Julia Gillard's 'small breasts' served up on Liberal party dinner menu
Fundraiser for Liberal candidate Mal Brough in Queensland featured 'deeply sexist' dishes based on prime minister
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 June 2013 02.18 BST
A photo of the menu from a fundraiser for Queensland Liberal National Party candidate Mal Brough. A photo of the menu from a fundraiser for Queensland Liberal National Party candidate Mal Brough.
A Liberal National Party fundraiser menu which served up Julia Gillard quail with “small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box” has been labelled tacky and scatological by the opposition leader.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey was the guest of honour at the fundraiser which was held in Brisbane in March for LNP candidate Mal Brough who has apologised for the menu and admitted it was sexist, according to the ABC.
A spokesman for the Queensland LNP has since said Brough will not be speaking again on the issue on Wednesday.
His silences comes as former prime minister Kevin Rudd called on Brough to donate the money raised to an animal charity.
“It’s snide, dirty and, I think, a sexist trick,” he said.
“It’s wrong, inappropriate and he (Brough) should donate every dollar raised to the RSPCA.”
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said the menu was “tacky and scatological” but confirmed Brough’s candidacy was safe in a press conference on the Gold Coast after he spent the night in Queensland.
“I condemn it,” he said.
“I think we should all be bigger and better than that.”
When asked if the menu would damage Brough’s pre-election in Fisher Abbott replied “absolutely not”.
The menu began circulating on social media websites before it was confirmed as authentic. Hockey composed a carefully worded tweet saying he was not aware of the “offensive” menu’s existence.
“I don't recall ever seeing any such menu. It is offensive and inappropriate whenever it was put out and it is now,” he wrote.
Brough is the focus of a suspended police investigation into his involvement in a conspiracy to bring down then-speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper and the Gillard Government.
The investigation came after a judge threw out a sexual harassment case against Slipper - the current member for Fisher - which involved him sending text messages comparing vaginas to mussels removed from their shell and blasted Brough in the process.
The menu was first posted by a Brisbane chef who claimed he used to work at the unnamed restaurant which hosted the Liberal National Party soiree and a staff member who was catering the dinner had taken a photo of the menu.
The menu also included “Rudd’s a Goose Foie Gras” and instructed guests to eat up all their greens “before they take over”.
The prime minister’s office, along with Hockey’s, have been contacted for comment.
Iran's Saeed Jalili: anointed successor or convenient bogeyman?
He is certainly devout – so much so that some observers believe his real role in the presidential election is to boost turnout by scaring the electorate out to the polls to oppose him
Tehran Bureau correspondent
Wednesday 12 June 2013 12.32 BST guardian.co.uk
A cosmetic touch-up augmented the forehead of the arch-conservative presidential candidate Saeed Jalili during the recent series of televised debates leading up to Iran's election, on 14 June.
As the Islamic government's 48-year-old nuclear negotiator elaborated on his plans to resolve the country's diplomatic and socio-economic quandaries by resuscitating the ideals of the 1979 revolution, viewers at home noted the absence of a telltale mark at the centre of his forehead.
"It's like Harry Potter and his scar," one voter observed. "He doesn't want to let people know he's The One."
Impressed into Jalili's face is the shape of a turbah, the small earthen stone Shia Muslims traditionally rest their heads on during daily prayers. For the fervently pious, the indentation is considered a badge of honour. But for those in charge of Jalili's public image, it is something to be concealed, powdered and covered by a lock of grey hair – an indication that the candidate's religious zeal is "too scary", as another viewer said, "even for Iranian TV".
Known for his monastic lifestyle and unquestioning devotion to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Jalili was touted as a frontrunner in an election in which loyalty and tractability appear to trump the more conventional leadership qualities displayed by other conservative candidates.
Former associates say he is a devout believer whose education and background more befit a seminary than Iran's intricate corridors of power. While those in the top echelons of the country's ruling elite are typically more Machiavellian than devout, Jalili's faith is authentic. "With him, it's not just rhetoric," said a source from the diplomatic community. "He really is a principlist."
These characteristics are thought to ingratiate Jalili with Khamenei, who strives to avoid a repeat of the insubordination he experienced with the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But as election day draws near, observers are questioning the role Jalili is ordained to play. Is he the anointed, obedient successor to Ahmadinejad, or is he a convenient bogeyman released by the regime to frighten moderate voters into participating in an election they may otherwise have boycotted?
"Jalili is consciously constructed as a scarecrow to put the resigned, indifferent and undecided voters in panic and to achieve a high turnout," said Nima Mina, a senior lecturer in Iranian Studies at the University of London. He compares Jalili's role to that of the French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in that country's 2002 presidential election, which saw a game-changing turnout by leftwing voters opposed to Le Pen's policies. "To the leader, it would not matter which of the candidates is successful in the end," Mina adds. "Jalili is a faithful soldier, and is willing to endure it all."
In 2009, Khamenei experienced the most serious challenge to his leadership in his 24 years as supreme leader. Millions of voters, joined by prominent politicians and religious figures, disputed the result of the presidential election, precipitating a violent crackdown from which many voters and reformist politicians never recovered.
Though keen on preventing such errors this time around, Khamenei is stressing the importance of voter participation to give his increasingly isolated and economically ailing regime a much-needed legitimacy boost.
In a speech on 7 June commemorating the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he urged Iranians to vote, warning: "They [enemies of Iran] wish either a low turnout in the election or sedition to emerge afterwards." The need to engineer a well-attended election may be the supreme leader's reason for tacitly supporting Jalili, if only to energise the masses against his fundamentalist worldview, analysts say.
Born in Masshad, a place of holy importance for the world's Shia, Jalili boasts a lifelong record of unflinching sacrifice and service to the Islamic republic. Near the end of Iran's bloody war with Iraq, the then 21-year-old Jalili injured his right leg in an offensive against the Iraqi port city of Basra known as Operation Karbala 5. In Sahrai hospital, in the city of Shalamcheh, medical staff were unable to treat the leg owing to a dearth of supplies, and were forced to amputate. Jalili is thus considered a jaanbaaz, someone upon whom is conferred a type of elevated status because of their suffering in the "holy defence" against Saddam Hussein's forces.
These veteran credentials make Jalili the choice of some of the country's most radical cohorts. Kayhan, the influential daily newspaper closely aligned with Khamenei, has described him as a "super-Hezbollahi" – a good old-fashioned revolution-era ideologue.
Putting religious ideals into political practice was also the main focus of Jalili's education at Tehran's Imam Sadeq University, where his thesis explored the "foreign policy of the Prophet". Originally an all-male institution, the university blends the teachings of the seminaries found in the religious city of Qom with traditional academia to educate a new prototype of pious technocrats. The goal, said one former faculty member, was to "breed students that think like the nezaam [the ruling establishment] and feed them into the foreign ministry and media.
In keeping with his theology-tinged education, Jalili recently gained the endorsement of Ayatollah Mezbah Yazdi, 79, a cleric from Qom and an influential force among the powerful Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). In 2005, Yazdi described himself as the spiritual father to Ahmadinejad, who eventually won that election.
In addition, Jalili is favoured by a younger group of disciples of Mesbah's Jebhe Paydari (Steadfast Front). Members of this newly formed fundamentalist grouping identify themselves as supporters of the "true Ahmadinejad", harking back to the platform that first won him the presidency in 2005.
"Jalili is immensely popular among some extremist young and religious types who support his rigid world view when it comes to Iran's nuclear programme," said Arash Ghafouri, a campaign strategist. "Many fans promote him on weblogs as well as pages on social networks such as Facebook … They have some offices around the country and campaign for Jalili in various cities and countries."
In this regard, Jalili differs from another candidate, the former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, whose rivalry with Jalili intensified on 10 June after the withdrawal of the conservative candidate Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel. Appealing to an older faction of rural and middle-class voters, Velayati, 67, has more political experience than Jalili, a strength he deployed with startling force during the third round of televised debates, on 9 June.
"You were in charge of the nuclear case for several years, and we haven't taken a single step forward," he told Jalili, criticising his staunchly anti-western "resistance" policy as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. "Diplomacy isn't about toughness or stubbornness."
On the same day, Velayati won the endorsement of the prominent Qom Seminary Scholars Association, casting further doubt over Jalili's frontrunner status.
"Many issues in Iran right now are directly related to the Iran nuclear programme, and Jalili is one of the representatives of this plan," said Ghafouri. "Although whatever Jalili did was what the supreme leader wanted, the average Iranian is not satisfied with the consequences of the severe sanctions. To be elected president, a candidate should prove himself able to fix [what] the country is faced with."
In an increasingly competitive campaign, in which the sanctions-plagued economy is a crucial factor, Jalili is failing to present a coherent solution to the problem he is accused of perpetuating. His "seven-point plan" to address the issue flounders in vague suggestions, such as "relying on the rules of the Islamic economy", and has been criticised by journalists for "failing to adhere to any known economic model".
Such mediocrity appears to be a lifelong trait for Jalili, whose sole distinguishing quality – according to a source who recalls his student days at Imam Sadeq – is piousness. The source said: "He wasn't our top guy. He's not an intellect. He's not even a top diplomat. But he's a true believer."
Middle East peace talks must succeed to avoid despair, says UK minister
Alistair Burt acknowledges expectations of John Kerry's success are low, but says his mission is 'best chance for a generation'
Harriet Sherwood in Nabi Saleh
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 June 2013 12.42 BST
"Darkness and despair" was the alternative to John Kerry succeeding in his mission to revive moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the British foreign office minister Alistair Burt said on Wednesday, while acknowledging that expectations of a positive outcome were "very low".
On a visit to a West Bank village, Burt urged Palestinians involved in grassroots protests against the 46-year Israeli occupation of their land to give their political leaders a "completely free hand" to re-engage with negotiations, saying it was the only way to achieve an independent Palestinian state.
But "time is very short", he added, saying the efforts of Kerry, the US secretary of state, still represented the "best chance for a generation, and a generation to come" to end the long-running conflict.
"The important thing is the real urgency of the situation, the need to make the most of what Kerry is offering and for the communities on the West Bank to be solidly behind their political leaders, to give them the space for what they need to do," Burt told the Guardian.
He acknowledged "the passage of the years and the frustrations" of Palestinians living under occupation. "If you've had the experience of the impact of the settlers and the settler violence they describe … there is a sense of injustice on the West Bank. That's bound to affect people's opinions. There are very low expectations. But it's part of our role to give people the sense that maybe this time there is a chance."
The aim of Burt's four-day visit to the Holy Land was to reinforce Kerry's drive to restart the moribund peace process. However, Kerry postponed his fifth visit to the region this week, citing scheduling difficulties – a move interpreted by some observers as an indication that little progress has been made or is in immediate prospect.
The timeframe for a significant advance in bringing the two sides together has already stretched beyond its original deadline of the end of May, and some diplomats are now pushing it to the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in the second week of July.
Hopes for success were dented last week after Israel's deputy defence minister, Danny Danon, claimed a majority within the government staunchly opposed the creation of a Palestinian state. "If there will be a move to promote a two-state solution, you will see forces blocking it within the party and the government," Danon told the Times of Israel.
His assertion was dismissed by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. The justice minister, Tzipi Livni – who strongly favours a resumption of negotiations – warned she would withdraw from the coalition government unless ideological hardliners were reined in. "We will not remain in the government without a peace process," she said. But many commentators suggested that Danon had simply said openly what was widely known in political and diplomatic circles.
Burt also dismissed Danon's comments. "The [Israeli] government has made it very clear to me that they are still firmly in favour of a two-state solution, whatever individual politicians may say. I take some hope, therefore, from that. I also take some genuine hope from the sense that the government appears to have understood Kerry's message of urgency."
But, he repeated, "expectations are low and it's right after all these years of history to be cautious. [But] it's equally right never to let an opportunity to go by." There was no "Plan B" in the event of Kerry's failure, he said. "All that you can say about a Plan B is that it's full of darkness and despair."
Burt's visit to Nabi Saleh – his third in two years – was part of a personal commitment to track the village's protests against the encroachments of a nearby Jewish settlement and the forceful response by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to weekly demonstrations. Two villagers have been killed by IDF fire, in December 2011 and November 2012.
"This is a very important stop for me," he told village representatives. "The reason I keep coming is to maintain a relationship with the families [of the dead men], to make clear they are not forgotten and that those of us who care about the issues of Nabi Saleh will continue to support you in the hope the suffering is not in vain.
"What's happened here has been wrong; wrong for the settlers to take your land, and wrong in the way the IDF handled demonstrations."
Naji Tamimi, the leader of the local protest group, said: "We consider you a brother … As a politician, it's important to know what the people think, not just the [political] leaders." He appealed for the British government to "support the popular resistance", adding that the IDF response to protests had become harsher.
Another village protest leader, Bassem Tamimi, said: "The visit is important, but it's not a big issue. We need real pressure on Israel to stop settlements. The UK is a big state, and we expect more action."
Asked what he thought the result of Kerry's mission would be, he said it would "give Israel more time to build settlements".
Kerry had been expected to announce details of a $4bn (£2.55bn) economic package to boost the Palestinian economy. The programme, intended to run in parallel with the political process, is to be led by Tony Blair, the special envoy of the Middle East Quartet, comprising the US, the EU, the UN and Russia.
In the USA....
NSA surveillance challenged in court as criticism grows over US data program
Civil liberties group accuses US government of running a program 'akin to snatching every American's address book'
Spencer Ackerman and Paul Lewis
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 June 2013 22.44 BST
The first constitutional challenge to the widespread surveillance of US citizens disclosed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden was laid down on Tuesday, as international pressure on the Obama administration over the scale of the dragnet intensified.
In a lawsuit filed in New York, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the US government of a process that was "akin to snatching every American's address book".
On Capitol Hill, a group of US senators introduced a bill aimed at forcing the US federal government to disclose the opinions of a secretive surveillance court that determines the scope of the eavesdropping on Americans' phone records and internet communications.
Separately, a leading member of the Senate intelligence committee came close to saying that James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, misled him on the scope of government surveillance during a March hearing.
In Brussels, the European commission's vice-president, Viviane Reding, sent a letter demanding answers to seven detailed questions to the US attorney general, Eric Holder, demanding explanations about Prism and other American data snooping programmes.
As the fallout from the revelations by Edward Snowden continued, the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, said he ordered a wide-ranging review of the Defense Department's reliance on private contractors. Snowden, 29, had top-security clearance for his work at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor. Booz Allen issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Snowden had been fired for "violations of the firm's code of ethics".
Snowden checked out of the hotel where he was staying in Hong Kong on Monday and moved to an undisclosed location. The director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, said Snowden should not consider himself protected in the Chinese province. "I certainly would not consider Hong Kong a safe place for him at the moment," said Bouckaert, who after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi found faxes in Tripoli indicating that the Hong Kong authorities had co-operated with the CIA in rendering an anti-Gaddafi Islamist to Libya.
A spokesman for Vladimir Putin said that if Snowden applied for asylum in Russia, the request would be considered.
Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong three weeks ago, telling his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, that he was going away for a while but was deliberately vague about the reason for his disappearance. A blogpost, apparently written by Mills, a 28-year-old performance artist, said: "My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass … at the moment all I can feel is alone."
Lindsay Mills, girlfriend of Edward Snowden Lindsay Mills, the acrobat girlfriend of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, strikes poses for a photoshoot in Hawaii. Photograph: Splash/Luis SilosIII Photography/Splash
The authenticity of the blog, which was seen by the Guardian before it was taken down on Tuesday, could not be verified. However, Snowden had previously told the Guardian his girlfriend was called Lindsay.
The constitutional implications of Snowden's revelations were addressed in the ACLU's law suit, filed in the Southern District of New York. It claimed the National Security Agency's acquisition of phone records of millions of Verizon users, obtained in April through an order by the secret Fisa court and revealed by the Guardian, violates the first and fourth amendments, which guarantee citizens' right to association, speech and to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. As a Verizon subscriber, the ACLU claimed standing to sue.
The suit also claims that the surveillance goes beyond the authorisation provided by section 215 of the Patriot Act, a claim made for years by two leading Democratic members of the Senate intelligence committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado.
Wyden revealed on Tuesday that he had given Clapper, the director of national intelligence, a day's advance notice of a question about the extent of government surveillance at a congressional hearing earlier this year.
When asked directly by Wyden in March whether the NSA was collecting any kind of data on "millions" of Americans, Clapper replied "no" and "not wittingly" – a claim undermined by the Guardian's disclosures about NSA collection of millions of Americans' phone records. Wyden disclosed that he had given Clapper an opportunity in private to revise his answer, after the session. Clapper said earlier this week that he had answered the question in the "least untruthful" way possible.
