Category Archives: SPYING

YAHOO SPIED ON 500M USERS EMAILS REQUESTED BY FEDERAL AGENCIES

Published on 5 Oct 2016

An unsettling report says Yahoo complied with government requests to scan all incoming user emails, and even wrote a special program to do so. Between this news and the massive data breach, how can consumers trust Yahoo with their privacy?

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Henry Sapiecha

I wouldn’t hire James Bond, says real life M16 British spy chief

M16 Real spy chief gives the thumbs down to hiring 007 spy film hero of the silver screen

Actor Daniel Craig poses for photographers on the red carpet at the German premiere of the new James Bond 007 film "Spectre" in Berlin, Germany, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Files

Actor Daniel Craig poses for photographers on the red carpet at the German premiere of the new James Bond 007 film “Spectre” in Berlin, Germany, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Files

Actor Daniel Craig poses for photographers on the red carpet at the German premiere of the new James Bond 007 film ”Spectre” in Berlin, Germany, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Files

Despite his unrivalled record for single-handedly saving the world from disaster while seducing beautiful women along the way, James Bond would not get a job as a British spy, the head of external intelligence agency MI6 has said.

Alex Younger said real spies had to cope with complex moral and physical challenges in the most forbidding environments on Earth, which would rule out the agent known as 007 because he lacked a strong ethical core.

“In contrast to James Bond, MI6 officers are not for taking moral shortcuts,” Younger said in an interview published on Black History Month, a website dedicated to Britain’s annual celebration of its black culture and heritage.

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“It’s safe to say that James Bond wouldn’t get through our recruitment process,” said Younger.

He added that while real MI6 spooks shared Bond’s qualities of patriotism, energy and tenacity, they needed additional values not displayed by the hero of “From Russia with Love”, “Goldfinger”, “Dr. No” or more recently “Skyfall” or “Spectre”.

“An intelligence officer in the real MI6 has a high degree of emotional intelligence, values teamwork and always has respect for the law — unlike Mr Bond.”

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

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Henry Sapiecha

 

RUSSIAN HACKERS BUSY WITH ATTACKS ON THE NEW YORK TIMES & OTHER USA TARGETS

The sun peaks over the New York Times Building in New York August 14, 2013.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The sun peaks over the New York Times Building in New York August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The New York Times said on Tuesday its Moscow bureau was targeted by a cyber attack this month but that there was no evidence the hackers, believed to be Russian, were successful.

“We are constantly monitoring our systems with the latest available intelligence and tools,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told the newspaper. “We have seen no evidence that any of our internal systems, including our systems in the Moscow bureau, have been breached or compromised.”

Earlier on Tuesday, CNN, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other U.S. security agencies were investigating cyber breaches targeting reporters at the Times and other U.S. news organizations that were thought to have been carried out by hackers working for Russian intelligence.

“Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said,” CNN reported.

The FBI declined a Reuters’ request for comment. Representatives for the U.S. Secret Service, which has a role in protecting the country from cyber crime, did not reply to a request for comment.

A government official briefed on the inquiry told the Times the FBI was looking into the attempted cyber attack but was not carrying out similar investigations at other news organizations.

The Times had not hired outside firms to investigate the attempted intrusion, contrary to the CNN report, Murphy said.

News of the cyber attack comes amid a wave of similar attacks targeting major U.S. political parties that have surfaced in recent weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The Democratic National Committee, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the party’s congressional fundraising committee have all been affected.

Hackers have also targeted the computer systems of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Republican Party organizations, sources have told Reuters.

A breach at the Times would not be the first time foreign hackers infiltrated a news organization. Media are frequently targeted in order to glean insights into U.S. policies or to spy on journalists.

In 2013, a group of hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army attacked the Times and other media outlets. Chinese attackers also infiltrated the Times that year.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz, John Walcott, Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh in Washington, and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Writing by Susan Heavey and Eric Walsh; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney

 

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Henry Sapiecha

 

Vladimir Putin ‘probably’ ordered KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko’s death by radioactive poisoning: inquiry. Story in videos & pics.

