British spy agencies want to install 'black box' surveillance devices all over the country's communications networks to monitor internet use, it was revealed on 6 February 2013. Deep Packet Inspection will be used to monitor data from communications such as Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Skype calls with family members and visits to any other websites.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A report by an influential committee of British parliamentarians revealed that government spy agencies want to implement a nationwide surveillance regime aimed at tracking everything Britons do and say on the internet. British spy agencies want to install 'black box' surveillance devices all over the country's communications networks to monitor internet use, it was revealed on 6 February 2013. Deep Packet Inspection will be used to monitor data from communications such as Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Skype calls with family members and visits to any other websites. However civil liberty groups have reacted with outrage, saying that the technology will give the government a greater surveillance capability than is actually needed.
According to a recently published report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British parliament, the UK intelligence agencies' will be given the power by government's draft Communications Data Bill, which is intended to update surveillance powers. The UK government in line with its allies as always use the ‘fight against terrorism issue’ to argue that the access to communications data is critical to the fight against terrorism. The head of spy agency MI5 Jonathan Evans told the committee that “Access to communications data of one sort or another is very important indeed. It’s part of the backbone of the way in which we would approach investigations. I think I would be accurate in saying there are no significant investigations that we undertake across the service that don’t use communications data because of its ability to tell you the who and the when and the where of your target’s activities.”
The Spying Bill has faced strong opposition, but officials claim that whilst the email addresses of senders and recipients would be available to agencies, they would still need to obtain a court order for access to the contents of the emails. A similar situation would apply in the case of mobile phone calls, with the callers' identities and locations available to agencies, along with the time of the call and its duration, but agents restricted from listening without authorisation from the courts! Opponents of the bill have said that in effect there is no way to reliably separate such communications data from the content of messages and calls, and that giving easy access to the former would also open the way to access of the latter.
Civil liberty campaigners have asked the British government to say how it could justify criticising totalitarian regimes such as Saudis which uses similar systems to crack down on its own population. MI5 Director General said access to communications data is “very important indeed” to the UK security. On the other hand, Emma Carr, deputy director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said “Using highly intrusive technology to monitor how people use the internet is not something that a civil society should be using on every citizen. The danger is that the whole communication, including content, is inspected and potentially stored, intruding on people’s privacy in a dangerous and unprecedented way. This sends a highly dangerous signal to regimes around the world who are looking for justification to use similar equipment on their populations. The fact that at no point does the Government need court approval, either to install, use or look at data gathered is a major concern and if it is to be used as a last resort should only be done so on the highest judicial authority.”
Director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock which campaigns for online freedom, said “The really worrying part of this is the filter the government wants to build. This would put data from your mobile phone, email, web history and phones together, so the police can tell who your friends are, what your opinions are, where you've been and with who. It could make instant surveillance of everything you do possible at the click of a button.” he told MailOnline. It seems that the excuse of ‘fighting against terrorism’ has found new dimensions. Entering the private lives of their citizens is a phenomenon that started by the western governments and their allies elsewhere since 9/11 in order to have full control of all aspects of their populations. One must ask what about the individual privacy, where is the freedom?
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Recognizing their contributions to the society, the Muslim community in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, has held a special ceremony to honor its members who were granted the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“It’s a blessing to see so many people coming together to serve their country,” Mohammed Zakaria Khan, president of the Muslim Coordinating Council (MCC), told Ottawa Citizen.
The MCC and the Ottawa Muslim Association have held a ceremony to honor 20 MCC members who were granted the Diamond Jubilee Medal for serving Canadian society.
For Khan, the ceremony at the Ottawa Mosque on Northwestern Avenue was an important display of unity.
“We are trying to work together. We are Canadian,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your faith is. We are one nation and under one flag.”
Among the 20 medal recipients were Maher Arar, the Ottawa electrical engineer whose story of imprisonment and torture in Syria after the 9/11 attacks shed a light on the excesses of the war on terrorism.
Also honored were his Arar’s wife and Ottawa academic and human rights campaigner Monia Mazigh.
Also on the list was Wafa Dabbagh, a lieutenant-commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, who was the first woman in the Canadian military to wear a hijab. She died of cancer in June 2012.
Gathering under the banner of helping the less fortunate and disadvantaged, the MCC represents 16 mosques and 40 Muslim organizations in Canada.
