Category Archives: National Security

Hacking EirGrid: NCSC MiA, GCHQ Inertia, US Data Centres, & Creating Backdoors to UK/EU Grid

This post was first published by me on Peerlyst on 7th August 2017.

This hack took place last April (2017) but the details are only emerging now. Hackers compromised EirGrid’s routers at Vodafone’s Direct Internet Access (DIA) service at Shotton, Wales. The MITM “virtual wire tap” then intercepted unencrypted messages between EirGrid and SONI (EirGrid NI). Firmware and files were copied from the compromised router devices but there is no estimate as to the scale of the breach or the magnitude of the data that was stolen.

The Role of NCSC & GCHQ

An informed source has confirmed to AirGap Anonymity Collective that this hack was going on for some time before it was “detected” and before EirGrid were informed – that was already reported.

However, the same source is also of the opinion that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre – part of GCHQ – instructed Vodafone not to tell EirGrid of the breach – while they tried to ascertain who the perpetrators were (understandable) but that this was for an unreasonably extended period of time.

The source is not clear on what portion of the estimated nine weeks of the hack overlapped with GCHQ’s attempts to identify the hackers.

Where was Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre while all of this was going on?

The Irish National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) & Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)

Formally established in 2015. Together with the (CSIRT), they have responsibility for Ireland’s national cyber security defences. They say:

“The global cybersecurity threat landscape continues to pose an immense challenge. As part of wider efforts to address these security threats, the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) was approved in July 2016. Member States have until May 2018 to implement the NIS Directive, with both the NCSC and CSIRT playing a critical role in this regard.”

Seán Kyne – Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources & Digital Development – discussed the NCSC’s objectives, and offered his thoughts on the nature of the digital security threat to the public and private sector alike in a press conference last month.

INCSC

EirGrid & UK Energy Policy

The UK has become increasingly reliant on off-shore wind farms and it’s power needs are augmented by the purchase of power generated in the Irish Midlands. Irish supplied power is key to the UK meeting its projected 2020 energy needs. The Irish supply is seeking to generate circa 3GW for the UK market.

The Irish national grid is managed by a company called EirGrid. They took over the Irish national grid in 2006 from ESB (the Electricity Supply Board). They own all of the physical electricity transmission assets in the country (about 7000kms of cable (fact check)).

As such, they run a monopoly and nearly all of the large independent generators (Airtricity, Synergen (70% EirGrid) Viridian and others) connect to the transmission system and utilise it to transport their power to all regions and abroad. They also operate the wholesale power market and operate (and own) the 500 MW East–West Interconnector, linking the Irish power system to Great Britain’s grid.

Last month the operator was awarded over €20 million by the EU to fund research into the deployment of renewable energy. Ireland’s own target, set out by the European Union, is to secure 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

“We won’t have enough renewable energy left over to export to the UK without completing some specific projects, such as the proposed Midlands development,” according to Fintan Slye (EirGrid CEO). “There are sufficient renewable projects in train to meet the 2020 targets, but it’ll still be challenging. There are 2,000MW connected across the island – we need to get that to over 4,000MW by 2020.”

The EU is also funding a France-Ireland power link (that bypasses the UK) via an undersea cable as an “obvious solution” to Ireland’s energy reliance on a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

Motives – All Those Data Centres in Ireland & A BackDoor to the EU/UK Grids 

IE DCs

Extract from EirGrid Group All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2016-2025:

“2.2(d) Data Centres in IrelandA key driver for electricity demand in Ireland for the next number of years is the connection of large data centres.Whether connecting directly to the transmission system or to the distribution network, there is presently about 250 MVA of installed data centres in Ireland. Furthermore, there are connection offers in place (or in the connection process) for approximately a further 600 MVA. At present, there are enquires for another 1,100 MVA. This possibility of an additional 1700 MVA of demand is significant in the context of a system with a peak demand in 2014/15 of about 4700 MW (where it would add 35%). In forecasting future demand, we need to appreciate that data centres normally have a flat demand profile.”

