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President Bush defends NSA domestic intercepts

Monday, December 19, 2005

In a radio speech from the White House on 17 December 2005, President Bush acknowledged that in the weeks following 9/11 he had “authorized the National Security Agency [NSA], consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.”

President Bush said that the government establishes a clear link to terrorist networks before intercepting these communications, adding that the purpose of the program is to “detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies.”

Stating that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the 9/11 attacks, President Bush said that the authorization he gave the NSA “helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that established procedures requiring court approval were simply not quick and flexible enough to respond to the urgency of the terrorist threat, and to allow the administration to eavesdrop on highly mobile targets in order to disrupt potential plots.

Before Bush’s secret order, such wiretaps were obtained through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. It prescribes procedures for requesting judicial authorization for electronic surveillance and physical search of persons engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States on behalf of a foreign power. FISA also allows the Attorney General to grant permission for emergency wiretaps without a warrant, with retroactive application being made within 72 hours. Historically, the vast majority of applications are accepted without modifications by FISA. For example in the 2004 report of FISA to Congress it is noted that the number of approved warrants with substantive modifications was 94 out of a total of 1758 while 5 applications were rejected.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra defended Bush’s authorization of the surveillance program and to bypass the FISA. Chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Senator Susan Collins announced a call on the NSA for a “full briefing” about the program, and said that the program’s authority needs to be clarified. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Bush’s radio address raised “serious questions as to what the activities were and whether the activities were lawful.”

The President noted that the NSA activities are reviewed “approximately every 45 days.” He added: “During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation’s top legal officials, including the attorney general and the counsel to the president.” All people involved in the periodic review are members of the executive branch.

Bush also said that NSA’s activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA’s top legal officials, including NSA’s general counsel and inspector general, adding that “leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authority and the activities conducted under it.” Members of Congress from both parties are now calling for congressional hearings to learn more.

The president concluded by saying that “this authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties.”

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A portrait of Scotland: Gallery reopens after £17.6 million renovation

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today saw Edinburgh’s Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopen following a two-and-a-half-year, £17.6m (US$27.4m) refurbishment. Conversion of office and storage areas sees 60% more space available for displays, and the world’s first purpose-built portrait space is redefining what a portrait gallery should contain; amongst the displays are photographs of the Scottish landscape—portraits of the country itself.

First opened in 1889, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s red sandstone building was gifted to the nation by John Ritchie Findlay, then-owner of The Scotsman newspaper and, a well-known philanthropist. The original cost of construction between 1885 and 1890 is estimated at over 70,000 pounds sterling. Up until 1954, the building also housed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland who moved to the National Museum of Scotland buildings on Chambers Street. The society’s original meeting table now sits in the public part of the portrait gallery’s library, stared down on by an array of busts and phrenological artefacts.

Wikinewsie Brian McNeil, with other members of the press, received a guided tour of the gallery last Monday from Deputy Director Nicola Kalinsky. What Kalinsky described as an introduction to the gallery that previously took around 40 minutes, now takes in excess of an hour-and-a-half; with little in the way of questions asked, a more inquisitive tour group could readily take well over two hours to be guided round the seventeen exhibitions currently housed in the gallery.

A substantial amount of the 60% additional exhibition space is readily apparent on the ground floor. On your left as you enter the gallery is the newly-fitted giant glass elevator, and the “Hot Scots” photographic portrait gallery. This exhibit is intended to show well-known Scottish faces, and will change over time as people fall out of favour, and others take their place. A substantial number of the people now being highlighted are current, and recent, cast members from the BBC’s Doctor Who series.

The new elevator (left) is the most visible change to improve disabled access to the gallery. Prior to the renovation work, access was only ‘on request’ through staff using a wooden ramp to allow wheelchair access. The entire Queen Street front of the building is reworked with sloping access in addition to the original steps. Whilst a lift was previously available within the gallery, it was only large enough for two people; when used for a wheelchair, it was so cramped that any disabled person’s helper had to go up or down separately from them.

The gallery expects that the renovation work will see visitor numbers double from before the 2009 closure to around 300,000 each year. As with many of Edinburgh’s museums and galleries, access is free to the public.