The group has been recognized for its role in helping the disadvantaged to become productive members of society as well as helping resettling new immigrants.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
Blood donating campaigns, organized in coordination with Canadian Blood Service, remained as a source of pride for the Muslim community, receiving overwhelming response each time.
Attendants praised the positive role Muslims play in Canadian society.
MP Paul Dewar, the New Democratic Party (NDP) foreign affairs critic and keynote speaker, said the recipients demonstrated “in the best way Canadian principles.”
“It was a very conscious decision on your part to open your doors and open your hearts,” Dewar said.
The guests at the ceremony included Mayor Jim Watson, Councilor Eli El-Chantiry, MPP Phil McNeely and MP Royal Galipeau.
The master of ceremonies for the evening was Anwar Ul Haq, who himself arrived in Canada with his family from Pakistan in 2000.
“We live in the best country in the world,” Ul Haq said.
“We are enjoying the bounty of those who came before us. It’s our duty to honor it.”
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with the Queen as Sovereign.
As a constitutional monarch, the Queen abides by the decisions of the Canadian Government, but she continues to play important ceremonial and symbolic roles.
Created in 2011, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was made to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession to the thrones of Queen Elizabeth II.
The medal also serves to honor significant contributions and achievements by Canadians..-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Obama administration overruled recommendations from within the US Department of Homeland Security and implemented new guidelines earlier this year that allow the government to gather and analyze intelligence on every single US citizen.
Since the spring, a little-know intelligence agency outside of Washington, DC has been able to circumvent the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and conduct dragnet surveillance of the entire country, combing massive datasets using advanced algorithms to search and seize personal info on anyone this wish, reports the Wall Street Journal this week.
There’s no safeguard that says only Americans with criminal records are the ones included, and it’s not just suspected terrorists that are considered in the searches either. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has been provided with entire government databases and given nearly endless access to intelligence on everyone in the country, regardless of whether or not they’ve done anything that would have made them a person of interest. As long as data is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information,” the agency can do as they wish.
What’s more is the NCTC can retain that information for years, reviewing it whenever they’d like to take a look.
The update to the agency’s policies, reported by RT at the time and reexamined this week in the Journal, expose any person in the country to invasive and nearly endless government surveillance.
"This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public," Mary Ellen Callahan is reported by the Journal to have said during a Situation Room meeting earlier this year within the walls of the White House. At the time, Callahan was chief privacy officer at DHS as well as one of the only staffers inside the Obama administration concerned with what was about to happen.
According to documents obtained by the Journal through Freedom of Information Act requests and conversations between the paper and persons familiar with that Situation Room sound-off, Ms. Callahan unsuccessfully argued against updating a 2008 Justice Department memo about what intel the NCTC can have and how they use it. Just weeks after that meeting, new guidelines were authorized and, within months, Ms. Callahan was working elsewhere.
Despite her efforts, a 32-page document, “Guidelines for Access, Retention, Use and Dissemination by the National Counterterrorism Center and other Agencies of Information in Datasets Containing Non-Terrorism Information,” went into effect, and with that the NCTC was no longer restricted to only terrorism-related intelligence and instead
“The 2008 memo's title referred to NCTC's access to ‘terrorism information’ contained in non-terrorism datasets. The 2012 title simply refers to ‘information’ in those datasets,” reports the Journal. “The removal of the world ‘terrorism’ is an indication of how this memo expands NCTC's mandate to allow surveillance of US citizens based on more than just the terrorism information.’”
Indeed, the changes aren’t just within the name of the document. The 2012 update to the NCTC’s data-mining policies expand the intelligence the agency can comb while at the same time removing safeguards that were in place for privacy’s sake. Under the new rules, data on innocent Americans can be retained for five years, and intel on anyone “reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information” can be kept until the end of time.
"It's breathtaking" in its scope, one former senior administration official tells the Journal.
According to the paper, “flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others” can be collected indefinitely and searched at will within the NCTC, an agency only nine years old and not nearly as well-known as her sister spy groups: the CIA and FBI.
Once the NCTC has the info, though, they can decide who else can be made privy to it. If the US government is so inclined, intelligence on specific citizens can be sent to any foreign nation in the world.