Culprits

Lots but the most likely candidate for this hack is Russia – why? Because I cast lots, sacrificed a chicken, and got my Tarot cards read. And also …

Irish energy networks being targeted by hackers – Hackers have targeted Irish energy networks amid warnings over the potential impact of intensifying cyber attacks on crucial infrastructure. Senior engineers at the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), which supplies both Northern Ireland and the Republic, were sent personalised emails containing malicious software by a group linked to Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, reported.
Inside the Cunning, Unprecedented Hack of Ukraine’s Power Grid – It was 3:30 p.m. last December 23, and residents of the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Western Ukraine were preparing to end their workday and head home through the cold winter streets. Inside the Prykarpattyaoblenergo control center, which distributes power to the region’s residents, operators too were nearing the end of their shift.
Ukraine power cut ‘was cyber-attack’ – BBC News – A power cut that hit part of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in December has been judged a cyber-attack by researchers investigating the incident. The blackout lasted just over an hour and started just before midnight on 17 December. The cyber-security company Information Systems Security Partners (ISSP) has linked the incident to a hack and blackout in 2015 that affected 225,000.
Hackers targeting UK energy grid, GCHQ warns – Hackers may have compromised Britain’s energy grid, GCHQ has said as it warned that cyber criminals are targeting the country’s energy sector. The security agency said industrial control systems may have already been the victim of attacks by nation state hackers.

 

ENDS

The USA, Narcissistic Rage, A Sense of Entitlement & Holding Our Rights Hostage

The US is taking a giant shit on all of us, and our rights. And we are letting them. This is a nation that is currently led by extremists who inherited the job from a crazily compromised administration.

I previously wrote in All The Presidents’ Messes:

“In my lifetime the American people have elected Nixon (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), Ford (by accident), Carter (Iranian Revolution & Iran Hostage debacle), Reagan (Funded the Taliban / Iran-Contra Affair / Nicaragua / El Salvador / Guatemala), Bush the First (Gulf War I), Clinton (Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti / Israel-Palestine / Ethnic Wars in Europe – Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims / Kosovo & Albania), Bush the Second (Iraq / Afghanistan), Obama (IRANDEAL, global appeasement, the relatively unopposed rise of ISIS, and the disintegration of Syria and Libya and Egypt as a result of US Foreign Policy failures) and now Trump.”

All US policy decisions and their side-effects, one way or the other, cascade down into our European democracies. In the current climate that should worry you.

Privacy Is An Absolute Right

I am interested in Privacy. The abuse of Privacy (1) has far more fundamental negative effects than might seem to be the case at first glance.

I am an advocate for the right of every citizen to a private life, the preservation of civil liberties, and the defence of other hard won rights. Technology or rather its unfettered deployment is the single biggest threat to our personal freedoms and by extension to the proper administration of justice.

And so I write about it. Sometimes the writing is a bit technical but most of the time it’s referencing the technical results of other peoples work to support my arguments (which I always acknowledge – most important that is)

Orwell 4.0

Technology facilitated developments have created new tools for the State, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Agencies to monitor not just person’s of interest but everyone (2). Software industry greed and software developer naivety is also driving an assault on our personal privacy and security (3).

These phenomena have already resulted in wholesale abuses (4) of habeas corpus, an alteration of the perception of what constitutes a fair trial, have worn down the right to silence of a suspect, made the avoidance of self-incrimination almost impossible, made illegal searches and seizures (5) acceptable, and encroached on the ability of defendants to construct a proper defence.

Recently, Graham Cluley (@gcluley) posted a clarification of a definition on Twitter“It’s always bugged me how people say “Innocent until proven guilty”. It’s “Innocent *unless* proven guilty” folks.” – that is worth thinking about in an age of trial by media and JTC-as-a-Service (JTC – Jumping to Conclusions a.k.a Fake News).

In parallel with this there is an increasing trend of “ordinary” crimes being tried in “extra-ordinary” courts, tribunals, or military courts. The checks and balances that used to notionally counter the power of the state and where the actions of government could be publicly scrutinized has almost ceased to effectively exist.

Surveillance politics, the rise of extremists on the left and the right, religious fanaticism, the re-emergence of censorship and even actual talk of “blasphemy laws” in the parliaments of Western democracies leaves one bewildered. How will we fare when even newer technologies such as VRSN, and AI with even greater capacity to embed themselves in our lives begin to mature from the novel stage into the deployment stage?

What will be the effect of kinematic fingerprinting, emotion detection (6), psychographic profiling (7), and thought extraction (8) on the right to privacy and basic freedoms. These are questions and concerns that get lost in the rush to innovate. Software companies and developers have a responsibility but they do not exercise it very often.

