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It’s Not Easy Being an Activist: A Look Back at the Edward Snowden Leaks

14 November 2018

As one of the most vocal and outspoken privacy advocates of our generation, Edward Snowden is a highly polarizing figure. After single-handedly orchestrating what was to become the single biggest data leak in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) history, the former government contractor risked his freedom so that the world could know the truth.

While the government was quick to label him a criminal, Snowden has since amassed a sizable following, and with dozens of articles, biographies and a few Hollywood biopics under his belt, the North Carolina native has become one of the most famous fugitives in the world.

With this summer marking the fifth anniversary of the Snowden leaks, let ’s reflect on how a single person changed the world.

From Hawaii to Hong Kong: Looking back

It’s easy to get caught up in the politics of privacy. With so many current scandals surrounding Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and the like, the threat of our personal information being weaponized has never been more real. However, this wasn’t the case in 2013, when the majority of the public was still firmly rooted in the war on terror. In fact, until Snowden came forward, most of the world’s surveillance methods were entirely unknown.

First fleeing from his comfortable home in Hawaii to Hong Kong to meet up with journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, and then seeking asylum in Russia (where he currently resides), Snowden made it clear early on that he was well aware of the consequences.

In one of his initial notes, Snowden says: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Coming to terms with the Snowden Effect

As a purveyor of truth, Snowden’s never one to shy away from voicing his opinion. And with a current Twitter following of nearly four million, his voice is a powerful one. He’s still actively engaged in the ongoing fight for privacy, and though he’s reluctant to show his face in public, his actions speak louder than words.

So what’s changed in the years since? A lot, actually, though not all at the same time. For one, PRISM, which was the single biggest spying program listed in Snowden’s documents, was ruled illegal in 2015 by a U.S. appellate court. And the USA Freedom Act, which passed in 2015, was significant for being one of the first laws after the revelations to actually limit the amount of power the NSA could have.

But while change may be slow on the government front, it’s moving at a rapid pace on a grass-roots level. Nonprofit organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are making tremendous strides in bringing about more public awareness.

The change is already happening

From California’s recent net neutrality law to Europe’s sweeping data overhaul, the change Snowden rallied for is already happening. And while it may not be as imposing or as far-reaching as many might have hoped, there’s no denying that the collective consciousness towards online privacy has shifted. For proof, look no further than how the general public views anonymity.

Secure VPN (virtual private network) services, which were once reserved for the technologically elite, have now become a mainstream staple in devices around the world. Even tech companies like Apple and Google are getting into the fray by offering more robust privacy protocols in their apps and services (though to categorize either as being particularly privacy-focused would be a stretch).

Regardless of where you stand on the political fence, there’s no denying Snowden’s leaks made a significant impact on the world. And though he’s still a highly politicized fugitive, Snowden says he has no regrets.

Originally published on

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Gaza: Prelude To A Non-War Shakes Up Israeli Politics And Leads Hamas To Think ‘It Won’

by Seth Frantzman November 14, 2018

After launching 400 rockets at Israel, Hamas decided that it wanted to send a message to Jerusalem. It put out a warning that any “excessive aggression” by Israel would result in more rockets being fired at targets deep inside Israel. It would “increase the depth,” of the fire.

Israel also put out warnings throughout the 24 hours of conflict. It warned Hamas and Gazans to evacuate Al-Aqsa TV, before Israel struck the building. In fact it seemed that in the 160 targets that the IDF claimed to have struck in Gaza, very few people were killed.

The strange, short, conflict looked like it might become a war. But instead a ceasefire took place on Tuesday afternoon, after a day of more rocket fire. Overall Hamas had fired 460 rockets at Israel, which is more than in any other 24-hour period. Yet Israel did not respond as it has in the past. The same volume of fire might have set in motion another operation like Cast-Lead of Pillar of Defense, Summer Rains or Protective Edge. But instead the government was clear. After a seven hour security cabinet meeting, the decision was for more quiet.