“Literally anything the government collects would be fair game, and the original agency in charge of protecting the privacy of those records would have little say over whether this happened, or what the spy agency did with the information afterward,” writes Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s DC branch. Calabrese testified before Congress earlier this year, and in a blog post authored by him in July, he describes just how detrimental the new policies are to personal privacy.
“That sharing can happen in relation to national security and safety, drug investigations [or] if it’s evidence of a crime or to evaluate sources or contacts. This boundless sharing is broad enough to encompass disclosures to an employer or landlord about someone who NCTC may think is potentially a criminal, or at the request of local law enforcement for vetting an informant,” he writes.
On the blog PrivacySOS, civil liberties advocate Kade Crockford condemns the spy program by saying any safeguard that could be implemented wouldn’t end what appears to be a serious constitutional violation.
“And even if it was an effective anti-terrorism technique, widespread, warrantless surveillance of every single living human being – suspicious or not – damn sure isn't democratic practice. We are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country, not the other way around,” Crockford writes.
In his post from earlier this year, the ACLU’s Calabrese says the real dangers could come if the government decides to supplement their statistics with other private information purchased from third-parties.
“What if that spy agency could add commercial information, anything it – or any other federal agency – could buy from the huge data aggregators that are monitoring our every move?” he asks.
Meanwhile, in-between Calabrese’s original post and the Journal’s article from this week, search giant Google confirmed that the federal government has sent more requests for personal user data in 2012 than ever before.
“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google explained last month.
The latest revelation from the Journal of course is but the most recent installation in what has become a remarkable year in terms of finding out the truth about Uncle Sam’s shocking full-fledged surveillance. Throughout 2012, several former employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) have stepped up and given interviews about the grievances with the office, particularly their disregard for the privacy of Americans.
“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger — and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake told Current TV host Eliot Spitzer earlier this year.
Journalist Julia Angwin writes for the Journal that the DHS is currently working out the details on how to provide the NCTC with new lists of data, but acknowledges that every federal agency can come up with their own rules regarding what they want handed over.
Earlier this month, former NSA analyst William Binney spoke with RT and said that the FBI — who maintains databases that can be requested by the NCTC under their latest policies — has been storing the emails of every person in America for at least a decade.
“So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason – they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything they’ve done for the last 10 years at least,” he said.
Upon winning a Callaway award for civic courage in DC last month, Mr. Binney explained that he and other former NSA agents “could not be accessories to violations of the US Constitution.” Ms. Callahan has since left her post within the NCTC and is now practicing law in the nation’s capital focusing specifically on privacy.. www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The United States has dispatched three warships to the occupied Palestinian territories to evacuate US citizens caught up in the Israel-Gaza conflict in the event of need.
The three ships, USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS Gunston Hall are returning from Gibraltar to eastern Mediterranean to remain on standby to assist Americans leaving the occupied lands, according to two US officials.
The officials stressed the evacuation remains a remote possibility and the Obama administration is has no plans for the evacuation of the US citizens for the time being.
"This is due diligence. It is better to be prepared should there be a need," one official said.
The American officials reiterated that the US citizens willing to leave the volatile region can use commercial flights.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama held a telephone conversation with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to explore the possibility of reaching an agreement on a ceasefire.
Israeli airstrikes, shelling, and artillery fire have left at least 109 Palestinians dead and over 900 others injured since November 14. Some of the injured are in critical condition.
The Israeli military said on Monday that it had conducted more than 1,350 aerial and sea attacks against the Gaza Strip since the beginning of its aggression on the coastal enclave.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The British government has forbidden its citizens in Pakistan to join a peace march called Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which opposes deadly drone attacks launched by the US and British governments in the region.
The UK Foreign Office issued directives to order British citizens in Pakistan to stay away from a peace march against assassination drone strikes in the country. The march is being led by the Pakistani politician and former cricketer, Imran Khan.
In a bid to prevent Britons from joining the peace march, a British Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the participants' safety would be uncertain due to possible militant attacks.
On October 6, dozens of American and British protesters staged a demonstration in Islamabad to condemn the US-led deadly drone strikes as illegal and immoral.
"It is time for the United States to end the mass murder that is taking place in Pakistan's tribal areas” and end the CIA drone strikes there. “They are killing women and children. This is wrong, and this is a war crime,” Tighe Barr, an American peace activist, told Press TV.
