voice-to-text module works; it’s merely a patent on the system for sending a voicemail as an email and a text message.

That is to say, it’s a patent on doing one of the most obvious things you’d want to do with a speech recognition algorithm.

As with other software patents, such as this previous Stupid Patent of the Month from Blue Spike, the Voice2Text patent leaves the hard work of actually writing code to the reader. Since the patent describes nothing beyond banal generalities (e.g. the system “may be configured to convert the voice mail into a text”) it provides no meaningful assistance over simply starting the project from scratch.

But there’s another fundamental problem with this patent: it claims an idea that wasn’t new. According to the law, a person isn’t entitled to a patent if the claimed invention already existed when the application was filed or would have been obvious to someone skilled in the relevant technology area. Reliable voice-to-text conversion has been a goal in the software industry since the 1950s. New uses of that technology—like the voicemail-to-text features that many VoIP providers offer—have been enabled by improvements in the speech-recognition algorithms themselves. It would be naïve to think that voicemail-to-text was ever held back because no one had thought of it yet. Companies were already offering voicemail-to-text services long before the Voice2Text patent came along. In fact, a lot of them were.

The Voice2Text patent was filed in June of 2006. Here’s a 2005 ZDNet article about a product essentially identical to what’s described in the patent. We even found a very similar service going all the way back to 2001. That’s just scratching the surface. If you want to join in the fun and look for more examples of this “invention,” try a custom search in Google to retrieve only results from May 2006 or before. All of this material that existed prior to the “invention” now claimed by Voice2Text is referred to as prior art. When reviewing a patent application, part of the Patent Office’s job is to look for relevant prior art.

That we were so easily able to find relevant, material prior art points out a serious flaw in Patent Office practices. Too often we see examiners at the Patent Office only looking for patent prior art. That is, only looking for existing patents that are for the same invention or are close enough that the invention is obvious. The Patent Office routinely ignores the vast amount of prior art in the real world that’s not patented, and so we get new patents on old products that have existed for years.

We’ve long noted that the Patent Office does a poor job searching for prior art when reviewing software patents. Software patents issue every week that don’t describe new inventions—most of the time, a simple Google search proves it. The result is a system that rewards those who write vague wish lists at the expense of those that do the hard work of developing commercially successful systems.


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Categories: Aggregated News

Pentagon Whitewashes Mass Murder

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 22:51

Pentagon Whitewashes Mass Murder
by Stephen Lendman
America considers civilians legitimate targets in all its wars of aggression. Fundamental laws of war prohibit attacking them - ignored in all US combat operations.
CENTCOM lied, calling its October 3, 2015 bombing of the Kunduz, Afghanistan Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital a “tragic incident.”
It turned truth on its head, claiming “personnel involved did not know that they were striking a medical facility. The intended target was an insurgent-controlled site which was approximately 400 meters away…”
CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel willfully lied, claiming US forces “had no idea” they were attacking a medical facility.
False! CENTCOM knew it was an MSF hospital, yet ordered the attack anyway, falsely claiming it was used as a Taliban command and control center - before acknowledging otherwise. 
Dozens of doctors, other medical staff and patients were massacred in cold blood, many others injured, victims of US imperial viciousness.
MSF provided CENTCOM and Afghan authorities with precise hospital coordinates several times. While under attack, it informed their authorities about what was happening, the facility struck multiples times for over an hour with precision weapons - a war crime by any standard.
MSF called the attack an “abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law. (A) war crime (was) committed.”
The Pentagon denied MSF’s demand for an independent investigation into what happened - conducted its own to whitewash mass murder.
CENTCOM’s report acknowledged violations of rules of engagement and laws of war breaches, while at the same time denying culpability for an indisputable high crime.
Votel said more than a dozen US servicemen were disciplined for what happened, meaningless wrist slaps at most. None face criminal charges for deliberate mass murder. Coverup and denial reflect longstanding Pentagon practice.
CENTCOM’s commander willfully lied, saying “(t)he investigation found that the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors and equipment failures, and that none of the personnel knew they were striking a hospital.” 
“The trauma center was a protected facility but it was misidentified during this engagement.” It was on a “no strike” list, its precise location known, yet willfully attacked anyway without just cause.
In response to CENTCOM’s whitewash, MSF’s Meinie Nicolai called Votel’s briefing “an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area.”
“It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the US, the attack was not called off.”
“The threshold that must be crossed for this deadly incident to amount to a grave breach of international humanitarian law is not whether it was intentional or not.”
“(A)rmed groups cannot escape their responsibilities on the battlefield simply by ruling out the intent to attack a protected structure such as a hospital.”
“(V)ictims and their families have neither the option to pursue legal action (for justice) nor claim compensation for loss of life and livelihood.”
America commits war crimes with impunity in all its theaters of conflict. US warplanes destroyed or damaged several Syrian and Iraqi hospitals along with numerous nonmilitary related sites, these actions continuing on a regular basis.  
Pentagon coverup and denial doesn’t wash. Repeated high crimes go unpunished - naked aggression without mercy most of all, attacking nonbelligerent nations threatening no one, raping and destroying them, the highest of high crimes.
NYT editors disgracefully called mass murdering and injuring dozens of MSF doctors, medical staff and patients a mistake, a catastrophe, “gross negligence,” and war zone blunder - failing to condemn a willful war crime and demand full accountability.
They ludicrously cited Pentagon officials claiming “they acted promptly to retrain all troops in Afghanistan about the rules for using deadly force and…have taken precautions” to avoid repeat incidents.
They continue on a regular basis in all US war theaters. Mass civilian casualties don’t matter, considered a small price to pay to advance America’s imperium - an agenda the NYT wholeheartedly endorses.
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.