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The expected significant increase in numbers has seen them working closely with the National Museum of Scotland, which was itself reopened earlier this year after extensive refurbishment work; improved access for wheelchair users also makes it far easier for mothers with baby buggies to access the gallery – prompting more thought on issues as seemingly small as nappy-changing – as Patricia Convery, the gallery’s Head of Press, told Wikinews, a great deal of thought went into the practicalities of increased visitor numbers, and what is needed to ensure as many visitors as possible have a good experience at the gallery.

Press access to the gallery on Monday was from around 11:30am, with refreshments and an opportunity to catch some of the staff in the Grand Hall before a brief welcoming introduction to the refurbished gallery given by John Leighton, director of the National Galleries of Scotland. Centre-stage in the Grand Hall is a statue of Robert Burns built with funds raised from around the British Empire and intended for his memorial situated on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill.

The ambulatories surrounding the Grand Hall give the space a cathedral-like feel, with numerous busts – predominantly of Scottish figures – looking in on the tiled floor. The east corner holds a plaque commemorating the gallery’s reopening, next to a far more ornate memorial to John Ritchie Findlay, who not only funded and commissioned the building’s construction, but masterminded all aspects of the then-new home for the national collection.

Split into two groups, members of the press toured with gallery Director James Holloway, and Nicola Kalinsky, Deputy Director. Wikinews’ McNeil joined Kalinsky’s group, first visiting The Contemporary Scotland Gallery. This ground-floor gallery currently houses two exhibits, first being the Hot Scots display of photographic portraits of well-known Scottish figures from film, television, and music. Centre-stage in this exhibit is the newly-acquired Albert Watson portrait of Sir Sean Connery. James McAvoy, Armando Iannucci, playwright John Byrne, and Dr Who actress Karen Gillan also feature in the 18-photograph display.

The second exhibit in the Contemporary gallery, flanked by the new educational facilities, is the Missing exhibit. This is a video installation by Graham Fagen, and deals with the issue of missing persons. The installation was first shown during the National Theatre of Scotland’s staging of Andrew O’Hagan’s play, The Missing. Amongst the images displayed in Fagen’s video exhibit are clips from the deprived Sighthill and Wester-Hailes areas of Edinburgh, including footage of empty play-areas and footbridges across larger roads that sub-divide the areas.

With the only other facilities on the ground floor being the education suite, reception/information desk, cafe and the gallery’s shop, Wikinews’ McNeil proceeded with the rest of Kalinsky’s tour group to the top floor of the gallery, all easily fitting into the large glass hydraulic elevator.

The top (2nd) floor of the building is now divided into ten galleries, with the larger spaces having had lowered, false ceilings removed, and adjustable ceiling blinds installed to allow a degree of control over the amount of natural light let in. The architects and building contractors responsible for the renovation work were required, for one side of the building, to recreate previously-removed skylights by duplicating those they refurbished on the other. Kalinsky, at one point, highlighted a constructed-from-scratch new sandstone door frame; indistinguishable from the building’s original fittings, she remarked that the building workers had taken “a real interest” in the vision for the gallery.

The tour group were first shown the Citizens of the World gallery, currently hosting an 18th century Enlightenment-themed display which focuses on the works of David Hume and Allan Ramsay. Alongside the most significant 18th century items from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, are some of the 133 new loans for the opening displays. For previous visitors to the gallery, one other notable change is underfoot; previously carpeted, the original parquet floors of the museum have been polished and varnished, and there is little to indicate it is over 120 years since the flooring was originally laid.

Throughout many of the upper-floor displays, the gallery has placed more light-sensitive works in wall-mounted cabinets and pull-out drawers. Akin to rummaging through the drawers and cupboards of a strange house, a wealth of items – many previously never displayed – are now accessible by the public. Commenting on the larger, featured oils, Deputy Director Kalinsky stressed that centuries-old portraits displayed in the naturally-lit upper exhibitions had not been restored for the opening; focus groups touring the gallery during the renovation had queried this, and the visibly bright colours are actually the consequence of displaying the works in natural light, not costly and risky restoration of the paintings.

There are four other large galleries on the top floor. Reformation to Revolution is an exhibition covering the transition from an absolute Catholic monarchy through to the 1688 revolution. Items on-display include some of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s most famous items – including Mary Queen of Scots and The Execution of Charles I. The portrait-based depiction of this historical age is complemented with prints, medals, and miniatures from the period.