So what happened? On November 11 an IDF team that was in Gaza near Khan Yunis got in a firefight. A senior Hamas commander named Nur Baraka was killed during an incident that is still unclear. A high ranking Israeli officer, Lieutenant-Colonel M., was killed. So sensitive was his death that his name was not released. However the IDF insisted the clash was not the result of a raid to kidnap or assassinate a Hamas member but was the result of a complex situation that developed from a more routine operation. The unit had to be extracted, air strikes took place and a half dozen Palestinians were killed. Gaza was on a knife edge of greater conflict with Israel. At dusk on November 12 the rocket fire began.

The volume of fire was like nothing before. But Israel was hesitant to respond. Earlier in the day there had been some movement to reinforce the border in case of tensions. But the feeling in Israel was not one of a war footing. This is a complex feeling to describe, but anyone who has lived through numerous wars and other operations in Israel knows that there is a kind of choreograph series of events that take place as war hype sets in. This involves media and constant talk on radio and other types of conscious and subconscious preparations.

The government didn’t want war. For six months there have been serious clashes between Israel and Gaza. This has involved the “Great March of Return.” More than 200 Palestinians were killed in 33 weeks of riots on the border, many of them on Fridays. There were also rounds of rocket fire, on March 25, May 29, July 14, July 18, August 9, and October 11 and October 27. The rocket fire on October 27 was caused by Iran’s prodding of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The rocket fire was often met by rounds of air strikes, some of which were the largest air strikes since the 2014 war. On . May 29 and July 14 the raids were the largest since 2014. Then on November 12 another large response took place.

Each round seemed to have its same script. Hamas or PIJ or both would fire rockets. Israel would respond. Then there would be a ceasefire. As I wrote in July, August and October there were many agendas in Gaza, foremost among them the Qatar angle. Egypt has been seeking quiet in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has been pressuring and sanctioning Hamas. The US has been talking tough on Hamas. Hamas has actually thanked the international community for pressuring Israel to come to a ceasefire on November 13.

If Hamas wants a ceasefire, what was the point of the massive rocket barrage? An article at Ynet suggested Hamas was trying to challenge or test the Iron Dome system. Hamas also used a Kornet anti-tank missile to strike a bus. That was a serious escalation. Had a large number of soldiers been killed it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Israel’s government to avoid war. On the radio on November 14 one commentator suggested Hamas had purposely made sure soldiers exited before firing on the bus. But others disagreed. The rockets could also have been more deadly. They struck several homes in Ashkelon, killing a man and wounding almost fifty throughout the south.

Hamas celebrated the “victory” in Gaza on November 13 with parties and chants. This is one of the view “victories” it has had. In fact after 12 years of governing Gaza it has largely failed. It knows this. But it wants to show it can bring investment from Qatar, as it did on November 10, and also show it can challenge Israel and then get a ceasefire.

The 24 hour conflict has thrown Israel’s government into chaos. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned on Wednesday over the ceasefire deal. Israelis are angry, some protested in Sderot with burning tires. The opposition, including Yair Lapid, wants to pressure the government over this. Many people are calling for a “tough blow” for Hamas. But now the war has shifted to the political arena. The war over the war has begun. Hamas has also caused Israel to wonder how the Kornet missile attack took place. additional questions will also be asked by the raid on Khan Yunis.

The whole conflict with Hamas raises several questions. What does Israel want. The current Israeli government doesn’t want a war. it has made this clear. Netanyahu has already managed several wars with Gaza, now he wants to manage the conflict. He is cautious. He wants to manage Gaza as Israel manages the West Bank. That means the status quo. It also means the Palestinians remain divided. This is not Israel’s fault, they are divided anyway because Hamas and Fatah cannot reconcile. In some ways Mahmud Abbas has been tougher on Gaza than Israel. Fatah members don’t want Israel to sign a separate deal with Gaza and bypass the Palestinian Authority. As the PA has cut off discussions with the US over the embassy move, it means the PA is unwilling to deal with Israel or the US. As such no one will create a reconciliation with Gaza. An attempt at one was scuppered by March 2018 because of the assassination attempt on Rami Hamdallah’s visit to Gaza in March.