US Behind New Coup Plot in Venezuela

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 22:49

US Behind New Coup Plot in Venezuela
by Stephen Lendman
Since Hugo Chavez’s December 1998 election, Washington plotted to regain control over Venezuela and its vast oil reserves.
Two anti-Chavista coup plots failed, another against current President Nicolas Maduro foiled. US economic war facilitated fascists gaining control of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Washington’s dirty hands are involved in helping their latest attempt to oust Maduro - wanting neoliberal harshness replacing Bolivarian fairness.
In March, the anti-Chavista Movement of Democratic Unity (MUD) published its Roadmap for Change. MUD executive secretary Jesus Torealba “call(ed) on the entire Venezuelan people…to force Maduro to resign…”
The plot involves constitutionally reducing presidential terms from six to four years, rewriting Venezuela’s Bolivarian constitution, mobilizing street protests and ousting Maduro by recall referendum.
Obama’s 2015 executive order shamelessly declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national and foreign policy of the United States,” a perversion of reality.
The 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) permits the regulation of commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to an alleged threat to America by a foreign state.
In March 2015, Obama invoked it against Venezuela, imposing sanctions illegally. No nation may impose them against others, only Security Council members. 
Maduro blasted the move as aggressive, saying “(u)nlike the US, we have never killed innocent children nor bombed hospitals.”
Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled reducing presidential terms to four years won’t apply retroactively to Maduro if enacted by constitutional amendment.
Article 24 of the Bolivarian Constitution prohibits retroactivity, High Court justices saying “(t)o accept (it) would constitute an unquestionable violation of the exercise of sovereignty in Article 5 of the Magna Carta, since it would amount to a rejection of the will of the people.”
MUD efforts to oust Maduro by recall referendum are underway. Article 72 of Venezuela's Constitution states “(a)ll magistrates and other offices (including the president) filled by popular vote are subject to revocation.” c
“Once half (their) term of office...has elapsed, 20% of (registered) voters (by petition may call for) a referendum to revoke such official’s mandate.” 
“When a number of voters equal to or greater than the number of those who elected the official vote in favor of revocation (provided the total is 20% or more of registered voters), the official’s mandate shall be deemed revoked…”
So far, 1.5 million signatures were collected, well above the 1% of the electorate in every state needed to call for a national referendum. 
Once Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) verifies the authenticity of signatures collected, MUD will have 72 hours to get 20% of the electorate (over four million required) to sign a petition supporting a recall referendum.
If enough signatures are verified, one will be organized within 90 days. Removing Maduro requires support from more than the 50.6% of voters supporting his 2013 election.
The failed 2004 recall process against Chavez took seven months. The current attempt to oust Maduro could continue through yearend.
Given dire economic conditions, his future and Bolivarianism’s fate remain up for grabs.
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.

China Denies US Carrier Group Hong Kong Port Call

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 22:48
China Denies US Carrier Group Hong Kong Port Call
Stephen Lendman
US/Sino tensions remain high. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs chairman Joseph (“fighting Joe”) Dunford provocatively call China and Russia America’s leading threats, along with Iran, North Korea and terrorism.
On Friday, America’s Hong Kong consulate said Beijing denied permission for the USS John C. Stennis and four accompanying vessels to make a Hong Kong port call, beginning on May 3 for five days.
China’s Foreign Ministry said it “needs to approve every ship coming to Hong Kong on a case by case basis in accordance with sovereignty principles and specific circumstances.”
On April 15, Defense Secretary Carter visited the USS John C. Stennis, DOD ludicrously calling the warship “a symbol of American commitment to peace and security in Southeast Asia.”
Carter said at the time, “the United States intends to continue to play a role out here that it has for seven decades…” During a preceding Manila visit, he said America supports the Philippines and other regional allies in the face of “coercion and intimidation.”
Washington claims dominion over parts of the world not its own, advancing its military footprint provocatively, risking direct confrontation with China and Russia.
Beijing remains justifiably concerned about its attempt to militarize the South China Sea, flying patrols and conducting military exercises close to its waters and territory.
Earlier its Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Beijing “is extremely concerned at the United States’ pushing of the militarization of the South China Sea region.”
“What they are doing can't help but make people wonder whether they want nothing better than chaos” or direct confrontation.
In 2007, Beijing denied the USS Kitty Hawk’s Hong Kong port call request after the Bush administration announced an advance missile sale to Taiwan and welcomed the Dalai Lama (a longtime CIA asset) at the White House.
The USS Stennis carrier group is currently operating in South China Sea waters provocatively close to Beijing claimed sovereign areas. The Pentagon asserts the phony pretext of “freedom of navigation.” 
Beijing accuses Washington of regional interference and “sabotaging regional peace” - in response to its announced military buildup in the Philippines, a provocative move, one of many risking direct confrontation.
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.

Mississippi Attorney General Withdraws Burdensome Subpoena, but Google Continues to Fight

eff.org - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 07:59

Last week, after over a year of fighting in court, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood withdrew a burdensome, 79-page investigatory subpoena issued to Google back in October 2014. Documents from the 2014 Sony hack implied the subpoena was part of a Hollywood plot against the search giant, with the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) pushing the Attorney General to aggressively investigate and smear the company.

Last year, a federal district court issued an injunction prohibiting Hood from enforcing the subpoena. Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the injunction last month on the ground that Hood had not yet moved to enforce the subpoena (and because he did not have statutory authority to enforce the subpoena without asking for court’s help), the court made it clear that the subpoena was “expansively” written and presented a serious threat of violating both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

Hood seems to have taken note. According to Google’s most recent filing, Hood withdrew the subpoena by letter on April 22, 2016. Hood, however, indicated that Google was still under a “litigation hold”—essentially meaning that Google could be in trouble if it didn’t hold on to the documents that are the subject of the subpoena. (And given the incredible breadth of the subpoena, that’s a lot of documents.)

Unsurprisingly then, Google isn’t done fighting. The company has asked for a rehearing before the Fifth Circuit panel. 

We are happy to see Google continuing to fight against this attempted abuse of a power by a state government official. Hood’s subpoena is replete with speculative, non-specific allegations, and it appeared to be based primarily on allegedly unlawful activities of third parties who use Google’s services. Holding a service provider like Google liable for this information would be a direct violation of Section 230, which is intended to encourage the development of new communication technologies by shielding intermediaries from liability based on third-party content. The subpoena also threatens to violate the First Amendment, which protects both the right of service providers to exercise editorial control over the third party content they host and the right of Internet uses to receive and engage with such information online.

We support an injunction against Hood in this case. We told the Fifth Circuit as much in an amicus brief back in August 2015. As we argued in our brief, allowing this this type of abuse of investigatory powers by state officials would set a dangerous precedent. An injunction is necessary to send a message that courts will not tolerate such abusive use of a state official’s investigatory subpoena power. It’s an important message to send, because not all companies will have the resources to fight back against such abuses of power. 

Thanks to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), Public Knowledge (PK), and R Street Institute for joining our amicus brief.

Related Cases: Google v. Hood
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Categories: Aggregated News

Federal Circuit Declines to Fix Forum Shopping in Patent Cases, Reform Still Needed

eff.org - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 07:05

In a disappointing but unsurprising ruling, the Federal Circuit confirmed today that patent owners essentially have free rein to file suit in any tiny corner of the country, regardless of its minimal connection to the patent owner, the alleged infringer, or the technology involved.

The case is In re TC Heartland. The alleged infringer, TC Heartland, was sued by Kraft in Delaware. TC Heartland asked the Federal Circuit, through a petition for writ of mandamus, to find that the case couldn’t be heard there, according to laws regarding “venue.”