“I condemn the hypocrisy of the government, that tried their best to make this march fail,” Imran Khan told the crowd at a brief stopover on the outskirts of Mianwali in northern Pakistan.
According to data produced by the New America Foundation from various news reports, CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have killed an estimated 1,886 to 3,191 people since 2004.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The United States has ordered the departure of non-essential government personnel and family members from posts in Sudan and Tunisia in the latest reaction to a wave of anti-American unrest in the region.
The US government also issued travel warnings to its citizens in those two countries on Saturday, urging them to depart due to security concerns after a US-made anti-Islam video triggered a violent backlash in several Islamic countries.
"Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the state department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens,'' said Victoria Nuland, a department spokeswoman.
The department's travel warning said that while Sudan's government has taken steps to limit the activities of armed groups, some remain there and have threatened to attack Western interests. The terrorist threat level remains critical.
The state department said the airport in Tunis was open and encouraged US citizens to depart by commercial air. It said Americans in Tunisia should use extreme caution and avoid demonstrations.
Wave of protests
The warnings follow a wave of protests and violence over an anti-Muslim film that has swept across the Middle East and other Muslim countries in recent days.
An obscure, 13-minute, amateurish video made in the US called "Innocence of Muslims'' that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a pedophile sparked the outrage.
Some of the films key producers and backers were reported to be Egyptian-American Coptic Christians, one of whom, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, has a criminal history and has gone into hiding.
Outrage over the film began in Egypt, where Salafist pundits stirred anger over what had been an unknown YouTube video.
Friday's demonstrations spread to more than 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. While most were peaceful, marches in several places exploded into violence.
In Sudan, crowds torched part of the German embassy and tried to storm the American embassy. Protesters climbed the walls into the US embassy in Tunis, torching cars in the parking lot, trashing the entrance building and setting fire to a gym and a neighboring American school.
The US sent an elite, 50-member Marine unit to Yemen's capital to bolster security at the embassy there, which protesters broke into on Thursday and then tried again to assault Friday.
A similar team was dispatched to Tripoli, Libya, on Wednesday after the deadly attack the night before on the Benghazi consulate.
But the Sudanese government said Saturday it had refused to allow a similar Marine deployment to the embassy in Khartoum. Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti declined the request, saying Sudan is capable of protecting diplomatic missions, the state news agency said.
Nuland said Sudan's government "has recommitted itself both publicly and privately to continue to protect our mission". She said the United States has requested additional security precautions.
The travel warning came as President Barack Obama paid tribute to the four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, who were killed in the armed attack in Benghazi . He also denounced the mob protests that followed.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — New official data show that the US government has failed to reduce the level of poverty in the country amid weak economic growth.
The US Census Bureau said in an annual report on Wednesday that 46.2 million Americans are still living below the poverty line.
The overall poverty rate stood at 15 percent in 2011, statistically unchanged from the 15.1 percent in the previous year.
According to the report, median US income declined 1.5 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.
Last year, the poverty threshold for a household of two adults and two children was $22,811.
The report also said the gap between rich and poor increased last year with joblessness persistently high.
Bruce Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago, said it was disappointing that poverty levels did not improve.
Meyer described it as a sign of lingering problems in the labor market even with recent declines in unemployment.
"The drop in the unemployment rate has been due in significant part to workers leaving the labor force, because they are discouraged, back in school, taking care of family or other reasons," he said.
The poverty level is based on a government calculation that includes only income before tax deductions.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Myanmar’s president says people in the western state of Rakhine cannot accept Rohingya Muslims as their fellow citizens amid a hate campaign led by Buddhist extremists.
"Political parties, some monks and some individuals are increasing the ethnic hatred. They even approach and lobby both the domestic and overseas Rakhine community," President Thein Sein told Myanmar's lawmakers in an assessment report AFP revealed on Friday.
In the August 17 report, Sein told the union parliament -- which combines the upper and lower houses -- that "Rakhine people are continuously thinking to terrorize” the Muslim minority group across the country.
Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship rights and Myanmar’s government considers them as foreigners.
Sein repeated comments he made in July when he called for sending them to camps or deportation of the 800,000-strong Muslim community.