What are the ethics? What are the acceptable limits? What are the unforeseen by-products?

The US Has Claimed “Absolute Privilege”

The US is the bully on the block and its “bitch” friends the UK (9), Canada, New Zealand (10), & Australia (11) just follow its lead or actively facilitate them.

The opacity of US laws (12) and SIGINT collection methods is an abuse of the rights of every defendant that comes in front of their Courts. Increasingly, that is just about anybody that they can lay their hands on, from anywhere (13).

The election of Trump just solidified my view that the world has turned upside down and it seems that taking action to reverse the trend of the normalisation of the abnormal (14) is a Sisyphean task and just seems to encourage the buggers (15).

The US position on most of these matters is ephemeral – not just on data protection (16) – and US national interest, national security, or just plain duplicity (17) governs their agenda.

There is so much abuse of power by the US that it is impossible to keep tabs. These things used to matter (18). These things used to enrage us (19). The US has led a race to the bottom on so many fronts that the rest of the world seems to be suffering from bad news fatigue (20) and has zoned out (21).

It is individuals and NGO’s now that are the gatekeepers of our rights and the ones that hold governments to account and increasingly they are being marginalized.

References

(1) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; NSA, GCHQ, The Five Eyes Handing Ireland Cyber-Security Opportunity; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(2) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; Mass Surveillance & The Oxford Comma Analogy; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(3) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; Software Industry Greed is Driving the Assault on our Privacy & Security; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(4) Kim Zetter; 26th Oct 2017; The Most Controversial Hacking Cases of the Past Decade; Wired

(5) Andy Greenberg; 10th Oct 2014; Judge Rejects Defense That FBI Illegally Hacked Silk Road – On A Technicality; Wired

(6) Anonymous Chronic; 3rd Jan 2017; Orwell 4.0: The Stealth Advance of Kinematic Fingerprinting & Emotion Detection for Mass Manipulation; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(7) Anonymous Chronic; 4th Feb 2017; Is Kosinski “Tesla” to Nix’s “Marconi” for Big Data Psychographic Profiling?;AirGap Anonymity Collective

(8) Ian Johnston; 18th Apr 2017; Device that can literally read your mind invented by scientists; Independent

(9) Anonymous Chronic; 30th Nov 2016; My Privacy Lobotomy or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the IP Act; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(10) Anonymous Chronic; 3rd Nov 2016; Overwatch – The Five Eyes Espionage Alliance; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(11) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; Australia Is A Proxy War for the Five Eyes & Also Hogwarts; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(12) American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch; 21st Nov 2016; Joint letter to European Commission on EU-US Privacy Shield; Human Right Watch)

(13) Tom O’Connor; 6th Jul 2017; Russia Accuses US of Hunting and Kidnapping Its Citizens After Latest Arrests; Newsweek

(14) Anonymous Chronic; 29th Jan 2017; Take Action To Reverse The Present Trend Of The Normalisation of the Abnormal; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(15) Anonymous Chronic; 2nd Dec 2016; Silencing the Canary & The Key Powers & Reach of The IPA; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(16) Mary Carolan; 10th Mar 2017; Max Schrems claims US data privacy protections ‘ephemeral’; The Irish Times

(17) Shelley Moore Capito – United States Senator for West Virginia; 2nd Jul 2017; Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017; https://www.capito.senate.gov/

(18) Adam Taylor; 23rd Apr 2015; The U.S. keeps killing Americans in drone strikes, mostly by accident; The Washington Post

(19) HRW; 9th Dec 2014; USA and Torture: A History of Hypocrisy; Human Rights Watch

(20) Shannon Sexton; 30th Aug 2016; Five Ways to Avoid ‘Bad-News Fatigue’ and Stay Compassionately Engaged; Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

(21) Susanne Babbel Ph.D.; 4th Jul 2012; Compassion Fatigue; Psychology Today

Data Is The New Perimeter in Emerging Age of Corporate-Espionage-as-a-Service

Last Tuesday, July 11 2017 I was pleased to listen to Mike Desens, Vice President, IBM Z and LinuxONE Offering Management, IBM Systems as he took myself and some colleagues through a preview and introduction of the z14 prior to the July 17 announcements *.

The overriding theme of the briefing was that IBM view the z14 as “Designed for Trusted Digital Experiences”. The last twenty four months in particular have seen data breaches that have seriously eroded public confidence in erstwhile trusted institutions and organizations.

