TBR News September 12, 2013

Sep 12 2013

Controlling the News


        Washington, D.C. September 11, 2013: “Much has been noted about Secretary of State John Kerry’s ferocity in demanding a physical American bombing attack on Syria. It is wondered why he would be so bellicose. The answer is that Israel hates Syria because they see them as allowing the Russian shipment of long range missles to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and refusing to give them the Golan Heights. Mr. Kerry has ties to the state of Israel as one can see in this report:

‘The Boston Globe puiblished an article in 2003 by a genealogist, Felix Gundacker, which revealed that then-Senator John Kerry’s paternal grandparents were originally Jewish, and as Fritz Kohn and Ida Löwe, lived in the Austro-Hungarian town of Bennisch, then part of Silesia (presently Horní Benešov in the Czech Republic), and later changed their names to Frederick and Ida Kerry in 1900 and converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism in 1902.

 Ida Kerry’s brother Otto and sister Jenni, died in Nazi concentration camps.  The Kerry name, chosen from an old atlas, has been misinterpreted as indicating an Irish background for the Secretary of State.. In 1906, The Kohn/Kerry family left their Vienna suburb of Mödling, where they had lived since 1896, and together with their son Eric, emigrated to the United States, living at first in Chicago and eventually moving to Brookline, Massachusetts, by 1915.

Fred Kerry was a successful shoe merchant, and Ida and two of the children — Richard (the father of John Kerry) and Mildred — were able to afford to travel to Europe in the autumn of 1921, returning on October 21 of that year. A few weeks later, on November 15, Fred Kerry filed a will leaving everything to Ida and then, on November 23, walked into a washroom of the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston and blew his brains out with a pistol.’”

NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

• Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis
• Only official US government communications protected
• Agency insists it complies with rules governing privacy
Read the NSA and Israel’s ‘memorandum of understanding’


September 11, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill


The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.

“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the document says.

In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.

“Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA’s surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights,” the spokesperson said.

The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.

The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.

Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government”. Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.

It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on “the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip”.

The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans’ emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target. US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.

Moreover, with much of the world’s internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency’s surveillance programs.

The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons’ identities”. It also requests that the Israelis limit access only to personnel with a “strict need to know”.

Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.

Although Israel is one of America’s closest allies, it is not one of the inner core of countries involved in surveillance sharing with the US – Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This group is collectively known as Five Eyes.

The relationship between the US and Israel has been strained at times, both diplomatically and in terms of intelligence. In the top-secret 2013 intelligence community budget request, details of which were disclosed by the Washington Post, Israel is identified alongside Iran and China as a target for US cyberattacks.

While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigint sharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.

“Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled ‘History of the US – Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992′. “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”


In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US. “On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended.”


The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with Israel. At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for Israeli personnel to protect US person information.

            It is not clear whether or not this was because there had been problems up to that point in the handling of intelligence that was found to contain Americans’ data.

However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: “Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [Israel] operations.”


The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.

In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.

“NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information.”

l\J UDI1,






            3.This agreement between NSA and The Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) prescribes procedures and responsibilities for ensuring that ISNU handling of materials provided by NSA — including, but not limited to. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) technology and equipment and raw SIGINT data signals intelligence information that has not been reviewed for foreign intelligence purposes or minimized) – is consistent with the requirements placed upon NSA by U.S. law and Executive Order to establish safeguards protecting the rights of U.S. persons under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

            This agreement will apply to any SIGINT raw traffic, technology, or enabling that NSA may provide to ISNU. This agreement applies only to materials provided by NSA and shall not be construed to apply to materials collected independently by ISNU.

            ISNU also recognizes that NSA has agreements with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom that require it to protect information associated with UK. persons, Australian persons, Canadian persons and New Zealand persons using procedures and safeguards similar to those applied for U.S. persons. For this reason, in all uses of raw material provided by NSA, ISNU agrees to apply the procedures outlined in this agreement to persons of these countries.

            (U) This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an intemational agreement or a legally binding instrument according to intemational law.