Imagining Power is a Jacobite-themed exhibition, one which looks at the sometime-romanticised Stuart dynasty. The Gallery owns the most extensive collection of such material in the world; the portraiture that includes Flora MacDonald and Prince Charles Edward Stuart is complemented by glassware from the period which is on-loan from the Drambuie Liqueur Company which Kalinsky remarked upon as the only way Scots from the period could celebrate the deposed monarchy – toasting The King over the Water in appropriately engraved glasses.

On the other side of the upper floor, the two main naturally-lit exhibitions are The Age of Improvement, and Playing for Scotland. The first of these looks at societal changes through the 18th and 19th centuries, including Nasmyth’s 1787 portrait of the young Robert Burns and – well-known to past visitors to the portrait gallery – Raeburn’s 1822 depiction of Sir Walter Scott. These are complemented with some of the National Gallery’s collection of landscapes and earliest scenes from Scottish industry.

Playing for Scotland takes a look at the development of modern sports in the 19th century; migration from countryside to cities dramatically increased participation in sporting activities, and standardised rules were laid down for many modern sports. This exhibition covers Scotland’s four national sports – curling, shinty, golf, and bowls – and includes some interesting photographic images, such as those of early strong-men, which show how more leisure time increased people’s involvement in sporting activities.

Next to the Reformation to Revolution gallery is A Survey of Scotland. Largely composed of works on-loan from the National Library of Scotland, this showcase of John Slezer’s work which led to the 1693 publication of Theatrum Scotiae also includes some of the important early landscape paintings in the national collection.

The work of Scotland’s first portrait painter, the Aberdeen-born George Jamesone, takes up the other of the smaller exhibits on the east side of the refurbished building. As the first-ever dedicated display of Jamesone’s work, his imaginary heroic portraits of Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace are included.

On the west side of the building, the two smaller galleries currently house the Close Encounters and Out of the Shadow exhibits. Close Encounters is an extensive collection of the Glasgow slums photographic work of Thomas Annan. Few people are visible in the black and white images of the slums, making what were squalid conditions appear more romantic than the actual conditions of living in them.

The Out of the Shadow exhibit takes a look at the role of women in 19th century Scotland, showing them moving forward and becoming more recognisable individuals. The exceptions to the rules of the time, known for their work as writers and artists, as-opposed to the perceived role of primary duties as wives and mothers, are showcased. Previously constrained to the domestic sphere and only featuring in portraits alongside men, those on-display are some of the people who laid the groundwork for the Suffrage movement.

The first floor of the newly-reopened building has four exhibits on one side, with the library and photographic gallery on the other. The wood-lined library was moved, in its entirety, from elsewhere in the building and is divided into two parts. In the main public part, the original table from the Society of Antiquaries sits centred and surrounded by glass-fronted cabinets of reference books. Visible, but closed to public access, is the research area. Apart from a slight smell of wood glue, there was little to indicate to the tour group that the entire room had been moved from elsewhere in the building.

The War at Sea exhibit, a collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, showcases the work of official war artist John Lavery. His paintings are on-display, complemented by photographs of the women who worked in British factories throughout the First World War. Just visible from the windows of this gallery is the Firth of Forth where much of the naval action in the war took place. Situated in the corner of the room is a remote-controlled ‘periscope’ which allows visitors a clearer view of the Forth as-seen from the roof of the building.

Sir Patrick Geddes, best-known for his work on urban planning, is cited as one of the key influencers of the Scottish Renaissance Movement which serves as a starting point for The Modern Scot exhibit. A new look at the visual aspects of the movement, and a renewal of Scottish Nationalist culture that began between the two World Wars, continuing into the late 20th century, sees works by William McCance, William Johnstone, and notable modernists on display.

Migration Stories is a mainly photographic exhibit, prominently featuring family portraits from the country’s 30,000-strong Pakistani community, and exploring migration into and out of Scotland. The gallery’s intent is to change the exhibit over time, taking a look at a range of aspects of Scottish identity and the influence on that from migration. In addition to the striking portraits of notable Scots-Pakistani family groups, Fragments of Love – by Pakistani-born filmmaker Sana Bilgrami – and Isabella T. McNair’s visual narration of a Scottish teacher in Lahore are currently on-display.