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President Putin ‘probably’ approved Litvinenko murder

A British inquiry has concluded the murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 was “probably” approved by President Vladimir Putin. Courtesy ABC News 24.

London: Russian President Vladimir Putin “probably” ordered the murder of defected KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in London, an official inquiry in Britain has found.

The finding will put pressure on the British government to take fresh measures against Russia, possibly including targeted sanctions and travel bans. It may also harm potential co-operation in military action against ISIS, and upcoming peace talks on the Syrian conflict.

Litvinenko died in November 2006 after a radioactive poison was slipped into his tea at a London hotel.

Alexander Litvinenko lies in a London hospital in November 2006 image www.intelagencies.com

Alexander Litvinenko lies in a London hospital in November 2006, dying of radiation poisoning. In 2014, the British government opened an inquiry into Moscow’s alleged involvement in the death of the former KGB agent.

There was a “strong probability” that the two killers were under the direction of the FSB, Russia’s security service.

“The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by [then FSB head Nikolai] Patrushev and also by President Putin,” Sir Robert Owen, who led the year-long inquiry, said.

The inquiry examined expert evidence and heard testimony from forensic scientists and family members, as well as secret evidence that was not disclosed in the public report – but believed to be from Western intelligence agencies.

Russian Andrey Lugovoy, a former KGB agent, allegedly spiked the tea of Alexander Litvinenko with highly radioactive polonium 210 in Mayfair, London, on November 1, 2006 image www.intelagencies.com

Russian Andrey Lugovoy, a former KGB agent, allegedly spiked the tea of Alexander Litvinenko with highly radioactive polonium 210 at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, London, on November 1, 2006. Photo: aklugovoy.ru

Sir Robert said he was “sure” that Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned with the radioactive element polonium 210, which he ingested on November 1, 2006.

That afternoon Litvinenko had met two men for tea at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, London.

The men were Andrey Lugovoy and his associate Dmitri Kovtun – former Russian army officers. Lugovoy was a former KGB agent.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, outside a pre-inquest review in London in 2012 image www.intelagencies.com

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, outside a pre-inquest review in London in 2012. Photo: AP

Forensic evidence showed the Pine Bar was “heavily contaminated” with polonium 210, the inquiry found.

“The highest readings were taken from the table where Mr Litvinenko was sitting and from the inside of one of the teapots. No comparable levels of contamination were found in any of the other places that Mr Litvinenko visited that day,” the report said.

Sir Robert said he was sure that Lugovoy and Kovtun placed the polonium in the teapot at the Pine Bar. They had tried to kill him with the same poison at a meeting a few weeks earlier.

Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book Blowing Up Russia Terror From Within, at home in London in 2002 image www.intelagencies.com

Kovtun and Lugovoy are wanted by British authorities on suspicion of the murder of Mr Litvinenko. A warrant has been issued for their arrest but Russia has not extradited them. Both have denied killing Mr Litvinenko.

Forensic scientists found “widespread radioactive contamination” at locations linked to Lugovoy, Kovtun and Mr Litvinenko in the weeks before he fell ill.

There were also high levels of radioactive contamination on the British Airways plane seats Kovtum and Lugovoy used when flying to Moscow two days after the murder, and in placed visited by Kovtun in Germany the week before he took met with Litvinenko.

The inquiry rejected a “chemical fingerprint” theory that definitively traced the polonium to a Russian factory in Sarov, though it “unquestionably” could have come from there.

Sir Robert also cast doubt on a claim by a ‘Mr Potemkin’ that the polonium came from an August 2006 shipment to the FSB in Moscow.

However, given the amount of polonium possessed and used by the assassins, it “strongly indicated” the involvement of a state, Sir Robert said.

“Ordinary criminals might have been expected to use a straightforward, less sophisticated means of killing… the polonium 210 used to kill Mr Litvinenko must have come from a reactor and such reactors are in general under state control.”

The evidence in open court was strong circumstantial evidence of Russian state involvement, and the ‘closed evidence’ made it a strong probability that the FSB directed Lugovoy to poison Mr Litvinenko.

