surveillance

Amnesty blasts global 'politics of demonization'

Politicians wielding a dehumanizing rhetoric are creating a more divided and dangerous world, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. The report, "The State of the World's Human Rights" (PDF), warns that the consequences of "us vs them" rhetoric setting the agenda in Europe, the United States and elsewhere is fuelling a global pushback against human rights and leaving the global response to mass atrocities perilously weak. "President Trump's policies have brought the US to a level of human rights crisis that we haven't seen in years," said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "As the world braces itself for a new executive order, thousands of people inside and outside of US borders have had their lives thrown into chaos as a result of the president's travel ban. This administration, like other governments across the world, is playing politics with people's lives. President Trump and leaders across the globe should be reaffirming and upholding international human rights protections, not exploiting fear and prejudice for their own agendas."

Fall of Flynn: hope or peril?

There are still questions about the resignation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn following revelations in the Washington Post that he had mislead other members of the administration (and, by extension, the public) about the content of his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador back in December. It is still unclear whether Flynn stepped down of his own volition or was basically fired. (The latter version now seems to be favored by the administration.) But, predictably, Trump is expressing greater outrage over the leaks that resulted in Flynn's fall than the misbehavior they revealed, tweeting: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Flynn himself echoed that point. Asked by Fox News whether the leaks were "targeted, coordinated and possibly a violation of the law," Flynn responded: "Yes, yes and yes.”

Yes, the Russians. Wake up and smell the vodka.

OK, I’ve had enough with these disingenuous demands from the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, etc. that the CIA "show us the evidence," and the frankly absurd charges of "McCarthyism," which is simply reading the politics of this mess backwards. I know not a blessed thing about digital forensics, but all the political logic here points to Russia being behind the hacks in an intentional strategy to throw our election to Donald Trump. All these "leftists" abetting the fascist takeover of the country like this (whether cluelessly or cynically) have me pulling my damn beard out. Please follow this.

UK mass surveillance bill becomes law

The UK's Investigatory Powers Bill (PDF) was given royal assent and became law on Nov. 29. The bill gives the UK's intelligence agencies a wide variety of tools to monitor the online activity of all UK citizens. The bill will require Internet providers and phone companies in the UK to retain logs of every citizen's communications and online activity in a massive database for one year. The bill makes it lawful for authorities to access communications data without judicial approval, except to uncover journalistic sources. The government defined communications data as "the context, but not the content of a communication." It also allows for targeted equipment interference (EI), accessing specific devices such as mobile phones and computers, with the approval of a law enforcement chief and judicial commissioner. Another section allows agencies to seek communications data or EI in bulk by applying for a warrant. The bill's supporters argue that it is necessary for enforcement agencies to keep up with rapid technological advances. Critics of the bill, however, have already began circulating a petition calling for it to be repealed. The petition is nearing 140,000 signatures, passing the 100,000 signature threshold required to compel a discussion on the matter by Parliament.

China approves controversial cybersecurity law

The Chinese government on Nov. 7 approved a controversial cybersecurity law that the government says will protect Internet users and minimize fraud—over the protests of international human rights organizations. Calling the law "draconian," Human Rights Watch says it bolsters censorship measures and requires companies to monitor and report vague "network security incidents" and store personal information on users. On the business front, James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, called the law a "step backwards." Many believe it will make it harder for foreign business to operate within China, as the law also requires that companies "demonstrate" that they can withstand hacks and are open to more government scrutiny.

Judge rejects NYPD settlement in surveillance suit

A federal judge has rejected (PDF) the New York Police Department's proposed settlement of a lawsuit accusing the department of improperly monitoring the city's Muslim community. Following the September 11 attacks, the NYPD has reportedly used undercover cops to monitor Muslim neighborhoods, organizations and mosques in the name of national security. In January, a settlement was reached, calling for a stricter modification of the police surveillance "Handschu" guidelines (PDF) and a civilian representative installed for five years to ensure that the NYPD complies. The NYPD declined to accept all proposed modifications yet acquiesced to the establishment of a civilian representative. Nevertheless, US District Judge Charles Haight rejected the proposed settlement, stating that it does not sufficiently protect the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens. Haight suggested that the NYPD further clarify the representative's role, and take additional measures to ensure guideline compliance such as requiring reporting to the court. While expressing disappointment in the ruling, the New York City law department stated its intention to address the judge's concerns.

Swiss voters approve new surveillance law

Swiss voters on Sept. 25 approved a new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence services broad powers to spy on "terrorist" suspects and cyber criminals, as well as to cooperate with foreign intelligence agencies. While the right to privacy is traditionally considered very important in Switzerland, the new law will allow security agents to tap phones and computer networks. This marks a drastic change from previous surveillance capabilities, under which intelligence agencies relied solely on information from public sources and other authorities. Some left-wing groups have protested, saying the new legislation violates citizens' rights and will undermine Switzerland's neutrality. Amnesty International said the law would lead to "disproportionate" levels of surveillance and was harmful to "freedom of expression." Despite opposition, the new law garnered 65% of the vote.

Israel to deploy armed robot vehicles on Gaza border

Israel is preparing to deploy fully autonomous unmanned vehicles along the border with the Gaza Strip, according to a report published by Fox News. While currently unarmed, the Israeli military plans to add machine guns to the so-called Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) by "the beginning of next year." An unnamed Israeli military official told the Fox: "This is the future—the border is a very dangerous place… Sending unmanned vehicles to do these patrols means that troops’ lives are not at risk." According to the report, the Israeli army has worked with defense giant Elbit Systems to convert Ford pick-up trucks into UGVs by adding "specialised remote driving technology," along with "four driving cameras and a 360-degree observation camera."

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