Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Norwegian MPs nominate Snowden for Nobel Peace Prize

Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two Norwegian lawmakers, who say the NSA whistleblower contributed to “transparency and global stability” by revealing the depth and sophistication of the global surveillance apparatus.

Snorre Valen and Baard Vegar Solhjell, parliamentarians from Norway’s Socialist Left Party, announced the nomination on Facebook on Wednesday.

Noting that “peace is more than simply the absence of war,” the MPs said that Snowden had contributed to global security by revealing “the nature and technological prowess of modern surveillance.”

“The level of sophistication and depth of surveillance that citizens all over the world are subject to, has stunned us, and stirred debate all over the world. By doing this, he has contributed critical knowledge about how modern surveillance and intelligence directed towards states and citizens is carried out,” a statement by the Norwegian MPs said.

The legislators said Snowden’s leaks may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short-term, noting they do not necessarily support or condone all of the former NSA contractor’s disclosures.

“We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistle-blowing has contributed to a more peaceful, stable and peaceful world order.”

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Edward Snowden tells German TV that NSA is involved in industrial espionage

The National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will take intelligence regardless of its value to national security, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has told a German television network.

In a lengthy interview broadcast on the public broadcaster ARD TV on Sunday, Snowden said the NSA did not limit its espionage to issues of national security and cited the German engineering firm Siemens as one target.

“If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interests – even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security – then they’ll take that information nevertheless,” Snowden said in the interview conducted in Russia, where Snowden has claimed asylum.

Snowden also told the German public broadcasting network he no longer had possession of any documents or information on NSA activities and had turned everything over to select journalists. He said he did not have any control over the publication of the information.

Questions about US government spying on civilians and foreign officials arose last June, when Snowden leaked documents outlining the widespread collection of telephone records and email to media outlets including the Guardian.

Reports that the NSA monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone have added to anger in Germany, which has been pushing for a “no-spy” agreement with the US, a country it considers to be among its closest allies.

Snowden also talked about US reports that his life was in danger for leaking the documents. But he said that he sleeps well because he believes he did the right thing by informing the public about the NSA’s activities.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Watchdog Report Says N.S.A. Program Is Illegal and Should End

An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down.

The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational.

The report is likely to inject a significant new voice into the debate over surveillance, underscoring that the issue was not settled by a high-profile speech President Obama gave last week. Mr. Obama consulted with the board, along with a separate review group that last month delivered its own report about surveillance policies. But while he said in his speech that he was tightening access to the data and declared his intention to find a way to end government collection of the bulk records, he said the program’s capabilities should be preserved.

The Obama administration has portrayed the bulk collection program as useful and lawful while at the same time acknowledging concerns about privacy and potential abuse. But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country.

The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

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Brevard County deputy shoots, kills dog in front of toddler, family says

A Merritt Island family is looking for answers Monday after they say a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed their family dog.

The sheriff’s office says they responded to the neighborhood after someone called 911 reporting a toddler was left unattended and wandering around near the street, but the family says the mother was in the car port and knew where the 2-year-old was the entire time.

“There is no reason why he should’ve done that. What he should’ve done is talk to the person in the car port that was 15 feet away. It was totally uncalled for,” said neighbor Josh Petelle.

According to the sheriff’s office, the dog was acting aggressive when the deputy approached the young boy, but family members say Brownie, a 5-year-old female pit bull, has always been protective of all 5 kids, especially the youngest, who witnesses say was just feet from where the deputy fired his shots.

When the deputy arrived, witnesses said the deputy walked up to the home with his gun drawn and fired two shots at Brownie, feet from where they 2-year-old boy was sitting in his stroller.

“The dog’s first thought is hey you’re walking up to me with a gun and the dog growls. The dog didn’t lunge at him, the dog didn’t do anything. The dog just growled and then he put two bullets in him,” said family member Robert Gringas.

The family says they’re relieved the toddler wasn’t injured, but are left wondering why the deputy felt he needed to pull the trigger, killing their family pet.

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JPMorgan Chase CEO denounces bitcoin as ‘terrible,’ predicts its downfall

The head of the largest bank in the US said Thursday that bitcoin is a “terrible store of value,” in part because international governments, bankers, and other officials are unsure whether they can trust the digital currency.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase - which has $2.509 trillion in total assets - told CNBC that the cryptocurrency does not have much staying power because the hurdles it faces are insurmountable.

“It’s a terrible store of value. It could be replicated over and over,” he said. “It doesn’t have the standing of a government.”

Bitcoin proponents say that the currency’s ability to exist without any centralization is what makes it so appealing. It is a peer-to-peer payment system that is formulated when computers compete with each other to “mine,” or solve cryptographic problems, and are assigned bitcoins as a reward.

The use of bitcoin became so prevalent in 2013 that its value surged from $13 to over $1,000 by the end of the year, when it was the subject of Senate hearings that were largely neutral and at times positive towards the digital currency.

Dimon went on to cite media coverage that reported on the use of bitcoin for nefarious purposes - drugs and the solicitation of murder among them.

“And honestly, a lot of it – what I’ve read from you guys – a lot of it is being used for illicit purposes. And people who will get upset with it is governments,” Dimon said. “Governments put a huge amount of pressure on banks: know who your client is, did you do real reviews of that. Obviously it’s almost impossible to do with something like that.”

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