“There were powerful motives for organisations and individuals within the Russian state to take action against Mr Litvinenko, including killing him,” Sir Robert said.

“Mr Litvinenko was … regarded as having betrayed the FSB, … was an associate of leading opponents of the Putin regime and he had repeatedly targeted President Putin himself with highly personal public criticism.”

In one article, published the year he was killed, Mr Litvinenko claimed Mr Putin was a paedophile.

Evidence suggested Russia had previously killed a number of opponents of the Putin administration, through bombings and poison including radioactive poison.

Sir Robert said he was sure that Lugovoy and Kovtun were acting on behalf of others, probably the FSB.

Though they did not know the precise nature of the poison, they knew it was deadly, Sir Robert said.

During the inquiry Mr Putin awarded Lugovoy an honour for “services to the fatherland”. He is now a member of the Russian parliament.

In a deathbed statement Mr Litvinenko accused Mr Putin of direct involvement in his murder.

The inquiry heard evidence from several of Mr Litvinenko’s associates that the assassination could not have been done without Mr Putin’s knowledge and approval.

“This is a KGB rule number one, cover your back,” said one associate, Yuri Shvets.

An independent expert, Oxford University’s Professor Robert Service, who studies Russian history, told the inquiry it was “inconceivable” that FSB head Mr Patrushev would not have had advance knowledge of the operation.

Professor Service said Mr Putin had “some oversight” of FSB operations, and Sir Robert concluded that Mr Patrushev probably would have told Mr Putin about an operation such as the murder of Mr Litvinenko, though it was at present “unprovable”.

It was widely reported – and claimed by Mr Litvinenko’s widow and associates – that Mr Litvinenko had worked for British intelligence service MI6 after his arrival in Britain.

Sir Robert said the British government had not provided any evidence on the question in the “open” part of the inquiry – but had not denied it, either.

Sir Robert said in any case it was more important whether the FSB believed he was working for British intelligence agencies, and “that is precisely what the FSB believed” according to Lugovoy.

Mr Litvinenko’s former superior at the Russian secret service, Alexander Gusak, had agreed in an interview in 2007 that Litvinenko deserved to be executed because “when (he) defected abroad, he naturally handed over the undercover experts who had been its contacts”.

Mr Litvinenko was born in December 1962 and was an officer in the KGB and then the FSB. He was dismissed in 1998 after making public allegations of illegal activity within the FSB.

He was granted asylum with his wife and son in Britain in 2001 and worked as a journalist and author and producing ‘due diligence’ reports on Russian individuals and companies.

He fell ill on the evening of November 1, 2006 and died on November 23.

Just before his death, experts realised his body was highly contaminated with radioactive polonium 201.

Sir Robert said he had made one recommendation as a result of his inquiry, but he could not reveal it publicly as it concerned the ‘closed’ evidence he had heard.

Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina said she was “very pleased” with the inquiry’s findings.

She called for the British government to expel all Russian intelligence agents, “either FSB or other Russian agencies based in the London embassy”.

She also called for immediate, targeted economic sanctions and travel bans against the people named in the report, including Mr Putin.

“It’s unthinkable that the prime minister would do nothing in the face of (these) damning findings,” she said.

Home Secretary Theresa May revealed she had also written to her counterparts in the EU, NATO and ‘Five Eyes’ countries – which includes Australia – drawing their attention to the report and the need to take steps “to prevent such a murder being committed on their streets”.

She told parliament the report’s finding that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder was “deeply disturbing” and a “blatant and unacceptable breach of fundamental international law”.

She announced new asset freezes on the two alleged killers, saying Russia’s “continued failure to ensure they are brought to justice is unacceptable”.

The government had summoned the Russian ambassador to the Foreign Office to demand an account of the FSB’s role in this case.

Lugovoy calls accusations ‘absurd’

Andrei Lugovoy said the accusations against him were “absurd”, the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Lugovoy, who represents the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the Russian parliament, called the British inquiry “a pathetic attempt by London to use a skeleton in the closet for the sake of its political ambitions”.