The case is one of statutory interpretation. Prior to 1990, the Supreme Court had long held that in patent cases, the statute found at 28 U.S.C. § 1400 controlled where a patent case could be filed. However, in 1990 in a case called VE Holding, the Federal Circuit held that a small technical amendment to another statute—28 U.S.C. § 1391—abrogated this long line of cases. VE Holding, together with another case called Beverly Hills Fan, essentially meant that companies that sold products nationwide could be hailed into any court in the country on charges of patent infringement, regardless of how tenuous the connection to that court.

Although this case was filed in Delaware, it would have had a big impact on another US district. As we’ve discussed on numerous occasions, the expansion of patent venue has fostered an unprecedented concentration of patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas. In 2015, almost 45% of all patent cases were heard there, with almost 30% in front of a single judge. This concentration is likely due to procedural and substantive rules put in place in the Eastern District of Texas that tend to increase costs on defendants. This in turn incentivizes patent owners with the most dubious patents and claims of infringement to file there, as they can more easily leverage the cost of litigation to get an undeserved settlement.

In today’s decision, the Federal Circuit has indicated that it is unwilling to disturb the status quo. Although it’s still possible for the full Federal Circuit or the Supreme Court to rule otherwise, it may be that a legislative fix is needed.

Three senators recently proposed changing the law that the Federal Circuit says allows this venue shopping. Called the VENUE Act, the law would limit the ability of patent owners to file in any district they want, and would instead require lawsuits to be filed in districts that make sense, like where the inventor lives or where the defendant is located. Congress should step in and make clear it never intended over 40% of all patent cases to be heard in a single, far-flung district. The VENUE Act is not the comprehensive reform we need, but we can’t keep waiting while unfair procedural rules put innovators and small businesses at an unfair disadvantage. Let’s tell the Senate to pass the VENUE Act now.

Tell the Senate to end venue abuse in patent lawsuits.


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Categories: Aggregated News

Russia and America are Adversaries, Not Partners

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 02:09
Russia and America Are Adversaries, Not Partners
by Stephen Lendman
Agreements Russia and other nations make with America are fraught with hazards. Sordid US history shows it flagrantly breaches deals repeatedly.
Washington can’t be trusted. It doesn’t negotiate in good faith. Duplicity is longstanding policy, peace anathema to advancing its imperium.
Russian officials calling their US counterparts partners is oxymoronic on its face. Longstanding relations between both countries are adversarial. Top US officials and Pentagon commanders call Moscow America’s leading threat. Evidence shows otherwise.
Numerous previous articles explained in detail. Putin and Obama are geopolitical opposites - the world’s preeminent peacemaker v. its leading aggressor, agendas of both governments antithetical to the other.
Putin promotes mutual cooperation among all nations. Obama demands all countries obey its rules. It wants all independent governments transformed into US vassal states.
When both countries conclude agreements, Russia’s word is its bond, America’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
A so-called “regime of silence” both countries agreed to in Syria’s Latakia province for 72 hours may prove meaningless as cessation of hostilities and farcical peace talks.
It calls for both sides to cease hostilities for three days - unlikely with US-backed terrorists continuing them against civilian and government targets.
It’s wishful thinking to expect terrorists to turn over a new leaf even short-term. Since cessation of hostilities began at midnight February 26, multiple daily violations occurred - with full US support and encouragement.
America wants war, not peace. Ceasefire is anathema to its agenda. Endless conflicts and turbulence serve it.
Syria’s military said it’ll observe the silence period in Latakia’s northern countryside for 72 hours and Ghouta, east of Damascus, for a 24-hour period.
Fighting will continue raging in Aleppo province and other areas controlled by, infested with, or attacked US-backed terrorists.
A drop of “silence” in an ocean of war accomplishes little. If warring sides maintain “silence” for one to three days, nothing suggests hostilities won’t resume like before when it ends.
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.

Former Speaker Boehner Blasts Cruz

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 01:56
Former Speaker Boehner Blasts Cruz
by Stephen Lendman 
John Boehner minced no words, calling Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh,” adding “I have never worked with a more miserable son-of-a-bitch in my life.”
Trump sounds almost mild, calling him “lying Ted…a hypocrite…a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.”
A previous article called him the most despised US senator - arrogant, abrasive, mean-spirited, insufferable and obnoxious, antagonizing friends and foes.
His combative style creates enemies. He calls fellow Republicans fake conservatives. Boehner silently blasted him earlier by raising his middle finger, expressing anger and disgust.
No senator in memory created more enemies on both sides of the isle. Imagine how world leaders would react to a Cruz presidency. How do you say “son-of-a-bitch” in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic etc?
Boehner said he’ll support Trump if nominated, not Cruz. Earlier he backed Jeb Bush, endorsed John Kasich when he dropped out.
“If we don’t have a nominee who can win on the first ballot, I’m for none of the above,” he also said, adding “I’m for Paul Ryan to be our nominee,” current House speaker.
Asked about the former speaker’s criticism, Cruz said he let “his inner Trump come out. (He represents) everything wrong and corrupt in Washington.”
Last summer, Boehner called Cruz a “jackass.” On CBS News’ Face the Nation, he said he’s a “false prophet.”
Cruz and tea party neocons helped end Boehner’s tenure as speaker and longtime congressional member (1991 - 2015), nearly five years in one of the nation’s most influential posts.
Former Boehner spokesman David Schnittger said “he generally says what he thinks…and being out of office (hasn’t made him) less inclined to be that way.”
He ridiculed Hillary Clinton, saying “(o)h, I’m a woman. Vote for me.” He called his “proudest accomplishment…walking out of there the same jackass I was 25 years before.”
On Thursday, Cruz tweeted: “Tell me again who will stand up to Washington? Trump, who’s Boehner’s ‘texting and golfing buddy,’ or Carly & me?
America’s money-controlled political system gives voters no acceptable choices. Names and faces change. Everything stays the same.
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.