Have Hamas isolated in Gaza makes the organization less dangerous than if it were part of the government in Ramallah and its activists able to continue planning attack as an “opposition” or “resistance” group. At the same time Hamas has no real plan for Gaza’s future. But does Israel have a strategic plan? No. Neither side does, the only thing they can agree on is the ceasefire.

One of the problems with the conflict, and “managing” it is that both Hamas and Israel seem to know how the future will play out. Neither wants war. But neither wants peace or any other change either. This presents a problem because it mans that one miscalculation could lead to conflict. That Israel’s Defense Minister resigned over the recent ceasefire shows how Hamas can deeply impact Israel. It has more impact this way than using rockets. That has always been Israel’s problem. Israel can win the wars, but it can’t win the peace. It may in fact find dealing with Ramallah or Gaza more complex than the recent trips by Israeli government members to Oman or the UAE. As such Jerusalem doesn’t want to get “bogged down” in Gaza. Instead security threats are outsources to the defense technology sector, or in the West Bank to the security forces which prevented 250 attacks in 2018. Israel must weigh this method of “managing” with larger regional threats, such as Iran in Syria.

Netanyahu is extremely cautious when it comes to Gaza and the West Bank. He has been less cautious in dealing with the Iran threat. That has included hundreds of air strikes in Syria since 2011 and Israel carving out complex relations with Russia. That is where Netanyahu excels, not in Gaza.

Now Israel may go to elections, with Gaza hanging in the background. No one will present a long term strategy for Gaza, but the threats of a “strong blow” against Hamas will continue.

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Very interesting!

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Russia And Cuba Plan To Develop ‘Practical Cooperation’ Between Defense Ministries

by L Todd Wood November 14, 2018

The defense ministries of the Russian Federation and Cuba plan on developing ‘practical cooperation’ with one another in a move reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963 where the world almost slipped into nuclear war.

Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu held negotiations with Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba Corps General Leopoldo Frias in Moscow on November 14.

“The mutual intention to develop dialogue and practical cooperation between the defense ministries of the two countries was confirmed,” the Defense Ministry said.

According to the Defense Ministry, the sides discussed current issues on the bilateral agenda in the military and military-technical spheres.

“The ministers’ meeting was held for the development of agreements after negotiations held between the Russian and Cuban leaders in early November,” the ministry stressed, reported Russian state news agency TASS.

The move is interesting as the Trump administration continues to ramp up sanctions on Moscow for the Skripal affair in the United Kingdom, and the arming of Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region of East Ukraine.

The Obama administration appeased the Cubans but Trump has rolled back many of those initiatives.

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Can Iran's government survive the 'toughest sanctions in history'?

With the Trump administration determined to drive Iran into a corner, the Islamic Republic has little choice but to hunker down and resist

Mahan Abedin
Thursday 15 November 2018 11:04 UTC
Thursday 15 November 2018 12:10 UTC

As the latest round of US sanctions kicks in, Iran is faced with the prospect of potentially crippling economic embargo for the foreseeable future - at least until the expiry of President Donald Trump’s first term in January 2021. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani struck a defiant tone on the day sanctions were reimposed, vowing to "break" them and to continue selling oil on international markets.

The US threat to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero underlines Washington’s determination to impose the "toughest sanctions ever placed" on the Islamic Republic. The US has effectively called for an economic siege on Iran, and if it comes anywhere close to reducing Iranian oil exports to zero, then the Islamic Republic could face a devastating conomic crisis with social and political repercussions. 

Defying the embargo

In view of Iran's decades-long struggle with wide-ranging US and broader international sanctions, however, the country has both the spirit and the knowhow to defy the embargo. 

