Saturday, April 5, 2014

Critical news for April 5 , 2014 -- NSA blowback from Europe to shatter US Tech companies -- US blasts Europe’s plan for anti-snooping network as 'unfair advantage' , also note ​Germany opens NSA spy probe amid calls to deliver Snowden to testify ............. Japan vs North Korea flash point ( keep an eye on developments on this front between now and April 25th ) -- ​Tokyo orders military to shoot down missile launches by N. Korea ...... With China and Russia placing the USd under siege , NATO seeks to cling onto GCC cooperation and dollar support - Nato ( stalking horse for US ) keen on developing strategic ties with GCC

US blasts Europe’s plan for anti-snooping network as 'unfair advantage'

Published time: April 05, 2014 10:18
Edited time: April 05, 2014 11:51
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
US officials on Friday slammed plans to construct an EU-centric communication system, designed to prevent emails and phone calls from being swept up by the NSA, warning that such a move is a violation of trade laws.
Calling Europe’s proposal to build its own integrated communication system “draconian,” the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said American tech companies, which are worth an estimated $8 trillion per year, would take a financial hit if Brussels gives the initiative the green light.

"Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a 'Schengen cloud' by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them," the USTR said in its annual report.

In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing activities at the National Security Agency, which proved that much of the world’s telecommunication meta-data is being stored away in the United States, European countries – notably Germany and France - are desperate to get a handle on their own networks without relying on a meddlesome middleman.

Germany’s outrage over the revelations hit full stride last month when Der Spiegel, the popular daily newspaper, asked if it is “time for the country to open a formal espionage investigation” following yet more disclosures that Britain's GCHQ infiltrated German internet companies and the NSA collected information about (German Chancellor Angela) “Merkel in a special database.”

Now, US trade officials are up in arms over proposals by Germany's Deutsche Telekom (in which the German government owns less than 30 percent), to avoid passing communications to the United States, saying the move would give European companies an unfair advantage over their US colleagues.

"Any mandatory intra-EU routing may raise questions with respect to compliance with the EU's trade obligations with respect to internet-enabled services," the USTR said. "Accordingly, USTR will be carefully monitoring the development of any such proposals."

If the European-centric plan gets the go ahead, it would require the dismantlement of the Safe Harbor agreement that allows US companies access to European data. It should be noted that despite the work of the NSA, Europe has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world.

US telecommunication and internet firms are now lobbying Washington to calm fears over privacy concerns in an effort to halt Europe’s move toward protectionism.
Similar criticisms were directed by the USTR at another American ally, Canada. The representative complained about privacy rules enforced in Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, which do not normally allow public bodies to store and access private data of Canadians outside the country.
The USTR also criticized the Canadian federal government’s move to build a unified email system, which required data to be stored in Canada and thus prevented US companies from bidding. Bell Canada eventually won the $400-million contract.
“In today’s information-based economy, particularly where a broad range of services are moving to “cloud” based delivery where US firms are market leaders, this law hinders US exports of a wide array of products and services,” the report said.
Much like the EU, Canada has concerns over its dependence on US for routing telecommunications, with some 90 percent of all Canadian internet traffic going through the US. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority proposed in October 2013 building up domestic infrastructure, which would change this and protect the data from potential NSA snooping.