James Clapper James Clapper, who issued a stinging attack on the intelligence leaks this weekend, is a former Booz Allen executive Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP
In statement on Tuesday, Wyden said: "One of the most important responsibilities a senator has is oversight of the intelligence community. This job cannot be done responsibly if senators aren't getting straight answers to direct questions."
The office of Senator Jeff Merkley said he planned to introduce a bill on Tuesday that would compel the first public airing of the so-called Fisa court's understandings of section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the government has cited as the basis for collecting the phone records of millions of Americans; and section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act, which the government has cited as the basis for NSA internet monitoring program known as Prism.
"I think that Americans deserve to know how our government is interpreting the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act," Jamal Raad, a spokesman for Merkley, told the Guardian on Tuesday.
The Obama administration has said all its surveillance efforts are subject to rigorous Fisa court review and members of congress are sufficiently briefed on them, even though most legislators did not receive such briefings.
US authorities faced challenges on other fronts: Google's chief legal counsel wrote to the Justice Department to request its ability to detail its co-operation with the government on surveillance orders, largely in the hope of assuring customers that it does not turn over user data wholesale to the NSA.
"Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made," wrote Google's David Drummond. "Google has nothing to hide."
Similarly, a new coalition of privacy groups, internet companies and activists, called Stop Watching Us, unveiled itself Tuesday to demand "the US Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs," which amount to "a stunning abuse of our basic rights." The coalition includes Mozilla, Reddit, John Cusack and the ACLU, among others.
The NSA affair continued to have international ramifications. In the European commission letter, Reding warns Holder that "given the gravity of the situation and the serious concerns expressed in public opinion on this side of the Atlantic" she expects detailed answers before they meet at an EU-US justice ministers' meeting in Dublin on Friday.
In the letter, which has been released to the Guardian, Reding details her serious concerns that the Americans are "accessing and processing, on a large scale, the data of EU citizens using major US online service providers". She says that programmes such as Prism, and the laws that authorise them, could have "grave adverse consequences for the fundamental rights of EU citizens".
She also warns Holder that the nature of the American response could affect the whole transatlantic relationship.
NSA surveillance: anger mounts in Congress at 'spying on Americans'
After a closed-door briefing of the House of Representatives, lawmakers call for a review of the Patriot Act
Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman in Washington and Alan Travis in London
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 June 2013 01.45 BST
Anger was mounting in Congress on Tuesday night as politicians, briefed for the first time after revelations about the government's surveillance dragnet, vowed to rein in a system that one said amounted to "spying on Americans".
Intelligence chiefs and FBI officials had hoped that the closed-door briefing with a full meeting of the House of Representatives would help reassure members about the widespread collection of US phone records revealed by the Guardian.
But senior figures from both parties emerged from the meeting alarmed at the extent of a surveillance program that many claimed never to have heard of until whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked a series of top-secret documents.
The congressional fury came at the end of a day of fast-moving developments.
• In a lawsuit filed in New York, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the US government of a process that was "akin to snatching every American's address book".
• On Capitol Hill, a group of US senators introduced a bill aimed at forcing the US federal government to disclose the opinions of a secretive surveillance court that determines the scope of the eavesdropping on Americans' phone records and internet communications.
• A leading member of the Senate intelligence committee, Ron Wyden, came close to saying that James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, misled him on the scope of government surveillance during a March hearing. Clapper admitted earlier this week that he gave the "least untruthful" answer possible to a question by Wyden.
• Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary, said he ordered a wide-ranging review of the Defense Department's reliance on private contractors. Snowden had top-security clearance for his work at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor. Booz Allen issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Snowden had been fired for "violations of the firm's code of ethics".
• In Brussels, the European commission's vice-president, Viviane Reding, sent a letter demanding answers to seven detailed questions to the US attorney general, Eric Holder, about Prism and other American data snooping efforts.
• Snowden was at an undisclosed location after he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel on Monday. The director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, said Snowden should not consider himself safe in the Chinese province.
NSA files Edward Snowden Obama Newspapers in Hong Kong feature the NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters
After the congressional briefing, Xavier Becerra, leader of the House minority caucus, said there had not been enough oversight of government surveillance programs. "We are now glimpsing the damage," he said, referring to failures to repeal the Patriot Act sooner. "It was an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary time but it shouldn't have been extended."
Others said the White House and intelligence committee leaders had been misleading when they claimed all members of Congress were briefed about the mass swoop of telephone records.
"There was a letter that we were supposed to have received in 2011 but I can't find it and most of my friends in Congress did not receive this either," said New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell, who claimed the widespread collection of phone data amounted to "spying on Americans … This is one of the first briefings I have been to where I actually learned something."
The anger was apparent in both parties. The conservative Republican Steve King of Iowa predicted joint action from Congress would be imminent. "There is going to be a bipartisan response to this," he said.
Pascrell said: "There were no Democrats or Republicans in there at all, which is a healthy sign, it means we can get something done about this."
Another Republican, Tom McClintock of California, claimed the phone snooping amounted to an abuse of fourth amendment rights. "Going back to the days of British rule we have sought to stop the authorities barging in on people's privacy just in case they found something," he said. "The fourth amendment was passed to make sure that never happened and it is time to make sure it does not ever happen again."
Elijah Cummings, another Democrat unhappy at the Obama administration's security practices, came out of the secret briefing saying: "We learned a lot [but] I'm not comfortable."
Pascrell said: "People should know what's going on in their name but we need to start with Congress knowing what the heck is going on."
Earlier the Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, called Snowden – the 29-year-old former intelligence contractor who revealed the extend of the surveillance efforts – a traitor. But as attention switched from the leaker to the issues raised by his actions now looks increasingly certain that Congress will take steps to try to rein in the power of the intelligence services.
Google and Facebook demand transparency
US authorities faced challenges on other fronts: Google's chief legal counsel wrote to the Justice Department to request the ability to detail its co-operation with the government on surveillance orders, in the hope of assuring customers that it does not turn over user data wholesale to the NSA.
"Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made," wrote Google's David Drummond. "Google has nothing to hide."
Facebook's general counsel, Ted Ullyot, issued a similar statement, saying the company "would welcome the opportunity to provide a transparency report that allows us to share with those who use Facebook around the world a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond".
A new coalition of privacy groups, internet companies and activists, called Stop Watching Us, unveiled itself Tuesday to demand "the US Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs," which amount to "a stunning abuse of our basic rights." The coalition includes Mozilla, Reddit, John Cusack and the ACLU, among others.
The NSA affair continued to have international ramifications. In the European commission letter, Reding warns Holder that "given the gravity of the situation and the serious concerns expressed in public opinion on this side of the Atlantic" she expects detailed answers before they meet at an EU-US justice ministers' meeting in Dublin on Friday.
In the letter, released to the Guardian, Reding detailed her serious concerns that the Americans are "accessing and processing, on a large scale, the data of EU citizens using major US online service providers". She said that programs such as Prism, and the laws that authorise them, could have "grave adverse consequences for the fundamental rights of EU citizens".
She also warns Holder that the nature of the American response could affect the whole transatlantic relationship.
June 11, 2013
3 Tech Giants Want to Reveal Data Requests
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
SAN FRANCISCO — Google, Facebook and Microsoft on Tuesday asked the government for permission to reveal details about the classified requests they receive for the personal information of foreign users.
They made the request after revelations about the National Security Agency’s secret Internet surveillance program, known as Prism, for collecting data from technology companies like e-mail messages, photos, stored documents, videos and online chats. The collection is legally authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which forbids companies from acknowledging the existence of requests or revealing any details about them.
Google for the first time publicly acknowledged it had received FISA requests and said it had complied with far fewer of the requests than it received. Facebook and Microsoft did not go as far as discussing requests they had received but, like Google, said they wanted to be able to publish information on the volume and scope of the government requests.
Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst studying privacy, technology and surveillance at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that while he appreciated the statements from the companies, they were largely meant to save face with users and employees.
“If nothing else happens, this is a way of putting the government on the defensive and shifting the blame from the companies to the government,” he said.
Many questions remain unanswered after the leak of N.S.A. documents about Prism, including precisely how the tech companies and the government cooperate. Prism refers to an automated system for electronically exchanging information regarding FISA requests, according to people briefed on how it works. On Tuesday, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said in an interview on British television that Google hands over the information to the government in person or by using a file-transferring technology called secure FTP.
But the companies say they are frustrated that they are unable, because of a government gag order, to give more details of sharing user data with the government.
That gap in information has fed speculation that is untrue, Mr. Drummond wrote in a letter on Tuesday to Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller, the director of the F.B.I. In the letter, Mr. Drummond asked for permission to publish both the number of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, that Google receives and their scope.
“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made,” Mr. Drummond wrote. “Google has nothing to hide.” Mr. Drummond was unavailable for an interview.
In a statement, Leslie Miller, a Google spokeswoman, said “only a tiny fraction” of Google’s hundreds of millions of users worldwide were subject to government data requests each year.
Google has said it scrutinizes each government request and narrows the scope if it is overly broad. In 2010, it became the first major tech company to publish a transparency report detailing certain government requests for user information. In March, after long negotiations with law enforcement, it added national security letters, which the F.B.I. uses to ask for information and which companies are generally not permitted to disclose. Still, Google was allowed to report only that it received zero to 999 such letters.
Microsoft released its first transparency report in March. The company said on Thursday that the report went as far as it legally could and urged the government to allow it to publish more information.
Facebook has never published a transparency report, despite pressure to do so. On Thursday, it said it would start publishing one if the government gave it permission to release information on the size and scope of national security requests.
“We have questioned the value of releasing a transparency report that, because of exactly these types of government restrictions on disclosure, is necessarily incomplete and therefore potentially misleading to users,” Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, said in a statement.
June 11, 2013
Earlier Denials Put Intelligence Chief in Awkward Position
By SCOTT SHANE and JONATHAN WEISMAN
WASHINGTON — For years, intelligence officials have tried to debunk what they called a popular myth about the National Security Agency: that its electronic net routinely sweeps up information about millions of Americans. In speeches and Congressional testimony, they have suggested that the agency’s immense power is focused exclusively on terrorists and other foreign targets, and that it does not invade Americans’ privacy.
But since the disclosures last week showing that the agency does indeed routinely collect data on the phone calls of millions of Americans, Obama administration officials have struggled to explain what now appear to have been misleading past statements. Much of the attention has been focused on testimony by James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, to the Senate in March that the N.S.A. was not gathering data on millions of Americans.
When lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Tuesday for the first time since the N.S.A. disclosures, however, the criticism was muted.
In carefully delivered statements, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio; Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader; and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, all said the programs were authorized by law and rigorously overseen by Congress and courts.
In contrast, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat whose questioning prompted Mr. Clapper’s statement in March, stepped up his criticism of how intelligence officials portrayed the surveillance programs and called for public hearings to address the disclosures. “The American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives,” he said in a statement.
And Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said he had come away from a closed-door briefing by intelligence officials for House members believing that the N.S.A. had too much latitude and too little oversight.
“Right now we have a situation where the executive branch is getting a billion records a day, and we’re told they will not query that data except pursuant to very clear standards,” Mr. Sherman said. “But we don’t have the courts making sure that those standards are always followed.”
Many lawmakers trained their sights on Edward J. Snowden, the intelligence contractor who leaked classified documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post. Mr. Boehner called him a traitor.
Mr. McConnell told reporters: “Given the scope of these programs, it’s understandable that many would be concerned about issues related to privacy. But what’s difficult to understand is the motivation of somebody who intentionally would seek to warn the nation’s enemies of lawful programs created to protect the American people. And I hope that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The comments of the Senate leaders showed a coordinated effort to squelch any legislative move to rein in the surveillance programs. Mr. Reid took the unusual step of publicly slapping back at fellow senators — including senior Democrats — who have suggested that most lawmakers have been kept in the dark about the issue.
“For senators to complain that they didn’t know this was happening, we had many, many meetings that have been both classified and unclassified that members have been invited to,” Mr. Reid said. “They shouldn’t come and say, ‘I wasn’t aware of this,’ because they’ve had every opportunity.”
Among lawmakers who have expressed concerns in the past, however, the issues have not been laid to rest. When reporters pressed Mr. Wyden on whether Mr. Clapper had lied to him, he stopped short of making that accusation, but made his discontent clear.
“The president has said — correctly, in my view — that strong Congressional oversight is absolutely essential in this area,” he said. “It’s not possible for the Congress to do the kind of vigorous oversight that the president spoke about if you can’t get straight answers.”
At the March Senate hearing, Mr. Wyden asked Mr. Clapper, “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
“No, sir,” Mr. Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”
Mr. Wyden said on Tuesday that he had sent his question to Mr. Clapper’s office a day before the hearing, and had given his office a chance to correct the misstatement after the hearing, but to no avail.
In an interview on Sunday with NBC News, Mr. Clapper acknowledged that his answer had been problematic, calling it “the least untruthful” answer he could give.
Michael V. Hayden, the former director of both the N.S.A. and the C.I.A., said he considered Mr. Wyden’s question unfair, given the classified subject. “There’s not another country in the world where that question would have been asked and answered in a public session,” he said.
Some other statements of N.S.A. officials appear in retrospect to offer a mistaken impression of the agency’s collection of information about Americans. Mr. Wyden said he had pressed Mr. Clapper on the matter because he had been dissatisfied with what he felt were misleading answers from Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the N.S.A. director. And in a recent speech, the N.S.A.’s general counsel, Rajesh De, sought to debunk what he called “false myths” about the agency, including the idea that “N.S.A. is spying on Americans at home and abroad with questionable or no legal basis.”
While that may be literally true — there is a legal basis — it appears awkward in retrospect that Mr. De’s defense of the agency failed to mention its collection of phone data on Americans.
“It’s a fine line he was treading,” said Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and author of “The Secret Sentry,” a 2009 book on the N.S.A. “But trying to talk around these secret programs just makes matters worse.”
The solution, he said, is for intelligence officials to share more information about what the N.S.A. does and why. “Actually be forthright with the American people,” he said.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that she had asked General Alexander to declassify more information about the surveillance programs — like terrorist plots that might have been foiled — to help explain their usefulness.
“If we can get that declassified, we can speak much more clearly,” she said.
Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.
NSA surveillance makes the U.S. sound a lot like China
By Ai Weiwei, The Guardian
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 12:27 EDT
Both governments think they are doing what is best for the state and people. But, as I know, such abuse of power can ruin lives
Even though we know governments do all kinds of things I was shocked by the information about the US surveillance operation, Prism. To me, it’s abusively using government powers to interfere in individuals’ privacy. This is an important moment for international society to reconsider and protect individual rights.
I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.
In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.
Of course, we live under different kinds of legal conditions – in the west and in developed nations there are other laws that can balance or restrain the use of information if the government has it. That is not the case in China, and individuals are completely naked as a result. Intrusions can completely ruin a person’s life, and I don’t think that could happen in western nations.
But still, if we talk about abusive interference in individuals’ rights, Prism does the same. It puts individuals in a very vulnerable position. Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values. There is no guarantee that China, the US or any other government will not use the information falsely or wrongly. I think especially that a nation like the US, which is technically advanced, should not take advantage of its power. It encourages other nations.
Before the information age the Chinese government could decide you were a counter-revolutionary just because a neighbour reported something they had overheard. Thousands, even millions of lives were ruined through the misuse of such information.
Today, through its technical abilities, the state can easily get into anybody’s bank account, private mail, conversations, and social media accounts. The internet and social media give us new possibilities of exploring ourselves.
But we have never exposed ourselves in this way before, and it makes us vulnerable if anyone chooses to use it against us. Any information or communication could put young people under the surveillance of the state. Very often, when oppressive states arrest people, they have that information in their hands. It can be used as a way of controlling you, to tell you: we know exactly what you’re thinking or doing. It can drive people to madness.
When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.
In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.
If a government is elected by the people, and is genuinely working for the people, they should not give in to these temptations.
During my detention in China I was watched 24 hours a day. The light was always on. There were two guards on two-hour shifts standing next to me – even watching when I swallowed a pill; I had to open mouth so they could see my throat. You have to take a shower in front of them; they watch you while you brush your teeth, in the name of making sure you’re not hurting yourself. They had three surveillance cameras to make sure the guards would not communicate with me.
But the guards whispered to me. They told stories about themselves. There is always humanity and privacy, even under the most restrictive conditions.
To limit power is to protect society. It is not only about protecting individuals’ rights but making power healthier.
Civilisation is built on that trust and everyone must fight to defend it, and to protect our vulnerable aspects – our inner feelings, our families. We must not hand over our rights to other people. No state power should be given that kind of trust. Not China. Not the US.