He said the findings of the inquiry published on Thursday continued Britain’s “anti-Russian hysteria” which he said began after “the events in Ukraine in 2014”.

“The accusations brought against me are absurd,” he said.

“As we expected, there was no sensation. The results of the inquiry published today are yet more proof of London’s anti-Russian stance, its blinkered thinking and … unwillingness to establish the true cause of Litvinenko’s death.”

With Reuters

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Henry Sapiecha

Convicted Spy Pollard Released from Prison after 30 Years

FILE - In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard is set to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel.  (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)

FILE – In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard is set to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel. (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)

In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard is set to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel. (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker)

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was released from prison early Friday, culminating an extraordinary espionage case that complicated American-Israeli relations for 30 years and became a periodic bargaining chip between two allies.

Within hours after his release, Pollard’s attorneys began a court challenge to terms of his parole that they called “onerous and oppressive,” including requiring him to wear an electronic GPS ankle bracelet and the monitoring of any computer that Pollard may use either personally or at a job.

Pollard was driven away from the federal prison at Butner, North Carolina, before dawn in heavy fog, and Larry Dub, a Pollard attorney, told Israel’s Army Radio that he was being driven to New York City. The prison is on a two-lane rural road lined with pine trees. Reporters and camera crews who waited outside didn’t get a glimpse of him.

“The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “As someone who raised Jonathan’s case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come.”

The federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that Pollard was no longer in custody but provided no other details.

Pollard’s release came nearly 30 years to the day after his arrest for providing large amounts of classified U.S. government information to Israel.

“I have waited for this day for 30 long years, unbelievable,” Anne, his ex-wife, told Israel’s Army Radio. “It’s an amazing moment.”

Pollard had been granted parole this summer from a life sentence imposed in 1987. His lawyers have said that they have secured a job and housing for him in the New York area, without elaborating. The terms of his parole require him to remain in the United States for at least five years, though supporters – including Netanyahu and some members of Congress – are seeking permission for him to move to Israel immediately.

The saga involving Pollard for years divided public opinion in the United States and became both an irritant and a periodic bargaining chip between the U.S. and Israel.

His release caps one of the most high-profile spy sagas in modern American history, a case that over the years sharply divided public opinion and became a diplomatic sticking point. Supporters have long maintained that he was punished excessively for actions taken on behalf of an American ally while critics, including government officials, derided him as a traitor who sold out his country.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the crime merited a life sentence, given the amount of damage that Mr. Pollard did to the United States government,” said Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted the case as U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. “I would have been perfectly pleased if he had spent the rest of his life in jail.”

Seymour Reich, a former president of B’nai Brith International who visited Pollard twice in prison, said that while he believed Pollard broke the law and deserved to be punished, his sentence was overly harsh. Like other supporters, he believes Pollard was “double-crossed” into thinking he’d be afforded leniency in exchange for a guilty plea.

“I hope that he settles down and lives the remaining years as best as he can,” Reich said.

Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He had earlier drawn the suspicion of a supervisor for handling large amounts of classified materials unrelated to his official duties.

U.S. officials have said Pollard, over a series of months and for a salary, provided intelligence summaries and huge quantities of classified documents on the capabilities and programs of Israel’s enemies. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage and was given a life sentence a year later.

Though he has said his guilty plea was coerced, he has also expressed regret, telling The Associated Press in a 1998 interview that he did not consider himself a hero.

“There is nothing good that came as a result of my actions,” he said. “I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work.”

Under sentencing rules in place at the time of his crime, he became presumptively eligible for parole in November – 30 years after his arrest. The Justice Department agreed not to oppose parole at a July hearing that took into account his behavior in prison and likelihood to commit future crimes.

The parole decision was applauded in Israel, which after initially claiming that he was part of a rogue operation, acknowledged him in the 1990s as an agent and granted him citizenship. Israelis have long campaigned for his freedom, and Netanyahu said last summer that he had consistently raised the issue of his release with American officials.

Pollard’s lawyers also have sought permission for him to travel immediately to Israel, and two Democratic members of Congress – Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, both of New York – have called on the Justice Department to grant the request so that Pollard can live with his family and “resume his life there.” The congressmen say Pollard accepts that such a move may bar him from ever re-entering the United States.