Obama's Economic Legacy: Thirdworldizing America

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 23:04
Obama’s Economic Legacy: Thirdworldizing America
by Stephen Lendman
The New York Times colluded with Obama, presenting the illusion of economic recovery, twisting reality, ignoring cold hard facts.
Interviewed by its financial columnist Andrew Sorkin, a false picture of his economic record was presented.
America’s 1% never had things better. Protracted Main Street Depression conditions affect most others. 
One out of four working-age Americans have no jobs. Most others lucky to have work are underemployed - stuck in rotten part-time, low-pay, poor-or-no-benefit temp or part-time positions, one missed paycheck away from homelessness, hunger and desperation.
Economist John Williams says “(e)conomic activity is deteriorating rapidly, not improving.” Q I “GDP growth of 0.5% was absolute nonsense…Meaningful downside revisions loom…”
Housing starts, industrial production, retail sales, and durable goods orders are down. “US economic reality remains (protracted) non-recovery and renewed downturn,” Williams explained.
Economic conditions for ordinary Americans are dismal with no prospect in sight for improvement. Independent historians one day will explain how Obama hastened the nation’s transformation into an oligarch-run kleptocracy, a banana republic.
Inside the bubble, it’s paradise for the privileged few. Outside it’s dystopian hell. Sorkin let Obama get away with repeated lies and distortions, failing to responsibly challenge him responsibly.
“(W)e probably managed (the economic crisis) better than any large economy on earth in modern history,” Obama claimed. Truth is polar opposite.
Recovery never occurred. Crisis conditions remain. Obama’s legacy reflects the worst economic management in US history - enriching the few, harming most others, waging endless wars on humanity, letting Wall Street and war-profiteers benefit hugely.
Trump is right calling America “a third world nation.” Obama claiming the US economy is in much better shape than the public appreciates is belied by growing millions impoverished, Depression-level unemployment, record levels of hunger and homelessness - unreported crisis conditions going unaddressed.
Inequality soared during Obama’s tenure. Wealth redistribution from ordinary Americans to its privileged class remains unprecedented. 
Inflation-adjusted median household income plunged. A 2013 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances explained it declined 12% ($6,400) between 2007 and 2013.
Between 2010 and 2013, it fell 5%. Most Americans believe the nation remains mired in recession for good reason. They’re struggling daily to get by.
Suicides and mortality rates are up, life expectancy lower for the most disadvantaged, social justice fast eroding, on the chopping block for elimination altogether.
Throughout his tenure, Obama did nothing to help growing millions, suffering through America’s second Great Depression.
The true measure of the man and his administration is disgraceful - serving the privileged few exclusively, contemptuous of most others.
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. 

The Battle for Aleppo

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 22:53
The Battle for Aleppo
by Stephen Lendman
Western officials and supportive media scoundrels blame attacks on civilian targets in Aleppo and surrounding areas on Syria and Russia. US-backed terrorists bear full responsibility.
The UK government owned, operated and controlled BBC was typical media deception, repeating tired old Big Lies, citing US sources “criticizing Russia’s air campaign for largely striking at Western-backed groups fighting the Syrian government rather than the so-called Islamic State.”
Fact: Syrian and Russian forces are attacking ISIS and other Security Council designated terrorist groups.
Fact: All armed factions waging war on Syria are imported death squads - supported by Washington and its rogue partners.
Fact: They’re willfully attacking civilians with full US backing and encouragement. US special forces and CIA elements on the ground help direct their operations.
On Thursday, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) statement said the following:
“Fourteen people, including at least two doctors, were killed Wednesday night in the bombing of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the medical humanitarian organization said today.”
“According to hospital staff on the ground, the Al Quds hospital in Aleppo was destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble. Other airstrikes in the neighborhood also hit areas close to the hospital.”
A previous article incorrectly identified the MSF hospital as al-Razi. Syrian media reported it was shelled and badly damaged - killing at least 20, injuring dozens using rockets “stuffed with highly explosive materials.”
Government and Russian warplanes had nothing to do with either attack. Syria’s military called reports otherwise “untrue and aimed at covering the terrorists’ crimes against civilians.”
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashinkov said its “air force has not carried out any flights over the Aleppo region during the latest days.”
Data confirms “that a warplane for one country of the (so-called US-led) coalition flew…in Aleppo skies” on the day the MSF hospital and other civilian targets were attacked.
On Thursday, Sergey Lavrov blasted America’s illegal operations in Syria - ongoing without Security Council or Damascus authorization.
They reflect “the arrogant stance that Syrian President Assad heads an illegitimate regime,” said Lavrov - ignoring his democratic reelection and overwhelming popularity.
Russia is “the only country engaged in anti-terrorism activities in Syria legally,” Lavrov stressed.
Washington wants regime change, perhaps intending an operation similar to Libya, he added. It’s waging naked aggression against a sovereign independent state, using terrorist fighters as imperial foot soldiers.
Separately, Fars News said “Turkey is planning to launch a new invasion against Syria under the pretext of fighting against the ISIL terrorists,” citing Arab media source Al-Quds al-Arabi.
It reported Ankara intending to invade northern Syria “through a region 8km in width and 18km in length,” according to Fars News.
Turkish forces control small Syrian border areas. Erdogan apparently has a greater objective in mind.
In the last 24 hours, Syrian media reported 33 civilian deaths, another 165 injured. An Aleppo Police Command source said nine children and a woman were among those killed.
US-backed terrorists are willfully targeting civilians, killing and wounding them daily. A Syrian military source said thousands of government troops intend a large offensive in days, aiming to “wipe out the militancy in Aleppo province.”
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.

Israel Murders Pregnant Palestinian Woman Posing No Threat

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 21:30
Israel Murders Pregnant Palestinian Woman Posing No Threat
by Stephen Lendman
Israeli viciousness goes virtually unreported in America, little elsewhere in the West, its high crimes ignored. 
Long-suffering Palestinians don’t matter. They’re persecuted for not being Jews, often victims of cold-blooded murder. 
On Wednesday, Israeli security forces lethally shot 23-year-old pregnant mother Maram Salif Hassan Abu Ismail and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim.
They threatened no one. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri lied, claiming an attempted stabbing attack was foiled.
Maram and Ibrahim were heading for Jerusalem. They took a path intended for vehicles, not pedestrians. At the Qalandiya checkpoint, they didn’t understand what soldiers were shouting at them in Hebrew.
Ibrahim reached for his sister’s hand. They froze in fear, posed no threat, yet soldiers lethally shot Maram. When Ibrahim tried helping her, he was shot and killed.
An eyewitness said they posed no threat. Other witnesses said soldiers fired repeatedly at them as they lay helpless on the ground.
Eyewitness Ahmad Taha said “(t)here was no stabbing attempt, and no reason for the army to shoot. The soldiers shot them from a distance, and then fired more rounds to confirm the kills.”
They “placed two knives next to the lifeless bodies…shortly after…police published pictures showing three knives.” 
Planting them at the scene of their crimes is commonplace Israeli practice. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said soldiers denied its medical workers access to both victims, letting them bleed to death unattended.
They weren’t carrying knives, nor was Maram wearing an explosive belt as the IDF claimed. Palestinian medical sources said she was five months pregnant.
“Her only fault was walking the wrong route and not understanding Hebrew.” The only thing she “carried” was her fetus.
Ibrahim chose the wrong time to accompany his sister. Most alleged Palestinian stabbing attempts are fabricated.
Media reports invariably say no Israelis were injured. How could so many alleged incidents only harm Palestinians, many resulting in their deaths, yet security forces rarely are harmed.
Draw your own conclusion!
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.