            REL) Raw SIGINT is any SIGINT acquired either as a result of search and development, or targeted collection operations against a particular foreign intelligence target before the information has been evaluated for foreign intelligence and minimized. Raw SIGINT includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists. facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence (DNI) metadata and content. –


            Minimization is the process used to determine whether U.S. person information encountered in raw SIGINT is essential to assess or understand the significance of the foreign intelligence. The NSA Special US Liaison Advisor Israel (SUSLAIS) should be consulted any time U.S. person information is found in raw SIGINT data supplied by NSA.


(U) A U.S. Person is:

l) (U) a citizen of the United States;


2) (U) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States (informally referred to as a “green card” holder);




Russia sends four more warships to eastern Mediterranean near Syria

September 7, 2013


            Russia sends four more warships to eastern Mediterranean near Syria 06 Sep 2013 The Russian navy has sent four more ships to the eastern Mediterranean, near the Syrian coast, as the United States considers launching a military offensive against the Arab country. The SSV-201 Priazovye reconnaissance ship, escorted by two landing ships, Minsk and Novocherkassk, had already passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a source from the Saint Petersburg-based central naval command as saying on Friday. A third landing ship was just making a short stop to lift “special cargo” in Novorossiysk in the Black Sea, the report added without elaborating on the cargo.

U.S. weapons reaching Syrian rebels


September 11, 2013

by Ernesto Londoño and Greg Miller

Washington Post


The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.


The arms shipments, which are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, began arriving in Syria at a moment of heightened tensions over threats by President Obama to order missile strikes to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack near Damascus last month.


The arms are being delivered as the United States is also shipping new types of nonlethal gear to rebels. That aid includes vehicles, sophisticated communications equipment and advanced combat medical kits.


U.S. officials hope that, taken together, the weapons and gear will boost the profile and prowess of rebel fighters in a conflict that started about 21 / 2 years ago.


Although the Obama administration signaled months ago that it would increase aid to Syrian rebels, the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials’ fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists. Secretary of State John F. Kerry had promised in April that the nonlethal aid would start flowing “in a matter of weeks.”


The delays prompted several senior U.S. lawmakers to chide the Obama administration for not moving more quickly to aid the Syrian opposition after promising lethal assistance in June. The criticism has grown louder amid the debate over whether Washington should use military force against the Syrian regime, with some lawmakers withholding support until the administration committed to providing the rebels with more assistance.


Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has pressed the Obama administration to do more to help the rebels, said he felt embarrassed when he met with Syrians along the Turkish border three weeks ago.


“It was humiliating,” he said in an interview Wednesday night. “The president had announced that we would be providing lethal aid, and not a drop of it had begun. They were very short on ammunition, and the weapons had not begun to flow.”


The latest effort to provide aid is aimed at supporting rebel fighters who are under the command of Gen. Salim Idriss, according to officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because part of the initiative is covert. Idriss is the commander of the Supreme Military Council, a faction of the disjointed armed opposition.


U.S. officials, speaking about the provision of nonlethal aid, said they are determined to increase the cohesion and structure of the rebel fighting units.


“This doesn’t only lead to a more effective force, but it increases its ability to hold coalition groups together,” said Mark S. Ward, the State Department’s senior adviser on assistance to Syria, who coordinates nonlethal aid to rebels from southern Turkey. “They see their leadership is having some impact.”


U.S. officials decided to expand nonlethal assistance to Syria’s armed rebels after they delivered more than 350,000 high-calorie U.S. military food packets through the Supreme Military Council in May. The distribution gave U.S. officials confidence that it was possible to limit aid to select rebel units in a battlefield where thousands of fighters share al-Qaeda’s ideology, U.S. officials said.


Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, said Washington’s revamped efforts are welcome but insufficient to turn the tide of the civil war between rebels and forces loyal to Assad.


“The Syrian Military Council is receiving so little support that any support we receive is a relief,” he said. “But if you compare what we are getting compared to the assistance Assad receives from Iran and Russia, we have a long battle ahead of us.”


‘It’s better than nothing’


While the State Department is coordinating nonlethal aid, the CIA is overseeing the delivery of weaponry and other lethal equipment to the rebels. An opposition official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss covert arms transfers, said U.S. intelligence personnel have begun delivering long-promised light weapons and ammunition to rebel groups in the past couple of weeks.


The weaponry “doesn’t solve all the needs the guys have, but it’s better than nothing,” the opposition official said. He added that Washington remains reluctant to give the rebels what they most desire: antitank and antiaircraft weapons.