© Guardian News and Media 2013
Edward Snowden's girlfriend is 'as well as can be expected', says father
Lindsay Mills's father Jonathan says whistleblower always had strong convictions and he wishes him luck
Haroon Siddique and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 June 2013 10.18 BST
The father of the girlfriend of Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who leaked classified documents about US surveillance operations, has said she is holding on after she blogged about how alone she felt in the face of the controversy.
The day after Snowden identified himself as the source of the leaks, Lindsay Mills, a 28-year-old performance artist, apparently wrote: "My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass … at the moment all I can feel is alone."
Her father, Jonathan Mills, told reporters on Tuesday evening outside his home in Laurel, Maryland, that his daughter was doing "as well as could be expected, and that's all I have to say". He described 29-year-old Snowden as "very nice. Shy, and reserved".
"He's always had strong convictions of right and wrong, and it kind of makes sense. But still shocked," Mills said, describing his reaction to the news about Snowden. Asked if he had a message for Snowden, Mills said: "Just wish him good luck and he's got my love."
Mills said he had texted his daughter but did not know where she was. The last time he saw her was two months ago, when she came to visit for a week, he added. Lindsay Mills has been dating Snowden for four or five years.
The authenticity of her blog, subtitled "Adventures of a world-travelling, pole-dancing super hero", which was seen by the Guardian before it was taken down on Tuesday, could not be verified. Snowden had previously told the Guardian his girlfriend was called Lindsay. He left Hawaii for Hong Kong three weeks ago, telling his girlfriend he had to be away for a while, but being deliberately vague about the reason for his disappearance.
June 11, 2013
Obama Backs Bill to Overhaul Immigration as Debate Is Set
By MARK LANDLER and ASHLEY PARKER
WASHINGTON — As the Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to begin debating an overhaul of the nation’s immigrations laws, President Obama offered a wholehearted endorsement of the bipartisan proposal, which presents him with a chance to reach the kind of landmark accord with Republicans that has eluded him on the budget and gun violence.
For Mr. Obama, who has picked his shots in the immigration debate to avoid stirring partisan anger on Capitol Hill, it was a moment of promise and peril. While he threw his weight behind the bill, he conceded that it would not satisfy all sides and said he anticipated a bruising fight over issues like border security and the path to citizenship.
The president, however, may have more leverage than in previous battles, not least because many Republicans believe rewriting the immigration laws is critical for the long-term viability of their party given the nation’s demographic shifts, even if doing so risks alienating parts of their base.
Republican willingness to weigh significant changes in immigration policy was evident in the 84-to-15 vote to begin what is expected to be a monthlong debate on the bill, a lopsided majority that comprised 52 Democrats, 2 independents and 30 Republicans. The opponents were all Republicans.
Advocates hailed the vote as an encouraging sign for the measure’s eventual passage. But Senate veterans warned that the procedural victory did not preclude Republicans from ultimately rejecting the legislation, which would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people who are in the country illegally.
“This bill isn’t perfect; it’s a compromise,” the president said at a carefully choreographed White House appearance with advocates of reform. “Going forward, nobody is going to get everything they want. Not Democrats, not Republicans, not me.”
Though the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, often an impediment to Democratic initiatives, voted to allow debate, he said he would vote against the bill unless major changes were made. “These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security, government benefits and taxes,” he said.
The House speaker, John A. Boehner, said he feared that the Senate bill “doesn’t go far enough.” Speaking on ABC News before the vote, Mr. Boehner said he had “real concerns with the Senate bill,” especially on border security and internal enforcement.
A vote to allow a debate is no guarantee of a bill’s passage: the Senate cleared that threshold on legislation to tighten the nation’s gun laws, but its key provision, to tighten background checks on gun buyers, still went down to defeat. At the same time, this procedural vote was larger than one in 2007, when the Senate last debated immigration reform, and Mr. Obama was clearly determined to seize the moment.
“If you’re serious about actually fixing the system, then this is the vehicle to do it,” Mr. Obama declared. “If you’re not serious about it, if you think that a broken system is the best America can do, then I guess it makes sense to try to block it.”
Speaking in the East Room, Mr. Obama surrounded himself with supporters of the bill, including a former police chief in Los Angeles and New York, William J. Bratton; Thomas J. Donahue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Julián Castro, the mayor of San Antonio; Steve Case, an entrepreneur and a founder of AOL; and Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
While Mr. Obama speaks about the need to overhaul the immigration system at schools and factories across the country, the East Room event was his most concerted push for it since he spoke in Las Vegas in January, around the time a group of Republican and Democratic senators presented a draft framework for legislation.
That speech, analysts said, drew a positive response from some influential Republican lawmakers, and the White House appeared to be trying to replicate the experience. But they warned not to overestimate Mr. Obama’s role in the debate now.
“It propels it forward, but this has already got a lot of juice,” said Angela Maria Kelley, an expert on immigration at the Center for American Progress. “In the Senate, there’s a lot of clarity about people’s positions.”
Other experts said Mr. Obama had learned from hard experience during the health care and budget debates about the right time to lie low and the right time to insert himself in the process.
“There’s no question that the president has a delicate dance,” said Ben Johnson, the executive director of the American Immigration Council. “He’s got to strike the right tone and the right balance of using the office effectively and not trampling on the process that’s currently under way.”
A senior White House official said Mr. Obama’s involvement was important because the bill’s success would hinge on winning the support of Hispanic voters, and “there is no Republican with the credibility to sell this to that community — only the president can.”
On Tuesday, though, senators seemed more immersed in their own debate than in reacting to Mr. Obama.
“Well, he doesn’t vote in the Senate anymore, so right now we’re just focused on getting it passed in the Senate in a responsible way,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who was one of the architects of the bill and is one of his party’s most prominent Hispanics.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said the Democrats “promised immigration reform in 2009, they didn’t deliver, so they need to step up to the plate there.”
Another member of the so-called Gang of Eight behind the bill, Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said Mr. Obama’s remarks echoed the principles in the legislation, but added of Republicans, “Some of them have Obamaphobia, so no matter what he does, they won’t be happy.”
Mr. Boehner said he expected that the “House bill will be to the right of where the Senate is,” but he would not say whether he expected any legislation that came out of the House to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Obama, in an attempt to allay fears about immigration changes, said the bill before the Senate included the tightest border control provisions in American history. He said twice that illegal crossings were “near their lowest levels in decades.”
But the president also insisted on a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally — a provision that has continued to be a sticking point between the senators who drafted the legislation and conservative Republicans, especially in the House, who believe that approach represents amnesty for those who broke the law to enter or stay in the country.
The process, he said, would be long and arduous, requiring people to pay taxes as well as a penalty, learn English, and then go to the back of the line behind applicants for American citizenship who entered the country lawfully. The average wait would be 13 years, he said.
“This is no cakewalk,” he said, “but it’s the only way we can make sure that everyone who’s here is playing by the same rules.”
June 11, 2013, 4:42 pm
As Senate Begins Debate, Organized Labor Makes Immigration Push
By JULIA PRESTON
As the Senate opens debate on an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, organized labor is picking up the pace of its advocacy for the bill.
The Service Employees International Union, which claims more than two million members, said it had purchased more than $1 million in television advertising to run in June on cable networks nationwide. Five advertisements, which will rotate, feature police officers, Republicans and small-business owners — not traditional supporters of labor — calling on Congress to stop fighting over immigration and “fix what’s broke” in the system. The ads call for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s largest labor federation, said it would take 50 union leaders from 27 states to Washington on Wednesday to lobby in the Senate and the House. The organization said it was also starting a call-in campaign by union members focusing on about two dozen senators, including lawmakers from Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee, who have not made public their positions on the legislation. Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., was among an array of supporters who appeared with President Obama when he spoke from the White House on Tuesday morning to urge the Senate to pass the bill.
Immigrant workers, especially Latinos, have brought growth to unions that had struggled for years with declining membership. The A.F.L.-C.I.O reached a hard-fought agreement with business earlier this year on a program for future temporary low-skilled foreign workers, which is included in the Senate bill.
in the USA continued ........
June 12, 2013 06:00 AM
How Dangerous is the 'Security/Digital Complex'?
By Richard RJ Eskow
It should be self-evident that recent NSA revelations bring up some grave concerns about civil liberties. But they also raise other profound and troubling questions - about the privatization of our military, our culture's inflated expectations for digital technology, and the increasingly cozy relationship between Big Corporations (including Wall Street) and Big Defense.
Are these corporations perverting our political process? The campaign war chest for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who today said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden committed "treason," is heavily subsidized by defense and intelligence contractors that include General Dynamics, General Atomic, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Bechtel.
One might argue that a politician with that kind of backing is in no moral position to lecture others about "treason."
But Feinstein's funders are decidedly old-school Military/Industrial Complex types. What about the new crowd? This confluence of forces hasn't been named yet, so for the time being we'll use a cumbersome label: the "Security/Digital Complex."
With computers and communications encompassing an ever-larger portion of human activity, we may someday learn that this new force dwarfs even its predecessors in the Feinstein camp when it comes to its impact on our democracy, our economy and our values.
There's much we don't know yet, so it's wise to be cautious in describing this new force. But Edward Snowden's revelations, and the reactions to them, are offering us a glimpse into rarely-seen intersections of Wall Street wealth, information technology, and the national security state.
Reports say that Snowden left government and joined the private sector as part of the massive privatization of government functions, including national security. His recent employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, earns more than 98 percent of its revenue from the government.
Privatization is an ideological pathway. It's also, as with bank regulation, a path to riches for pliant officials. And, as with Wall Street, the officials feeding at the trough are entirely "bipartisan." From a New York Times article:
"As evidence of the company's close relationship with government, the Obama administration's chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen."
That's the revolving door in its purest form, spinning like an electron in your digital profile.
And there's a lot of money to be made. Last February Booz Allen Hamilton announced two new contracts with Homeland Security, worth a total of $11 billion, for "program management, engineering, technology, business and financial management, and audit support services."
Wonder who signed off on that deal - and where they'll be working next year?
It's who you know.
Booz Allen Hamilton is now a part of the Carlyle Group, the leverage-buyout firm which has contributed to the personal enrichment of a number of very well-known public figures from Administrations of both parties. They include:
Former President George H. W. Bush; Bush's Secretary of State, James Baker, and Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci; Arthur Levitt, Bill Clinton's Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); and Mack McLarty, Clinton's White House Chief of Staff.
The Bin Laden family was a major shareholder, too, until both parties concluded that the relationship with the Al Qaeda leader's family (and the source of his wealth) was "receiving more attention than it deserved."
Carlyle invests in both old-school and digital defense contractors. Members of the Carlyle Group's Board also have board seats or other affiliations with corporations that include ExxonMobil, MCI Communications, Sprint Nextel, Duke Energy, Reuters, and Ford Motors. Bank affiliations among Carlyle's leaders include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America.
As a "leveraged buyout" firm, the Carlyle Group purchases companies with borrowed money, and then lays the debt onto its acquisitions. That means it relies heavily on Wall Street connections, Wall Street wealth ... and Wall Street's solvency, which was protected by the 2008 bailouts.
It also means that those companies, including government contractors have to be very profitable. They need to pay off those debts and enrich their new owners, while seeing to it that the financial institutions which underwrite these loans are kept whole.
(Note to Carlyle Board: Sen. Feinstein will be available in 2018 when her current term ends.)
Birth of the Booz
Booz Hamilton Allen is a $5.9 billion company. Most of the work it does would have been performed in by military or civilian government employees - at no markup whatsoever. Thanks to privatization, Booz Allen earned nearly a cool billion in taxpayer-funded profit for those two years alone.
Booz Allen has profited greatly from the explosive growth in national security privatization since 9/11. (It created a chart to illustrate its growth between 2001 and 2010, which we've reproduced below. It's impressive.)
The Times informs us that roughly 23 percent of the company's revenue over the last decade has come directly from intelligence contracts. Booz says it has a backlog of $10.8 billion in additional "sold" work, which means it's on track to receive nearly another billion in taxpayer money as profits (if current margins hold).
Booz says it has approximately 25,000 employees. More than three quarters of them hold government security clearances. Roughly half hold clearances of "Top Secret" or higher.
And yet, for all that, it's only eighth on the list of the top 100 government contractors.
Dana Priest and William Arkin conducted an intensive two-year investigation of national security for the Washington Post. They identified 1,931 private companies working in "about 10,000 locations" around the country, with 854,000 of their employees holding top-secret clearances.
They also found enormous redundancy and waste, along with an inability for human beings to effectively absorb and use all the information produced. Analysts were then publishing some 50,000 intelligence reports each year. And since this report was completed nearly three years ago, things can only have grown worse.
The huge drain on public coffers is only one of the downsides of this behemoth. Another is the lack of accountability when private employees do government work. That danger was eloquently described to the Times by Stewart A. Baker, former General Counsel to NSA and ex-Homeland Security official.
A lot of people are getting rich from national security data contracts. And, coincidentally or not, this corporate-driven national security apparatus seems especially interested in protecting Wall Street banks and bankers.
We've seen collusion between corporations and law enforcement on the local level, especially after then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani started renting out the New York City police force to big banks as rent-a-cops under a program called "Paid Detail." That cozy relationship made it unsurprising, if no less deplorable, when city police officers teamed up with private security guards to evict Occupy demonstrators from Zuccotti Park.
A report on regional "fusion centers, which the Department of Homeland Security created to support inter-agency cooperation and data sharing,suggests that this relationship has been replicated on the national level through the Federal security apparatus. The study by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy is an exhaustively researched glimpse into the cozy relationship between corporations and the National Security State.
The report's author, Beau Hodai, documents the exhaustive use of government anti-terrorism resources against Occupy, a legal and nonviolent protest movement. Hodai also includes an interesting case study: the Arizona Fusion Center's close collaboration with bank security personnel at JPMorgan Chase to protect CEO Jamie Dimon during a 2011 visit to Phoenix.
Booz Allen appears to be heavily involved in fusion centers. Its white paper on the topicreads like a sales pitch, and as of this writing more than 500 Booz employees on LinkedIn include the phrase "Fusion Center" in their job titles or descriptions.
JPMorgan Chase, whose CEO received such personal service from the Arizona Fusion Center, has close ties to Booz and the Carlyle Group, with projects that include backing Carlyle's 2012 acquisition of a Philadelphia refinery; help in finding a buyer for aerospace company Arinc (which was part of Booz); reviewing Virgin Media for a possible takeover bid; and handling the initial share offering for Carlyle itself.
Our government's accelerated dependence on Big Data technologies - one might even say its "fetishization" of them - has troubling implications for the workings of democracy and the apparatus of state.
In naming the "military/industrial complex," General-turned-President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us that, in meeting crises, "there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties."
"Spectacular." "Costly." "Miraculous." "Temptation."
And they say the General was a taciturn man.
The would-be miracle du jour at the core of today's scandal is "metadata": data about data. The corporate and intelligence worlds are infatuated with it. You might even call this wave of fascination a "bubble."
The Data Bubble
Like any bubble, the "metadata" craze takes something of genuine value and inflates it far beyond its worth. This corporo-bureaucratic fashion trend is contributing to the new Complex's explosive growth. But, as Priest and Arkin observe, the problem isn't that there isn't enough data or "metadata." It's that the data isn't sifted, refined, and evaluated by human beings with human judgment.
"Metadata" is all the rage on Wall Street too. When "market makers" like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase capture a large chunk of the trades in a given area (the top five US banks control well over 90 percent of all derivatives trades, for example) that data gives them extraordinary economic power.
In a very real way, financial institutions are now data institutions - and the "too-big-to-fail" ones are grabbing all the power that comes with the hoarding of information.
Still, it's a sign of Big Data's limitations that these banks would have failed anyway if taxpayers hadn't rescued them. We've forgotten that metadata, whether it's used for credit scores, algorithmic trading, or national security, is inherently subject to flaws - flaws which can't be fixed when it's operated in secret or purely out of self-interest.
Metadata as Ideology
Eisenhower warned that the Military/Industrial Complex's "total influence - economic, political, even spiritual (emphasis ours) - is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government ..."
We face, in Eisenhower's words, a spiritual threat, that of Metadata as Ideology. We idealize this algorithmic methodology, even surrender our liberties to it, while overlooking the flawed human origin of the process itself. Speaking as a former designer of large information systems, I recognize that it's a very useful analytical technique. But as an ideology it's antithetical to a democratic society:
Where democracy serves the human, metadata serves the mechanical and quantifiable.
Where democracy serves a society, metadata serves its masters.