A Battery of Dangerous Cybercrime Proposals Still Hang Over Brazil

eff.org - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 10:54

Digital rights activists across Brazil held their breath yesterday, as the country’s Parliamentary Commission on Cybercrime (CPICIBER) debated whether to send its report to the full lower house of Congress for committee assignment and debate. In the end, the vote was postponed, and rescheduled for Tuesday, May 3rd. A postponement does not fix the problems with the commission’s proposals — but it may show a growing realization of the negative attention the report is gathering from Brazil’s Internet users.

As we’ve described previously, the report contains a set of seven new cybercrime bills authored by the Commission, as well as a call for the adoption of nine previously-introduced bills1, one of them being the extension of a mandatory data retention obligation to everyone in Brazil who provides Internet access.

The bills would be disastrous for privacy and freedom of expression in Brazil. That's why EFF is joining ARTIGO19.org, Access, Coding Rights, Intervozes, and Instituto Beta in opposing the CPICIBER bills and PL 3237/15. As the vote will take place on May 3 it's still crucial to voice your concerns to CPICIBER members now.

Speaking from the Brazilian Parliament in Brasilia, Bia Barbosa, coordinator of Intervozes, told EFF:

Yesterday's session showed that our pressure on the Parliament is working. They have a majority in the Commission and they could force a vote if they wanted. However, over the last few weeks, civil society was able to show that approving this report would have negative consequences for the congressmen. That's why they are open to some kind of negotiation with us. We were already able to change some parts of the report for the better, but others are still very bad. That's why it is important to keep the pressure on the Congress, to preserve our rights and the Marco Civil da Internet.

Fight Back Against Brazil’s Draconian New Cybercrime Bills

Combata os novos PLs autoritários contra cibercrimes no Brasil

What Some Of The Bills Do

As we explained last week, the CPICIBER was created in July 2015 by House President Eduardo Cunha in response to a request from congressman Sibá Machado. The CPICIBER was charged with investigating online crimes and their effects on the Brazilian economy and society. The CPICIBER worked from August 2015 until April 2016 and published three draft reports with an analysis of how Brazil is dealing with a high number of crimes against the financial system and the increase in racist messages online. The third version of the report was published last Tuesday, and is being proposed as a final report.

The report submitted by the CPI is over 200 pages long, touches on many topics, and makes many recommendations. Unfortunately, many of its proposals would create drastically expanded monitoring and control of Internet use in Brazil, in many cases rolling back protections for users enacted in the Marco Civil da Internet, Brazil’s landmark Internet framework law. Here, we describe just a few of the report's many scary suggestions.

Expand Data Retention Mandates

The Marco Civil unfortunately created, for the first time, a data retention obligation for ISPs—one of the few dark points in an otherwise excellent law. But that obligation was applied only to the very largest entities and not to everyone involved in providing Internet access. The report endorses an attempt to change this in bill 3237/15 introduced by Vinicius Carvalho, which would require everyone in Brazil who provides Internet access to the public to retain connection records and to individually register the identity of their users. That’s not just ISPs. The bill's author specifically gives airports, bus stations, and shopping malls as examples of a “gap” in the mandate to register user identities and store connection records, which it proposes to close by requiring all Internet-access providing entities in the country to keep such records. Mandatory data retention would create a huge potential for abuse and should be rejected as a serious infringement on the rights and freedoms of individuals. This bill contemplates the pervasive surveillance of every ordinary citizen.

Demand Warrantless Access to IP Addresses

In the last draft of the final report, the proposal for warrantless access to IP address data was deleted and replaced by a suggestion for further deliberations on an existing bill PLS 730/2015 already being approved by the Senate. This bill, authored by Senator Otto Alencar, authorizes the police or prosecutors to demand registration information about Internet users (either from ISPs or from application providers), without a court order in order, to identify alleged criminal activity. (The current version of the bill seems to have a drafting error, but the goal appears to include letting law enforcement demand IP addresses from application providers' logs, then and demand the corresponding subscriber identities from ISPs.) This proposal, which has already been advancing in the Parliament, ignores the fact that demanding IP address information is still surveillance. And, the human rights requirement to use such powers by public officials includes the need for an authorization by an impartial and independent authority and strict legal safeguards. In short, prior judicial authorization of surveillance powers is not merely desirable but essential. This is because neither of the other two branches of government is capable of providing the necessary degree of independence and objectivity to prevent the abuse of surveillance powers.

In addition, in August 2012, the South Korean Constitutional Court rejected the collection of individuals’ subscriber data in the absence of prior judicial authorization on the basis that this amounted to “treating them as potential criminals.” This was followed by the Korean National Human Rights Commission, which decided in April 2014 that the lack of any requirement for prior judicial authorization for access to the collected data by police violates international human rights. In conclusion, we believe that only a judge offers the sufficient guarantees of independence and impartiality to ensure that access to IP address and any other data are exercised in a manner which is both necessary and proportionate. (Read more about PLS 730/2015 here)

Impose a Net Censorship Regime

UPDATE: Saturday morning 30/04, the Sub-Rapporteur Mr Sandro Alex released a new version of the bill that deals with the blocking of websites. The arguments below are valid, but does not consider the new version, which also explain the focus of the bill on copyright protection, patents and computer programs.

Another striking part of the report is the way it echoes the failed U.S. SOPA and PIPA proposals; after their dramatic defeat in the U.S. in the face of broad and intense opposition, it seems these Internet censorship measures have effectively resurfaced in Brazil. The report specifically mentions copyright industry groups’ advocacy and support for these measures. Unfortunately, the final draft of the report continued to claim that site-blocking provisions (requiring ISPs to cut off access to third-party sites accused of facilitating copyright infringements) are already the law in the U.S., as though the fight over SOPA had never happened. (EFF wrote to the commission pointing out this error, which was noted in this week’s debate.)

The SOPA-like site-blocking proposal isn't the only harsh copyright measure that U.S. entertainment interests are now trying to export to Brazil. The report argued that US Law does not prohibit service providers "to make reasonable efforts in order to resolve violations of copyright or other illegal activities."2 While service providers aren’t forbidden from making reasonable efforts to deter copyright infringement, that doesn’t mean they are required to take any specific measures except as set forth in Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, such as responding expeditiously to take-down notices in exchange for a safe harbor. What's more, section 512 is a law that has caused significant collateral damage,3 and should not be followed as a template by Brazil. Its neighbor Chile has a superior system to that of the U.S., in that it requires a court order before content is removed from the Internet.