​Germany opens NSA spy probe amid calls to deliver Snowden to testify

Published time: April 05, 2014 12:10
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AFP Photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AFP Photo)
Parliamentary hearings into the scandal involving NSA spying on Germany have started. Some members of the investigative committee have suggested bringing in the document leaker Edward Snowden himself to testify. Some expect this to anger Washington.
The Bundestag presented the evidence on Thursday, as German public anger over America’s blatant violations of German sovereignty vents steam. But some are already speculating what the result of the hearings will mean in practical terms, for German-US relations. And what political fallout will ensue by inviting Snowden to Berlin?
Fresh revelations regarding the NSA’s activities in Germany continue to pour in amid outcries from the German people. Der Spiegel magazine has published further Snowden leaks recently, among them the revelation that the Americans compiled a comprehensive dossier on Merkel, which included over 300 intelligence reports. Apparently, the NSA database contains informationobtained during surveillance of over a hundred world leaders.
What’s more, the magazine detailed how British secret services also played a part in all this, by hacking into German internet companies.
Clemense Binninger, who is tasked with leading the eight-person investigative committee, does not expect the US to help much in clearing up the surveillance allegations, and believes attempts to formulate a Washington-Berlin no-spy agreement have come to a complete halt, Deustsche Welle reports. Questions the German government sent to the US government have likewise not received a reply – and the head of the committee doesn’t see this changing anytime soon. But Binninger, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, said“mass surveillance of citizens will not be tolerated.”
The committee chair believes getting at least some response from the Americans would be “an important step forward to restoring trust.” However, this is where their power ends, as the committee can do little more than examine evidence. They can neither compel the US or Britain to play a more active role in helping, nor do they have the authority to summon foreign witnesses to Germany to testify.
And this is where the disagreements arise. Konstantin von Notz of the Green Party first filed a motion to subpoena Snowden and get him to Berlin for a testimony. Given Snowden’s key role nine months ago in leaking the history-changing documents, this is seen as a matter of paramount importance.
And Snowden is willing to testify, as von Notz’s Green Party colleagues visiting the former NSA contractor in Moscow found out. But Binninger himself isn’t sure how much help he could offer, since the computer wizard himself said he doesn’t know much more than what is being revealed. And it’s been said that his answers to earlier questions by the EP were quite general.
Other members of the committee are just as serious about getting Snowden’s take on the NSA’s role in the surveillance on the German political apparatus. Patrick Sensburg, an MP from the CDU, suggested that some document exchange be facilitated between cooperating journalists as a substitute for Snowden traveling to Berlin.
Others are pressing harder for direct talks with Snowden. Martina Renner of the Left Party believes the “knowledge in Snowden’s head” can only be accessed by direct questioning.
The inquiry will be very thorough, and German politicians expect to spend two more months studying documents before a decision on summoning Snowden is reached. But even then, the time frame for actually getting Snowden there has been set at two years; it’s difficult at the moment to see where Snowden’s place in the inquiry will be.
And they would have other things to consider, namely – would it be wise to risk a limited testimony from Snowden over further souring relations with the West, who have an arrest warrant out for the document leaker and readily accuse anyone of colluding with the enemy if Snowden’s name is so much as mentioned?
A top German prosecutor is also deciding whether to open a full-scale criminal investigation against the NSA – another way to go about the issue.
Some, though, think that this is unlikely, because it would contribute to increasing German-US tensions at a time when both are trying to stir up a unified effort against Russia for its alleged actions in Ukraine.
In either case, the committee has said that its inquiry will also deal with the broader questions of intelligence work, such as what the limitations on international cooperation are, what the US is allowed to do regarding Germany, how deep did the knowledge of NSA snooping on German officials run in domestic circles, and others.
Benninger also believes that a discussion on the place of data gathering on citizens in today’s world will be beneficial for redirecting the focus from all-out data-mining to more streamlined identity checks.