The White House has said that it has no intention of altering the conditions of Pollard’s parole, and even friends and supporters say they don’t know exactly what’s next for him.

President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser reiterated that stance on Friday, telling reporters traveling with Obama to Malaysia that “this is something that Prime Minister Netanyahu has regularly raised” in discussions with the United States.

“Obviously, the one thing at issue is the requirement that he remains in the United States,” Rhodes said. “But again, the president does not have any plans to alter the terms of his parole.”

Last year, the U.S. dangled the prospect of freeing Pollard early as part of a package of incentives to keep Israel at the negotiating table during talks with the Palestinians. But the talks fell apart, and Pollard remained in prison.

More details about his plans were expected to emerge after his release.

“It’s a very unusual situation … I’ve been working with Mr. Pollard for 20 years, and even I don’t know where he is going or what he will be doing,” said Farley Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi who has been lobbying on Pollard’s behalf for two decades.

Source: Associated Press

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Henry Sapiecha

NATO Fights Malware, Bugged Devices at Estonian Cyber Center

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the media during an EU foreign and defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the media during an EU foreign and defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the media during an EU foreign and defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

NATO nations and allies are battling malware in tablets and infected devices this week in the alliance’s largest cyber drill to date aimed at improving members’ data privacy in crisis situations.

Some 400 participants from 33 countries were focused on solving scenarios including attacks on high-ranking officers’ computer equipment during an exercise at a cyber range in Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city.

“The idea is to replicate dynamics and threats that are real,” said Lt. Col. Christian Braccini, a researcher from the NATO cyber think tank and training center in the capital, Tallinn.

The five-day Cyber Coalition 2015 exercise, which ends Friday, included teams from non-NATO members Austria, Finland and Sweden, with Georgia, Japan and Jordan as observers.

It comes amid a flourish of NATO activity and recent visits by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to the region, where Nordic and Baltic countries have watched Russia’s increasing military presence in the Baltic Sea with increasing trepidation.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Hoar, head of the NATO drill on behalf of the Allied Command Operations, stressed the scenarios do not include attacking or defending. He says teams were given realistic “story lines” to solve, including cyberattacks on devices.

“The focus of the exercise is not competition, it’s collaboration,” Hoar told reporters.

Participating nations have at least one representative at the high-security cyber exercise range in Tartu, 190 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Tallinn.

It’s the third time such an event was held in Estonia, one of the most wired and technologically advanced countries in the world. Estonia itself was targeted in 2007 by hackers in one of Europe’s first major organized cyberattacks.

Source: Associated Press

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Henry Sapiecha

China hackers make US uni unplug engineering computers-Is China a nation of thieves & cheats??

penn state seal-university image www.intelagencies.comchinese flag image www.druglinks.infohackers at work shadow image www.intelagencies.comchinese peoples faces image www.intelagencies.com

Washington: Penn State University, which develops sensitive technology for the US Navy, said on Friday that Chinese hackers have been sifting through the computers of its engineering school for more than two years.

One of the United States’ largest and most productive research universities, Penn State offers a potential treasure trove of technology that’s already being developed with partners for commercial applications. The breach suggests that foreign spies could be using universities as a backdoor to US commercial and defence secrets.

The hackers are so deeply embedded that the engineering college’s computer network will be taken offline for several days while investigators work to eject the intruders.

“This was an advanced attack against our College of Engineering by very sophisticated threat actors,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in a letter to professors and students. “This is an incredibly serious situation, and we are devoting all necessary resources to help the college recover as quickly as possible.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation notified the university of the breach in November 2014, spawning a months-long investigation that eventually found two separate groups of hackers stealing data.

The first group has been linked by investigators to the Chinese government, according to a person familiar with the probe. The second group has not been identified, the university says, but investigators believe it is the work of state-sponsored hackers.

The investigation and remediation efforts have already cost Penn State millions of dollars, said Nicholas Jones, the university provost.