There have been hacks that have embarrassed nations, and led to real fears about the risk that insecure data poses to our energy and commercial infrastructures not to mention the veracity of election results but I am not going there.

Shadow Brokers dumps and WikiLeaks releases of alphabet agency backdoors and toolkits have given cyber criminals (even the opportunists), and terrorist outfits almost nuclear-grade hacking capability when compared to 2014.

IBM are hoping that these real fears, but more particularly their real solution, will be the key driver in convincing customers to adopt the new platform.

Been There, Done That

I have seen this before (IBM pinning their hopes of making the mainframe cool by leveraging an unexpected turn of events). I worked on the deep end of the ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager (ADSM) ESP’s in the early 90’s (renamed Tivoli Storage Manager in 1999).

Back then entire banks ran on less DASD than your kid’s pot burner phone does right now (and that included all the IMS, CICS, and DB2 data). IBM pinned some of their hopes on maintaining their lucrative storage market share on ADSM in the face of EMC inroads. “Disk mirroring” however by EMC was the final blow when EMC turned an engineering weakness into a strength. It cost outsider Ed Zschau, ADSTAR Chairman and CEO, his job in 1995.

IBM had made a very valid argument for ADSM adoption. All that data on the newly acquired (mostly by accident and without permission by rogue business units – especially the capital markets mavericks), rapidly expanding, and poorly managed (in terms of Disaster Recover and Business Continuity at the very least) AS/400, Tandem, and NT infrastructure was best managed on the mainframe storage farm.

This also included using those new-fangled robotic tape libraries on Level 2 (which even appeared in a few movies with perspex exterior, the StorageTek one though, not the IBM Magstar 3494 Tape Library).

It didn’t work though. Mainly because the network couldn’t handle the volumes, and record level backup was never going to work to help reduce the bandwidth requirements to fit the overnight backup windows what with the quagmire of proprietary databases that had sprung up.

GDPR Unwittingly Making the Market for “Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service”

But I digress so I will briefly digress again to another but equally valid potential driver for z adoption. And that is GDPR. Soon GDPR regulators will be gleefully fining corporates who fail to adequately protect their data the higher of EUR€20M or 4% of annual turnover, for each breach. That’s an instant laxative right there for the entire C-Suite.

But what the proposed GDPR penalty system also makes me wonder is how much of a market maker it is (unwittingly) for Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service (CEAAS) and Industrial-Espionage-As-A-Service (IEAAS).

Back On Message – Pervasive Encryption

Consequently, IBM have put security at the core of the new platform with “Pervasive Encryption as the new standardAnalytics & Machine Learning for Continuous Intelligence Across the Enterprise, and Open Enterprise Cloud to Extend, Connect and Innovate”.

Here are some stats to keep your CISO awake:

  1. Nearly 5.5 million records are stolen per day, 230,367 per hour and 3,839 per minute (Source:http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  2. Of the 9 Billion records breached since 2013 only 4% were encrypted (Source: http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  3. 26% is the likelihood of an organization having a data breach in the next 24 months(Source: https://www.ibm.com/security/infographics/data-breach/) ;
  4. The greatest security mistake organizations make is failing to protect their networks and data from internal threats. (Source: https://digitalguardian.com/blog/expert-guide-securing-sensitive-data-34-experts-reveal-biggest-mistakes-companies-make-data)

The Z is arguably more powerful, more open and more secure than any commercial system on the planet and the box makes serious moves in the rapidly evolving domains of Machine Learning, Cloud and Blockchain. But again and again the focus comes back to Pervasive Encryption and that is the potential seismic shift that just might make the Z the go-to platform for organisations who can afford their own and the Cloud platform of choice for those who cannot.

Pervasive Encryption Is The New Standard

Back in the day as an MVS370 systems programmer I stressed about downtimes, availability stats, and the SLAs with business units. If I am being honest though I mostly stressed about the long holiday weekends spent in subterranean data centers upgrading ESP code or patching or migrating new releases from TEST to PROD LPARS or doing S390 disk mirrors.

Therefore when I first heard of the this bold new “encrypt it all” call to arms I wondered what the price for this would be in terms of the social lives and general marital stability of SPs globally.

However I am assured that the encryption “migration” involves no application changes, no impact to SLA’s, and that all of this application and database data can be encrypted without interrupting business applications and operations.