​Tokyo orders military to shoot down missile launches by N. Korea

Published time: April 05, 2014 14:27
Japanese Aegis class destroyer Kirishima (AFP Photo/Jiji press)
Japanese Aegis class destroyer Kirishima (AFP Photo/Jiji press)
Following North Korea’s launching of mid-range ballistic missiles over the sea last Saturday, Japan has promised to use one of its destroyers in the Sea of Japan to shoot down any further possible launches in April that may threaten Japan.
The order to intercept was issued on Thursday by Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and concerned any launches that may take place from April 3-25, the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
The Aegis destroyer Kirishima, carrying Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptors was sent to the Sea of Japan with orders to shoot down anything that ventured into Japanese territory. This is the fifth interception order since 2009. All were issued to counter North Korean missile launches.
The Rodong missiles launched by North Korea last Saturday stopped halfway in their maximum range of around 1,300km, plummeting into the sea after a 640km flight. Japan’s own Aegis destroyers are more than well equipped to deal with such threats, with their advanced radar capacity for locking onto multiple targets.
Pyongyang’s defiant move to deploy the Rodong came just as US President Barack Obama was meeting with South Korean and Japanese officials in The Hague to discuss earlier short-range launches by North Korea, which in late March fired 30 missiles into the Sea of Japan – the second time in a week, while neighboring South Korea was engaged in military drills with the United States.
That had been Pyongyang’s longest-range missile test since December 2012 and the first time a Rodong missile had been tested since 2009.
What followed was South Korea testing its own new invention – a longer-range ballistic missile than the Rodong. The two have also exchanged border fire recently, with no damage on either side.
But North Korea has also given everyone a scare. The UN Security Council had harsh words following Pyongyang’s latest missile test. Immediately afterwards the rogue state threatened that a “new form” of nuclear test was in the works.
Seeing this to be a violation of existing UN resolutions (themselves set up with North Korea in mind), the international body said it was considering an “appropriate response.” Pyongyang’s envoy to the UN said that the United States had a “red line” that it shouldn’t try to cross byattempting “regime change”.
Minister Onodera issued the order without public announcement, so as not to derail the official high-level talks that were restarted at the end of March between Tokyo and Pyongyang. Reports indicate progress is yet to be reached, promising more discussions to come.
Efforts had been made “not to stir up public anxiety and give strong consideration to the diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea,” government officials have explained, as cited by The Asahi Shimbun.
One of the talking points is the abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, but also more pressing issues, like Pyongyang’s nuclear program and constant threats to launch its mid-range missiles.

Nato keen on developing strategic ties with GCC

We can tailor cooperation to fit our Gulf partners’ specific security needs, Rasmussen says
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 12:46 April 3, 2014
  • Gulf News
Manama: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Secretary General Anders Rasmussen said that the 28-member alliance was interested in developing its strategic relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“As we look to the Wales Summit this September, we will work on ways to deepen our political dialogue and practical cooperation,” Rasmussen said as he opened the meeting between the Nato foreign ministers and representatives from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the four GCC countries that have partnered with Nato through the Istanbul Conference Initiative (ICI).
“We will discuss how we can tailor our cooperation so that it fits our Gulf partners’ specific security needs,” the Nato Secretary General said on Wednesday at the alliance headquarters in Brussels.
The ICI was launched at the alliance’s summit in the Turkish coastal city in June 2004 to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering GCC countries practical bilateral security cooperation with Nato.
Kuwait joined the ICI in December 2004, followed by Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.
“The launch of our initiative 10 years ago was a clear signal,” Rasmussen said at the meeting in the Belgian capital. “The security and stability of the Gulf region is of strategic interest to Nato. Just as the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area matters to the Gulf region. We need to protect our sea-lanes, energy supply routes, and cyber-networks. We face complex and interconnected security challenges, such as terrorism, piracy and proliferation. They are challenges that we need to tackle together,” he said.
Over the past decade, the dialogue and cooperation between Nato and the ICI member states have steadily intensified, he said.
“From Bosnia to Kosovo, and from Afghanistan to Libya, our Gulf partners have made valuable contributions to Nato-led operations. And we have tailored our practical cooperation to the specific security needs of our Gulf partners,” Rasmussen said.
The meeting at the level of foreign ministers between Nato and ICI countries was the first since the official launch of the initiative in June 2004.
“Today, we will discuss how we can continue to deepen our partnership and how Nato can work more closely with all Gulf countries. To build a truly strategic relationship between the Euro-Atlantic and the Gulf regions,” Rasmussen said.
According to Nato, the ICI countries have become during the last 10 years of their partnership with the alliance, “efficient security providers and have contributed to international efforts in protecting stability and security, including the Nato ISAF operation in Afghanistan and Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011.”
The ICI offers a diversified menu of practical cooperation activities from which the member countries can choose.
Activities include tailored advice on defence transformation, defence budgeting and civil-military relations; military-to-military cooperation including through selected military exercises; civil emergency planning and joint public diplomacy activities.
The ICI is complementary to, but distinct from, the Mediterranean Dialogue that Nato launched in December 1994, with countries in North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean.