Friday, 9 July 2010

intel updates: us eu data / spy swap / iphone / dubai


US to access Europeans' bank data in new deal

8 July 2010

Euro MPs have approved a new deal to allow US anti-terror investigators to access Europeans' bank data.

The vote followed tough negotiations with US authorities after a previous agreement was blocked by the European Parliament in February.

EU negotiators say the new deal gives EU officials authority to monitor the US investigators' actions.

The deal gives the US access to bulk data from Swift, a firm that handles millions of bank transactions daily.

Washington says the Swift deal is crucial to fighting terrorism, as part of the US Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP) set up after the September 2001 attacks on the US.

Privacy concerns

Top US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lobbied the EU over the data transfer deal.

The agreement was passed with 484 MEPs in favour and 109 against. There were 12 abstentions.

In February Euro MPs rejected an earlier draft agreement, saying the privacy safeguards were inadequate.

The fact that the US was secretly accessing Swift bank data did not come to light until 2006.

Under the new deal, the EU police agency Europol will assess whether specific data requests are necessary for the fight against terrorism before the data is sent to the US, the European Commission says.

The Commission will appoint EU officials to monitor the US investigators' actions.

There is also a requirement that bulk data can never be sent to third countries.

EU citizens who believe their data has been misused will have the right to legal action in the US courts.

'Sends right signals'

The Commission says the data transferred under TFTP can include identifying information about the originator and/or recipient of the transaction, including name, address, national identification number and other personal data related to financial messages.

A German Liberal MEP, Alexander Alvaro, said the deal "will ensure that terrorist financing can be traced back to its sources, but it will not affect day-to-day bank transfers of EU citizens".

And the leader of the UK Conservative MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope, said it "sends the right signals about our resolve in fighting terrorism and our commitment to remaining a strong partner of the United States".

The lobby group European Digital Rights (EDRI) says the new deal is still not restrictive enough. It will allow a great deal of data to be transferred to the US, EDRI says, doubting that aggrieved EU citizens will get any legal redress in the US.

EDRI also says Europol is the wrong vehicle to vet US anti-terror requests, because Europol itself will be able to request data from US searches, and that "drastically reduces any incentive to limit the transferred amount of data".

A judicial body, not the police, should be in charge, it argues.


Spy swap: John le Carré watches the exchange

The creator of George Smiley looks on as Russian and US agents are swapped in the largest such event since the cold war

9 July 2010
John le Carré

Which Russia did these deluded spy-babies fantasise about when they played under the bedclothes with their top-of-the-range spy toys, cleared their magic dead-letter boxes, dispatched their magic microdots, and lied away their lives to their friends, neighbours and lovers?

Whose great cause did they imagine they were serving, these virtual martyrs who are about to be sent home in disgrace to the breast of Mother Russia? Were the ghosts of Russia's past whispering to them, or the ghosts of her future? Was it the old, fervent, unawakened Russia that dreams of Josef Stalin's second coming that they imagined they were serving? The tsars of the Holy Russian Empire brought alive according to the prophecies? Or was it the unholy-Russian-Empire-in-the-Sky that floats above the kleptocratic Kremlin of Vladimir Putin?

Once upon a time spies had motives. There was capitalism and there was communism. You could choose. And all right, there was the money and the sex and the blackmail, and needing to get your own back on your superiors by betraying them when you'd been passed over for promotion, and there was the God-feeling, and playing the world's game, and the whole familiar repertoire of noble and grubby motives, but in the end you either spied for a cause or against it.

But what in heaven's name was their cause? Who did they think they were protecting in their distorted, programmed little minds as they tried and tried again, unsuccessfully, to slither up the slippery pole of western society? What was there to choose between Mother Russia and Mother America, two huge continents out of control drowning together in the oily waters of capitalism? Was it really only the name on the lifebelt that made the difference? Mother Russia right or wrong?

I just hope the beleaguered shrinks of Moscow will be able to take the strain as their new patients come pouring through the door: first the frozen children screaming for help, and after them the wise idiots of Putin's vast, chaotic espiocracy who, immersed in their own archaic fantasies, took it upon themselves to recruit, train, and twist young minds in the image of their own.

Finally, why now, after our own spies have trailed and bugged these incompetent children at play for a decade? And why Vienna?

Is it because, as conspiracy theorists are beginning to whisper, rightists inside America's innumerable intelligence agencies (which from everything Obama has recently told us are just as out of control as their Russian confrères) have decided to raise the spectre of the cold war at the very moment when the president is deemed to be drawing closer to Russia?

Then might this also be the reason for the theatrical backcloth of Vienna? Are the reactionaries on both sides of the iron curtain that they would dearly love to erect laying on a bumper show for us? As we watch live in glorious Technicolor the greatest spy-swap of the 21st century, and hear in our memories the zither twanging out the Harry Lime theme, do the spies expect us to go scurrying back to our cold war shelters? Is that the cunning plan?

If so, the spies of both sides have screwed up yet again. Harry Lime and his unlovely friends were not engaged in espionage. They were lowlife crooks trading in adulterated penicillin, and their business was poisoning children. So come to think of it, Vienna isn't such a bad choice after all.

© David Cornwell July 2010. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold will be reissued by Penguin on 31 July.