What’s Under the Hood

This section of the briefing was prefaced with the statement that the Z will deliver “unrivalled performance for secure workloads.” I have another post in the works with the tech spec dets on the encryption under the hood but for now here’s the 60k foot view:

“Industry exclusive protected key encryption, enabled through integration with a tamper- responding cryptographic HSM. All in-flight network data and API’s, true end-to-end data protection. 4x increase in silicon area allocated to cryptographic operations. 4 – 7x faster encryption of data with enhanced cryptographic performance. 18x fasterencryption than competition at 1/20th the cost to implement. 2x performance boost on Crypto Express6S. Securing the cloud by encrypting APIs 2-3x faster than x86 systems. Linux exploits Protected Key encryption for data at-rest.”

More later.

* From an article originally published on July 18 2017 on my Peerlyst blog

ENDS

Software Industry Greed is Driving the Assault on our Privacy & Security

The motivation to release software, without proper testing, in order to generate a quick buck is as much of a threat to our security and privacy as the activities of hackers and alphabet agencies. It is time that software companies started to pay the price for the sorry mess that their greed is helping to create.

Once upon a time these matters could be considered in isolation but with the “Internet of Things” connecting millions more devices every day we are headed for a world that will have 28 billion IoT devices by 2020.

Consumer concern will not halt the rollout. A staggeringly high number of consumers hold serious concerns about the possibility of their information getting stolen from everyday devices – their smart home, their tablet, their laptop. One would think therefore that this concern would pressure software manufacturers to be more rigorous in their pre-GA testing activities. Not so.

Why? Because so much of this IoT stuff is embedded and consumer awareness is mainly limited to the high profile exposures. Consumers are not hesitating to purchase connected devices because consumers do not know that the devices are connected.

Samsung’s SmartThings smart home platform is a leaky colander of loosely connected hack prone software. IoT security hardening is not just about the particular application but also about building security into the network connections that link applications and that link devices.

And then there is the “Data”. The amount of this stuff that is generated by IoT is intractably large. As few as 10,000 households can generate 215 million discrete data points every day. This creates more entry points for hackers and leaves sensitive information vulnerable.

The number and variety of privacy attack vectors becomes unmanageable very quickly. From the CIA hacking your Samsung TV, uBeacons doing their bit (uXDT & Audio Beacons – Introduce your Paranoia to your Imagination), hackers controlling your car, it’s a worryingly real threat to the personal security and privacy of every one of us.

If the CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI), who are tasked with delivering cyber-espionage tools and intelligence gathering capabilities, cannot even secure their own USB drives then what chance do the rest of us have.

Unfortunately the answer is that we have no chance.

ENDS 

All The Presidents’ Messes

It is a convenient attitude after marshalling a global coalition (twice) for intervention in Kuwait (Gulf War 1) and again in Iraq (Gulf War 2) for the purposes of US energy security that Trump now wishes to pursue a kind of “splendid isolationist” foreign policy after his predecessors have left behind a not so splendid mess. A mess which he is now doing his best to compound.

These previous US initiated actions have spiralled into the regional mess we now have in the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe. Trumpites think we should all applaude them now for leaving everyone else to handle the social fallout of their actions even those of us who were not part of their pair of “grand coalitions”.

The Ongoing Erosion of US Prestige & Influence

The Trumpites view that their outcome will be a glory filled jingoistic romanticised dreamland is delusional. The outcome of Trump will be the further erosion of US influence and prestige globally as the US (Democrat and Republican) for some reason best known to themselves continue to hand Russia, China and Iran the initiative and like always we “over here” [Europe] pick up most of their bill (socially).

I wonder how prepared Trump supporters are for sectarian domestic warfare instead of their preferred modus operandi of taking a giant shit on everyone from a great distance.

Selective hearing is one thing when it comes to “hearing” the reality of past US foreign policy disasters. Selective memory to justify a US foreign policy of “splendid isolation” is another thing entirely.

Trumpites Are Unprepared For The Outcomes That They Will Cause

Not content with splitting external regions in two the US has elected Trump after some minor civil unrest and a number of tragic radical Islamist atrocities and divided their own country. But the numbers of deaths on US soil are tiny in relative terms and Trumpites think that they are ready for domestic sectarian strife that Trump policies will inevitably lead to – if pursued.