Where democracy values the individual, metadata values the "set."
Where democracy is self-correcting (at least in design), metadata is self-replicating and self-reinforcing.
The Long Struggle
The technology is new, but the struggle is old: Corporations like the Dutch East Indies Company and the British East India Company used traded goods to drive a wave of global colonization. Corporations in the Military/Industrial Complex made money from mass-produced weapons of iron and steel.
The weapons of the 21st Century are made of electrons, not metal. But human nature doesn't change. The Military/Industrial Complex robs our nation of its wealth and many people of their lives. the Security/Digital Complex takes our wealth and has the potential to invade and monitor virtually every aspect of our lives. In the end, that could make it even more powerful than its predecessor.
Booz Allen Hamilton's corporate slogan is "Delivering results that endure." Results that endure? That's exactly what should worry us.
(UPDATE: I chose the word "whistleblower" with care. The AP Standards Editor says that term means "a person who exposes wrongdoing." I believe there is clear evidence that "exposing wrongdoing" is precisely what Snowden has done.)
(Graph: Booz Allen Hamilton's Post-9/11 Growth)
June 11, 2013
In Kosovo, Ethnic Barriers Linger as a New Accord Is Taking Effect
By DAN BILEFSKY
MITROVICA, Kosovo — A high barrier of sticks and stones blocks the main bridge over the Ibar River — put there by ethnic Serbs as a bulwark against their ethnic Albanian neighbors who live just a short walk away on the other side and, in theory at least, share the same territory, Kosovo.
But five years after Kosovo declared independence — carved from Serbia with the help of NATO’s intervention in 1999 — the minority Serbs who live here in northern Kosovo eke out parallel but separate lives, doggedly rejecting Kosovo’s sovereignty and pretending in every possible way the new country does not exist.
Serbian flags flutter proudly. The epic battles described in history texts and the folk music wafting from crowded cafes reflect the preferences and prejudices of Serbia. Only a small minority of northern Serbs ever set foot in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, just an hour’s drive away. Those who do go say they are afraid to tell their friends.
Now, however, after a landmark power-sharing accord in April between Kosovo and Serbia, Serbs here will find it harder to ignore Kosovo’s independence. Under the agreement, the police and courts are supposed to obey Kosovo law, Serbian judicial structures are to be eliminated and public sector salaries will be paid by Pristina rather than Belgrade.
In return, Serbian municipal structures will retain autonomy over matters like health, education and culture, though Kosovo wants to put its stamp on all university diplomas. The two countries also have until Saturday to make progress in the effort to identify missing people from the brutal 1998-1999 war that pushed forces loyal to Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian strongman, from this region, where corners like this one are still predominantly Serb.
While the agreement stops short of Serbs recognizing Kosovo’s independence, it has been hailed by the European Union, which brokered it, as a breakthrough that can help overcome ethnic enmities, bring regional stability, enhance economic development in two of Europe’s poorest countries and help clear the way for them to join the union.
But how life is lived day to day by Kosovo’s ethnic Serbian and Albanian neighbors in places like Mitrovica makes clear the enormous challenges that threaten to unhinge Brussels’ lofty ambitions. Chief among them is the need to win the hearts and minds of the 50,000 decidedly recalcitrant Serbs in northern Kosovo, some of whom are vowing to resist or flee if the deal is put in place.
In a sign of the obstacles ahead, one senior administrator in the offices here granting Kosovo identification cards was shot in the leg late last year, while hand grenades have been lobbed at staff members’ homes.
Already, Serb leaders are calling to boycott municipal elections that the agreement foresees by the end of October. Others say they feel betrayed by Serbia, Kosovo and Europe and will barricade and boycott the new institutions, pull their children out of school or sell their homes.
“We are part of Serbia; we don’t have the flag of Albania here,” said Dragisa Milovic, a member of a Serbian nationalist party who is mayor of Zvecan, a town in the north. “I will never allow my son to get a diploma with the Republic of Kosovo on it. I will be the first person to leave.”
Nevertheless, Adriana Hodzic, head of the Mitrovica North Administrative Office, said 7,000 people from the predominantly Serb area had acquired Kosovo identification documents like car licenses or business registrations since last September — a hopeful sign of grudging acceptance.
The agreement was signed on to by two former sworn enemies, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo, a guerrilla commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic of Serbia, a wartime spokesman of Mr. Milosevic, the former Serbian leader. Mr. Thaci acknowledged in an interview that the deal represented a psychological challenge for both Serbs and Albanians to accept but insisted that reconciliation would triumph.
“People are not used to peaceful agreements between Serbs and Kosovars,” he said. “They are used to violence and conflicts between our two countries. But implementing this deal is unstoppable and I am optimistic for the future. We are all Kosovars.”
Despite the initial optimism, the agreement faces considerable hurdles.
Georgios Makeroufas, political adviser to the European Union’s rule of law mission in northern Kosovo, noted that the ethnic Serbs would invariably come under enormous social pressure to boycott the new institutions. Moreover, Serbs who worked for the police and the courts in the north drew salaries from both Pristina and Belgrade, and would lose one salary when Serbian institutions were dissolved. Those who refused to join the new Kosovo police force and courts would lose their jobs, making them potential “spoilers” for the agreement.
“We are trying to extend Pristina’s authority in a place where citizens see the Kosovo state as an enemy rather than a friend,” he said. “It is not a given that Serbs in the north will integrate.”
Here in Mitrovica, long an ethnic hot spot in relations between Serbs and Albanians, few outwardly support the deal, including among the younger generation for whom the memory of war remains remarkably visceral.
Marko Jaksic, 29, a lawyer who works as a clerk in a Serbian high court in Mitrovica and also writes an influential blog, said he would rather work as a street cleaner than join a court under Kosovo’s jurisdiction. He said that a majority of judges and prosecutors at his court planned to ask to be transferred to Belgrade.
“I am living with Albanians for nearly 30 years and I don’t trust them,” Mr. Jaksic said, noting that he was too afraid to set foot in Pristina and had no Albanian friends. “If Kosovo laws are our laws, then my future grandchildren will be citizens of a state I don’t recognize, and I cannot accept that.”
Elsewhere in Kosovo, resistance to the deal is also strong, and the Kosovo opposition movement Vetevendosje — “self-determination” in Albanian — said it planned mass demonstrations to show its discontent.
Glauk Konjufca, a senior member of Vetevendosje who is also in the Kosovo Parliament, said the agreement threatened to create a de facto state within a state. He argued that giving further autonomy to Kosovo’s Serbs would effectively transform Kosovo into “another Bosnia,” where lingering ethnic nationalism has paralyzed the country’s progress.
Yet for all the griping on both sides, some here are also optimistic that the agreement could end the north’s isolation. European Union officials say that eliminating parallel judicial structures for Albanians and Serbs will also help alleviate a security vacuum that is being exploited by criminals.
Above all, supporters of the deal, like Rada Trajkovic, a Serbian doctor who is one of a small number of Serbs in the Kosovo Parliament, said she hoped it would overcome the ethnic divide. Her clinic in a Serbian enclave in southern Kosovo spills over with Albanian and Serb patients who mingle comfortably. She speaks Serbian in the Parliament.
“My hope is that people can start living a normal life,” she said. In the meantime, she added, she does not venture into Mitrovica at night to avoid being harassed by hard-liners.
Thousands march through Moscow against Pig Putin
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 13:46 EDT
Several thousand people marched through Moscow on Wednesday to support detained or jailed anti-Kremlin protesters, a day after President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of supporting a protest movement against him.
Led by anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, the protest dubbed the “March Against Butchers” was aimed at supporting twelve activists accused of violence at an opposition rally last year as well as jailed activists.
“One, two, three, Putin leave!” and “Russia without Putin”, chanted the protesters as they marched through central Moscow carrying anti-Putin banners and flags of all hues.
Some wits chanted “Lyudmila without Putin,” in reference to Putin’s stunning announcement that he was divorcing his wife Lyudmila of 30 years.
Some 7,000 to 10,000 people participated in the march, according to AFP correspondents, while police put the turnout at 5,000 people.
Navalny joined other prominent Russians like Mikhail Kasyanov, the former prime minister turned opposition leader, and poet Dmitry Bykov who rubbed shoulders with liberal and leftist activists amid a heavy police presence.
Anastasia Yuriyeva, a 21-year-old student, said she joined the march to demand freedom for the twelve accused of violence at the rally on the eve of Putin’s inauguration for a third term last May.
“They are behind bars without any reason,” she said. Ten are in jail, while the 11th is under house arrest and the 12th is under oath not to leave the country.
Yury Kosmynin, a manager, said he wanted Russia to be a democratic country. “Putin should have been fired a long time ago,” he said. “His place is in prison.”
Some at the march held pictures of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who has been behind bars since 2003 after he fell foul of the Kremlin for his support of the opposition.
Others called on the authorities to free two members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band who are serving two-year sentences for an anti-Putin stunt in a Moscow church.
“Putin is a shame for the country” and “Down with the presidential autocracy” read some of the banners.
The opposition has been struggling to sustain the momentum of the protest movement in the face of a tough crackdown on dissenters unleashed after Putin returned for a third presidential term last May despite huge protests against his 13-year rule.
The march, timed to coincide with the Day of Russia, a national holiday, comes after Putin on Tuesday evening accused Washington of supporting the opposition against him.
“Our diplomatic services do not actively cooperate with Occupy Wall Street, but your diplomatic service actively cooperates and directly supports (Russian opposition),” Putin told Western and Russian staff of the English-language state-funded television channel RT.
“In my view, this is wrong because diplomatic services should be building relations between states and not get involved in domestic affairs.”
Putin has earlier accused the State Department of financing the protest movement against him, acidly saying it was “money thrown to the wind.”
Two dozen people face jail over their involvement in last year’s rally in a criminal probe activists have condemned as a throwback to the Stalin era.
Navalny himself faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of embezzling half a million dollars in a timber deal.
Critics say the trials of the opposition activists are part of an unprecedented clampdown which has also seen a string of tough laws fast-tracked through parliament over the past few months.
On Tuesday, the State Duma lower house passed two controversial bills that impose jail terms for people promoting homosexual “propaganda” to minors and those who offend religious believers.
World Briefing | Europe
New Party Picks Pig Putin as Leader
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: June 12, 2013
The All-Russian People’s Front, a political group, chose President Vladimir V. Putin as its leader on Thursday at its founding convention. The group, created two years ago in preparation for national parliamentary and presidential elections, is seen as a potential replacement for United Russia, the party that controls Parliament but is increasingly unpopular with the public. Mr. Putin, speaking at the event in downtown Moscow, said the All-Russian People’s Front would operate above politics. The anticorruption blogger Aleksei A. Navalny branded United Russia as “the party of swindlers and thieves” — a moniker that has stuck.
06/12/2013 05:13 PM
Turkey's Gamble: Crackdown Threatens EU Accession Talks
By Carsten Volkery and Severin Weiland
The crackdown against protesters in Istanbul by the Turkish government creates a dilemma for the EU. The Europeans don't want to tolerate violence against demonstrators, but they also don't want to lose Erdogan as a partner.
Once again, images of violence in Istanbul have been broadcast to living rooms across Europe. They showed Turkish police advancing on Taksim Square during the night with bulldozers and water cannons. For hours, officers in riot gear engaged in street fighting with protesters. On Wednesday morning, the remnants of those clashes could be seen on the cleared square.
The drastic measures taken by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have created a dilemma for Turkey's partners in the European Union. Since the escalation of the civil protests at Gezi Park at the end of May, the Europeans have been helplessly observing as events unfold. Besides an appeal or warning here and there, so far there has been no substantial reaction from Brussels, Berlin, Paris or London.
They are worried that the violent excesses in Turkey could destroy progress made in recent months. After years of stalling, diplomats had worked painstakingly to get talks over Turkey's future European Union accession back on track. On June 26, EU foreign ministers had hoped to open a new chapter in accession talks with Turkey for the first time in three years. It would be the 19th of 35 chapters that must be completed before Ankara can join the European club.
Prospects for Talks Dim
The massive police deployment is being monitored very closely in EU capitals, including Berlin. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described the images from Istanbul as "unsettling." He also urged Erdogan to de-escalate the situation "in the spirit of European values" and seek a "constructive exchange and peaceful dialogue." Until now, Westerwelle's position had been to open a new chapter in EU negotiations with Turkey as soon as possible. In May, he had said that a "new impetus" was needed and offered the prospect of fresh talks in the near future.
But the prevailing mood in Berlin at the moment is reserved, and the television images have raised questions about whether things can move forward. "In light of the many open questions, there are considerable doubts over whether it will soon be possible to open another accession chapter," a source at the German Foreign Ministry told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The source also explicitly stated that this "probably won't be possible." The words serve as a clear warning to the government in Ankara from the Foreign Ministry.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Visits Protesters
In member countries' parliaments and the European Parliament, the chorus of voices demanding that accession talks be suspended is growing. A decision by the foreign ministers to open a chapter on regional policies on June 26 could even be delayed, EU sources in Brussels said, expressing their disappointment. Turkey has been engaged in accession negotiations with the EU since 2005, but so far only one chapter has been closed -- that of science and research.
Over the weekend, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warned there is a connection between how members of the opposition are treated in Turkey and the country's accession negotiations. And, last Thursday and Friday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle traveled to Turkey to get an overview of the situation himself. He visited protesters at night at Taksim Square and left with the impression that normal people were peacefully exercising their freedom of assembly. In a public speech given in Erdogan's presence the next day, he said those responsible for the violence should be held accountable. The Turkish prime minister responded by saying it was he who would decide what was in Turkey's best interests.
EU Has Few Means for Applying Pressure
For the EU, the situation presents a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, officials don't want to watch silently as violence is inflicted upon peaceful protesters. All the same, they don't want to lose Ergodan as a partner. "There have been many reforms recently in Turkey," European Commission sources say. "It wouldn't be good to discontinue negotiations." The hope in Brussels is that Erdogan will start a face-saving retreat in the coming days. The fact that he plans to meet with protest leaders on Wednesday is already being perceived as a positive sign.
In Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the parliamentary leader of the opposition center-left Social Democratic Party, holds a similar view. He argued in an interview with the newsweekly Focus that accession negotiations should not be linked to daily politics, but the big picture.
But Erdogan is putting his partners to the test. The British government, traditionally the most outspoken supporter of Turkish EU membership, is very concerned that he may create irreparable damage. "The more Erdogan acts like a Putin light, the more difficult it will be to promote EU membership for Turkey," said Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a London-based think tank.
Grant points out that Turkey's EU partners also have no real means with which to pressure Erdogan to reason, however. "The threat to suspend membership talks is an empty threat," Grant said. "Erdogan won't mind. He has other priorities."
June 12, 2013
Turkish Leader Offers Referendum on Park at Center of Protests
By SEBNEM ARSU and CEYLAN YEGINSU
ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered on Wednesday to hold a referendum to decide the fate of the park in central Istanbul that has become the locus of protests against his government and presented him with the most serious challenge he has faced in his decade in power.
But even as Mr. Erdogan seemed to indicate an attempt at compromise with the referendum offer, he coupled it with tougher language, saying that he ordered his interior minister on Wednesday to end all antigovernment protests within 24 hours.
The referendum was proposed after Mr. Erdogan met with a group of protesters in Ankara, the capital. It was the latest move in a seemingly confused strategy by the prime minister to resolve the crisis over Gezi Park in Taksim Square, with measures that included blaming a roster of supposed scapegoats, including the international news media, foreign financial interests and terrorists.
As Mr. Erdogan’s beleaguered government made its latest offer, thousands of protesters returned to the square after the riot police dispersed crowds Tuesday night and Wednesday morning with tear gas and water cannons.
In Gezi Park, which protesters are campaigning to save in the face of government plans to raze it and build a mall designed like an Ottoman-era army barracks, protesters on Wednesday night were girding for a police raid that they expected to come either overnight or Thursday morning. Many were skeptical of the government’s plan to hold a referendum, and some said it was not a suitable solution.
“They first tell us to go home, and then they present the idea of the referendum?” asked Bora Ekrem, 24, a student. “How can we trust them? If they were sincere about a vote, they would not ask us to leave the park. We will not leave until they declare the park is ours.”
The referendum was also seen as an attempt by the government to confine the antigovernment protests to the debate about the park, when the park controversy was in fact the catalyst for a broader outburst of civil unrest against what many Turks see as the increasing authoritarianism of Mr. Erdogan and his governing Justice and Development Party.
“A referendum would be a step forward, and I think we could win,” said another protester, Zeynep Pinto, 28, an interior designer. “But we want more than the park now. We want change.”