US engineering schools – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and Johns Hopkins – have been among the top targets of Chinese hacking and other intelligence operations for many years. These forays have been for both commercial and defence purposes, and universities have struggled to secure their computers against these advanced attacks.

In addition to online activities, the Chinese have sent legions of graduate students to US schools and have tried to recruit students, faculty members and others at both universities and government research facilities, several recent law-enforcement investigations show.

“There is an active threat and it is against not just Penn State but against many different organisations across the world, including higher education institutions,” said Nick Bennett, a senior manager at Mandiant, a security division of FireEye Inc., which aided the university in the investigation.

Universities “need to start addressing these threats aggressively”, Mr Bennett said in an interview.

Among Penn State’s specialties is aerospace engineering, which has both commercial and defence applications important to China’s government. The university is also home to Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory, one of 14 research centres around America that work mainly for the military.

That the hackers were in the network undetected for more than two years raises the possibility that they used connections between computers to move into more highly guarded networks, including defence contractors, government agencies or the Navy, according to the person familiar with the investigation.

Washington Post

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Henry Sapiecha

MORE LEAKS TO COME SOON SAYS JULIAN ASSANGE OF WIKILEAKS FAME

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 18, 2014 image www.intelagencies.com

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 18, 2014. Photo: JOHN STILLWELL

WikiLeaks is planning new releases of secret documents on controversial negotiations and intelligence agency operations, according to the anti-secrecy organisation’s Australian founder, Julian Assange.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Assange  said that while he does not expect to leave Ecuador’s London embassy any time soon, WikiLeaks very much remains in the business of publishing the secrets of diplomats and spies.

“There’ll be more publications – about large international so-called free trade deals, and about an intelligence agency,” Mr Assange said.

Over the past two years WikiLeaks has published leaked documents relating to the secret Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations as well as talks on the proposed multilateral agreement on Trade in Services.

In December 2014, WikiLeaks also published a leaked US Central Intelligence Agency analysis of the effectiveness of drone strikes and another CIA paper on the implications of enhanced airport security arrangements for clandestine intelligence operatives.

At that time WikiLeaks said the CIA documents were the beginning of a series of releases relating to the US espionage agency.

Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2014 image www.intelagencies.com

In a wide ranging interview Mr Assange discussed the recent establishment of a secure internet chat system to enable anonymous sources to contact WikiLeaks and the prospective reintroduction of a secure electronic drop box to facilitate the deposit of leaked documents

Mr Assange acknowledged that re-establishing a drop box had proved a challenge since the WikiLeaks submission system had been disabled when a disgruntled member left the group in late 2010.

“Given the realities of mass surveillance, and the intense focus on WikiLeaks, we knew we needed a much stronger approach,” he said.

“There have been a number of efforts to do this, by others and ourselves, but until now every one has failed the test.  Our new system has some innovation that will be visible, and a lot that is not.”

Mr Assange said that a key challenge arose from the fact that any website open to receive anonymous leaks was an “exposed front door that becomes a permanent target” for intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

One part of the solution is to embed the instructions and code for the submission system on every webpage so that potential sources would be concealed amidst the estimated 500,000 unique readers who visit the WikiLeaks website each month.

“That gives a source some cover,” Mr Assange said, “but it’s important to understand that the protection of sources requires much more than a single technological fix.”

“A combination of elements is needed – cryptologic, jurisdictional and personal security.”

Mr Assange acknowledged his physical location in Ecuador’s London embassy was “a complicating factor, but not insurmountable” in WikiLeaks operations, and pointed to the assistance given by WikiLeaks staffer Sarah Harrison to former US intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden as a demonstration of high levels of operational security.

Mr Assange said that he was hopeful that Sweden’s highest court would strike down the still current arrest warrant for him to be questioned about sexual assault allegations that were first raised in August 2010.

He has lived at Ecuador’s London embassy since June 2012 when the South American country granted him political asylum on the grounds that he is at risk of extradition to the United States to face espionage and conspiracy charges arising from the leaking of thousands of secret documents by US Army private Chelsea Manning.