The adjacent Pioneers of Science exhibit has Ken Currie’s 2002 Three Oncologists as its most dramatic item. Focussing on Scotland’s reputation as a centre of scientific innovation, the model for James Clerk Maxwell’s statue in the city’s George Street sits alongside photographs from the Roslin Institute and a death mask of Dolly the sheep. Deputy Director Kalinsky, commented that Dolly had been an incredibly spoilt animal, often given sweets, and this was evident from her teeth when the death mask was taken.

Now open daily from 10am to 5pm, and with more of their collection visible than ever before, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery will change some of the smaller current exhibits after 12 to 18 months on display. The ground-floor information desk has available five mini-guides, or ‘trails’, which are thematic guides to specific display items. These are: The Secret Nature trail, The Catwalk Collection trail, The Situations Vacant trail, The Best Wee Nation & The World trail, and The Fur Coat an’ Nae Knickers Trail.

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NASA celebrates 30th anniversary of first shuttle launch; announces new homes for retired shuttles

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NASA celebrated the launch of the first space shuttle Tuesday at an event at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. On April 12, 1981, Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on STS-1, the first space shuttle mission.

NASA held a ceremony commemorating the date outside the hangar, known as Orbiter Processing Facility-1, for Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is being prepped for its final mission which will be STS-135, which will be the last Space Shuttle mission.

At the ceremony, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the locations that would be given the three remaining Space Shuttle orbiters following the end of the Space Shuttle program. The prototype orbiter, Space Shuttle Enterprise would be relocated from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City.

Space Shuttle Discovery will take the place of Enterprise at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Discovery has already been retired following the completion of STS-133 last month, its 39th mission. Discovery is undergoing decommissioning and currently being prepped for display by removing toxic materials from the orbiter.

Space Shuttle Endeavour, which will launch on STS-134 at the end of the month on April 29, will be sent to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California following its retirement. Finally, Atlantis will go on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex following the orbiter’s last flight which launches June 28.

Columbia was lost tragically back on February 1, 2003 when it disintegrated during re-entry killing all seven astronauts aboard. Space Shuttle Challenger was lost when it exploded 73 seconds after liftoff back on January 28, 1986 killing all six aboard.

“We want to thank all of the locations that expressed an interest in one of these national treasures,” said Bolden to the gathered crowd which contained many KSC employees. “This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA’s remarkable Space Shuttle Program. These facilities we’ve chosen have a noteworthy legacy of preserving space artifacts and providing outstanding access to U.S. and international visitors.”

Over twenty locations looked to obtain one of the orbiters because of potential tourism booms from them.

This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA’s remarkable Space Shuttle Program.

Not all were pleased with the final choice of locations. U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Republican from Texas, issued a statement regarding the rejection of Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas as a location. “Like many Texans, I am disappointed with NASA’s decision to slight the Johnson Space Center as a permanent home for one of the Space Shuttle Orbiters. Houston has played a critical role throughout the life of the space shuttle, but it is clear political favors trumped common sense and fairness in the selection of the final locations for the orbiter fleet.”

Cornyn’s statement added, “There is no question Houston should have been selected as a final home for one of the orbiters—even Administrator Bolden stated as much. Today’s announcement is an affront to the thousands of dedicated men and women at Johnson Space Center, the greater Houston community and the State of Texas, and I’m deeply disappointed with the Administration’s misguided decision.” However, the JSC will recieve pilot and commander seats from the flight deck.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington was also proposed as another location for a shuttle, going so far as to build a new building to house an orbiter. In a statement, Governor of Washington Chris Gregoire said, “The Museum of Flight put a tremendous amount of effort into landing a retired shuttle in the Pacific Northwest. As the home of modern day air travel and the 747, which has gracefully transported shuttles for the last 30 years, Seattle would have been a perfect fit. While the Museum of Flight was in the top running, I’m disappointed that NASA did not choose them.

“However, the full fuselage trainer, that every astronaut including [former Museum of Flight CEO] Bonnie Dunbar has been trained on, will soon call the Museum of Flight home. The largest of the trainers, this addition will allow visitors to actually climb aboard the trainer and experience the hands-on training that astronauts get. Visitors will not be allowed in the other shuttles and this trainer is a true win for our dynamic museum. It will help inspire young people to the adventure of space and to the excitement of a career in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Today’s announcement is an affront to the thousands of dedicated men and women at Johnson Space Center, the greater Houston community and the State of Texas, and I’m deeply disappointed with the Administration’s misguided decision.