Experts criticized the idea of taking to a referendum what is essentially an urban planning decision that should be made by local representatives and not dictated by the prime minister, as such issues often are in Turkey. A court decision has temporarily halted construction at the park.
“A referendum is not a healthy and democratic solution in making decisions in planning urban spaces,” said Pelin Tan, an assistant professor of urban sociology at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.
At a meeting in Ankara with representatives of the Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen, Mr. Erdogan dismissed international criticism of his handling of the protests and claimed that Turkish intelligence knew three months ago about local and foreign efforts to inflict chaos in Turkey, according to a confederation official who attended the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“There are people who claim this is the Turkish Spring, but what they do not see is that Turkey has been living through its spring since 2002,” said Mr. Erdogan, referring to the year his political party won a majority of seats in Parliament.
“By tomorrow at the latest, the Gezi Park incident will end,” he continued. “This is a public park, not an area of occupation.”
After the meeting with the union, Mr. Erdogan met separately with a group of 11 people, including academics, artists and students, in Ankara. Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of protest organizers that had been excluded, said the meeting with the smaller group was an effort to mislead the Turkish public and would not produce anything while violence by the police continued. The group was also critical of the proposed referendum.
“There are 80-year-old trees in there, it is a public space, and there is an ongoing case in which the court has halted the project,” said Mucella Yapici, the spokeswoman for Taksim Solidarity.
On Wednesday, the Bianet news Web site said that Ethem Sarisuluk, a protester who was reportedly shot in the head by a plastic bullet on June 1, was brain-dead. Two other protesters and a police officer have been killed, while nearly 5,000 people have been injured in protests around the country.
Thousands of black-robed lawyers left courthouses around the country on Wednesday to protest the behavior of the police and the detention of several lawyers on Tuesday who had supported the protests.
“We are walking for social freedoms, human rights and the unlawful detention of our colleagues,” said Sevda Kurtulus, 29, as she marched with other lawyers down Istiklal Avenue toward Taksim Square Wednesday evening. “This was the last straw for us, and now we will all stand strong with Taksim.”
Speaking in Paris on Wednesday, Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s chief negotiator with the European Union, said protesters in Taksim Square had a democratic right to protest. But he said that terrorists had infiltrated the square and that Turkey had a right to defend itself from violence and provocation.
“Those who resort to violence will be dealt with like they are in all democratic societies,” Mr. Bagis said, contending that the situation was analogous to allowing Al Qaeda to put banners or posters on the Statue of Liberty or in Times Square. The statement referred to the many banners of leftist groups and some bearing the face of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the Kurdish separatist group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, that flew in Taksim Square before it was raided by the police on Tuesday.
Asked how Mr. Erdogan could support democracy movements in Egypt and Syria, yet appear to be resorting to the kind of language used by some dictators, Mr. Bagis said such comparisons were baseless.
“After the first night of demonstrations, people in Western media said the Turkish Spring had started,” he said. “I highly condemn that approach. Comparing what is happening in Turkey to Arab Spring is out of sight, out of logic. Turkey is a democracy. There is a campaign to tarnish a democratically elected government.”
Tim Arango contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Dan Bilefsky from Paris.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 13, 2013
An earlier version of this article described incorrectly the Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen. It is an umbrella group for tradesmen and artisans, not a labor union.
June 13, 2013
A Potential Casualty of Turkey’s Crackdown: European Union Membership
By DAN BILEFSKY
PARIS — After three years of stalled talks on Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, the planned relaunching of negotiations at the end of June was meant to herald a new beginning in their often fraught relationship.
Now, influential ministers from Germany and France and European analysts are warning that the bloody crackdown in Taksim Square threatens to undermine frayed relations while reinforcing doubts that Turkey has the democratic credentials to join the club.
The violent mayhem Tuesday night as rioters clashed with the police in Taksim Square marked an apex in the worst crisis to buffet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey since he came to power 10 years ago. The clampdown on the protesters has undermined Turkish attempts to cultivate an international image as a predominantly Muslim country that cleaves to secular European ideals and can serve as a model for the region.
The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, called the images from the square disturbing on Wednesday and said the Turkish government’s reaction to the crisis was sending the wrong signal at home and abroad.
“We expect Prime Minister Erdogan to de-escalate the situation, in the spirit of European values, and to seek a constructive exchange and peaceful dialogue,” he said in a statement.
The French E.U. affairs minister, Thierry Repentin, has been even more emphatic. He told the French Senate last Thursday that police repression in Turkey had gone too far and warned that the country’s behavior threatened to jeopardize plans to restart the accession talks, which both France and Germany — long skeptics about Turkey’s admission to the Union — have lately been supporting.
“No democracy can be built on the repression of people who try to express themselves in the street,” Mr. Repentin said. “The right to protest, to oppose the government, must be respected.”
In Paris on Wednesday, Turkey’s chief E.U. negotiator, Egemen Bagis, said there were “sincere” protesters in Taksim Square who had a democratic right to protest. But he insisted that terrorists and unspecified foreign forces were the real impetus behind the anti-government actions and that Turkey had a right to defend itself from violence and provocation.
“Those who resort to violence will be dealt with like they are in all democratic societies,” he said, arguing that allowing the situation in Taksim Square to persist would be analogous to allowing Al Qaeda to post banners or posters on the Statue of Liberty or in Times Square in New York.
The demonstrations began over a plan to replace the last green space in the center of the city, Gezi Park in Taksim Square, with a mall designed like an Ottoman-era barracks. But when the police intervened to clear the park, the move emboldened protesters to air more general grievances against what they see as Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarianism.
Mr. Bagis said police behavior in dealing with the protesters was being investigated. He also stressed that the events in Taksim Square served as a reminder to Europe that opening its arms to Turkey — rather than blocking it — would help the country to ensure that E.U. norms, including individual human rights, were respected. “I think this should be seen as an opportunity,” he said.
Asked to explain why Mr. Erdogan has been an ardent supporter of democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, yet resorted to a tough stance with at least rhetorical echoes of dictators like the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, Mr. Bagis said that such analogies were baseless and any attempt to label Mr. Erdogan authoritarian was “slander.”
The protests, he stressed, were not a Turkish Spring, and Mr. Erdogan, unlike Mr. Assad, is a popular leader who had been democratically elected three times. If elections were held today, he added, the prime minister would easily win 60 percent of the vote.
“After the first night of demonstrations, people in the Western media said the Turkish Spring had started,” he said. “I highly condemn that approach. Comparing what is happening in Turkey to the Arab Spring is out of sight, out of logic. Turkey is a democracy. There is a campaign to tarnish a democratically elected government.”
Analysts noted that a growing rift between Turkey and Europe would only accelerate a shift by Ankara toward the Middle East that gained force as the euro crisis made the European Union increasingly unattractive to many Turks and as the leadership sought new regional clout in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, said the protests in Istanbul had laid bare the extent to which a distracted European Union had lost leverage to influence Mr. Erdogan’s behavior. “The E.U. has lost so much leverage in Turkey,” he said. “The only way forward is to use carrots — not sticks.
“If the E.U. had been a more visible and engaged player, the Erdogan government’s actions would have been different.”
Mr. Bagis, for his part, warned that those who sought to destabilize Turkey and undermine its economic progress would be disappointed. In due course, he said, Mr. Erdogan would expose those who had been plotting against Turkey. “I have bad news for them,” Mr. Bagis said. “They will not be able to stop us.”
06/13/2013 01:07 PMPrism Revelation: EU Weakened Data Protection at US Request
Top European officials are demanding more information about the controversial US Internet surveillance program known as Prism. But new information has revealed that the EU weakened privacy regulations in early 2012 following intense US lobbying.
Earlier this week, European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding vented her fury over the US data spying program known as Prism. The far-reaching online surveillance operation, which saw the US National Security Agency spying on users across the globe, clearly demonstrates "that a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury, but is a fundamental right," Reding told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Tuesday.
Just two days later, however, it would seem that Reding was perhaps protesting a bit too much. According to both the Financial Times and Reuters, the European Commission bowed to US lobbying in early 2012 and scrapped a data protection measure that would have significantly reduced the NSA's ability to spy on Europeans.
According to the Financial Times report, which cites EU documents and unnamed EU officials, the measure was specifically designed to ward off US efforts to eavesdrop on international phone calls and emails. It was even called the "anti-FISA clause," a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Washington, however, launched a significant lobbying effort to get the Commission to remove the clause -- which it then did, partly in order to smooth the way ahead of talks on the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement. "We didn't want any complications on this front," an EU official told the Financial Times.
The revelations come as Germany in particular continues to voice outrage at the breadth of the US Prism spying program. Earlier this week, German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wrote in a contribution for SPIEGEL ONLINE that security does not justify such surveillance and that "all facts must be put on the table." She has also reportedly sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder asked for an explanation of the "legal foundation for this program and its applications," according to excerpts published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.
Problem for Free Trade Agreement?
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert added that Prism would definitely be on the agenda when US President Barack Obama visits Berlin next week. Obama is likewise almost certain to be grilled by journalists in the German capital at a joint press conference he plans to hold with Merkel.
In addition, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild Zeitung reported on Thursday that the German Interior Ministry has sent a list of questions to the US Embassy demanding to know whether German citizens were spied on as part of the Prism program and whether data from German companies headquartered in Germany was accessed.
Reding was opposed to the Commission scrapping the data protection measure in early 2012 and has made data protection a focus of her term in office. This week, she too has demanded more information on the program from Washington. According to a Wednesday report from Reuters, the justice commissioner sent a letter to US Attorney General Holder in which she writes: "I would request that you provide me with explanations and clarifications on the Prism program, other US programs involving data collection and search, and laws under which such programs may be authorized."
Ironically, it is the EU's discarded data protection measure -- and the resulting Prism scandal -- that could now hinder negotiations over the trans-Atlantic trade agreement. With formal talks sent to kick off next month, the EU is considering adding data protection to the list of talking points. European companies are concerned that without adequate protection measures, technologies such as cloud computing -- because most of the servers are in the US -- will not take off in Europe out of concern that Washington will have easy access to that information. "The storage of the data in the foreign servers and related uncertainty constitutes a real impediment," an unnamed Commission official told Reuters.
06/10/2013 06:47 PMPrism Exposed: Data Surveillance with Global Implications
By Marcel Rosenbach, Holger Stark and Jonathan Stock
The American intelligence director and the White House have finally confirmed what insiders have long known: The Obama administration is spying on the entire world. Politicians in Germany are demanding answers.
South of Utah's Great Salt Lake, the National Security Agency (NSA), a United States foreign intelligence service, keeps watch over one of its most expensive secrets. Here, on 100,000 square meters (1,100,000 square feet) near the US military's Camp Williams, the NSA is constructing enormous buildings to house superfast computers. All together, the project will cost around $2 billion (€1.5 billion) and the computers will be capable of storing a gigantic volume of data, at least 5 billion gigabytes. The energy needed to power the cooling system for the servers alone will cost $40 million a year.
Former NSA employees Thomas Drake and Bill Binney told SPIEGEL in March that the facility would soon store personal data on people from all over the world and keep it for decades. This includes emails, Skype conversations, Google searches, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, bank transfers -- electronic data of every kind.
"They have everything about you in Utah," Drake says. "Who decides whether they look at that data? Who decides what they do with it?" Binney, a mathematician who was previously an influential analyst at the NSA, calculates that the servers are large enough to store the entirety of humanity's electronic communications for the next 100 years -- and that, of course, gives his former colleagues plenty of opportunity to read along and listen in.
James Clapper, the country's director of national intelligence, has confirmed the existence of a large-scale surveillance program. President Barack Obama further explained that Congress authorized the program -- but that American citizens are exempt from it.
A top-secret document published last week by the Washington Post and Britain's Guardian shows where the NSA may be getting the majority of its data. According to the document, which was allegedly leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden, the intelligence agency began seeking out direct access to servers belonging to American Internet companies on a wide scale in 2007. The first of these companies to come onboard was Microsoft. Yahoo followed half a year later, then Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype and AOL. The most recent company to declare its willingness to cooperate was Apple, in October 2012, according to the secret government document, which proudly states that this access to data is achieved "directly from the servers" of the companies.
The companies in question denied that claim on Friday. But if what the document says is true, the NSA has the potential to know what every person in the world who uses these companies' services is doing, and that presumably includes millions of Germans.
'Total Surveillance of Germans is Inappropriate'
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed through a spokesman that she plans to discuss the NSA's controversial data surveillance program with President Obama during his visit to Berlin next week. A spokesperson for the German Justice Ministry also said that talks are currently underway with US authorities. The discussions will include implications to Germany and "possible impairment of the rights of German citizens."
German Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner has called for "clear answers" from the companies implicated in the document, and the German Green Party has demanded that the government investigate the circumstances of Prism immediately.
"Total surveillance of all German citizens by the NSA is completely disproportionate," Volker Beck, secretary of the Green Party group in parliament, said on Monday. The party has proposed that the topic be discussed at next week's parliamentary session.
Mormon Roots, International Reach
The program's Utah compound is full of security fences, watchdogs and surveillance cameras, as well as biometric identification system equipment. Two informants say the location for the server facility was by no means an accident. Utah is home to the largest number of Mormons in the world. This highly patriotic religious community sends its young members around the world as missionaries -- and many are then recruited by the Utah Army National Guard, whose 300th Military Intelligence Brigade employs 1,600 linguists. The NSA has access to these linguists at all times, and one insider believes they are used in "analyzing international telecommunications."
In the secret document, the NSA's surveillance program is referred to by the name "Prism." A prism is also the shape that reflects light in fiber optic cables -- the same cables that form the backbone of the world's Internet traffic. The document, which was authored for an internal NSA presentation, shows that even data streams traveling from Europe to Asia, the Pacific region or South America often pass through servers in the US. "A target's phone call, email or chat will take the cheapest path, not the physically most direct path," the document reads.
The Bush administration legalized this new dimension to government snooping, but it was the Obama administration that renewed the law in question in December 2012. The law permits, for example, the surveillance of all Google users not living in the US, as well as communications between American citizens and people in other countries.
Broadened Legal Basis for Spying
The document also shows that with programs such as Prism, the NSA is reinterpreting the legal basis for its actions on one crucial point. For decades, intelligence services required an order from a special court with precise specifications on their suspect if they wanted to monitor an email account, for example. Now, it's enough if the NSA has reasonable evidence that a subject is either living abroad or communicating with someone who lives outside the US. This expands the circle of potential suspects, lowers bureaucratic hurdles and reduces democratic checks and balances, making it even easier and faster to gather data on even more people.
The NSA's data collection powers extend far beyond American Internet servers. The agency also conducts reconnaissance around the globe, for example with satellites. It has also installed high-performance antennae in various countries to pick up mobile phone communications. Never before has a government collected data on such a large scale.
The NSA is a useful partner for German authorities. The director of the NSA, four-star General Keith Alexander, regularly receives delegations from Germany at his headquarters at Fort Meade. These meetings are generally constructive, in part because the pecking order is clear: The NSA nearly always knows much more, while the Germans act as assistants. Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, conducts various secret operations in tandem with the NSA, most of them concerning large-scale data collection. German authorities have also helped the American security agency with a number of activities, especially in regions in crisis.
For its part, the NSA regularly shares with Germany's security agencies the leads it has on suspects. A 2007 bomb plot by an Islamist terror cell in Germany, the so-called Sauerland group, was discovered because of emails and telephone conversations that the NSA monitored and passed along to its German counterparts.
According to former NSA employee Binney, American programs have also been used in Germany, although a former high-ranking security official in the country says German authorities were not involved in the Prism program.
It is now clear that what experts suspected for years is in fact true -- that the NSA monitors every form of electronic communication around the globe. This fact raises an important question: How can an intelligence agency, even one as large and well-staffed as the NSA with its 40,000 employees, work meaningfully with such a flood of information?
The answer to this question is part of a phenomenon that is currently a major topic for the business community as well and goes by the name "Big Data." Thanks to new database technologies, it is now possible to connect entirely disparate forms of data and analyze them automatically.
A rare glimpse into what intelligence services can do by applying this "big data" approach came last year from David Petraeus. This new form of data analysis is concerned with discovering "non-obvious relationships," the then freshly minted CIA director explained at a conference. This includes, for example "finding connections between a purchase here, a phone call there, a grainy video, customs and immigration information."
The goal, according to Petraeus, is for big data to "lead to automated discovery, rather than depending on the right analyst asking the right question." Algorithms pick out connections automatically from the unstructured sea of data they trawl. "The CIA and our intelligence community partners must be able to swim in the ocean of 'Big Data.' Indeed, we must be world class swimmers -- the best, in fact," the CIA director continued.
