Judge Rules Obama Can Keep CIA Torture Report in the Shadows

ACLU slams decision, declaring: ‘The Senate’s landmark investigation into a dark period in our nation’s history should not stay behind closed government doors’

by: Sarah Lazare

“The direct, contemporaneous evidence shows that the full torture report is subject to the FOIA because Congress sent it to the executive branch with instructions that it be broadly used to ensure torture never happens again.” —Hina Shamsi, ACLU (Image: Common Dreams)

In a decision derided by the ACLU as “disappointing,” a federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the administration of President Barack Obama cannot be compelled by the court to hand over the full Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.With a lawsuit citing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the ACLU had sought to force the release of the full report, which totals nearly 7,000 pages.The roughly 500-page, heavily redacted executive summary of the report was released last year. But the full inquiry, which many say offers an important window into a shameful chapter of U.S. history, remains concealed from the public.U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg, who was appointed by Obama, claimed in the ruling that the document is immune from FOIA laws as it belongs to Congress.”At the end of the day, the ACLU asks the Court to interject itself into a high-profile conversation that has been carried out in a thoughtful and careful way by the other two branches of government,” wrote the judge.ACLU National Security Project director Hina Shamsi immediately condemned the decision as keeping “the American public from learning the whole truth about CIA torture.””The direct, contemporaneous evidence shows that the full torture report is subject to the FOIA because Congress sent it to the executive branch with instructions that it be broadly used to ensure torture never happens again,” said Shamsi in a statement emailed to Common Dreams. “The Senate’s landmark investigation into a dark period in our nation’s history should not stay behind closed government doors, but needs to see the light of day. We’re now considering our options on what to do next.”This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Source: Judge Rules Obama Can Keep CIA Torture Report in the Shadows | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

‘Weaponizing Vulnerabilities’: New Snowden Doc Reveals Spy Agencies Targeted Smartphones

The ‘Five Eyes’ alliance exploited weaknesses in popular browser and planned to hijack links to app stores to implant spyware on mobile phones, new documents show

by:Nadia Prupis

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its intelligence partners in the Five Eyes alliance exploited weaknesses in cell phone apps to spy on users, new documents reveal. (Photo: Japanexperterna.se/cc)

The intelligence alliance known as Five Eyes—comprising the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia—exploited security weaknesses in one of the world’s most popular browsers to obtain data about users and planned to use links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top secret National Security Agency (NSA) document published Wednesday has revealed.According to the 2012 document, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published jointly by CBC News and The Intercept, the NSA and its international counterparts took part in a series of workshops between November 2011 and February 2012 to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for spying operations.The Intercept reports:As part of a pilot project codenamed IRRITANT HORN, the agencies were developing a method to hack and hijack phone users’ connections to app stores so that they would be able to send malicious “implants” to targeted devices. The implants could then be used to collect data from the phones without their users noticing.CBC continues:The Five Eyes alliance targeted servers where smartphones get directed whenever users download or update an app from Google and Samsung stores….Ultimately, the spy agencies wanted to implant spyware on certain smartphones to take control of a person’s device or extract data from it, the document suggests.The spy agencies also sought to match their targets’ smartphone devices to their online activities, using databases of emails, chats and browsing histories kept in the Five Eyes’ powerful XKeyScore tool to help build profiles on the people they were tracking.The project emerged in part due to concerns about the possibility of “another Arab spring,” referring to the 2011 wave of revolutionary actions in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa where several autocratic, Western-backed leaders were ousted.”Respecting agreements not to spy on each others’ citizens, the spying partners focused their attention on servers in non-Five Eyes countries, the document suggests,” write CBC’s Amber Hildebrandt and Dave Seglins. “The agencies targeted mobile app servers in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Cuba, Morocco, the Bahamas and Russia.”The spy agencies also began targeting UC Browser—a popular app in India and China with growing usage in North America—in late 2011 after learning that it had leaked information about its half-billion users.According to the reporting, the operation was launched by a joint surveillance unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the Five Eyes nations.The document frames the plan as a move for national security, with the agencies seeking to collect data or spy indefinitely on mobile phones of “suspected terrorists.” But they did so without alerting the public or the phone companies of the browser’s weaknesses, which “potentially put millions of users in danger of their data being accessed by other governments’ agencies, hackers or criminals,” Hildebrandt and Seglins write.”Of course, the security agencies don’t [disclose the information],” Ron Deibert, executive director of digital rights group Citizen Lab, which identified security gaps in UC Browser and alerted the company to those issues in April, told CBC. “Instead, they harbor the vulnerability. They essentially weaponize it.”This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Source: ‘Weaponizing Vulnerabilities’: New Snowden Doc Reveals Spy Agencies Targeted Smartphones | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Scientists Conclusively Link BP Oil Spill with Unprecedented Dolphin Die-Off

Dolphins in the spill-affected areas ‘had some of the most severe lung lesions I have seen,’ says scientist

by: Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Scientists have for the first time made a conclusive link between the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and an unprecedented dolphin die-off along the Gulf’s northern coast.Bottlenose dolphins in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama experienced an “unusual mortality event” beginning in February 2010 and continuing into 2014, according to the study, written by a team of 22 researchers, including scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service, Audubon Nature Institute’s Aquarium of the Americas, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and a number of marine laboratories nationwide.By comparing tissue samples from dead dolphins found along the northern Gulf of Mexico—including 22 from Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, one of the most heavily oiled coastal areas in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster— with similar samples taken from dead dolphins found in the states that weren’t within the BP oil footprint, the scientists discovered that stranded and dead bottlenose dolphins within the spill range had lung and adrenal lesions consistent with petroleum product exposure.”Animals with adrenal insufficiency are less able to cope with additional stressors in their everyday lives,” said Stephanie Venn-Watson, the study’s lead author and veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, “and when those stressors occur, they are more likely to die.”The dolphins in the spill-affected areas “had some of the most severe lung lesions I have seen in the over 13 years that I have been looking dead dolphin tissues from throughout the U.S.,” added Kathleen Colegrove, the study’s lead veterinary pathologist based at the University of Illinois. Only 2 percent of reference dolphins had this lesion at all.Unsurprisingly, BP disputes the study’s findings. “The data we have seen thus far, including the new study from NOAA, do not show that oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident caused an increase in dolphin mortality,” said a spokesman for BP, Geoff Morrell.But with several more studies of dolphin-related issues underway, additional evidence is sure to emerge.The Times-Picayune reports:When complete, in about 16 to 18 months, the results of the studies will be added to other information being gathered as part of the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment, required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.Federal and state trustees and BP will then determine whether projects can be put in place to restore wildlife, including dolphins, or to compensate for their loss.Environment and conservation groups marked the five-year anniversary of the BP spill just last month, noting that the region remains vulnerable to drilling disasters even as it struggles to recover. “We are only now beginning to understand the true effects of the BP oil disaster,” Oceana vice president Jacqueline Savitz said at the time. A report released last month by the National Wildlife Federation estimated that at least 20 species are still being harmed by the spill and that the full extent of the damage may not be seen for years or even decades.”What story is the dolphin telling us about the Gulf?” asked Venn-Watson. “It’s not a question we can answer, but I think it’s an important question to continue asking. The dolphin science investigation has been very helpful in understanding the impacts of oil spills, that sub-lethal, chronic conditions do end up being deadly.”This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Source: Scientists Conclusively Link BP Oil Spill with Unprecedented Dolphin Die-Off | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community