The greater danger for Iran is the risk of escalation on other fronts, in view of the declared US position of rolling back Iranian influence across the region. As the Islamic Republic comes under more and more pressure from the US and its regional allies, it will be less able to resist the temptation to directly confront its tormentors.  

In view of the Trump administration's war-like rhetoric, international media organisations have been wondering aloud about just how "tough" the latest sanctions really are. The short answer is that they are indeed unprecedented in both depth and breadth.

In addition to the critical oil, finance and transportation sectors, the sanctions also directly target up to 700 Iranian individuals and entities, many of whom played critical roles in subverting the previous rounds of sanctions. 

The last round of punishing US unilateral sanctions was imposed in January 2012 by the Obama administration. These sanctions were in keeping with broader multilateral sanctions rooted in United Nations Security Council resolutions, which focused on the more controversial aspects of Iran's nuclear programme, notably uranium enrichment. 

The latest US sanctions are unilateral in nature and do not even meet the approval of Washington’s Western allies, including Britain, let alone the broader international community. 

‘Ghost tankers’

Underscoring widespread international concern about US plans and intentions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quick to condemn the sanctions as “absolutely illegitimate” and deeply disappointing.

In view of the four-decade history of sanctions, Iran has extensive experience in circumventing them by exploiting loopholes and creating wiggle room in highly creative ways. There are already reports that Iran is using “ghost tankers” to export oil to customers. These efforts are likely to be stepped up as the Trump administration’s temporary “waivers” to eight countries - including China, South Korea, India and Japan - expire after 180 days.

But even if Iran continues to sell oil on the international markets at an acceptable level, it is still faced with the formidable challenge of receiving and processing funds. The US is applying great pressure on the Belgium-based SWIFT global payments system to halt all sanctions-related transactions with Iranian financial entities. 

In the latest sign that big international companies and financial institutions are heeding Washington’s warnings, SWIFT has now reportedly cut its links to Iran’s central bank. The disconnection makes it more difficult for Iran to settle import and export bills. 

Moreover, Iran cannot realistically rely on European powers to throw it a permanent lifeline in the face of relentless US pressure. The Europeans, notably the signatories to the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, have committed to creating an alternative financial platform, the so-called “special purpose vehicle” (SPV), to sidestep US sanctions. 

But underscoring the difficulties and sensitivities surrounding the case, EU powers have been slow to act, and no single country has volunteered to host the SPV. 

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the special European Union initiative to protect trade with Iran against newly reimposed US sanctions faces possible collapse, with no EU country willing to host the operation for fear of provoking US punishment.

Counter-sanctions techniques

An additional challenge is the “smart” dimension of the latest sanctions regime. Just as Iran has accumulated experience and expertise in subverting sanctions, so has the US gained knowledge of Iranian counter-sanctions techniques. 

Many of the 700 sanctioned individuals and entities are key players in Iran’s counter-sanctions strategies. In addition, in recent years, the US has systematically targeted central players in Iran’s international sanctions-busting networks.

Iran will struggle to replace these well-placed individuals, notably Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who has been providing vital intelligence to US prosecutors about Iranian sanctions-busting efforts and related activities. 

One of the key goals of the US sanctions is to foment unrest within Iran, with a view to changing the country’s foreign policy. The ultimate - albeit undeclared - goal is to facilitate the downfall of the Islamic Republic.

While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani strikes a defiant tone on the effect of the sanctions, the experience of the past six months alone suggests that major economic upheavals, with social and political consequences, cannot be ruled out. 

Social unrest

After Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in early May, the Iranian currency went into freefall, and the price of gold soared. This impacted multiple layers of the economy, thus adversely affecting millions of people, if not the entire country. 

While the ensuing social unrest has been limited, the danger is that as the full-blown sanctions bite, and specifically as ordinary people are more exposed to their effect, a deeper social convulsion could be touched off.

At present, however, the Iranian government is not in immediate danger. The efficiency of security forces means that protests are nipped in the bud before they have the opportunity to expand. Moreover, the absence of a credible opposition platform inside the country makes it next to impossible to capitalise on random protests. 