The report also mentioned the fact that a notice and stay down proposal is being considered, and that the "matter is also the subject of study in the United States where there is a public consultation to amend Section 512 of the Digital hereMillennium Copyright Act." Let's be clear, notice and stay down is effectively just mandatory filtering, and is vigorously opposed by a broad coalition of public interest groups, creators and service providers in the United States. In practice, a “filter-everything” regime would prevent many valuable and innovative services from ever launching, to the detriment of commerce and free expression.The fact that a few powerful interests may be pushing this extreme proposal is hardly evidence of the imminent expansion of Section 512, and the suggestion that this constitutes any kind of international legal trend is a misleading and reprehensible attempt at policy laundering. A more detailed account of criticism of “Notice-and-Stay-Down” in the United States, is available in our analysis of American proposals and our comments pertaining to the Copyright Office's ongoing study into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's Section 512.

We also note that the UN Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment 34, said that "Permissible restrictions generally should be content-specific; generic bans on the operation of certain sites and systems are not compatible with paragraph 3 [of article 19 of the ICCPR]".4

Put Researchers At Risk

Another major problem is the proposed change to article 154-A of the Penal Code, “Inappropriate Access to an Information System” and its impact on the ability of researchers to access computers, devices or electronic communication networks for security testing without explicit permission. Examining computers without the explicit permission of the owner is necessary for a vast amount of useful research. The existing text of article 154-A already leaves the position of security researchers uncertain. Rather than remedying this, the commission seems intent on making the law even stricter. Researchers who study others’ systems in the course of good faith research (including to test the security of their own data) may become criminals. The proposed text should affirmatively protect access for purposes of security testing even if the security researcher does not have a written or oral authority to access the system.

Speaking from Brasilia, Paulo Rená, Researcher at Instituto Beta, told EFF:

We are facing a set of draconian propositions. Instead of helping against cybercrime, the draft bills would menace of millions of innocent Brazilians. Our double effort now is, for the Representatives, shine a light on the threats; at the same time, gather more public support to help us stop the bills.

These are not unknown issues; all of them have been brought to the CPI's attention before. It’s a continuing shame that the CPI did not give more weight in its deliberations to the many contributions from Brazilian civil society. This isn’t the first time that a governmental committee looking at online crime has gotten carried away and proposed draconian measures. We hope this short delay will give cooler heads a chance to prevail, and that any revisions to Brazil’s online crime laws will respect individual rights online.

Fight Back Against Brazil’s Draconian New Cybercrime Bills

Combata os novos PLs autoritários contra cibercrimes no Brasil

  • 1. Bill 1776/15, authored by Paulo Freire, regarding child pornography; Bill 3237/15, authored by Vinícius Carvalho, amending the Marco Civil da Internet, Law 12.965 of 2014, regarding mandatory data retention; Bill 5555/2013, authored by João Arruda, which deals with the unauthorized disclosure of intimate images of victims; Bill 3686/2015, authored by Ronaldo Carletto, that defines the crime of bullying and cyberbullying; Bill 7544/2014, authored by Ricardo Izar, that defines the crime of online criminal incitement; Bill 1755/2015, authored by Raul Jungmann, regarding the improper disclosure of personal information over the internet; Bill 6726/2010, authored by Arnaldo Faria de Sá, which provides for access of various law enforcement authorities to location data of mobile devices; Bill 2315/15, authored by Enio Verri, which deals with prepaid phone registration.
  • 2. See page 233 of the Commission's latest report.
  • 3. For the record, the notice-and-takedown procedure has its problems. It results in alleged copyright infringement being treated differently from any other type of allegedly unlawful speech: rather than wait for a judge to determine whether a piece of content is in violation of copyright, the system gives the copyright holder the benefit of the doubt. You don’t need to look far to find examples of copyright holders abusing the system, silencing speech with dubious copyright claims.
  • 4. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf

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Categories: Aggregated News

Captured U.S. Trade Agency Resorts to Bullying Again in 2016 Special 301 Report

eff.org - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 08:59

Every year at around this time the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issues a Special 301 Report in which it chastises other countries for not submitting to its unilateral demands (often lacking any legal basis) as to how they should be enforcing copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets in their countries. And just like last year, this gives us the opportunity again to point out how unbalanced these demands are, missing the real harms of strict copyright and patent enforcement and failing to acknowledge the benefits of a more flexible, user-centered approach.

It would be unfair to say that the USTR just doesn't get this; after so many submissions pointing this out the agency surely gets it just fine. Rather, it just doesn't care, because its priorities lie with appeasing the special interest groups who pre-write most of the demands that end up in the report; major entertainment companies and the pharmaceutical industry [PDF]. In the USTR's calculus, the concerns of other stakeholders—such as technology users, cultural institutions, remixers, fans, patients, people with disabilities, libraries and archives, independent creators and innovators—scarcely figure at all. After all, it's Hollywood and the pharmaceutical industry who offer former USTR staff a much more lucrative career path.

This year's report [PDF], released today, illustrates the USTR's institutional bias just as well as ever. The report praises Canada and Jamaica for their senseless copyright term extensions of 2015, but gives no recognition to changes that have benefited users, such as the overdue adoption of new copyright flexibilities in Slovakia, and new protections for Internet intermediaries in Thailand (in fact these are criticized as creating a "a lack of clarity in the operation of the notice-and-takedown procedures"). Conversely, the report calls out numerous countries for a range of perfectly lawful practices:

  • China is slammed as a center for the production of media boxes—essentially just small form-factor computers—which "enable the users to stream and download infringing online music and audiovisual content," just as, er, a computer would allow users to do. The USTR "urges appropriate action against the manufacturers  of media boxes in the appropriate venue."
  • The USTR finds it curious that in Thailand, a country struggling with a surge in property crime and violent crime since the country's 2014 military coup, "IPR enforcement does not seem to be a top priority for Thai law enforcement."
  • India comes under fire for failing to pass Hollywood's special-interest laws to criminalize camcording in movie theatres—laws that typically include no fair use or other exceptions, and that are unnecessary given the powers that the studios already have under copyright law to prevent the unauthorized copying of their works.
  • "Russia remains home to many ... sites (such as vKontakte) that facilitate online piracy," declares the USTR. In fact, vKontakte is the largest European social networking site, the closest equivalent to Facebook in Russia; it is the second-most visited site in Russia, and has 363 million users, most of whom depend upon the network to communicate with friends and family.
  • The USTR urges Chile "to amend its ISP liability regime to permit effective action against piracy over the Internet," even as the ink is barely dry on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in which Chile firmly reserved the right to maintain its existing system that requires content takedown orders to be affirmed by a court.
  • A new lawless backwater cited in the report's Watch List this year is that notorious failed state, Switzerland. The USTR cites "difficulties in Switzerland’s system of online copyright protection and enforcement," referring to a decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court that prohibits rightsholders from spying on users through the BitTorrent network, because this infringes those users' right to privacy.
  • The USTR expresses concern over Ecuador's revolutionary draft Code of the Social Economy of Knowledge, Creativity, and Innovation, which reimagines what an intellectual property law should look like, and includes amongst its eleven principles the right to share knowledge, Internet as a basic service, support and enhancement of research, and promotion of free software.