The election of Trump is in reaction to how many deaths from terrorist attacks on US soil? The US cannot handle terrorism on their own soil without making wildly disproportionate decisions.

The US hasn’t had a serious conflict on their soil since the Civil War. Since then it has all been one sided affairs for them locally. The Spanish-American War, the native American Indian genocide and a few spats with Mexico.

Over-Simplification & Generalisation

Among all the pro-Trump comments there is a common theme of over-simplification and generalising. It is possible to be outraged and hold a contrary opinion to the mainstream without relying on prejudice, racism or extremism.

It is also possible to hold composite opinions that are not contradictory. I am and continue to be a vocal opponent (who regularly has taken the time to write these opinions down and publish them) of political correctness, mass migration and open door policies, the undermining of Western cultural values, radical Islam, sharia law, “states within states” groups who refuse to assimilate and expect everyone to cater to their often radical demands.

All Values Can Be Accommodated 

In order to aggressively assert your values you do not have to destroy the values and beliefs of others or go to war with conflicting ideologies.

I held a position of Special Advisor – Security Affairs (Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Yemen) Undisclosed – NGO (Mass Migration Predictive Profiling – Radicalisation Threats). My focus was on rigour in vetting and processing immigrants along appropriate lines using appropriate methods, not blanket bans.

My blog is full of content that places my opinion on the record – from November 2015 “Weak-willed West Needs To Aggressively Assert Its Values“:

* “We can fret about the potential rise of Islamic extremism in this country and fool ourselves into thinking that we are immune. But why should we be uniquely exempt from other European countries? Extremism doesn’t even have to be violent to have an impact. Extremism can be seen in Muslim clerics who, post-‘Charlie Hebdo’, threatened prosecution of anyone who reprinted the offending cartoons. Extremism is seen on Irish campuses where Sharia-spouting whackjobs are given a round of applause while anyone espousing liberal, Western values is shouted down as a racist – assuming they are allowed to speak in the first place. The terrifying truth is not the strength of ISIL’s convictions, but the weakness of ours. Put simply, they want it more than we do and until we start to aggressively assert Western values in Western countries, is it any wonder that they despise us? Frankly, I can’t say I blame them.”

* (Re-blogged from an article in The Irish Independent by Ian O’Doherty)

Clever Interventions Are Far More Effective Than Populist Broad Brush Strokes

It is a highly complex world with a highly complex security problem. A history lesson and the roots of the current mess is not possible here. But briefly the US finds itself dealing with large scale domestic socio-economic problems; Europe is in a monetary, economic and cultural crisis; social cohesion has disintegrated in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

There are rising far right groups in Europe and the US has elected a man with explicit alt-right sympathies as President. Subtlety and diplomacy and clever interventions are far more effective than broad brush strokes like Trump has begun to take. The majority only see the headlines and do not care to or want to dig deeper. A man and a set of policies that appeal to populist sentiment are a dangerous combination.

Excerpt from “The Future of Populism in the Trump Era” by Paul Wayne:

“Already emboldened by the Brexit vote in June, the election of “an outsider” as President of the world’s oldest democracy has given particularly the core of Europe’s right-wing populist parties a rather vainglorious halo. These three—France’s Marine LePen, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, and Germany’s Frauke Petry—stand to create a political environment which could ultimately eclipse the European project. All in 2017, the same year in which the Union plans to celebrate its very founding with the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The European Union can survive Brexit. Frexit—Marine LePen’s goal in her planned referendum on EU membership—would be Europe’s death knell.”

Two Party System – Universally Awful

The US is the architect of its own problems. I detest the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Clinton was an awful candidate. Trump was an awful candidate. But both represent exactly what the USA has become. A polarised, corrupted dystopia who regularly foment problems internationally and when it does not work out then walk away and leave a sorry mess behind them.

All The Presidents Messes

In my lifetime the American people have elected Nixon (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), Ford (by accident), Carter (Iranian Revolution & Iran Hostage debacle), Reagan (Funded the Taliban / Iran-Contra Affair / Nicaragua / El Salvador / Guatemala), Bush the first (Gulf War I), Clinton (Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti / Israel-Palestine / Ethnic Wars in Europe – Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims / Kosovo & Albania), Bush the Second (Iraq / Afghanistan), Obama (IRANDEAL, global appeasement, the relatively unopposed rise of ISIS, and the disintegration of Syria and Libya and Egypt as a result of US Foreign Policy failures) and now Trump.