The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces.


The CIA declined to comment.


The distribution of vehicles and communications equipment is part of an effort to direct U.S. aid to Syrian rebels in a more assertive, targeted manner. Before Ward established a team of about two dozen diplomats and aid workers in southern Turkey, Washington was doing little more than paying for truckloads of food and medicine for Syrian rebels. U.S. officials concede that the shipments often went to the most accessible, and not necessarily the neediest, places.


Boosting moderate factions


In addition to boosting support for rebels under the command of Idriss, who speaks fluent English and taught at a military academy before defecting from the Syrian army last year, U.S. officials in southern Turkey are using aid to promote emerging moderate leaders in towns and villages in rebel-held areas. Across much of the north, Syrians have begun electing local councils and attempting to rebuild communities devastated by war.

            Ward’s team — working primarily out of hotel lobbies — has spent the past few months studying the demographics and dynamics of communities where extremists are making inroads. Targeted U.S. aid, he said, can be used to empower emerging local leaders who are moderate and to jump-start basic services while dimming the appeal of extremists.

“We feel we’re able to get these local councils off to a good start,” said Ward, a veteran U.S. Agency for International Development official who has worked in Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We vet individuals who are getting our assistance to make sure they are not affiliated with terror organizations.”

The assistance to local communities includes training in municipal management as well as basic infrastructure such as garbage trucks, ambulances and firetrucks. The areas receiving this aid are carefully selected, U.S. officials said, noting that extremist groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, are delivering services to communities newly under rebel control.

“If you see new firetrucks and ambulances in places where al-Nusra is trying to win hearts and minds, this might not be a coincidence,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to explain details of a sensitive strategy.

The initiatives are part of a $250 million effort to support moderate factions of the Syrian opposition. Of that, the United States has earmarked $26.6 million in aid for the Supreme Military Council. The delivery that began this week does not include items that the rebels have long identified as priorities: night-vision goggles and body armor.

Mohammed Ghanem, director of government relations at the Syrian American Council, which supports the opposition, said the U.S. initiatives are steps in the right direction after years of inaction and misguided policies.

“We’ve definitely seen a structural and conceptual evolution in terms of their understanding of what’s going on on the ground,” he said in an interview. “On the other hand, we’re always lagging behind. We’re not leading. Developments are always like six months ahead of us.”

Ghanem said the effect of U.S. assistance is limited by the number of proxies that Washington must use to deliver it. U.S. officials in Turkey rely on a network of contractors and subcontractors to deliver the aid.

Ward said he hopes the assistance efforts will position the United States to have strong relationships in a postwar Syria.

“When you finally have a free Syrian government, you will know them and they will know us,” Ward said. “We will have been working with them week after week, month after month. These won’t be strangers.”


How to foil NSA sabotage: use a dead man’s switch

Registering for nothing-to-see-here deadlines could help to sound the alert when a website has been compromised


September 9, 2013

by Cory Doctorow



   The more we learn about the breadth and depth of the NSA and GCHQ’s programmes of spying on the general public, the more alarming it all becomes. The most recent stories about the deliberate sabotage of security technology are the full stop at the end of a sentence that started on 8 August, when the founder of Lavabit (the privacy oriented email provider used by whistleblower Edward Snowden) abruptly shut down, with its founder, Ladar Levison, obliquely implying that he’d been ordered to secretly subvert his own system to compromise his users’ privacy.

It doesn’t really matter if you trust the “good” spies of America and the UK not to abuse their powers (though even the NSA now admits to routine abuse, you should still be wary of deliberately weakened security. It is laughable to suppose that the back doors that the NSA has secretly inserted into common technologies will only be exploited by the NSA. There are plenty of crooks, foreign powers, and creeps who devote themselves to picking away patiently at the systems that make up the world and guard its wealth and security (that is, your wealth and security) and whatever sneaky tools the NSA has stashed for itself in your operating system, hardware, applications and services, they will surely find and exploit.

One important check against the NSA’s war on security is transparency. Programmes published under free/open software licenses can be independently audited are much harder to hide secret back doors in. But what about the services that we use – certificate providers, hosted email and cloud computers, and all the other remote computers and networks that we entrust with our sensitive data?