Given its manifest flaws and shortcomings, what is the legal status of this report? Officially, none at all. The only international legal mechanisms for trade disputes between countries are those provided by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and by bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements. None of these give any recognition to the Special 301 Report. Yet the USTR acts as if its proclamations are law. This year, following a new mandate from the 2015 Fast Track legislation that EFF fought against, the USTR steps up the pressure still further, establishing action plans to "hold countries accountable" (in Trade Representative Michael Froman's words) once they have appeared twice on the Priority Watch List.

But although the Special 301 Report may not be worth the bits that it's delivered on, the impact of the report is still very real. In particular, the foreign press often wrongly reports on the Special 301 as if it were more than just a unilateral wish-list from certain U.S. industries. The result is foreign governments coming under unfair pressure to amend their laws and to divert enforcement resources, without any international obligation for them to do so. It's not legal, not fair, and EFF will continue to call it out.


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Categories: Aggregated News

The Crime of Speech

eff.org - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 07:50
New EFF Report Maps Legal Threats to Free Expression in the Arab World

Freedom of expression is a universal right, but the specific threats to it vary widely from country to country and region to region. As activists fighting for free speech worldwide, it is essential that we better understand the specific legal and procedural mechanisms that governments use to silence it. When you begin to untangle the array of laws that are used to prosecute speech in a given country, you get a much clearer picture of the state of digital rights in that country.

EFF is proud to present The Crime of Speech: How Arab Governments Use the Law to Silence Expression Online. This report was the culmination of six months of work by Wafa Ben Hassine as an Information Controls Fellow through the Open Technology Fund. The ICFP fellowship supports examination into how governments restrict the free flow of information, debilitate the open Internet, and thereby threaten human rights and democracy.

Ben Hassine studied four specific countries in the Arab world: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Each of those countries has faced an increased threat of terrorist activity in recent years, and to varying degrees, they’ve each responded by cracking down on certain kinds of online speech.

In Saudi Arabia and Jordan, that crackdown has come in the form of new cybercrime and counterterrorism laws that ultimately amount to banning online speech that the government finds threatening to its legitimacy. Today, Egypt primarily uses a 2014 anti-protest law to silence dissent online, while Tunisia targets online speech with decades-old defamation and drug laws found in the penal code.

To execute her research, Ben Hassine started by finding specific cases of arrest, detention, and imprisonment due to online activity, and where law enforcement targeted the individual under the guise of going after cybercrime or countering terrorism online.

The legal usage of the terms “cybercrime” and “terrorism” in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan might be surprising to some readers. These laws do little to address the very real threat of online crime in their respective countries—Ben Hassine couldn’t find a single example of law enforcement using them to arrest criminals for attempting to break into critical infrastructure or engage in fraud online. Rather, the laws are aimed directly at unwanted online speech.

Studying the judicial history of these laws, you quickly realize that law enforcement only applies them after it’s identified the journalist or protestor that it wants to arrest. The pattern is that authorities will find the offending speech and then choose the law that can be interpreted to most closely address it. The system results in a rule by law rather than rule of law: the goal is to arrest, try, and punish the individual—the law is merely a tool used to reach an already predetermined conviction.

We hope that this report will serve as a useful building block for activists, scholars, and others studying digital rights and counterterrorism in the Arab world.


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First FISC Phone Records Ruling Post-USA FREEDOM Exposes Shortcomings of Reforms

eff.org - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 05:39

The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had its first opportunity to review a government request for telephone call records since the enactment in June 2015 of the USA FREEDOM Act, which placed some restrictions and oversight on the NSA’s surveillance powers. Unfortunately the results of this first post-USA FREEDOM FISC review are not pretty, and remind us all that there is still much work to be done.

In approving a request for “call detail records” by the FBI, Judge Thomas Hogan allowed the FBI to get people’s call records even in the absence of any belief that those records will be relevant to an investigation, and let the bureau keep records with no foreign intelligence value for 6 months or longer even though USA FREEDOM requires “prompt” destruction of such records. He also declined to take advantage of the new provisions that allow him to appoint an amicus to help sort through the new statute. The opinion, issued on December 31, 2015, was made public April 19, 2016.

We know that USA FREEDOM made small changes to reform and rein in NSA’s power to spy on Americans, and didn’t go as far as we would have liked. Yet we view the reforms as important changes in the law that ended some bulk surveillance, and brought more transparency to the FISC, an entity that operates mostly in secret and grants nearly every government surveillance request it receives. This opinion shows how limited these reforms are, which is not especially surprising but nevertheless disappointing and troubling.

Government Can Collect Phone Records Even if They Are Not Relevant

In its request, the FBI was expressly limited under USA FREEDOM to receiving only call detail records of a particular individual, account, or device that the government has a “reasonably articulable suspicion” is relevant to an international terrorism investigation. The narrow “individual, account or personal device” phrase is known in the law as a “specific selection term. ” The records of calls made to and from this selector are referred to as “first hop” call records. The government misinterpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act as allowing it to collect in bulk all call records from numerous phone companies for renewable 90-day periods, an interpretation we challenged in our First Unitarian v. NSA case as well as in Jewel v. NSA and Smith v. Obama. Replacing this bulk collection with a “specific selection term” requirement was one of the major reforms we fought for and won in USA FREEDOM.

Judge Hogan approved the FBI’s request for first hop records, acknowledging that “reasonable articulable suspicion” was a less demanding standard than the “probable cause” standard required by the Fourth Amendment. This is consistent with the FISC’s long and regrettable history of finding that we all have no Fourth Amendment privacy interests in our phone records.

But Judge Hogan went even farther. He permitted the bureau to cast a wider net and get records of calls made to and from numbers that called or were called by numbers in the first hop (these additional records are known as “second hop” records). This second hop sweeps into government possession the associated records of thousands of people, the vast and overwhelming majority of whom, if not all, are known to be completely innocent. And it can be a big number. As this handy Guardian slider demonstrates, for a person who has 190 contacts, which Facebook says is its users’ average number of friends, the second hop gathers over 31,000 other people. For a person with just 50 contacts, the second hop still gathers in over 8,000 other people.