Other items include various shuttle simulators which will be given to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Oregon, and Texas A&M’s Aerospace Engineering Department. The nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and orbital maneuvering system engines for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

NASA is also offering shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students.

The 30th anniversary of the first shuttle mission coincided with the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight when Yuri Gagarin lifted off aboard Vostok 1 into space.

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

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ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data
Author:

12 Jun

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
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((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Truck loses control in Andhra Pradesh, kills more than a dozen

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Truck loses control in Andhra Pradesh, kills more than a dozen
Author:

7 Jun

Sunday, April 23, 2017

More than fifteen people were killed near the police station in Yerpedu, Andhra Pradesh, India after a heavily loaded truck lost control on Friday afternoon at about 1:45 P.M. IST (0815 UTC).

People, mostly from the village of Munagalapalem, were gathered to protest local illegal sand mining. The truck hit an electric pole, and destroyed nearby shops and vehicles causing a short-circuit and fire. Tirupati Urban Superintendent of Police R Jayalakshmi said the truck crushed some people under its wheels; six people were killed that way according to Renigunta deputy superintendent KS Nanjndappa. Other people died due to the short circuit and the fire. More than fifteen people were injured including the police station’s chief inspector and the sub-inspector. Reportedly at least ten were in a critical condition.

The driver fled after the accident. Victims were taken to hospitals in Tirupati, and Chennai and Vellore in Tamil Nadu. N Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra’s Chief Minister, said via Twitter, “State Cabinet has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh [0.5 million] to the families of the deceased.”

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Electronic voting disputed in France

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Electronic voting disputed in France
Author:

7 Jun

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In France, voting has traditionally been a low-tech experience: voters isolate themselves in a booth, put a pre-printed sheet of paper indicating their candidate of choice into an envelope. After officials verify the voter’s identity, the voter drops the envelope into the ballot box and signs the voting roll. French electoral law rather strictly codifies the proceedings. Since 1988, ballot boxes must be transparent so that voters and observers can witness that no envelopes are present at the start of the vote and that no envelopes are added except those of the duly counted and authorized voters. Candidates can send representatives to witness every part of the process. In the evening, votes are counted by volunteers under heavy supervision, following specific procedures.

In the past, voting machines, though authorized by law, were scarce. But this year, during presidential elections (the first round was April 22, the second is on May 6), the country is shaken by controversy about the machines intended to count about 1.5 million votes.

As in the United States, there is a group of academic computer scientists that oppose voting machines. They argue that voting machines replace a public, easily understandable counting process, where large-scale fraud would entail large-scale corruption, by an opaque process where votes are counted by machines that voters have to blindly trust. Voting machines have to be approved by the Ministry of the Interior, but this approval is based on confidential reports by private companies. Opponents to the machines point out that the Ministry was long held by Nicolas Sarkozy, who happens to be the leading candidate. Opponents also list a number of weaknesses and discrepancies that have occurred in other countries using voting machines.

All main political parties except UMP, Mr Sarkozy’s ruling party, oppose the voting machines. Some citizens have filed for court injunctions against the voting machines. Opponents have given detailed instructions that voting witnesses should check whether the machines correspond exactly to an approved type, including software versions, and fulfill all legal conditions. In a sign of the frenzy over the issue, on April 12 the Ministry of the Interior issued a last-minute authorization for a specific model (hardware, firmware). The stakes are high: votes on unapproved machines should be canceled by the Constitutional Council for the official count.

The opposition has crystallized on the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. Issy’s mayor, André Santini is a well-known technophile; his city organizes a “World E-Gov Forum”. Here too, last minute fixes are at work. The machines delivered to the city are of a yet-to-be-approved type. The manufacturer, the American company ES&S voting systems, is now delivering older 2005 machines. Le Monde reports that other municipalities have already replaced their recent machines by an older, approved, model.

Proponents of the machines, such as the French company France Élection, claim they are being defamed and dispute the competence of their critics. Elected officials supporting the machines claim the machines save on paper, time, and the need to find volunteers to count votes.