Ultimately these are only as trustworthy as the people who run them. And as we’ve seen with Lavabit, even the most trustworthy operators may face secret orders to silently betray you, with terrible penalties if they speak out.

This is not a new problem. In 2004, American librarians recoiled at the FBI’s demands to rummage through their patrons’ reading habits and use them to infer terroristic intent, and at the FBI’s gag orders preventing librarians from telling their patrons when the police had come snooping.

Jessamyn West, a radical librarian, conceived of a brilliant solution, a sign on the wall of her library reading “THE FBI HAS NOT BEEN HERE (watch very closely for the removal of this sign).” After all, she reasoned, if the law prohibited her from telling people that the FBI had been in, that wasn’t the same as her not not telling people the FBI hadn’t been in, right?

I was reminded of this last week on a call with Nico Sell, one of the organisers of the annual security conference Defcon (whose founder, Jeff Moss, told the NSA that it would not be welcome at this year’s event). Nico wanted me to act as an adviser to her company Wickr, which provides a platform for private messaging. I asked her what she would do in the event that she got a Lavabit-style order to pervert her software’s security.

She explained that her company had committed to publishing regular transparency reports, modelled on those used by companies like Google, with one important difference. Google’s reports do not give the tally of secret orders served on it by governments, because doing so would be illegal. Sell has yet to receive a secret order, so she can legally report in each transparency report: “Wickr has received zero secret orders from law enforcement and spy agencies. Watch closely for this notice to disappear.” When the day came that her service had been served by the NSA, she could provide an alert to attentive users (and, more realistically, journalists) who would spread the word. Wickr is designed so that it knows nothing about its users’ communications, so an NSA order would presumably leave its utility intact, but notice that the service had been subjected to an order would be a useful signal to users of other, related services.

This gave me an idea for a more general service: a dead man’s switch to help fight back in the war on security. This service would allow you to register a URL by requesting a message from it, appending your own public key to it and posting it to that URL.

   Once you’re registered, you tell the dead man’s switch how often you plan on notifying it that you have not received a secret order, expressed in hours. Thereafter, the service sits there, quietly sending a random number to you at your specified interval, which you sign and send back as a “No secret orders yet” message. If you miss an update, it publishes that fact to an RSS feed.

Such a service would lend itself to lots of interesting applications. Muck-raking journalists could subscribe to the raw feed, looking for the names of prominent services that had missed their nothing-to-see-here deadlines. Security-minded toolsmiths could provide programmes that looked through your browser history and compared it with the URLs registered with the service and alert you if any of the sites you visit ever show up in the list of possibly-compromised sites.

No one’s ever tested this approach in court, and I can’t say whether a judge would be able to distinguish between “not revealing a secret order” and “failing to note the absence of a secret order”, but in US jurisprudence, compelling someone to speak a lie is generally more fraught with constitutional issues than compelled silence about the truth. The UK is on less stable ground – the “unwritten constitution” lacks clarity on this subject, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act allows courts to order companies to surrender their cryptographic keys (for the purposes of decrypting evidence, though perhaps a judge could be convinced to equate providing evidence with signing a message).

When the NSA came up with codenames for its projects to sabotage security products, it chose “BULLRUN” and “MANASSAS”, names for a notorious battle from the American civil war in which the public were declared enemies of the state. GCHQ’s parallel programme was called “EDGEHILL”, another civil war battle where citizens became enemies of their government. Our spies’ indiscriminate surveillance programmes clearly show an alarming trend for the state to view everyday people as adversaries.

Our world is made up of computers. Our cars and homes are computers into which we insert our bodies; our hearing aids and implanted defibrillators are computers we insert into our bodies. The deliberate sabotage of computers is an act of depraved indifference to the physical security and economic and intellectual integrity of every person alive. If the law is perverted so that we cannot tell people when their security has been undermined, it follows that we must find some other legal way to warn them about services that are not fit for purpose.


Steganography as a means of securing Internet privacy


Steganography  is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity. The word steganography is of Greek origin and means “concealed writing” from the Greek words steganos  meaning “covered or protected”, and graphei meaning “writing”. The first recorded use of the term was in 1499 by Johannes Trithemius in his Steganographia, a treatise on cryptography and steganography disguised as a book on magic. Generally, messages will appear to be something else: images, articles, shopping lists, or some other covertext and, classically, the hidden message may be in invisible ink between the visible lines of a private letter.