In every case each of these presidents presided over a root cause of the current problem. The US does not have a good record. Trump supporters cite the border control, internal dissent and socio-economic problems as the main reasons for justifying a man like Trump yet most of his actions are having global fallout.

Always The Right Man, Until They Are Not

The US electorate who support the winning candidate always declare that they have elected the right man until he is not the right man and then they elect the right man again until he is not.

I do hope that they get it right soon because to date they keep getting it wrong, at their own and everyone else’s expense.

When the “Muslim” issue is “discussed” with Trumpites they will trot out the history of Muslim conquest and Crusader comparisons in terms of scale. It is a basic piece to any SME on History but it will like all base line rhetoric be offered as the lowest common denominator response masquerading as knoweldge instead of evolving the debate in to mature rather than reactionary territory.

“Small Nation, Small Thinking” But Wider Experience 

Trumpites have referred to me and my opinions as being the result of being an inhabitant of a ‘small nation’ with “small thinking”.

Next week I will travel to the 27th Muslim country that I have visited for work and / or pleasure. How many Americans have been outside their state let alone their country?

I can tell you. Of the 311 million U.S. residents, there are over 109 million valid U.S. passports in circulation according to the State Department. The real number of Americans that actually traveled (took trips) overseas in 2009 for either business or leisure, was about 15.5 million —or just five percent of the nation’s 311 million residents.

If you take the jet setting HNWI’s traveling ways into account less than 14.6 million Americans actually traveled overseas in 2009 — maybe as low as just 11.6 million, or about 3.5% of all U.S. residents.

America’s most popular overseas countries are: England (9% of all trips), France (7%), Italy (7%), Germany (5%), Dominican Republic (5%), Jamaica (5%), Japan (4%), China (4%), India (4%) and Spain (4%). Other significant countries visited include: Bahamas (3%) and Costa Rica (3%).

With just six percent of Americans trips going to the Middle East, and even fewer, just three percent, visiting the whole continent of Africa, and two percent going to Australia/New Zealand.

The US is a nation where most of the population and certainly most of the Trump supporters have never seen first hand many of the places which they hold aggressively contrary opinions toward.

For a nation where remarkably few of the residents have ever set foot in or spoke to a citizen of these countries yet seem to know all about their motivations and traditions it is amusing to me that according to Trumpites that I should take my “small nation” thinking and replace it with the opinions of insular Americans.

Amusing because the majority of them derive their opinions from second hand biased TV & radio commentators, and politicians rather than first hand experience.

Well that’s just lazy isn’t it really?

“Self Informed” Rather Than “Externally Conditioned” 

Americans who wish to mouth off about culture and integration (Reds & Blues) should try visiting some of these places and see the root causes for immigration or the effect of their past “right man at the time” presidents’ failed foreign policies.

A Trumpite responded in reply to this suggestion of taking time to travel and talk to Muslims in affected countries to gain a wider understanding by quoting (knowingly or not) the late comedian Chris Farley in the movie “Tommy Boy” that:

“Of course, I can get a hell of a good look at a T-Bone steak by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.”

To which I replied “Well you couldn’t do that with Trump anyway pal cos his head is already up his own ass – plan B I guess”.

END

Official Government Response to “Repeal the new Surveillance Laws (Investigatory Powers Act)” Petition

Dear Graham Penrose,

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Repeal the new Surveillance laws (Investigatory Powers Act)”.

Government responded:

The Investigatory Powers Act dramatically increases transparency around the use of investigatory powers. It protects both privacy and security and underwent unprecedented scrutiny before becoming law.

The Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe.

The Investigatory Powers Act transforms the law relating to the use and oversight of Investigatory powers. It strengthens safeguards and introduces world-leading oversight arrangements.

The Act does three key things. First, it brings together powers already available to law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to obtain communications and data about communications. It makes these powers – and the safeguards that apply to them – clear and understandable.

Second, it radically overhauls the way these powers are authorised and overseen. It introduces a ‘double-lock’ for the most intrusive powers, including interception and all of the bulk capabilities, so warrants require the approval of a Judicial Commissioner. And it creates a powerful new Investigatory Powers Commissioner to oversee how these powers are used.

Third, it ensures powers are fit for the digital age. The Act makes a single new provision for the retention of internet connection records in order for law enforcement to identify the communications service to which a device has connected. This will restore capabilities that have been lost as a result of changes in the way people communicate.