Although this "bulky" collection of second hop records is provided for in USA FREEDOM, here the government’s attempted justification for casting this wide net is generic and weak. The most the government could muster about the usefulness of these records was that they “enhance” the government’s ability to uncover “previously unknown Foreign power-associated identifiers” and “reasonably could lead” to the identification of persons that could assist in preventing terrorism. The government didn't try to prove these particular selectors would yield useful second hop records.

This is a far cry from “probable cause” but it’s even less than “relevant” or even “reasonable articulable suspicion.”

Yet Judge Hogan went even further than the government. He found that it was fine for the government to do that even if the second hop call records were not relevant at all to an international terrorism investigation. He explained that although USA FREEDOM requires that the first hop records be relevant, it doesn’t specifically require relevance for the second hop records:

The Court concludes, however, that no such relevance showing is required for the call detail records produced during the “second hop.”

As a result, given the likely large number of initial selectors, the FBI now gets phone records of, at least, hundreds of thousands people not suspected of doing anything illegal. And it gets them without having to prove that those records will be relevant to an investigation. While this is less than the collection of all the phone records from a carrier, it is still massively overbroad. Congress was wrong to allow it to continue. But ultimately, this a consequence of not applying the Fourth Amendment to phone records.

Keeping Backdoor Records for 6+ Months Is “Prompt Destruction”

In one of its significant reforms, USA FREEDOM added a requirement for the “prompt destruction of all call detail records produced under the order that the Government determines are not foreign intelligence information.”

But belying this requirement for “prompt destruction,” Judge Hogan approved the FBI’s request to keep certain records for 6 months and possibly longer. Judge Hogan found that the USA FREEDOM “prompt destruction” provision had to be reconciled with a pre-USA FREEDOM provision that allowed for the retention of “information that is evidence of a crime which has been, is being, or is about to be committed and that is to be retained or disseminated for law enforcement purposes.” Judge Hogan uncritically found that the government’s proposed 6-month retention period for call records that “are reasonably believed to contain” evidence of a crime satisfied both parts of the law.

Regardless of what one thinks of this perceived need to reconcile the provision allowing for retention and the one requiring prompt destruction—and it is debatable whether Judge Hogan’s perceived need to reconcile them is valid—it is difficult under any circumstance to read the word “prompt” as meaning “at least six months and maybe more.”

Judge Hogan’s opinion, like the Section 702 opinion made public the same day, also confirms that these privacy-eroding surveillance programs aren’t just for combating terrorism or even foreign intelligence investigations. Rather, the government uses these records for general, domestic criminal investigations, what’s been called a “backdoor” use of information purportedly gathered for foreign intelligence purposes only. The government likes to refer to the collection of non-foreign intelligence information as “incidental.” But this collection of records is “incidental” only in the sense that domestic crime is not the initial target. The collection of records for domestic law enforcement uses is purposeful—not accidental, surprising, or unintended.

No Amicus Appointed Despite This Being the First Interpretation of USA FREEDOM

Another crucial innovation of USA FREEDOM was meant to fix the one-sidedness of the FISC by creating of a panel of amici curiae—friends of the court—to provide a counterpoint to the government’s otherwise unchallenged arguments. USA FREEDOM requires the FISC to appoint a friend of the court when the case involves a “novel or significant interpretation of law, unless the court issues a finding that such appointment is not appropriate.”

But here Judge Hogan declined to appoint an amicus even though this request required him to interpret the newly effective provisions of USA FREEDOM for the very first time, including the law’s “prompt destruction” requirement.

It is hard to imagine a more novel interpretation of law than a court’s initial interpretation of a statute. The apparent conflict between the “prompt destruction” and the retention provisions, for example, seems like a ripe area for amicus assistance. But, tautologically, Judge Hogan ruled that he did not need the amicus because he figured it out himself:

As demonstrated, however, in the final analysis the supposed conflict between Sections 501(c)(2)(F)(vii)(I) and 501(g)(2)(C) never actualized. As a result, no statutory conflict emerged that required the Court to engage in interpretation of the law – versus the straightforward application of the statute such that FISA Section 103(i) was implicated.

Under that standard, an amicus will only be appointed when the FISC judge doesn’t think she can figure out how to interpret the law on her own. This standard defeats the purpose of the amicus to provide an opposing view to the government, and shows that the amicus provision can and will be too easily avoided.

But Two Bits of Good News

Like the FISC opinion on Section 702 surveillance made public the same day, we know about this opinion. Prior to USA FREEDOM, there was no requirement that a FISC opinion be considered for publication.

And second, nowhere in the opinion does the FISC use the ungrammatical, obfuscating NSA jargon “telephony metadata.”

Small steps. Big disappointment.

Related Cases: Smith v. ObamaJewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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Categories: Aggregated News

US-Backed Terrorists Shell Aleppo Hospital - Russia and Syria Blamed

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 29/04/2016 - 02:00

US-Backed Terrorists Shell Aleppo Hospital - Russia and Syria Blamed
by Stephen Lendman
Overnight Wednesday, US-backed terrorists shelled Aleppo’s Doctors Without Borders (MSF) al-Razi hospital and nearby residential areas - killing at least 20, injuring dozens, some critically.
Syrian media reported rocket shells “stuffed with highly explosive materials” caused extensive damage.
A Syrian military source said falsified reports blamed its warplanes and Russia’s for the attacks. US-backed terrorists bore full responsibility.
Three children and six medical staff were among the casualties. The ICRC said escalated fighting worsened the humanitarian situation for tens of thousands of area residents.
Other Aleppo area terrorist attacks in the last 24 hours killed at least 49 civilians. Cessation of hostilities is more myth than reality.
No matter what efforts are made to revive peace talks, they’re effectively dead going nowhere. Pro-Western mediator Staffan de Mistura wants another round begun on May 10.
He urged Russia and America to try “revitali(ing) what they have created and which is still alive but barely.” Both sides are intractably apart. No responsible government would agree to unacceptable US/Saudi-backed opposition demands.
Obama wants war, not peace, deploying hundreds of special forces to northern Syria illegally on the phony pretext of combatting ISIS. US warplanes continue attacking infrastructure and government sites - along with recruiting terrorist fighters and arming them.
Their scourge is one of humanity’s greatest threats. They thrive because of foreign support - from America its creator and rogue allies. 
They can’t survive without it - reality media scoundrels suppress, maintaining the fiction of US-led efforts to combat it.
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.

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