The advantage of steganography over cryptography alone is that messages do not attract attention to themselves. Plainly visible encrypted messages—no matter how unbreakable—will arouse suspicion, and may in themselves be incriminating in countries where encryption is illegal Therefore, whereas cryptography protects the contents of a message, steganography can be said to protect both messages and communicating parties.

               Steganography includes the concealment of information within computer files. In digital steganography, electronic communications may include steganographic coding inside of a transport layer, such as a document file, image file, program or protocol. Media files are ideal for steganographic transmission because of their large size. As a simple example, a sender might start with an innocuous image file and adjust the color of every 100th pixel to correspond to a letter in the alphabet, a change so subtle that someone not specifically looking for it is unlikely to notice it.


How would fingerprint technology benefit iPhone 5S users?

Reports indicate Apple is going to put a fingerprint sensor into its new flagship phone, but what would that mean in practice?


September 10, 2013

by Samuel Gibbs



Reports from factory production lines and leaked parts indicate that Apple is about to put a fingerprint sensor into its next-generation flagship iPhone 5S. But what exactly can a fingerprint sensor do for the average consumer?


What does it do?

A fingerprint reader or sensor does what it says on the tin – it scans your fingerprint and matches it to a pre-defined image of your finger. Since every fingerprint is unique, the system can then securely verify your identity.


How does it do it?

A type of image capture system specialised for quickly capturing and storing the imprint of your finger will be embedded below a swipe panel – in this case possibly below the home button on the iPhone 5S – which the user runs their finger over. The sensor captures the image and software analyses it for the skin indentation pattern on your fingertip, comparing it to a set of pre-stored data and verifying your identity. According to a recent patent filed by Apple in Europe, the sensor will implement an RF sensing system that will not only accurately capture the ridges of your finger, but also image the live skin below the surface of your fingertip to prevent spoofing of the system with a Mission Impossible-style fake fingerprint.


What will it enable?

Potentially, fingerprint readers could sound the death knell for passwords. The multi-character password is a failing piece of security, given that pretty much any password can be cracked by high-powered computers these days, regardless of how long or complex it is. Two-factor authentication, where another piece of the security puzzle, such as a secret code or key, is used to strengthen simple password logins is currently the best system on offer to consumers.

            In theory, fingerprint scanners could allow users to completely remove the need for passwords, securely logging into their phones, and enabling higher security functions, which would be particularly useful for online banking and shopping without the need for two-factor authentication.

A built-in fingerprint scanner could also make the iPhone more amenable to big business for security reasons, although in reality, according to Matthew Finnie, CTO at Interoute, the owner operator of Europe’s largest cloud services platform, “the smartphone is now intrinsic to how people work, so it’s time for businesses to change”.

“Rather than focusing on the security merits and nuances of the devices, attention should shift to how businesses should secure and control corporate data and make relevant parts securely accessible from anything, anywhere.”


Will it really work?

Fingerprint scanners in the past have been a bit hit and miss. The technology, although relatively established in industry and enterprise settings, has never really been available to the mass market consumer or on anything other than secure laptops. That’s generally because it has been a frustrating experience for the end user.

            If Apple manages to make the process of secure login via an in-built fingerprint sensor a smooth and seamless experience, it could revolutionise the way consumers use their phones and bring about faster, more secure platforms for developers to expand upon.

However, there have been rumours that the sensor Apple is expected to build into its next iPhone flagship has a limited use lifetime. For example, a rumoured 500-scan limit “could be used up in only six months, based on users accessing multiple accounts three times a day. This would render the scanner useless for the remainder of a typical mobile phone contract, potentially 18 months,” according to research by David Webber, managing director of Intelligent Environment, a specialist in the financial security field. If a consumer keeps their smartphone for two years, as is the length of many mobile phone contracts currently, there is a possibility that the fingerprint sensor could fail, or cease to work leaving users stranded without access to secure logins for their phone, banking or shopping.


What alternatives are there?