Public scrutiny

The Bill was subject to unprecedented scrutiny prior to and during its passage.

The Bill responded to three independent reports: by David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation; by the Royal United Services Institute’s Independent Surveillance Review Panel; and by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. All three of those authoritative independent reports agreed a new law was needed.

The Government responded to the recommendations of those reports in the form of a draft Bill, published in November 2015. That draft Bill was submitted for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The Intelligence and Security Committee and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee conducted parallel scrutiny. Between them, those Committees received over 1,500 pages of written submissions and heard oral evidence from the Government, industry, civil liberties groups and many others. The recommendations made by those Committees informed changes to the Bill and the publication of further supporting material.

A revised Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 1 March, and completed its passage on 16 November, meeting the timetable for legislation set by Parliament during the passage of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. Over 1,700 amendments to the Bill were tabled and debated during this time.

The Government has adopted an open and consultative approach throughout the passage of this legislation, tabling or accepting a significant number of amendments in both Houses of Parliament in order to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections. These included enhanced protections for trade unions and journalistic and legally privileged material, and the introduction of a threshold to ensure internet connection records cannot be used to investigate minor crimes.

Privacy and Oversight

The Government has placed privacy at the heart of the Investigatory Powers Act. The Act makes clear the extent to which investigatory powers may be used and the strict safeguards that apply in order to maintain privacy.

A new overarching ‘privacy clause’ was added to make absolutely clear that the protection of privacy is at the heart of this legislation. This privacy clause ensures that in each and every case a public authority must consider whether less intrusive means could be used, and must have regard to human rights and the particular sensitivity of certain information. The powers can only be exercised when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, and the Act includes tough sanctions – including the creation of new criminal offences – for those misusing the powers.
The safeguards in this Act reflect the UK’s international reputation for protecting human rights. The unprecedented transparency and the new safeguards – including the ‘double lock’ for the most sensitive powers – set an international benchmark for how the law can protect both privacy and security.

Home Office

Click this link to view the response online:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/173199?reveal_response=yes

This petition has over 100,000 signatures. The Petitions Committee will consider it for a debate. They can also gather further evidence and press the government for action.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee

Thanks,
The Petitions Team
UK Government and Parliament

Ireland Late Again To Recognise Threat From Radical Islamists

Islamic State suspected to have been using Ireland as easy access to U.K.  The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) suspects will be prevented from using Irish ports as an easy access to get to Britain after gardai decided to crack down, based on threats. Launching the ‘Operation Mutiny’, a garda operation began after doubts arose that there might be suspects using the ports due to its weak security and surveillance systems.

The security has tightened and has become widespread over the past few weeks at the ports in Dublin and Rosslare.

Sources have revealed the details of the operation, its initiation and its importance. Several meetings were reportedly held with senior Garda officers and their U.K. counterparts after the summer Brexit referendum.

Vast amounts of overtime has been promised to those willing to work with the garda operations to protect the country.The management is Rosslare alone has sanctioned 100 hours of overtime a day.

According to the Herald, a source said, “Security at our ports was found to be porous and weak. The U.K. authorities were very concerned that IS terrorists could use these ports to get into Britain to launch a terrorist attack so Operation Mutiny was put in place.”

“There were a number of meetings held between representatives of the different forces and these ultimately led to the drawing up of a policing plan which has been successful so far,” the source went on to add.

“This has been a sustained and massive operation which has meant that gardai have been checking virtually every vehicle coming into and out of these ports,” the source further told the Herald.

Adding, “Overtime for officers is being offered on a daily basis and there can be no doubt that these ports are far more secure than they were even a couple of months ago.”

Heavily armed Garda have been deployed, apart from the existing Garda units from the Garda Regional Support Unit (RSU). Due to unavailability of officers in the South East, the southern region of the RSU has taken charge in the ports of Rosslare.

‘Significant seizures’ of stolen property has been noted even though no ISIS interception has been made yet.

Burglaries that involve members of Romanian and other Eastern European organised crime gangs have been spotted and put an end to through the activities of the RSU.

Several cars reported stolen, have been found and the success in finding significant stolen goods has made the operation partly successful. However, it is expected for the operation to be ‘wound down’ by the end of the year.

Full Article: http://www.irishsun.com/index.php/sid/249415673