In March, a US court confirmed that WikiLeaks and Mr Assange are still being targeted in a long-running investigation by the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation. British police are on guard outside the Ecuadorian embassy, waiting to arrest Mr Assange so he can be extradited to Sweden for questioning about the sexual assault allegations. Mr Assange denies the allegations and his lawyers have advised that he is at risk of extradition to the US from both Sweden or the United Kingdom.

Sweden’s Supreme Court confirmed this week it will hear an appeal by Mr Assange seeking to quash the arrest warrant on the grounds that prosecutors had failed to progress the case and that he has been denied access to key facts relevant to the decision to arrest him.

However, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has confirmed even if the Swedish warrant disappeared British police would still seek to arrest Mr Assange for breaking his bail conditions when he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy.

“When my legal team asked the FCO whether they were aware of any US extradition proceedings, they refused to confirm or deny,” Mr Assange said.

“There’s also the question of US and UK investigations relating to Sarah Harrison as myself as a consequence of our assistance to Snowden,” he added.

Mr Assange said he hadn’t had any contact from Australian consular officials for more than a year. His Australian passport, currently held by British authorities, has expired. He has been advised that he must physically present himself at the Australian High Commission in London if he wishes to obtain a new passport.

“The Australian Government and DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] like to make a big song and dance about helping Australians overseas, but the reality is they do as little as possible, especially when they don’t like someone’s politics.

“I’m probably not moving for a while yet,” he said.

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Henry Sapiecha

Edward Snowden tells John Oliver how the government is collecting everyone’s ‘dick pics’ in this video interview

Snowden’s ‘dick pic’ interview

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sat down with comedian John Oliver to chat about US government surveillance debate in terms all Americans can understand

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on mass government surveillance, has dodged questions about whether he had read all the classified documents he leaked to the public and explained the practical realities of the mass data collection in terms most internet users clearly understand: how easily the government can access your “dick pics”.

Snowden made the rare face-to-face interview with comedian and host of satirical program Last Week Tonight John Oliver, who proved once again he does journalism better than many professional journalists. Oliver travelled to Moscow a week ago to speak to Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia after going public with the material.

Oliver, who has fiercely resisted being labelled a journalist in the past, pushed Snowden with a direct and challenging line of questioning in parts of the interview about whether he had actually read all the documents he leaked, asserting that there had been “f…-ups”, as Oliver termed them

Edward Snowden opened up in an interview with John Oliver.

Edward Snowden opened up in an interview with John Oliver.

Snowden replied that he had evaluated and “understood” all the documents, but would not confirm that he had actually read them.

The British host and his subject also provided perhaps the simplest explanation yet for how the surveillance program actually worked, using the nude pictures people send to each other online as an example.

“This is the most visible line in the sand for people,” said Oliver, “can they see my dick?”

Non-journalist John Oliver showed his interview skills while talking to Edward Snowden.

Non-journalist John Oliver showed his interview skills while talking to Edward Snowden.

Snowden told him that while there was of course no ‘Dick Pic Program’, “they are still collecting everybody’s information, including your dick pics”.

Oliver then lead Snowden through a series of detailed questions about different National Security Agency programs and whether they could see or collect this type of picture, with Snowden explaining how in most cases, they could.

“If you have your email somewhere like Gmail, hosted on servers overseas or transferred overseas, or at any time, crosses over borders outside the United States, your junk ends up on the database,” Snowden told him.

Snowden has been interviewed before, including by the Guardian, which broke the original NSA story, and in the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour, and had previously discussed how the NSA viewed people’s private, naked photographs.

But the wry execution of the latest interview sparked huge interest when it was screened on Sunday night and went viral on Monday in the United States. It also once again earned Oliver praise for his journalistic ability.

The terms under which the interview were brokered are not known – HBO, the network which screens Last Week Tonight, “respectfully declined” to respond to questions on the interview from Fairfax Media. Snowden certainly seemed caught off guard during several segments of the interview, suggesting he was not expecting many of the questions which came up.

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The episode is likely to fuel further discussion about whether Last Week Tonight, which each week tackles a current event or real issue with humour, should best be defined as journalism or comedy, or some hybrid of both.

