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Showing posts from February 6, 2013

New "Surveillance-Proof" App To Secure Communications Has Governments Nervous

Silent Circle logo.
Courtesy Silent Circle.

Lately, Mike Janke has been getting what he calls the “hairy eyeball” from international government agencies. The 44-year-old former Navy SEAL commando, together with two of the world’s most renowned cryptographers, was always bound to ruffle some high-level feathers with his new project—a surveillance-resistant communications platform that makes complex encryption so simple your grandma can use it.


This week, after more than two years of preparation, the finished product has hit the market. Named Silent Circle, it is in essence a series of applications that can be used on a mobile device to encrypt communications—text messages, plus voice and video calls. Currently, apps for the iPhone and iPad are available, with versions for Windows, Galaxy, Nexus, and Android in the works. An email service is also soon scheduled to launch.


The encryption is peer to peer, which means that Silent Circle doesn’t centrally hold a key that can be used to decr…

The Threat of Silence

Meet the groundbreaking new encryption app set to revolutionize privacy and freak out the feds.

For the past few months, some of the world’s leading cryptographers have been keeping a closely guarded secret about a pioneering new invention. Today, they’ve decided it’s time to tell all.


Back in October, the startup tech firm Silent Circle ruffled governments’ feathers with a “surveillance-proof” smartphone app to allow people to make secure phone calls and send texts easily. Now, the company is pushing things even further—with a groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app that will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button. (For now, it’s just being released for iPhones and iPads, though Android versions should come soon.) That means photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it—sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.

“This has never been done before,” boasts Mike Janke, Silent Circle’s CEO. “It’s going to revolutio…

President Obama Can Do Anything He Wants To Fight Terrorism

That’s the lesson of the leaked drone memo.

So far, the reporting on the leaked white paper from the Justice Department about drone attacks clearly assumes that we are supposed to be outraged by the Obama administration’s legal theories, just as we were supposed to be outraged by the Bush administration’s. And outrage is being dutifully ginned up. But the memo is utterly conventional as legal analysis; its arguments could easily have been predicted. It’s most useful as an opportunity to reflect on how the law has evolved to address the problem of terror.


All you need to know in order to understand the memo is that Obama administration lawyers have enthusiastically endorsed the once-vilified Bush administration decision to classify security operations against al-Qaida as “war” rather than as “law enforcement.” This was not an inevitable decision. Obviously, the use of military force in Afghanistan was a military operation, and to the extent that members of al-Qaida joined Taliban soldier…

A Tiny Computer Attracts a Million Tinkerers

Raspberry Pi may sound like the name of a math-based dessert. But it is actually one of the hottest and cheapest little computers in the world right now. Almost one million of these $35 machines have shipped since last February, capturing the imaginations of educators, hobbyists and tinkerers around the world.

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A Raspberry Pi computer, which is actually about the size of a credit card, was created to teach computer science students.


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Raspberry Pi: A Computer for Children
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Two students checked out a Pi in Washington last fall.


The story of the Raspberry Pi begins in 2006 when Eben Upton and other faculty members at the University of Cambridge in Britain found that their incoming computer science students were ill-prepared for a high-tech education. While many students in the previous decade were experienced electronics hobbyists by the time they got to coll…

Hand of U.S. Is Seen in Halting General’s Rise in Mexico

As Mexico’s military staged its annual Independence Day parade in September, spectators filled the main square of Mexico City to cheer on the armed forces. Nearly 2,000 miles away in Washington, American officials were also paying attention.

But it was not the helicopters hovering overhead or the antiaircraft weapons or the soldiers in camouflage that caught their attention. It was the man chosen to march at the head of the parade, Gen. Moisés García Ochoa, who by tradition typically becomes the country’s next minister of defense.

The Obama administration had many concerns about the general, including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s suspicion that he had links to drug traffickers and the Pentagon’s anxiety that he had misused military supplies and skimmed money from multimillion-dollar defense contracts.

In the days leading up to Mexico’s presidential inauguration on Dec. 1, the United States ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, met with senior aides to President Enrique Peña Ni…

Drone Strikes’ Dangers to Get Rare Moment in Public Eye

SANA, Yemen — Late last August, a 40-year-old cleric named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber stood up to deliver a speech denouncing Al Qaeda in a village mosque in far eastern Yemen.

It was a brave gesture by a father of seven who commanded great respect in the community, and it did not go unnoticed. Two days later, three members of Al Qaeda came to the mosque in the tiny village of Khashamir after 9 p.m., saying they merely wanted to talk. Mr. Jaber agreed to meet them, bringing his cousin Waleed Abdullah, a police officer, for protection.