Biometric authentication, where a unique part of your body’s function is used to verify your identity, is a growing field. Many different factors can be used to securely identify the consumer. Iris scanners were once hailed as the holy grail of identification, but the technology required to scan an iris accurately is both expensive and often bulky – not something suitable for phones yet. Recently the unique rhythm of individual heartbeats has been pushed forward as another tool in the biometric armoury, with a bracelet such as the Nymi that monitors your pulse on your wrist, which would offer a much more realistic and consumer-friendly entry into biometric security.


Melting Ice Opens Fight Over Sea Routes for Arctic Debate

May 12, 2013

by Flavia Krause-Jackson & Nicole Gaouette –

Bloomberg News


 When 16th and 17th century European explorers sailed west in pursuit of a trade route to Asia, their search for a Northwest Passage was foiled by Arctic ice.

            Five hundred years later, melting icecaps have set off a global race to control new shipping lanes over the North Pole. Just as the discoveries of Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco de Gama gave seafaring Portugal routes around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, the opening of the Arctic, with its shortcut from the Atlantic to northeast Asia and its untapped oil reserves, can redraw the geopolitical map and create new power brokers.

            When the U.S., Russia and six other major stakeholders of the Arctic Council meet May 15 in the northernmost Swedish city of Kiruna, they’ll be joined by nations with observer status, including China and the European Union, that are angling for an elevated status in the diplomatic club and a greater say in the region’s future.

            New passages linking Asia to America and Europe will be as revolutionary as was the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal, which boosted European trade with Asia by connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and shortening the journey for cargo vessels, according to President Olafur R. Grimsson of Iceland, home to the world’s biggest glaciers and a member of the council.

            In a visit to Washington last month, Grimsson said his core mission was to “try to wake this town to the fact that the Arctic should be among the top priorities for the U.S. foreign policy in the first half of the 21st century” and no longer relegated to its “backyard.”


Frigid Slush


Arctic ice is melting at an accelerating rate. Compared with the average measurements from 1980 to 2000, the area of ice covering the Arctic Ocean, a body of water roughly the size of Russia, had shrunk last summer by half, according to the Arctic Institute, a Washington policy group. The thickness of the remaining ice had dwindled by 80 percent.

            The Arctic Ocean may become a frigid slush of fresh and saltwater in the summer within three to five years, according to a White House estimate. An Arctic shipping route or easier access through the Northwest Passage, now open only to heavily fortified ice-breaking ships, would mean shorter and less expensive trips between northeastern Asia and the U.S. East Coast and Europe.

            Less ice also may mean easier access to oil and gas under the Arctic Ocean floor, resources the U.S. Geological Survey estimates may be 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil.

            This week’s conference comes amid signs that greenhouse gases blamed for global warming are accumulating at rates mankind has never experienced. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on May 10 that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million, a threshold not seen for 3 million years.


Oil-Spill Treaty


The countries that make up the Arctic Council — Russia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the U.S. and Canada – – will sign a treaty on oil-spill preparedness and response, discuss their agenda for the next two years and possibly vote on adding to the roster of permanent observers, which includes Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Poland.

            A vote on upgrading China’s status would be tied to a larger “question about whether the issues related to the Arctic will be handled by the countries in the region, or whether the Arctic — because of climate change, global economic potential – – is a global issue,” according to Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy group.


Obamas Strategy


The ministers also will discuss efforts to deal with the increases in maritime traffic and oil exploration, and to cope with the impact of melting ice on indigenous Arctic communities.

            In preparation for the meeting, on May 10 President Barack Obama signed a new “national strategy for the Arctic region” that lists as its first priority advancing U.S. interests — including the protection of energy interests, maintaining free passage through Arctic seas and building regional infrastructure.

            Without a clear budget plan or specific initiatives such as an upgrade to an outdated American fleet of icebreakers, “this strategy becomes nothing more than a lengthy wish list,” said Mihaela David, a fellow at the Arctic Institute.


U.S. Disadvantage


The U.S. had been without an Arctic policy since the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration, leaving the world’s No. 1 economy at a disadvantage, Conley said.

            “Our policy isn’t keeping pace with the level of change in the Arctic,” she said in an interview.

            That wasn’t always the case. During the Cold War, the Arctic was an arena of military competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, according to Ronald O’Rourke, the naval affairs specialist with the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

            While the U.S. lost interest, Russia remained combative and in 2001 was first to file a claim at the United Nations to extend its sea territory in the Arctic shelf. It drove the point home in 2007. In a stunt reminiscent of Spanish Conquistadors, bearded polar explorer Artur Chilingarov led a submarine expedition to the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the seabed below the ice.