Beyond the ultimate goal of toppling the Iranian government, the Trump administration is pursuing three distinct goals as part of its sanctions strategy. Foremost, it wants Iran to sign up to a new nuclear deal, which would ensure the crippling (in perpetuity) of Iran’s nuclear programme. 

Second, the US seeks curbs on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, thus neutralising Iran’s most effective means of deterrence. Third, the US wants to change Iran’s regional behaviour, to roll back the Islamic Republic’s extensive influence across the Middle East.

Inciting confrontation

These goals were set out as part of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s list of 12 demands on Iran issued in May. The oppressive nature of this list - which was essentially a call for Iran to surrender - was correctly interpreted in Tehran as a sign of disengagement by Washington.

In other words, the reimposition of sanctions is much more about inciting confrontation than creating conditions for a new round of bilateral talks. In view of this harsh reality, Iran will continue to reject spurious and insincere offers of talks and engagement. 

The challenge for Iran is to maintain its current regional posture while simultaneously containing the sanctions regime. It is a tough balancing act that is continually vulnerable to destabilisation, especially in the event of domestic strife or provocative actions by Washington’s allies, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel. 

As to whether the US can force Iran to capitulate, the answer lies in the Islamic Republic’s culture of resistance and defiance. As pressure peaks, the Islamic Republic will mobilise all of its material and ideological resources not only to survive, but to create new spaces for expansion.

- Mahan Abedin is an analyst of Iranian politics. He is the director of the research group Dysart Consulting. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran on 5 November 2018 (Handout/Iranian Presidency/AFP)

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Tonbandstimmen Nachricht mit vorheriger Voice to Skull Ankündigung jemand soll Giftproben entgegennehmen

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Netto Hausverbot wegen Beweisermittlung zur Evp Aufnahme #Gangstalking Foltermord

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There’s Not Going To Be A Second Term If GOP Continues To Allow Corrupt Democrats To Steal Election After Election

by L Todd Wood November 14, 2018

Hillary Clinton is going to run again…and this time she is going to win. Why, you ask? She could never win, you say! Because Republicans are letting the corrupt, Democratic Party steal elections, right under our noses.

We all know that a dozen house races and a couple Senate seats have gone to the Left, after the elections were supposed to be over. We have rampant, in-your-face fraud in Broward County and in Palm County, Florida.

What has the GOP done? Filed a few lawsuits, that are being swatted down like flies as Obama judges allow even more time for the corrupt commies to find more ballots. That’s when you can tell they haven’t manufactured enough to win yet, when judges give them more time.

You see, it doesn’t matter any more that we can vote; the criminal ‘progressives’ will just steal the election. As Stalin said, it doesn’t matter how people vote, it matters who counts the votes.

Meanwhile, the caravans continue north, with the first reaching the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday and pictures emerged of illegal migrants just climbing the fence and walking in. What ever happened to that big, beautiful wall? Oh yea, stopped by Democrats. With more illegals coming in to vote, which is apparently allowed in Broward County, eventually, the GOP won’t be able to win of course. I read a story yesterday that declared 5 million citizens of Central America want to live in a different country. Let me help you; it won’t be Nigeria they migrate to.

Yes, the GOP, including the Executive Branch of the Federal government is impotent. Where is the Department of Justice? Jeff Sessions was forced from under his desk to go home and run again for his Senate seat. The Democrats have found a way to tie up the new acting attorney general to keep the Mueller kangaroo trial going. I guess the cavalry isn’t coming.

We are witnessing the end of America and the beginning of totalitarianism – something I never thought I would see in my lifetime in my country.

The GOP doesn’t have the will to survive. They are still playing by the rules. They are cucks.

Our electoral system has been compromised, the one thing that made us different, and special – the peaceful transfer of power decided upon by the people, for the people.

It is a sad day.

I think I’m going to vomit.
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