As the five men stood arguing by a cluster of palm trees, a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky and incinerated them all, along with a camel that was tied up nearby.

The killing of Mr. Jaber, just the kind of leader most crucial to American efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, was a reminder of the inherent hazards of the quasi-secret campaign of targeted killings that the United States is waging against suspected militant…

CIA renditions 'aided by 54 countries'

Countries were covertly involved in global kidnap, detention and torture programme, a human rights body says in report.

As many as 54 countries have been complicit in the CIA's extraordinary rendition operations in which terrorism suspects were held in secret prisons overseas or turned over to foreign governments for interrogation, a human rights organisation has said in a report.

The report, released on Tuesday, claims that foreign governments in Europe, Asia and Africa have been secretly involved in global kidnap, detention and torture of at least 136 people on behalf of the United States after September 11, 2001 attacks.

"By engaging in torture and other abuses associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, the US government violated domestic and international law, thereby diminishing its moral standing and eroding support for its counterterrorism efforts worldwide as these abuses came to light," the report said.

The report by the Open Society Justice Initi…

Massive quake strikes off Solomon Islands

Magnitude 8.0 quake struck near Santa Cruz islands, briefly triggering tsunami warnings for several Pacific nations.

A powerful earthquake has struck off the Solomon Islands, and generated a tsunami of up to 1.5 metres that damaged dozens of homes in the South Pacific island chain, but authorities cancelled warnings for tsunamis on more distant coasts.

The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 01:12 GMT on Wednesday near the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the Solomon Islands nation, which have been hit by a series of strong tremors over the past week.

"No tsunami threat exists for other coastal areas although some may experience small sea level changes," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

Solomons officials reported two 1.5-metre waves hit the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging around 50 homes and properties, said George Herming, a spokesperson for the prime minister.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths. Villagers were heading for higher …

War trials re-open old wounds in Bangladesh

Tribunals aim to deliver justice for hundreds of thousands killed and raped in Bangladesh's brutal 1971 liberation war.

Four decades after Bangladesh won its independence in a bloody civil war, trials for war crimes are re-opening the wounds of that bitter conflict in a poor but proud nation deeply polarised by politics.

Bangladesh says 2.5 to 3 million people died during the eight months of the 1971 civil war against Pakistan, and that 250,000 women were raped by Pakistani troops and supporting militias.

"That makes it one of the bloodiest civil wars of our times. So many have been crying for justice so long," said Haroon Habib, a journalist and writer. He believes a clash is inevitable between the Awami League, a party that envisions a "secular Bangladesh", and the Jamaat-e-Islami, which he describes as "Islamist" and "pro-Pakistani".

On Tuesday, a tribunal handed down a life sentence to Abdul Quader Molla, assistant secretary-general of the J…

Keep off Bahrain, top Egypt cleric tells Iranian President

CAIRO: Egypt's top cleric told visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last night not to interfere in the affairs of Bahrain or other Gulf states, and to uphold the rights of his country's Sunni minority.

Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the grand imam of Cairo's Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, also denounced what he described as the "spread of Shiism in Sunni lands".

Tayyeb, who made the remarks in a statement after meeting Ahmadinejad, demanded "the Iranian president respect Bahrain as a brotherly Arab nation, and not interfere in the affairs of Gulf states".

Ahmadinejad later gave a news conference at Al Azhar in which he said he "came from Iran to say that Egypt and the Egyptian people have their place in the heart of the Iranian people".

But senior Al Azhar cleric Hassan Al Shafie, speaking after Ahmadinejad, launched into a tirade against "some Shi'ites" for insulting some of the Prophet Mohammed's companions a…

U.S.-Iranian Dialogue in Obama's Second Term

By Reva Bhalla



Vice President of Global Affairs

As U.S. President Barack Obama's second-term foreign policy team begins to take shape, Iran remains unfinished business for the U.S. administration. The diplomatic malaise surrounding this issue over the past decade has taken its toll on Washington and Tehran. Even as the United States and Iran are putting out feelers for another round of negotiations, expectations for any breakthrough understandably remain low. Still, there has been enough movement over the past week to warrant a closer look at this long-standing diplomatic impasse.

At the Munich Security Conference held Feb. 1-3, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said the United States would be willing to hold direct talks with Iran under the right conditions. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi responded positively to the offer but warned that Iran would not commit unless Washington shows a "fair and real" intention to resolve the issues dividing the two sides.
An Uneven R…