Oliver has made headlines before with his work on the show, revealing discrepancies in the claims about scholarships made by the Miss America pageant, or delving into the tactics used by tobacco companies to thwart regulation around the world.

His work certainly achieves journalistic ends through journalistic means – interviewing or evaluating primary sources, pursuing information in the public interest, explaining events and concepts and disclosing new information to his audience.

But like the outgoing host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, Oliver has repeatedly eschewed any label that even incorporates “journalism”, telling the New York Times last year: “We are making jokes about the news and sometimes we need to research things deeply to understand them, but it’s always in service of a joke. If you make jokes about animals, that does not make you a zoologist. We certainly hold ourselves to a high standard and fact-check everything, but the correct term for what we do is ‘comedy’.”

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Henry Sapiecha

Secret police taskforce followed journalist: Inquiry targets bugging, whistleblowing and covers-ups

"Completely gobsmacked": Journalist Neil Mercer.

“Completely gobsmacked”: Journalist Neil Mercer. Photo: Daniel Munoz

As the state’s top police officer prepares to take the stand at a sensational police bugging inquiry next week, questions have emerged about his possible role in a shadowy taskforce set up with the intention of spying on a journalist.

On September 9, 2012, Fairfax reporter Neil Mercer published explosive details in The Sun-Herald about Strike Force Emblems, a long-buried internal police report into Operation Mascot, an anti-corruption surveillance exercise that controversially involved the secret bugging of more than 100 police officers and civilians on the back of suspect warrants and allegations.

It can now be revealed that nine days after the story was published, the force’s professional standards command launched Strike Force Jooriland to monitor the veteran reporter and hunt down the police whistleblower leaking critical information to him.

When NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione appears before the parliamentary committee on Wednesday, he is likely to be grilled on how the operation came to be approved.

Mercer had remained oblivious to Jooriland until last Friday when he appeared as a witness before the inquiry.

“I am completely gobsmacked,” he said on Saturday, adding: “You’re exposing allegations of serious wrongdoing and criminal offences. Their response is, let’s shoot the messenger and then screw the whistleblower.”

MEAA chief executive officer Paul Murphy also expressed alarm, stating: “The professionalism of a journalist and the ethical responsibility to protect confidential sources needs to be respected at all times, regardless of the type of inquiry.”

As Mercer was left to nervously dwell on the nature – and extent – of the surveillance, biggest questions surround the broader roles in the bugging affair played by Commissioner Scipione and NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn – who at one stage was an acting commander of the special crime and internal affairs unit (SCIA).

“We can’t comment on matters that are currently the subject of an investigation by the Ombudsman,” said a police spokesman when asked who had triggered the hunt.

On Friday, the inquiry heard explosive allegations about a mass cover-up that blanketed the police corruption investigation, Operation Mascot, which ran between 1999-2001.

Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas was a central target of the surveillance operation, which he testified had ruined the careers of many officers and triggered a suicide.

Ms Burn had been a senior officer within the operation which at one stage, was commanded by current Commissioner Scipione. The hearing heard that some affidavits presented to NSW Supreme Court judges had contained no information to justify surveillance, and some content was false. It emerged that during the operation, Ms Burn’s unit had secured a warrant to bug Mr Kaldas and his family – despite no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Against the wishes of the NSW government, the inquiry was established last year in response to complaints about the amount of time taken by NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour to investigate the scandal. On Friday, Mr Kaldas launched a scathing attack on Mr Barbour, about his treatment. “We, the police, could not treat criminals this way and neither should we,” he said.

Mercer had earlier published details of the secret Emblems report which showed Ms Burn had come under investigation, following a string of complaints relating to the investigation. While the report stated there was no evidence to bring criminal or disciplinary charges against her, it noted inquiries into those complaints had hit a wall after access to crucial documents and witnesses was repeatedly denied. It was also revealed that in November 2001, Commissioner Scipione, then commander of SCIA, had been warned some officers within the branch were concerned about the legality of the telephone taps and the release of “fictitious information” to gain listening devices. The inquiry resumes on Tuesday.
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Henry Sapiecha