The Surveillance State
The value of big data analysis for US intelligence agencies can be seen in the amount the NSA and CIA are investing in it. Not only does this include multimillion-dollar contracts with providers specializing in data mining services, but the CIA also invests directly, through its subsidiary company In-Q-Tel, in several big data start-ups.
It's about rendering people and their behavior predictable. The NSA's research projects aim to forecast, on the basis of telephone data and Twitter and Facebook posts, when uprisings, social protests and other events will occur. The agency is also researching new methods of analysis for surveillance videos with the hopes of recognizing conspicuous behavior before an attack is committed.
Gus Hunt, the CIA's chief technology officer, made a forthright admission in March: "We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever." What he meant by "everything," Hunt also made clear: "It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human-generated information," he said.
That statement is difficult to reconcile with the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy. This is probably why Hunt added, almost apologetically: "Technology in this world is moving faster than government or law can keep up."
Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein
*************Data protection: No privacy without whistleblowers
13 June 2013
The Guardian London
The Prism scandal has revealed that the NSA acting in complicity with private corporations has been given free reign to trample people’s right to privacy, even in Europe. With democratic institutions failing to protect us, only whistleblowers are left to hold the spies to account.
Nothing to worry the "law-abiding", American and British politicians have assured us, in the wake of the revelations of mushrooming mass US surveillance of phone, email and internet traffic. The electronic harvesting is in fact "very narrowly circumscribed", Barack Obama insisted. The behaviour of Britain's intelligence services was, David Cameron declared, entirely "proper and fitting".
In fact, courtesy of the whistleblower Edward Snowden, we now know the US National Security Agency is collecting 200 billion pieces of intelligence a month, hoovering up the mobile records of more than 200 million Americans and helping itself to a vast quantity of emails, web searches and live chats from the world's largest internet companies via a program called Prism.
Naturally, the NSA has been sharing some of its spying catches about UK citizens with its friends at GCHQ(the General communications headquarters), sparing the British authorities the tiresome need to arrange a warrant. But it was still authorised, the foreign secretary told parliament, apparently by himself. So nothing to fear there either.
Rampant blanket surveillance
Such rampant blanket surveillance of course makes a mockery of the right to privacy – guaranteed by the US constitution's fourth amendment – and that has been the focus of debate since the Guardian began publishing the leaks. However law-abiding a citizen, the dangers of manipulated phone or web "metadata" wrongly branding someone are legion and well-documented. And while interception of letters is an ancient intelligence practice, Prism is the equivalent of all letters being opened, copied and stored – in case they might be incriminating at a later date.
But this is as much about power as it is about privacy. Surveillance and intelligence are tools of control, at home and abroad. The history of their abuse by the US and British governments is voluminous, both in subverting and overthrowing foreign governments, from Iran to Chile, or in attacking civil rights at home, during the cold war and since 9/11.
Privacy protection: ‘Trans-Atlantic relations are not the best’
"The subject of discussion for the next trans-Atlantic meeting on security on Friday, June 14, in Dublin, is obvious," writes Swiss daily Le Temps. It is the protection of personal privacy and data sharing with the United States. Le Temps adds that –
EU Commissioners Cecilia Malmström (Home Affairs) and Viviane Reding (Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship) will demand information on the data mining of personal information of European citizens illegally collected by various United States public and private services. The [revelations(3868671) made at the end of last week sparked chaos and anger on the Old Continent, where personal privacy is considered a fundamental right. [...]
It must be said that trans-Atlantic relations regarding access to data are not the best. After September 11, the EU did as much as it could to resist Washington's demands for access to a range of information (bank accounts, travel details, family ties) in the name of the fight against terror. [...] Brussels has continuously adapted its legislation to insure the protection of data of its citizens. In this context, a controversial draft rule was delayed indefinitely because of a lack of consensus among the home affairs ministers, at a meeting last week in Luxemburg. [...] For the Commission, this was to ensure Europeans the "freedom to be forgotten" that guarantees the respect of their privacy.
**********Edward Snowden vows not to 'hide from justice' amid new hacking claims
NSA whistleblower says he is not in Hong Kong to 'hide from justice' and alleges US hacked hundreds of targets in China
Ewen MacAskill in Hong Kong and Tania Branigan in Beijing
The Guardian, Wednesday 12 June 2013 23.30 BST
The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden vowed on Wednesday to fight any move by the US to have him extradited from Hong Kong, saying he was not there to "hide from justice" and would put his trust in its legal system.
In his first comments since revealing his identity in the Guardian at the weekend, Snowden also claimed that the US had been hacking Hong Kong and China since 2009, and accused the US of bullying the territory to return him because it did not want local authorities to learn of its cyber activities.
As a debate raged over whether Snowden should be praised or prosecuted for his actions, he told the South China Morning Post: "I'm neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American."
Snowden claimed that the US had hacked hundreds of targets in Hong Kong – including public officials, a university, businesses and students in the city – and on the mainland. These were part of more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, he alleged.
"We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one," he said.
The Post said it had seen a document that, Snowden alleged, supported his claims. The Post said it had not verified the document, and did not immediately publish it.
Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate "the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries".
A senior Chinese official said last week he had "mountains of data" on cyber-attacks from the US, after Washington turned up the pressure over hacking by China.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department in Washington, said it was not aware of the hacking claims and could not comment directly, but she rejected the idea that such an incident would represent double standards given recent US criticism of Chinese cyber attacks.
"There is a difference between going after economic data and the issues of surveillance that the president has addressed which are about trying to stop people doing us harm," she said.
Link to video: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things'http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video
Snowden, 29, was a computer technical assistant working for Booz Allen Hamilton, on contract to the National Security Agency (NSA). He left his job and home in Hawaii in May, set up camp in Hong Kong and provided the Guardian with top-secret documents that led to a series of revelations about the extent of US surveillance last week. For three weeks, he stayed in a hotel in the Kowloon district. But after identifying himself as the whistleblower in a video posted by the Guardian on Sunday, he felt he needed to move to a more secure location, and checked out on Monday.
Hong Kong appeared a strange choice for Snowdon, as it has a surrender treaty with the US and leans towards co-operating with US requests. But in his hour-long interview, Snowden told the South China Morning Post: "People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice. I am here to reveal criminality."
He added: "My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have been given no reason to doubt your system."
Although China has had sovereignty over Hong Kong since 1997, the territory retains a separate legal system and tradition of free speech. Beijing normally does not become involved in surrender hearings – technically not extradition, as Hong Kong is not a sovereign state – but could make an exception given the high-profile nature of this case.
Even some human rights groups have questioned why he chose Hong Kong, given its control by China. But Snowden added: "I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong's rule of law."
The Hong Kong government has made no comment yet about the case. The chief executive of the Hong Kong government, Leung Chun-ying, on a visit to New York, repeatedly refused to comment on the case in a Bloomberg Television interview.
Snowden may have opted to give the interview to the Post to help build up a case for his being allowed to remain in Hong Kong, where opinion is divided between those expressing support and those who would like him to leave. He is turning into a cause célèbre, with a demonstration in support of him planned for Saturday.
It would be difficult for the Hong Kong police to arrest him until such time as the US makes a request for his return, since he has committed no crime in the city. In theory, he could attempt to fly out of the city, but it is likely he would be prevented from boarding the plane.
Similarly, if he were to attempt to move to mainland China, it is likely he would be stopped at the border. In any case, Snowden told the Post that he planned to stay in Hong Kong until he was asked to leave.
In Washington, an outspoken Republican congressman, Peter King, called for the arrest of the Guardian columnist who led the reporting on the NSA leaks, Glenn Greenwald. King told Fox News that Greenwald's stories were "putting American lives at risk and clearly done to hurt Americans". In a statement, the Guardian said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the comments.
In a separate development, the British foreign secretary, William Hague rejected suggestions that US surveillance programs were being used by UK authorities to avoid local privacy laws and spy on British citizens. On a visit to Washington where he met the secretary of state, John Kerry, he said: "No two countries in the world work more closely to protect the privacy of their citizens than the United Kingdom and the United States."
Kerry said they both understood the "very delicate but vital balance between privacy and the protection of people in our country".
Additional reporting by Dan Roberts in Washington
06/13/2013 10:47 AM
End of Cheap Money: Can the World Handle Higher Interest Rates?
By Martin Hesse, Anne Seith and Wieland Wagner
For the last five years, the world's leading central banks have been combatting the crisis with extremely low interest rates and vast bond purchases. Now the American Fed is breaking ranks, as it cautiously suggests a change in its policy -- sending the markets into turmoil.
Fuchinobe doesn't look like the kind of place where speculators have struck it rich. The commuter rail station near the Japanese capital of Tokyo is surrounded by drab apartment buildings and small single-family homes. But the neighborhood is also home to Yuka Yamamoto, 44, a star among Japan's so-called shufu toshika, or "housewife investors."
Yamamoto, a chemical laboratory worker by profession, has written about 40 books with investment tips for housewives. She makes television appearances and recently explained what she thinks about the boom that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan chief Haruhiko Kuroda have fueled with their relaxed monetary policy known as "Abenomics."
"I think Abenomics is great," says Yamamoto. The woman, wearing a white blouse and blue lacquered shoes, is pleased with herself. She said that she sold a large portion of her shares weeks ago and that she rode out the most recent mini-crash on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. After climbing by more than 80 percent since the end of November, the Nikkei index dropped more sharply in late May than it had since the 2008 Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. The wild swings have continued in June, with the Nikkei plunging 6 percent on Thursday.
Investors have also been shocked at the speed at which prices have risen and then collapsed on markets in Europe and North America recently.
The rapid changes were triggered by a man they sometimes call "Helicopter Ben" in the financial markets because he once flirted with the idea of throwing money out of a helicopter to fight the crisis. While the Bank of Japan has just announced that it intends to pump even more money into the system, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to slowly wean the economy off the cheap money that has intoxicated investors for years. That, at least, is what many investors believe. And because activity in the markets is based primarily on expectations, stock and bond prices have fallen recently, while long-term interest rates have gone up, even though none of the major central banks has made any changes to their current, ultra-low prime lending rates. The monetary watchdogs are also continuing to buy government bonds and other securities in a big way.
No More Cash Infusions?
But investors are worried about withdrawal. They wonder whether the economies in the United States, Europe and Japan are robust enough to manage without cash infusions, or even with a somewhat reduced dosage.
When the financial crisis escalated in 2008, the Fed, the European Central Bank and other central banks began their cash therapy. Almost in lockstep, they reduced prime rates to close to zero and began buying up bonds on a large scale. To this day, the leading central banks have inflated their balance sheets with such practices to $10 trillion (€7.5 trillion).
But now something is changing. "For the first time, it looks as though one country, namely the United States, is leaving the crisis behind," says Ulrich Kater, chief economist at DekaBank. "And, also for the first time, a central bank, the Fed, is showing that it is thinking about normalization."
But will it also transform the thought into action? Can it even do that without the financial markets going haywire? So far, only the US economy has stabilized to a sufficient extent that a shift in monetary policy seems conceivable. And even there, the recovery is based on cheap Fed money and could collapse if deprived of this foundation.
'A Dead-End Street at Full Speed'
Even if the experiment works in the United States, a shift in Fed policy would also bring about consequences in Europe and Asia -- for banks, governments, investors and depositors. There, too, prices could fall and yields could rise. Crisis-ridden countries could once more run into problems securing financing, and banks could be burdened with new write-offs.
"The central banks have driven into a dead-end street at full speed. They can't turn around. All they can do is slowly apply the brakes," Jochen Felsenheimer says in his assessment of the situation. The Munich native is managing director at investment management firm Xaia, something of a tamed hedge fund that operates in accordance with stringent German rules.
But the central bankers also cannot continue along the current trajectory. "The policy of cheap money inflates asset prices," says Felsenheimer. The later the normalization occurs, the more painful it will be.
And because Bernanke also knows that, the Fed chief began a very gentle withdrawal process in May. "In the next few meetings, we could take a step down in our pace of purchase," Bernanke told the US Congress last month.
The Fed currently spends $85 billion a month to buy US treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. This has enabled it to keep mortgage rates low and reinvigorate the real estate market. Merely a hint from Bernanke that the Fed could "take a step down" has caused 30-year mortgage rates to rise from 3.35 percent in early May to almost 4 percent recently. Rates on 10-year Treasury notes went from 1.7 to 2.1 percent. Although these numbers are still very low compared to historical rates, the development scares bankers like JPMorgan Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon, who said last week that while normalization is a good thing, it's also "going to be scary."
Bernanke is familiar with these fears, which is why he added that a restriction on bond purchases is not automatically the end of a relaxed monetary policy. It was his way of bringing calm to the markets while preparing them for harsher policies in the future.
'We Are Optimistic'
David Folkerts-Landau, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, thinks this is the right approach. "In light of the economic situation, an extremely expansive monetary policy involving securities purchases of this scope hasn't been justified in a long time," says the bank economist. "We are optimistic for the American economy and expect robust growth in the coming years."
That's why Folkerts-Landau expects the Fed to reduce its bond purchases from $85 billion to $60 billion this fall. "The Fed could also raise the prime rate in the second half of 2014." For this reason, he believes that the yield on 10-year Treasury notes could rise to 3 percent by the end of the year.
In contrast to Europe, the debts of banks, businesses and private households have declined in the United States, while government debt has increased. If interest rates went up, it would become more difficult for the government to reduce its debt. On the other hand, the American financial sector could handle a moderate rise in interest rates, says Folkerts-Landau. "There will be losses, but they will be distributed among many investors and will hardly affect banks and insurance companies. The financial system in the United States is much more stable today than it was in 2007."
Experts are more skeptical when it comes to Europe. "If the ECB stops its cash infusions, many banks in the euro periphery will be threatened with insolvency," says Jörg Rocholl, president of the European School of Management and Technology.
Banks are diligently repaying certain ECB loans, ECB President Mario Draghi stressed last week. But he also made no secret of the fact that "unconventional" measures for less favorable times are still being vigorously discussed at the ECB -- additional relief for banks that borrow short-term money from the ECB, as well as longer-term cash infusions. The ECB wants to continue its "accommodative monetary policy" for as long as necessary, Draghi explained. Indeed, the central bank has just extended its full-allotment lending policy to banks in the euro zone by at least a year.
The Japanese Model
But the Bank of Japan remains especially uninhibited as it continues to flood the markets with money. The central bank's new governor, Kuroda, is buying up more than 7 trillion yen (€54.5 billion) in government bonds each month. That's 70 percent of all new bonds.
Whether Japan will manage to emerge from its ongoing crisis thanks to Abenomics doesn't just depend on the central bank, which has already kept interest rates at close to zero since the mid-1990s without any visible success. The financial markets are waiting for reforms and have been disappointed by announcements to date.
Meanwhile, Japan's celebrity housewife Yamamoto firmly believes in the long-term success of Abenomics. And even if the United States restricts its loose monetary policy, which she expects it will do by the end of the year, it will be good for Japan. "Then the dollar will rise and the yen will fall. And that benefits Japanese export companies."
Just as Yamamoto predicts a favorable outcome for Japan, Deutsche Bank economist Folkerts-Landau argues that Europe could see similar benefits. "The euro will decline to between $1.20 and $1.25 by the end of the year, and it could even drop below $1.10 by 2015."
This could help exporters in the euro zone. But last week it was the dollar that fell, because investors still aren't quite sure when the shift in interest rates will actually happen and what its consequences will be.
This makes it difficult for investors to adapt to the changes. Munich investment manager Felsenheimer anticipates that prices will fall for all risk investments as US interest rates rise. "The markets that recently benefited the most from the glut of money will be the most strongly affected -- in other words, stocks, bonds and real estate."
According to Felsenheimer, yields on government bonds from Europe's debt-ridden countries, which have declined drastically in the last 10 months thanks to Draghi's bailout policy, will likely rise considerably again. "But investors would also pull money out of emerging economies," he says.
A sharper rise in interest rates would give risk-averse savers a reason to rejoice. Interest rates on instant-access savings accounts and fixed deposit accounts might finally go up, so that assets would no longer be consumed by inflation.
More of a Curse than a Blessing?
But for people buying real estate, rising interest rates will eventually pose a problem, because the low rates at which they have borrowed money in recent years are usually locked in for only five or 10 years. After that, the mortgages are generally renegotiated. "Many people don't realize how expensive this can get," says Dorothea Mohn of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, which for some time has cautioned against the collective real estate buying frenzy to which Germans seem to have succumbed. "Too many loans are calculated on very narrow margins," says Mohn.