            Under international law, no country owns the North Pole, and the five nations with Arctic coastlines — Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark — are limited to their 200-nautical-mile economic zones.


Underwater Treasure


The U.S. is alone in not having ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which gives states 10 years from the date of ratification to extend their claims on the continental shelf. Gaining sovereignty to more land that’s underwater will give them a jump-start when it comes to exploiting mineral-rich resources below the seabed.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who as a U.S. senator backed the Obama administration’s unsuccessful push for climate-change legislation, will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Arctic and highlight challenges to the region, particularly from global warming, according to a State Department official who asked not to be identified discussing plans for the talks.

History indicates that climate cycles have far-reaching consequences. The Age of Discovery, which led Christopher Columbus to stumble upon America, happened during the Little Ice Age, when a drop in temperature froze sea routes that had been discovered by the Vikings and wiped out millenia-old Norse settlements in Greenland.


Conflict, Strife


The melting of three ice-covered areas — the Arctic, Antarctic and the Himalayas — already is having fundamental consequences for extreme weather patterns, according to Grimsson, who cited the U.S. superstorm Sandy and China’s latest winter, which was the coldest in almost three decades.

            “When the ice sheet melts away, you are confronted with a whole series of unexpected and far-reaching scenarios that will generate conflict and strife,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a climate scientist and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The unabated rate at which the globe is warming has far-reaching foreign policy implications.”


To contact the reporters on this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in New York at fjackson@bloomberg.net; Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

Translation table explaining the truth behind British politeness becomes internet hit

The British trait of being too polite to speak one’s mind has led to a table translating numerous hollow English phrases becoming an internet hit.

September 2,  2013

by Alice Philipson

The Telegraph/UK


            The table sheds light on just how difficult it can be for a foreigner to understand what the British really mean when they’re speaking – especially for those take every word at face value.

            Phrases that prove the trickiest to decipher include ‘you must come for dinner’, which foreigners tend to take as a direct invitation, but is actually said out of politeness by many Britons and often does not result in an invite.

            The table also reveals that when a person from Britain begins a sentence “with the greatest respect …’, they actually mean ‘I think you are an idiot’.





I hear what you say    I disagree and do not want to   He accepts my point of view

                                    discuss it further


With the greatest               You are an idiot                 He is listening to me


That’s not bad                  That’s good                          That’s poor

That is a very brave          You are insane                   He thinks I have courage


 Quite good                      A bit disappointing             Quite good

 I would suggest             Do it or be prepared            Think about the idea,

                                          to justify yourself                  but do what you like


 Oh, incidentally             The primary purpose of       That is not very important

   / by the way                 our discussion is …


I was a bit                       I am annoyed that                It doesn’t really matter

disappointed that ….

Very interesting             That is clearly nonsense      They are impressed

I’ll bear it in mind          I’ve forgotten it already      They will probably do it

I’m sure it’s my fault      It’s your fault                    Why do they think it

                                                                                 was their fault?


You must come for         It’s not an invitation,        I will get an invitation soon

         dinner                     I’m just being polite


I almost agree                I don’t agree at all            He’s not far from agreement


I only have a few            Please rewrite                  He has found a few typos

minor comments             completely


Could we consider         I don’t like your idea        They have not yet decided

some other options?


            The table points out that when Britons say ‘I’m sure it’s my fault’, it actually means ‘it’s your fault’.

            It also reveals that ‘very interesting’ can often mean ‘that is clearly nonsense’.

            The table, which has been posted on an number of blogs, has attracted thousands of comments from both Britons and foreigners claiming the interpretations are true to life.

            Duncan Green, a strategic adviser for Oxfam who posted it online, described it as “a handy guide for our fellow Europeans and others trying to fathom weaselly Brit-speak”.

            Mr Green said: “Sadly, I didn’t write it. It’s just one of those great things that is being passed around on the internet.”

            Although the author of the table is unconfirmed, it is thought it may have originally been drawn up by a Dutch company as an attempt to help employees working in the UK.



A Plea for Caution From Russia:What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria


September 11, 2013

by Vladimir V. Putin 

New York Times


MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

            Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

 The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.


Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.


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