spyEarlier this week, Pierre Omidyar’s national security blog, The Intercept, reported that the US is recording all telephone calls made in and out of the Bahamas and one other unnamed country.
The story, co-bylined by Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, explained that the Intercept had decided not to name that second “country X” due to the risk of increased violence in response.
As I wrote at the time, this decision prompted a furious response from former allies Wikileaks, which “condemn[ed] Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation.”
Upping the stakes, Wikileaks also promised to name the redacted country withing 72 hours.
Late last night the organization made good on its promise, issuing a statement claiming that “country x” is Afghanistan…
The National Security Agency has been recording and storing nearly all the domestic (and international) phone calls from two or more target countries as of 2013. Both the Washington Post and The Intercept (based in the US and published by eBay chairman Pierre Omidyar) have censored the name of one of the victim states, which the latter publication refers to as country “X”.
Both the Washington Post and The Intercept stated that they had censored the name of the victim country at the request of the US government. Such censorship strips a nation of its right to self-determination on a matter which affects its whole population. An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed against the victim state and its population. By denying an entire population the knowledge of its own victimisation, this act of censorship denies each individual in that country the opportunity to seek an effective remedy, whether in international courts, or elsewhere. Pre-notification to the perpetrating authorities also permits the erasure of evidence which could be used in a successful criminal prosecution, civil claim, or other investigations.
But Wikileaks wasn’t done there. Shortly afterwards, the organization dragged Google into the fight, pointing to a leaked cable apparently showing that “Google Idea’s director Jared Cohen was tasked with getting Afghan telcos to move towers to US bases when at DoS.”
Before joining Google, Cohen worked as an advisor to both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, and was celebrated by the New York Times magazine for representing a new breed of tech-savvybureaucrats.
Wikileaks appears to be suggesting that Cohen’s attempts to relocate Afghan cell towers within US bases may have had a clandestine motive. If true, the fact that Cohen is now working at Google might of course be incredibly troubling for privacy advocates.  I’ve asked Cohen for comment and will update this article with anything I hear back.
For its part, the Intercept has published no official statement in response to Wikileaks’ claims. Instead, earlier today, Glenn Greenwald published a 1700 word response to a negative review of his book in the New York Times.



First Cisco and Microsoft, and now IBM
China Orders Banks To Remove High-End IBM Servers
Image Credits: chodhound / Flickr
by ZERO HEDGE MAY 27, 2014
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A week ago, in retaliation to the inane charges lobbed by the US accusing 5 Chinese army officials of spying on US companies (when the NSA spying scandal on, well, everyone refuses to leave the front pages), China announced it wouldban the use of Windows 8 on government computers (considering the quality of Windows 8, this is likely a decision government computers would have taken on their own regardless.)
Today, China has expanded its list of sanctioned companies from Microsoft to include IBM as well, following a Bloomberg report that the Chinese government is pushing domestic banks to “remove high-end servers made by International Business Machines Corp. and replace them with a local brand.”
Why is MSFT and now IBM sowing the seeds of the US government’s stupidity and failed attempts to distract from its own spying scandals? We don’t know. Here is what we do know:
Government agencies, including the People’s Bank of China and the Ministry of Finance, are reviewing whether Chinese commercial banks’ reliance on IBM servers compromises the country’s financial security, said the four people, who asked not to be identified because the review hasn’t been made public.
The review fits a broader pattern of retaliation after American prosecutors indicted five Chinese military officers for allegedly hacking into the computers of U.S. companies and stealing secrets. Last week, China’s government said it will vet technology companies operating in the country, while the Financial Times reported May 25 that China ordered state-owned companies to cut ties with U.S. consulting firms.
Harriet Ip, a Singapore-based spokeswoman for IBM, referred questions to IBM in the U.S. Jeffrey Cross, a Somers, New York-based spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment outside U.S. business hours.
“Security trumps everything,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA China Ltd., a Beijing-based consultant to technology companies. “China doesn’t need the U.S. companies in the way it did for the last few decades.”
Perhaps somewhat ironically, IBM sold its low-end server business to Lenovo, itself a part of IBM once upon a time, several months ago for $2.3 billion.
But if this wasn’t enough of an insult to IBM’s top line, here is another concern about IBM margins: China simply believes Big Blue’s products are too expensive:
In addition to concern about Armonk, New York-based IBM’s equipment as a security threat, China’s government also believes IBM servers are more expensive in China than in other regions, the people said.
China Postal Savings Bank Co. is using servers made by Jinan-based Inspur Group Ltd. as part of a trial program that began in March 2013, the people said. The government plans to expand that trial to other banks, they said. The group’s Inspur International Ltd. unit gained 10 percent to HK$1.53 at 2:57 p.m. in Hong Kong trading today. In Shenzhen, Inspur Electronic Information Industry Co. rose 4.7 percent.
That’s ok though: since news and fundamentals don’t matter, we fully expect IBM stock to also be up several percent on what now appears to be the terminal loss of one of the company’s largest export markets. And not only IBM: other stocks set to surge on this bad news are MSFT and, of course, Cisco, whose CEO was recently crying about Obama’s NSA policies, and whose sales in China are once again assured to crater. But as they say in the movies: tis but a scratch – who needs top line growth when a company can issue debt to buy back its share and pretend all is well ?