Even for life insurance customers, an interest increase, depending on how drastic it is, can be more of a curse than a blessing. Insurance companies have been complaining about low interest rates for years, because it forces them to invest most of their customers' premiums in relatively safe bonds, which are hardly profitable at the moment. On the other hand, these funds are also locked in at low bond yields for years. If interest rates go up within a few months, the investment strategists for the insurance companies have few options. This means that their customers also have little to gain from a boom in interest rates, at least in the short term.
Central bankers know what years of low interest rates and all the resulting cheap money have done to the markets. But eliminating these "sweets" again is difficult, says one expert, who isn't willing to rule out a scenario like the one in 1994. At the time, the Fed's decisions on monetary policy triggered a global tremor in bond markets. Within nine months, rates on German government bonds rose from 5.7 percent to just under 8 percent.
Jaime Caruana, general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, recently outlined what is needed so that central banks can finally regain the freedom to impose tighter monetary policy without shocking the markets: "Banks, households and firms need to redouble their efforts to deleverage and to repair their balance sheets, while policymakers must redouble their efforts to enact far-reaching reforms."
Progress in this area, he added, would also enable central banks to normalize their monetary policy. But how likely is that?
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
ERT shutdown: EBU urges EU leader to overturn Greek government decision
Europe 'cannot remain indifferent', says TV body's chief as global media condemns cost-cutting move
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 June 2013 12.49 BST
The president of the European Broadcasting Union has written to the president of the European Commission urging him to use his powers to force the Greek government to reverse its controversial decision to shut down state broadcaster ERT.
Jean-Paul Philippot said Europe "cannot remain indifferent" to the latest Greek political drama as it is partly responsible, as it was the so-called "troika" – the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and European Central Bank – which demanded savage cuts to Greece's bloated public sector as part of the bail out programme.
"It is our unfortunate experience that the existence of public service broadcasting has come under systematic threat in countries which have been pressed by the European Union or the troika to make savings," said Philippot in a strongly worded letter to Jose Manuel Barosso on Thursday.
The letter comes as Greece's two biggest unions brought much of the near-bankrupt country to a standstill on Thursday during a 24-hour strike against prime minister Antonis Samaras's decision to close down ERT, which they describe as a "coup-like move … to gag unbiased information".
Philippot said the "general political support" expressed in Strasbourg on Wednesday by the commissioner for economics and monetary affairs, Ollie Rehn, for public service broadcasting "does little to resolve the deep crisis" and urged Barossa to get personally involved.
"We believe that the European Commission cannot remain indifferent and should take a clear stand to defend European values and the continuity of public services," he said.
The intervention comes as defiant TV journalists in Greece are continuing to keep ERT alive almost two days after the government announced its sudden death with the loss of 2,700 jobs.
ERT's main TV channel was cut off mid-way through a news programme late on Tuesday night, but journalists occupying the broadcaster's headquarters in Athens at first kept the service alive via the internet.
That feed has now been cut, but journalists have managed to keep going in Thessaloniki with the help of the EBU, which has taken ERT's output and is streaming the service live on its website, www.ebu.ch
, reporting that traffic has rocketed.
The EBU has already written to Samaras expressing its profound dismay at Tuesday's abrupt decision and has now sent a second letter to him urging to keep at least one channel open.
Samaras defended his decision on Wednesday claiming it was a temporary measure and that he planned to launch a new slimmed down broadcaster in August.
His decision tipped the country, still reeling from two bailouts, into a fresh crisis, prompted two general strikes on Thursday and widespread international condemnation.
Le Monde in France likened him to Romania's Ceausescu while Greek centre-left newspaper Eleftherotypia branded it "an execution to please the troika".
Several stations around Europe showed solidarity, with Arte in France broadcasting news programmes with Greek subtitles and Tele Bruxelles in Belgium changed its on-screen logo to ERT from noon to midnight on Wednesday.
Despite the growing opposition, the government defended its decision to shut down the broadcaster.
"There have been more strikes at ERT in recent months that anywhere else ... They are acting in a socially irresponsible way," Adonis Georgiadis, MP for Samaras's New Democracy party said. "We are not ending public television. We are making it better."
Why Germany is now 'Europe's biggest brothel'
Legalised prostitution, cut-price offers and a boom in sex tourism mean Germany's red light districts are thriving. But not everyone is happy with the country's liberal legislation
Wednesday 12 June 2013 17.17 BST The Guardian
With skin-tight clothes and bum bags strapped around their waists, sex workers wait by the roadside close to Hackescher Markt, one of Berlin's busiest shopping and entertainment districts. This is a familiar sight just before dark in the capital of a country that has been dubbed "Europe's biggest brothel".
The sex trade in Germany has increased dramatically since prostitution was liberalised in 2002, with more than one million men paying for sex every day here, according to a documentary, Sex – Made in Germany, aired this week on Germany's public broadcaster, ARD.
Based on two years of research using hidden cameras, the film by Sonia Kennebeck and Tina Soliman exposes the "flat-rate" brothels where men pay €49 (£42) for as much sex as they want, as well as a rise in sex tourism, with men from Asia, the Middle East and North America coming to Germany for sex.
Germany's law governing the sex trade is considered one of the most liberal in the world. It was passed by the former coalition government, made up of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens, in a bid to strengthen the rights of sex workers and give them access to health insurance and benefits.
Since then, red light districts have become even more prominent in many major German cities including Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, where the Reeperbahn is, notoriously, the focus for the sex trade. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, brothels appeared close to football stadiums across the country to cater for fans before and after games.
But more than 10 years after the law was passed, critics are becoming increasingly vocal. They argue that although it may benefit those sex workers who choose to work in the trade, it also makes it easier for women from eastern Europe and countries outside the EU to be forced into prostitution by traffickers. Two-thirds of Germany's estimated 400,000 sex workers come from overseas.
"Migrant women who don't know the language are highly dependent on people to bring them here and to show them around," says Roshan Heiler, head of counselling at the Aachen branch of Solwodi, a women's rights organisation that helps women forced into prostitution.
She is not surprised at the number of men now paying for sex in Germany. "I think it's just a result of the legalisation," she says. "The men are not prosecuted and prices are low."
Meanwhile, Monika Lazar, spokeswoman on women's issues for the Alliance 90/Greens party, has defended the law, saying that making prostitution illegal again is not the way to improve working conditions. "Prostitution is still socially stigmatised, and that has not changed in the few years in which the law has been in effect," she says. "But the law is helping to strengthen the position of prostitutes and ensuring women, and men, are much better protected."
06/12/2013 01:06 PM
Hairdos and Movies: The Carefree Life of a Teen in Wartime Berlin
By Jane Paulick
The diary of Brigitte Eicke, a Berlin teenager in World War II, is an account of cinema visits, first kisses, hairdos and dressmaking, along with a brief, untroubled reference to disappearing Jews. Recently published, it highlights the public indifference that paved the road to Auschwitz.
1 February 1944
"The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela's and danced to gramophone records."
Young girls are made of stern stuff. In December 1942, while Allied bombs rained on Berlin and Nazi troops fought for control of Stalingrad, 15-year-old Brigitte Eicke began keeping a diary. For the next three years, the young office apprentice wrote in it every single day.
Now published in German as "Backfisch im Bombenkrieg" -- backfisch being an old-fashioned term for a girl on the cusp of womanhood -- it adds a new perspective to Germany's World War II experience and shows not only how mundane war can become but also how the majority of Germans were able to turn a blind eye to Nazi brutality.
Until relatively recently, accounts of Germans' own wartime suffering were considered something of a taboo, their own trauma eclipsed by the horror of the Holocaust. But now that the wartime generation is dying, every slice of first-hand social history has inherent value.
Gerda Kanzleiter works at Berlin's ZeitzeugenBörse (ZZB), a non-profit organization that collects and documents eyewitness testimonies. "We've lost many of the elderly people we've worked with already, and we're losing more every month," she says. "Very soon now, none of them will be left."
Eicke's diary was discovered in the nick of time, when she sent it to writer and local historian Annet Gröschner, who co-edited and annotated the published version. "The paper was yellowed and had virtually disintegrated," says Gröschner. "It was almost unreadable."
But it proved quite a find. "What is striking about the diary is its authenticity," she says. "It's very different from personal accounts of World War II that were written with the benefit of hindsight and with later generations in mind."
And as Gerda Kanzleiter from the ZBB points out, anecdotal history is often much more revealing than scholarly research, let alone fiction and drama. For Germany, which took decades to reach a point where it could face its demons, it has played a key role in understanding the war in all its facets.
That includes its ordinariness. For long stretches, Eicke's diary reflects an astonishingly normal teenage existence, evoking a life on the home front that is humdrum and hair-raising in equal parts. She nonchalantly notes her frequent cinema visits as diligently as she logs the length of air raid warnings, and seems no more riled by the havoc wreaked on her city by the "Tommys" than by her mother's bad moods. But her phlegmatic commentary belies the grim reality of the time.
2 March 1945
"Margot and I went to the Admiralspalast cinema to see 'Meine Herren Söhne.' It was such a lovely film but there was a power cut in the middle of it. How annoying!"
There's a good reason why "Gitti," as she was nicknamed, sometimes sounds a little glib. "She only kept a journal in order to practice her stenography skills, so she was economical about what she said," remarks Gröschner. "The diary is simply a clear-eyed account of her life at the time. She had nothing to prove and no reader in mind, so she didn't embellish anything and she didn't censor herself. And even though she doesn't go into much detail, she conveys a lot with a few words."
Gitti seems altogether more preoccupied with first kisses and dressmaking patterns than world events. She is also possessed of extraordinary sang froid. Of an air raid in March 1943 that killed two, injured 34 and left 1,000 in her neighborhood homeless, she merely grumbles that it took place "in the middle of the night, horrible, I was half-asleep."
Guileless as she is, Gitti's apparent inability to see the broader picture goes beyond youthful egotism. Although her gossipy comments on school friends and colleagues suggest there's nothing wrong with her observational skills, Gitti is utterly unaware of Third Reich atrocities, referring only once in the entire diary to the Nazis' systematic deportations of Jews.
27 February 1943
"Waltraud and I went to the opera to see ' The Four Ruffians.' I had a ticket for Gitti Seifert too. What a load of nonsense, it was ridiculous. We walked back to Wittenbergplatz and got on the underground train at Alexanderplatz. Three soldiers started talking to us. Gitti is so silly, she went all silent when they spoke to her. The least one can do is answer, even though we weren't going to go anywhere with them. Jews all over town are being taken away, including the tailor across the road."
But despite working at a textiles company based in the Hackesche Höfe in Mitte, then the heart of Berlin's Jewish district, she fails to notice anything amiss.
Gitti is 86 years old now, and she lives just a few streets away from where she grew up. She remains unapologetic about her indifference. "I was young and busy with my own life," she recalls. Just around the corner from where she worked was a nursing home in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse serving as a collection center for Jewish transports to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. "My son always said to me: How could you have been so oblivious?" she says. "I never saw a thing!"
Nazi terminology still trips easily off her tongue. "Berlin was already Judenrein ("cleansed of Jews") by then, and I was too young to have noticed anything before that. There were some Jewish girls in my first ever class photograph, taken in 1933, but by the time the next was taken, they were all gone. When I asked my mother about them, she said they had moved to Palestine."
Decades would pass before she understood what had happened. "It was only when I visted Buchenwald in the 1970s that I saw photographs of the camps," she remembers. "It took me years to realize what had gone on."
Humble as it is, Gitti's story is emblematic. As British historian Ian Kershaw wrote in 1983: "The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference." She is immune to ideology. All she does is swim with the tide, blithely chronicling her rise through the ranks of the League of German Girls (BDM) and cursorily mentioning in March 1944 that she has joined the Nazi party. She does so mainly to make friends, it seems.
"Usually all we did was sing songs," she says. "But yes, we were pretty keen on Hitler -- of course we were, we were all indoctrinated as children."
But politics never interested her. A few milestones make it into her diary: In early 1943, she alludes to Goebbel's famous speech -- "Total War began today," she notes dispassionately -- and in July 1944, to the failed assassination attempt on Hitler's life. She doesn't appear to be unduly upset.
By and large, she is more concerned with day-to-day hardships -- although under the circumstances, many of them seem more like luxuries. In November 1944, for example, as Hitler was planning a major offensive in the Ardennes region on the Western Front, she is complaining about a disastrous perm and worrying about going to work looking a fright.
Neither Perpetrator Nor Victim
Hers is a perspective seldom glimpsed in Germany's World War II literature, a field in which the female voice took a while to be heard.
"In the 1950s and '60s, the focus was more on memories of battle and the male experience," says Arnulf Scriba, who coordinates a project at the German Historical Museum called "Collective Memory," an archive of personal testimonies.
As he points out, these tend to be supplied by either perpetrators or victims -- especially the latter. "They can expect to be 'understood', while clearly no one prides themselves on having murdered or raped or simply been on the wrong side," he says.
Gitti, however, is neither. She is merely a cog in the wheels that kept Nazi Germany turning, a young woman skilled in the art of blotting out ugliness, willing to believe what's she's told, and ultimately, one of the lucky ones.
Although she experienced the Battle of Berlin first-hand and lost both her father and her uncle on the front, she is spared the harrowing experiences detailed in "A Woman in Berlin," the diary published in 2005 of a woman raped repeatedly during the Red Army occupation, not to mention the fate of Anne Frank, who began her diary just months before Gitti began hers.
Anne Frank was two years younger than Brigitte Eicke, and the fact that the two young women share a similarly fresh and unaffected narrative voice makes the contrast between their lives all the more shocking. While Anne died in Bergen-Belsen, Gitti was able to close the door on Nazi Germany with no further ado. No sooner had the war ended than she became a member of the Anti-Fascist Youth Organization.
"I get the impression that they want the same thing as the Nazis, just under another name. The same demands, the same speeches," she wrote in July 1945.
"We just muddled through, we had no choice," she says today. Others might beg to differ. Many lessons were learnt in World War II, but as her diary illustrates, what growing up in Nazi Germany taught the young Brigitte Eicke more than anything else was survival tactics. And that doesn't make her story any less valuable.
"Basically, every eyewitness testimony has something interesting to tell us," says the German Historical Museum's Arnulf Scriba. "Whatever their experience, they ultimately add to our understanding of the past."
June 12, 2013
In Iran, Tiptoeing to Avoid Stirring Turmoil
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
TEHRAN — The eight men hoping to become the next president of Iran sat at a long table last week and were shown pictures of things like container ships and traffic jams and asked for their reactions.
“What do you see?” a debate moderator asked one of the men, the former vice president Mohammad Reza Aref, who dropped out of the race days later. “I believe this is a tourist attraction,” Mr. Aref said, squinting while looking at an open-pit mine.
Wary of the raucous street demonstrations that erupted during the last election in 2009, the government decreed that this year’s presidential campaign would consist of rallies in predetermined spaces and a series of tedious, four-hour debates that many Iranians dismissed as more like a pointless quiz show than a discussion of real issues.
“Where are all the leaflets, the posters?” asked Roghaye Heydari, 55, who had come to the capital from her hometown, Dowlatabad, where most people see voting as a national duty. “Why are they not trying to create a proper atmosphere?”
Now, instead of election posters coloring the streets, plainclothes police officers hang around at major crossings, making sure there are no spontaneous gatherings.
“I have never seen so much secret police in my life,” a shopper could be overheard telling her friend near the central Haft-e Tir Square on Saturday, nodding at groups of men wearing fashionable clothes that did not suit them.
But it is not just the public that feels the effects of the restrictions. The candidates themselves constantly run up against ideological red lines.
On Friday, in the final hour of the last debate, some of the candidates seemed to forget the unwritten rule that forbids giving details of closed-door talks about delicate government matters. Discussing a planned crackdown on student protests in 2002 and missed opportunities in the negotiations with the West on Iran’s nuclear program, they had to catch themselves, saying things like “my chest is filled with things I cannot say” and “this is not the place to discuss such matters.”
The problem was especially pronounced with the two candidates who are considered the most popular with the middle-class voters who have been mostly turned off by the campaign: Hassan Rowhani, who has attracted some of the veterans of the opposition Green movement; and Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, Tehran’s mayor, who is liked for his management style.
While trying to appeal to these voters, they also need to be cautious around the governing establishment of conservative clerics and Revolutionary Guards commanders — the so-called traditionalists — who suspect Mr. Rowhani of secretly siding with the opposition and Mr. Ghalibaf of being a closet pragmatist rather than a revolutionary.