Category:July 14, 2010

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Category:July 14, 2010
Author:

7 Jun

? July 13, 2010
July 15, 2010 ?
July 14

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Egyptian treasures found in ancient tomb

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Egyptian treasures found in ancient tomb
Author:

7 Jun

Friday, March 13, 2009

A team of archaeologists excavating an Ancient Egyptian tomb have discovered golden jewelry in a recently-discovered lower chamber at the Valley of the Kings burial site in Luxor, Egypt.

Two golden rings and five golden earrings were found in the tomb of Djehuty, an 18th-dynasty official of Queen Hatshepsut, and were probably the property of Djehuty or his family.

The discovery was announced by Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s current Minister of Culture.

Djehuty was overseer of the treasury and overseer of works for the Queen. Hatshepsut reigned approximately 1479–1458 BCE. Djehuty was responsible for managing the huge amounts of precious goods brought in from Egypt’s military expedition to Punt in the Horn of Africa and the vast building projects of Hatshepsut which have made the female pharaoh one of the most-remembered of any from ancient Egypt.

Djehuty died after Hatshepsut did, sometime during the reign of Thutmosis III. Both Hatshepsut’s and Thutmosis’s names are recorded on the tomb. In a fashion typical of ancient Egyptian rivalries, Hatshepsut’s name was partly obscured on the monument over the tomb sometime after the queen’s death.

The team, led by José Manuel Galán of the National Research Center (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC), in Madrid, Spain, had been excavating the tomb, designated TT11 and located in the necropolis of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’, since 2002. While much of Djehuty’s funerary equipment was lost to fire in antiquity, the lower chamber of his tomb was concealed at the end of a three-meter shaft and discovered at the end of 2008.

A superficial description of the tomb itself was recorded almost two hundred years ago by 19th-century French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion, rubble blocking the entrance hindered excavation until the 21st century. In that time, emphasis in Egyptology has changed from the cataloging of treasures to the investigation of ancient culture, life and religion.

Since excavation began, Djehuty’s tomb has yielded a number of surprises. It was discovered that the tomb was re-used repeatedly up to and during the Greco-Roman period. There is an unusual face-on depiction of pharaoh Thutmosis III hunting ducks, and the mummy of a young, bejewelled, as-yet unidentified woman.

In 2007, 44 preserved bunches of flowers thought to be from Djehuty’s funeral were found in the site. In their 8th season of excavation, which ended on February 22, 2009, the team also found considerable evidence that below Djehuty’s tomb is a network of burial sites from the 11th dynasty, four thousand years old.

The lower chamber also displays passages from the Egyptian funerary text the Book of the Dead on its walls and a colorful mural of the goddess Nut, an embodiment of the heavens, on the ceiling. The names of Djehuty and his parents were also intact in the second chamber; the names were defaced in the previously-known first chamber of the tomb, which had also been looted.

According to a press release from Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Djehuty’s tomb is only the fifth known decorated burial chamber of the 18th dynasty. An additional unusual feature of the tomb is that its upper chamber is decorated in relief, rather than simply paint. When the excavation is completed, Dr Galán’s team plans to open the site to the public as the carved stoneworks will not be destroyed by tourists’ activities as paint would.

The identification of Djehuty is a complicated one, as a number of officials of the 18th dynasty bore the name, including a general and several governors. The name itself is an alternate transliteration of the name of the Egyptian god usually written in English as Thoth.

Large bomb defused in Northern Ireland

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Large bomb defused in Northern Ireland
Author:

27 May

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A 600 lb bomb which was found in Northern Ireland has been defused by a bomb disposal team.

The bomb was found on the side of a road near the village of Forkhill in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. It was defused by an expert bomb disposal team from the Irish Army. The explosives were home-made and weighed 600 lb (270 kg). It is believed that the bomb was planted there by dissident republicans.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland believed that there could have been a “devastating outcome” — and that they were also potentially targets of the bombers. Chief Inspector Sam Cordner said: “The actions of terrorist criminals in planting this device in the Forkhill area put local people and police officers at significant risk.”

Their actions were reckless and dangerous in the extreme

“Their actions were reckless and dangerous in the extreme. Their target may have been the police, but they did not care who they killed or injured. It is only through the hard work and professionalism of police officers and their military colleagues that the area has been made safe,” Cordner said.

20 people had to evacuate their homes while the bomb was safely defused. Authorities took the device and will conduct a forensic examination.