Rights groups have been alarmed by a meaningful increase in the number of targeted attacks against the stateless Muslims since June, and accuse government forces of killing and raping Rohingya villagers.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Lia Tarachansky of The Real News reports that many Israelis are growing concerned over the potential costs of a war with Iran — not in terms of lives or national prestige, but as measured in their taxes and in the prices they pay for basic goods.
Food prices have already begun to spike, with a rise of 6.7% this week in the cost of bread and 20% in the cost of fresh vegetables. Stories in the Israeli press predict that a war would cause the prices of oil and electricity, which have already started rising, to surge dramatically.
Israelis have begun to engage in anti-war protests outside the home of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but despite the protests, preparations for war appear to be well underway.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently gave himself increased powers to control parliamentary decisions and procedures, and time and money is going into providing protection for civilians against potential Iranian rocket attacks in retaliation for an Israeli assault.
Yarom Ariav, who was the Finance Ministry director general from 2007 to 2009, points out that the Lebanon War of 2006 cost billions, and that a war with Iran would be much more expensive and have incalculable long-term effects.
“Economists called the decade after the Yom Kippur War ‘the lost decade’” Ariav notes. “There was a decline in the standard of living. Enormous amounts were diverted into restoring the military establishment, at the expense of civilian budgets.”
“Someone will have to pay for it and that someone is the public,” he concludes.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Kidnapping of more than 20 in Hezbollah-controlled Shi'ite area raises risk sectarian violence spreading from Syria.
BEIRUT - Lebanese Shi'ite gunmen kidnapped more than 20 people on Wednesday in retaliation for the capture of one of their kinsmen in Syria, prompting Sunni Gulf states to warn their citizens to leave Lebanon immediately.
A Turk, a Saudi and several Syrians were among those abducted in an area of Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah Shi'ite operatives, raised the risk that the sectarian violence driving the conflict in Syria will spread to its neighbor, which fought its own civil war on sectarian lines for 15 years.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar told their citizens to leave Lebanon after the kidnappings and threats to seize more citizens of countries that have backed the uprising against Syria's President Bashar Assad.
Members of the Meqdad clan, one of Lebanon's powerful Shi'ite families, said the kidnapping was retaliation for the capture of kinsman Hassan al-Meqdad by the rebel Free Syrian Army in Damascus two days ago.
They said their hostages included a Turkish businessman, a Saudi and several Syrians they described as rebel fighters.
In remarks to Lebanon's National News Agency, Hassan al-Meqdad's brother Hatem said "the snowball would grow", and warned "Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and their citizens".
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are all led by Sunnis and strongly support the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting Assad.
Air France diverted one of its planes to Amman from Beirut on Wednesday evening for "security reasons" after the kidnappings, a spokeswoman in Paris said. The road from the airport into central Beirut has regularly been blocked by families of Lebanese hostages held in Syria.
The Syrian conflict has polarized Lebanon, with its Sunnis mainly supporting Syria's rebels, while Shi'ites, including Hezbollah, mainly backing Assad, a member of the Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shi'ism.
The appearance of masked gunmen on the streets conducting mass abductions brings back memories of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, when the country was divided by Sunni, Shi'ite, Christian and Druse militia. Kidnapping became common during the conflict, and some of those taken were never found.
Saudi Arabia's official news agency said Riyadh's embassy in Lebanon had "called on Saudi citizens currently in Lebanon to leave immediately given the latest developments in Lebanon and the appearance of some explicit threats to abduct Saudi citizens and others".
A diplomat said the Turkish businessman had been kidnapped shortly after arriving in Lebanon on Wednesday.
"He was here for business, arrived today, and was kidnapped near the airport," the source said, adding that there was little progress so far in negotiations to secure his release.
The Lebanese news channel Al Jadeed was given access to the Turkish hostage, who said he had been treated well.
In a video broadcast by Al Mayadeen, a Lebanon-based TV station, two of the Syrian hostages were shown in the custody of masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan wearing green fatigues and armed with automatic rifles.
Clan member Maher al-Meqdad said the detained Syrians included a lieutenant who had deserted from Assad's army to join the rebels, while those who were not FSA members had been freed.
One of the detainees, looking tense in a room full of gunmen, identified himself as a captain by the name of Mohammed, and said his role was to help supply the FSA. The other man said he was his assistant.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: The Jerusalem Post