Spy swap: Viennese waltz

There is no domestic or international advantage to be reaped by either side from a prolonged stand-off

The Guardian, 10 July 2010

All it needed was for someone on the tarmac at Vienna airport yesterday morning to take out a zither and play the Harry Lime theme. For 90 minutes, vehicles shuttled between two planes parked side by side, exchanging 10 Russian agents for three US counterparts and one man, a Russian nuclear weapons researcher, who had always protested his innocence. The US plane took off again and landed at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. It was the largest spy swap since the cold war, but there the comparison ends. For this was not a re-enactment of the tense Le Carré-style ceremonies that once took place on the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin.

For one thing, the swap has happened extremely swiftly by the standards of such affairs, barely weeks after the Russian spy ring was rounded up. This is not because of improved relations between Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the FBI or MI5. There is no love lost between the rival agencies, as counter-intelligence soaks up resources better directed at real threats such as al-Qaida. But unlike in the cold war, there is no domestic or international advantage to be reaped by either side from a prolonged stand-off.

Quite the contrary. Russia needs US support for its entry into the World Trade Organisation. The US needs Russia to keep the sanctions pressure on Iran and not to sell it sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles. Each needs its legislature to ratify the arms control treaty their presidents have just signed. The "reset button" they have pushed to restore a working relationship after the damage done in the Bush era is not a fictional device. It is a working diplomatic mechanism that has stood the test of time. Many of Barack Obama's diplomatic initiatives have yet to bear fruit. Russia is one that has done so. Yesterday's muted exchange is proof of it.

In addition, none of the 10 Russians had culled any secrets from their hideouts in US suburbia, nor had they been convicted of espionage. The four they were swapped with had been, although Igor Sutyagin claims to have used open sources for the information he passed to a UK-based agency suspected of being run by the CIA. The four were requested by Washington, presumably because it felt responsible for them. Some are old, in poor health and had served long jail terms. The tone of the pardon from President Dmitry Medvedev was that they had done their time. Russian commentators, not normally given to understatement, played the whole spy scandal down. Not worth more than an empty eggshell, said one. The loss of one of the Russian spies, "glamorous flame-haired socialite" Anna Chapman, will be felt by the US media. But the great game never ends. She is unlikely to be the last.


How your Apple iPhone spies on you

Criminals using the Apple iPhone may be unwittingly providing police with a wealth of information that could be used against them, according to new research.

Tom Leonard in New York
08 Jul 2010

How your iPhone spies on you
Apple's new iPhone Photo: APPLE

As the communications device grows in popularity, technology experts and US law enforcement agencies are devoting increasing efforts to understanding their potential for forensics investigators.

While police have tracked criminals by locating their position via conventional mobile phone towers, iPhones offer far more information, say experts.

"There are a lot of security issues in the design of the iPhone that lend themselves to retaining more personal information than any other device," said Jonathan Zdziarski, a former computer hacker who now teaches US law enforcers how to retrieve data from mobile phones.

"These devices organise people's lives and, if you're doing something criminal, something about it is going to go through that phone." Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since the product was launched in 2007.

Mr Zdziarski told The Daily Telegraph he suspected that security had been neglected on the iPhone as it had been intended as a consumer product rather than a business one like rivals such as the Blackberry.

An example was the iPhone's keyboard logging cache, which was designed to correct spelling but meant that an expert could retrieve anything typed on the keyboard over the past three to 12 months, he said.

In addition, every time an iPhone's internal mapping system is closed down, the device snaps a screenshot of the phone's last position and stores it.

Investigators could access "several hundred" such images from the iPhone and so establish its user's whereabouts at certain times, he said.

In a further design feature that can also help detectives, iPhone photos include so-called "geotags" so that, if posted online, they indicate precisely where a picture was taken and the serial number of the phone that took it.

"Very, very few people have any idea how to actually remove data from their phone," Sam Brothers, a mobile phone researcher for US Customs and Border Protection told the Detroit Free Press.

"It may look like everything's gone but for anybody who's got a clue, retrieving that information is easy."


Poles to extradite Israeli 'linked to Dubai murder'

7 July 2010

A Polish court has ruled that an alleged Israeli Mossad agent can be extradited to Germany.

Uri Brodsky is suspected of helping to forge a German passport used in connection with the murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai.

Mr Brodsky, an Israeli citizen, was detained in Poland in June on an arrest warrant issued by Germany.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas's military wing, was found dead in a Dubai hotel on 20 January.

Dubai police have said they are 99% sure that members of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were involved, although Israel says there is no proof.

"The court has decided to hand over Uri Brodsky to German authorities for judicial procedures there," Judge Tomasz Talkiewicz said, following the closed hearing at Warsaw regional court.

"The court did not decide whether Brodsky committed the crime for which he is under investigation, the court only checked whether the extradition request fulfils the formal requirements and whether the suspect is correctly identified," he added.

'Mistaken identity'

Mr Brodsky, who was arrested by border guards at Warsaw airport last month, has three days to appeal against the decision.

However, his lawyers say no decision has yet been made. They argue it is a case of mistaken identity and he is not the man wanted in Germany.

Mr Brodsky hid his face from reporters as he walked to the courtroom escorted by anti-terrorist police officers.

He showed no reaction when the ruling was announced.

Forged passports from the UK, the Irish Republic, France, Australia, and Germany were used in the Dubai operation, leading to diplomatic rows between those countries and Israel.

The UK and Australia have expelled Israeli diplomats over the forgeries.

Dubai police have identified more than 30 suspects in the case.

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