Matters are also complicated by the government’s desire for a large turnout to give the vote greater credibility. So for Mr. Rowhani and Mr. Ghalibaf — and, to a lesser extent, the other candidates — the election period is a balancing act between self-censorship and attracting votes. The candidates are supposed to provide enough talking points to make at least 50 million eligible voters go out and cast their ballots, while not pushing the buttons about individual rights and the shortcomings of the government that created such excitement before the 2009 vote.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, urged the candidates last week to be positive and to refrain from unjust attacks and pessimism. “We must not please the enemy in any way,” he said.
That means there is no room for real debate on thorny issues like Iran’s support for Syria, the state’s handling of domestic opponents and the roots of its economic problems.
Those close to Iran’s leaders are pleased with the televised debates. “The good thing is that all candidates observed national interests,” said a former conservative lawmaker, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh. “They all observed the code of Islamic ethics and refrained from revealing classified information.”
For Mr. Rowhani, who is the most outspoken candidate, this means walking a minefield.
During a campaign rally in a stadium in Tehran on Saturday, he waved at electrified crowds of young men and women but fell silent when those in the hall shouted, “Freedom for the political prisoners.”
Overlooking the forest of hands waving in the air, Mr. Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, cleared his throat and waited for the hubbub to subside. “Yes, we will try to release them all,” he answered. “In consensus with higher officials we will solve many problems.”
Plainclothes officers could be seen filming the event, and when it was over an organizer urged the cleric’s supporters to leave quietly. “Do not provoke anybody, as those outside are looking for excuses to shut us down.”
Outside several young women were arrested by the morality police for having improper headscarves, and plainclothes officers asked others for identity cards while filming them.
“They don’t even trust us to have a rally, how will they trust Rowhani to become president?” said Mehdi, 27, a student who declined to give his full name out of fear for his safety. “After today, I know we will not win.”
On Tuesday, Iran’s Guardian Council denied reports from conservative Iranian news media that it would disqualify Mr. Rowhani ahead of Friday’s vote on the basis of “irregularities” during his campaign rallies. An influential Revolutionary Guards commander, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, threatened this week to “take legal action” against Mr. Rowhani for making comments about the armed forces.
Mr. Ghalibaf, the Tehran mayor who is the other popular candidate with the middle class, has different problems. Analysts say they believe he has a good chance of winning the vote and also of gaining the support of the traditionalists. But for that to happen, Mr. Ghalibaf, a balding man with a square face, needs to be as vague as possible, appealing both to supporters who see him as a technocrat and those who think he is a revolutionary.
“We should consider our political development with a democratic view, pursue our economy by considering social justice, and pursue spirituality and moralities in our culture,” he said in one of the televised debates last week. “My plans are based on such a view.”
The mayor is walking a tightrope, said Farshad Ghorbanpour, a veteran journalist. “Ghalibaf needs to please everybody, voters and leaders, or he will lose their support.”
Mr. Ghalibaf seemed to be the front-runner in the 2005 election, but in the final days he lost the support of the important network of Friday Prayer leaders, religious centers and commanders who thought he was too modern. In 2006 he showed up at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an event that some in Iran’s establishment say is part of a Zionist conspiracy to rule the world.
Now Mr. Ghalibaf is more comfortable saying that he is a “jihadist” rather than a technocrat. “Our main concern is making sure that our supreme leader has no worries at all,” he said Tuesday in Isfahan, according to the semiofficial news agency Mehr.
Most voters say they have grown tired of the race and are glad it will soon be over. “I want only one thing from any of the candidates,” said Gholam Hossein Shojaei, 47, a tailor. “Fix the mess.”
Gmail accounts in Iran hacked, says Google
The company's security chief says it has blocked a 'politically motivated' phishing attack on tens of thousands of users in the lead-up to the presidential election
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 June 2013 12.09 BST
Google reports it has stopped a series of attempts to hack the email accounts of tens of thousands of Iranian users in what the company believes is an attempt to influence the country's upcoming election.
"For almost three weeks, we have detected and disrupted multiple email-based phishing campaigns," Eric Grosse, the vice-president for security engineering, wrote in a post on Google's blog on Wednesday. The phishing campaigns are originating in Iran, targeting users there and representing a big surge in the region's hacking activity before Iran's presidential election on Friday, Grosse said.
"The timing and targeting of the campaigns suggest that the attacks are politically motivated," he said. He did not give further details.
The relatively routine phishing attempts direct users to fake account maintenance pages where they are asked to give their username and password, Grosse said.
Google said it used its Chrome browser to detect phishing efforts from what appears to be the same Iranian group in 2011.
Iranians will vote on Friday to find a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who cannot run for a third term in office.
Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who rejects Ahmadinejad's combative approach in world affairs, has become the frontrunner in the final days before the election after pro-reform candidate Mohammad Reza Aref pulled out on Tuesday and former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani threw their support behind Rouhani.
Rouhani's remaining opponents are four conservatives and a hardliner.
Women’s groups hold out hope for revived rights in Iran elections
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 14:15 EDT
Iran’s presidential election is offering a flicker of hope to activists hoping to revive women’s rights after they deteriorated during the eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
The ailing economy, hit hard by international sanctions against Iran’s vital oil income which has sparked high inflation, has grabbed the spotlight in the short election campaign.
But activists say that despite the sidelining by the authorities of reformists who advocate women’s rights, there is still hope that the situation of the country’s 35 million women, more than half the population, can be improved.
“The election is providing an opportunity,” said activist Minoo Mortazi, who urges women not to let emotions influence their voting decisions.
“Even a candidate who is promising a better situation for housewives, by providing financial security merits a vote,” she said. “It will gradually build a platform allowing women to reach higher.”
Fereshteh Rouhafza, who is campaigning for conservative candidate Saeed Jalili, the top nuclear negotiator, has called for ‘housewife’ to become an officially accepted job, and for the promotion of women as “mothers and wives.”
“The ground is not prepared for women to focus on having kids and raising them,” she said at a debate on the situation of women in the Islamic republic.
But Maryam, a 28-year-old private company employee, said she sees no point in voting as “women have no voice within the regime.”
Moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani, who is also being backed by the reformist camp, has vowed that “discrimination against women will not be tolerated” by his administration, should he be elected.
“Today we need movement in the society to achieve developments. For that we need to pay attention to women,” Rowhani said during his campaigning.
His pledges however have little chance of being implemented as he is not expected to be able to blunt the conservative challenge for the presidency.
Meanwhile the only reformist candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, pulled out of the race on Tuesday, under pressure from the reformist camp who believe Rowhani stands a better chance of mounting a credible bid against the rival conservatives.
Aref had urged Iranian women to cast their ballot, saying “without their participation no government could execute development plans,” according to his women affairs advisor Zohreh Alipour, speaking to AFP.
Aref wanted to “revise the law to eliminate discrimination against women,” Alipour said.
Although better than those of many regional Arab countries, Iran’s laws since the Islamic revolution three decades ago are criticised as unfair to women in marriage, divorce and inheritance.
And although women hold key posts, including in parliament and the cabinet, they are yet to be allowed to stand in presidential elections.
They are also barred from working as judges, while married women can be prevented by their husbands from working and need his consent to obtain a passport.
Iran’s clergy, which holds sway within the country, defends the laws, saying they are designed to protect against a Western lifestyle that they say takes advantage of women.
According to the Iranian constitution, the laws are aimed at shielding women from being treated as “a mere thing” or “being a mere tool for work.”
In the lead-up to the election, a non-governmental organisation, the Iranian Civil Society, called for the removal of “discriminatory policies” against women.
The body says “discrimination and gender segregation in regulations, micro and macro political, economic, social and educational plans” should be lifted.
Its call has gone unheeded however and according to women’s right activists the situation has deteriorated since Ahmadinejad took power in 2005.
During his term, activists have been arrested, rights curtailed and a “morality police” unit formed, tasked with checking women in the street to ensure their dress does not violate Islamic values.
For some female voters however, the issue of women’s rights is of secondary importance.
“I will vote in the election only with the hope of securing a better economic future for my children,” said 44-year-old Fatemeh, a mother of two who fears her children will have to struggle for years with economic difficulties.
“With this battered economy and astronomical rise in prices, I see no future for my children,” Fatemeh added, pointing to her teenage daughter studying for a final exam in their small apartment in southern Tehran.
Iran elections: death of Neda Agha-Soltan haunts voters
Some Iranians worry that casting their vote on Friday will be a betrayal of those killed during protests over 2009 election
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 June 2013 12.37 BST
One image sticks in the mind of many Iranians who remain undecided on whether to vote in Friday's presidential election. It is of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman whose death was captured on amateur camera and circulated around the world in 2009, encapsulating a nation's struggle for freedom in the aftermath of the last election, which many believe was rigged.
"These days, her image keeps coming back to my mind," a Tehrani citizen said via online chat on Facebook. "Am I betraying her if I vote? I don't know, but many of my friends are saying we won't achieve anything by simply boycotting the election."
To vote or not to vote for Hassan Rouhani, the sole reformist-backed candidate standing in the race, is the dilemma shared by hundreds of thousands of people who lost faith in the fairness of Iranian polls.
For families who lost loved ones in the aftermath of the 2009 election, the buildup to the vote is adding salt to the wounds. At least 100 protesters are believed to have been killed in the protests.
Unlike Neda, whose death resonated globally, prompting world leaders to comment and inspiring films and books, the identities of a large number of those who lost their lives remain unfamiliar to Iranians.
The Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, currently exiled in Oxford, has devoted her time in the past four years to identifying the families of the lesser-known victims and documenting details of their deaths through interviews with family and friends.
She has catalogued details of 56 dead protesters. "These are the only people whose families have dared to speak out," Alinejad told the Guardian. "But I'm sure there are dozens more who were killed and we haven't even heard of their names even today."
The human right group Amnesty International said on Wednesday that Iranian authorities had once again stepped up their clampdown on activists and campaigners before the election. Journalists, lawyers and members of Iran's religious and ethnic minorities had been harassed, Amnesty said.
"The escalation in repression is an outrageous attempt by the Iranian authorities to silence critics ahead of the presidential election," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director, Philip Luther. "The surge in recent violations underlines Iran's continued and brazen flouting of human rights standards through its persecution of political dissidents and betrays the glaring absence of a meaningful human rights discourse in the election campaign."
Casualties of the 2009 protests
Profiles by Masih Alinejad
Shabnam Sohrabi The 34-year-old was killed in December 2009 when a black vehicle ran her down. Her mother initially feared speaking up about her daughter's death, but broke her silence and talked to the Where Is My Vote website. "Shabnam had a strong body; I cannot imagine her being crushed under the wheels of a police vehicle," she said.
She explained the process of collecting her daughter's body. "I looked everywhere, including all the hospitals. I finally discovered that she had been taken to Rasoul-e Akram hospital in Tehran, but there were no signs of her there and nobody explained why. After 20 days we received a phone call saying that we could collect her body from the Kahrizak morgue and bury her."
Kianoosh Asa A petrochemical engineering student at the University of Science and Technology in Tehran. Asa, 25, of Kurdish origin, went missing after attending a demonstration on 15 July 2009. Ten days later his body was delivered to the coroner's office and his family were informed. Kianoosh Asa's family published an open letter to the head of the judiciary and demanded an investigation into his death. "Eyewitnesses have informed us that Kianoosh was seen to have received a bullet wound on one side of his body. However, in the coroner's office his body was seen to bear traces of another bullet wound in his neck. The disturbing question is who was behind the second shot," they wrote.
Maryam Soudbar Atbatan A 21-year old university student from Karaj who died at home after being beaten on the head with a truncheon during a demonstration in Tehran on 20 June 2009. Her family were coerced into silence, but three years later her father broke his silence. "We were worried for our other children's safety. That is why we kept her case in our heart, but did not talk about her. Maryam went to university as usual on 20 June 2009. She was in good health and had no medical complaints. She returned home and died in her room that very night," he said.
"I don't have any idea why they beat my daughter. After she died, her friends told us Maryam had been bashed on the head with a truncheon and did not feel well. Her friends had helped her to her feet and she had felt better. When she returned home, she did not tell us what had happened. During the night she died in her room.
Hamid Hossein Beik Araghi The state-run Keyhan newspaper and Fars news agency described Araghi as a member of the Basij militia. His mother, Fatemeh Sarpariyan, denied the allegation. His family were shown photographs to identify his body. "His face was full of blood, his front teeth were broken and one side of his face was bruised; he had been shot in the chest and all the pictures were full of blood. For me, his mother, his photos were unbearable to look at and I fainted."
Ali Hassanpour A married father of two children aged 14 and 21. He was shot in the face and died on Azadi Square during demonstrations on 15 June 2009 after helping another person who had been injured. His body was handed over to his family for burial 104 days later. A picture of his body covered with blood and lying on the ground among the protesters was published in the media on the day of the incident.
His wife, Ladan Mostafaei, said that when she showed her husband's photo to the authorities they denied any knowledge of him. "I have told the judicial authorities that, according to countless witnesses, my husband was shot from the rooftop of the 117 Battalion of Ashura Basij building. The arms experts of the judicial authorities have confirmed that a Kalashnikov was the rifle used to kill him."
Hossein Akhtarzand A 32-year-old resident of the city of Isfahan who participated in the protests and was beaten and killed by the militia. A commander in the special unit in Isfahan reported that Akhtarzand had fallen from the third floor of a building while under the influence of drugs. In the first days of post-election violence, witnesses posted photos of Akhtarzand online showing that he had been badly beaten on his left arm and left leg and the right side of his back, and had a deep laceration down his right-hand side (as certified in the sheet provided by the coroner).
Akhtarzand's family remained silent for two years before his brother, Javad, exposed the killing of his brother by the authorities. "In the city of Isfahan, as in many other cities, protests flared up against the June 2009 elections. Owing to the heavy-handed approach adopted by the officials, people ran for their lives and Hossein tried to hide in a clinic building. However, he was discovered by the security agents and tossed down from the top of the building, the claim being that he had jumped of his own accord."
British lawyers criticise Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal
London barrister appeals to UN to intervene, saying that clients sentenced to death did not receive fair trial
Owen Bowcott, and Jason Burke in Dhaka
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 June 2013 08.10 BST
British lawyers representing defendants sentenced to death by Bangladesh's international crimes tribunal have appealed to the United Nations to intervene, saying their clients did not receive fair trials.
The domestic court, established in 2010 to try those accused of committing atrocities during the country's 1971 war of liberation against Pakistan, is facing growing criticism from human rights groups and lawyers abroad.
Toby Cadman, a London barrister who says he has been prevented from entering Bangladesh to see his clients, has written to the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions over the trials of Delwar Sayedee, a former vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, and others.
He said witnesses had been abducted, defence lawyers assaulted and judges changed. "From the start [Bangladesh] has woefully failed to meet fundamental fair trial rights and due process standards," he wrote in one submission to the UN. "It is essential for the international community, and in particular the UN human rights council, to make the issue of full compliance a priority."
Another London barrister, Schona Jolly, an executive member of the bar's human rights committee, has called for the tribunal's hearings to be suspended pending an urgent independent investigation.
One of the most bizarre incidents highlighted by critics is the alleged abduction of Shukhoronjon Bali, a defence witness, as he was entering the tribunal in Dhaka in November. Bali had been due to testify on behalf of Sayedee.
Months later he surfaced in Kolkata's Dum Dum jail across the border in India. "Bali claims he was abducted by the Bangladeshi police from the entrance to the ICT courthouse, detained in Bangladesh, then forced by Bangladeshi security forces across the border into India, where he claims he was detained and tortured by the notorious border security force before being held in [prison]," Human Rights Watch said.
"Those involved in his abduction may have assumed Bali would be killed by the Indian border security force when he was pushed into India, or that he would permanently disappear," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director. "There is a real risk to Bali if he is returned to Bangladesh, as he could expose those involved in his abduction."
The Bangladeshi government is resisting foreign calls for legal reform. Gowher Rizvi, chief representative of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, who leads the ruling Awami League party, said the tribunal had been instituted to "lay to rest a ghost which continues to haunt us".
Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, Bangladesh's most famous independence leader, who was assassinated in 1975, four years after the country split from Pakistan. Bangladesh says more than three million people died in the conflict and hundreds of thousands of women were raped.
"The reason we need to lay this ghost to rest is that we never punished the guilty and there was not a family that was not affected [by the crimes committed during the conflict] … But unfortunately the overwhelming desire for justice has never been satisfied," Rizvi said.
"This is a national tribunal. It follows judicial due process and is open. All the accused have access to independent counsel and the freedom to call witnesses. It may not be the gold standard of The Hague but it is no worse than the way our high court and supreme court work. It is not a trial that has been fixed and not a kangaroo court."