RanTek, a Danish company, is reportedly supplying Iran with censor/spyware technology, which was part of a larger effort that was used to identify a dissident journalist who was arrested and tortured.
Eksperter: Dansk firma hjælper med iransk overvågning (Danish)
Until he was arrested, he worked for Mehr, the official Iranian news agency. He received information from all over the country about protests and demonstrations, information too controversial to be used in the news agent's official work. Instead he published it through other channels, e.g. Facebook. However, after the elections in June 2009, when people took to the streets in protest against Ahmadinejad's election victory, it was clear to the Iranians that the Internet is in no way safe.
Nearly 4000 people were arrested solely on the basis of monitoring of their private internet traffic«, says Farahani.
Now it seems that the Danish company RanTek helps the Iranian regime with the monitoring of the Iranian population. The day before Christmas the Bloomberg news agency reported that the Danish IT company re-packages and sells surveillance equipment to Iran. Ironically, the equipment originally comes from the Israeli manufacturer Allot Communications, which means that the Israelis through a Danish intermediary have helped their mortal enemies.
(Thanks, Henrik!) Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Global Voices Advocacy have produced a guide for bloggers who believe that their work is liable to get them arrested or kidnapped by the authorities:
All bloggers should:
* Consider providing someone outside the country with the following information: - Login credentials to your social media, email, and blog accounts - Contact information of family members - Information about any health conditions * Regularly back up their blog, Facebook, email, and other accounts * Consider mirroring your website if you want to ensure it remains up without your attention to it * Encrypt sensitive files and consider hiding them on a separate drive * Consider using tools like Identity Sweeper (for Android users) to secure/erase your mobile data * Consider preparing a statement for release in case of arrest-- This can be helpful for international news outlets and human rights organizations * Consider recording a short video identifying yourself (biographical info, scope of work) and the risks that you face and share with trusted contacts * Develop contacts with human rights and free expression organizations* * Think about a strategy/contingency plan for what to do if you're detained (see below)
Update: Zainab is back home!
Carstenagger sez, "The blogger and human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been detained since Thursday, December 15th, where she was detained after being teargassed while participating in a peaceful demonstration. Her husband and her father are imprisoned, her father sentenced to life in prison and allegedly hideously tortured. Zainab is in *great danger* of being tortured, given the present climate in Bahrain. Zainab is a very courageous activist, which prompted NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof to tweet: 'I suggest that Bahrain officials avoid torturing and imprisoning @AngryArabiya. Some day she could be their president.' Here is how YOU can help: Zainab is a Danish citizen. Our new Minister of Foreign Affairs is all too fond of photo ops with Hillary Clinton, but he will succumb to pressure and hopefully create a diplomatic incident to protect one of his citizens. Please drop him a line on email@example.com and express your concern for Zainab Alkhawaja and ask him to use his influence to demand her release [Ed: see above -- she's back home]."
Dansk aktivist anholdt i Bahrain (Thanks, Carsten!)
It's time again for Boing Boing's guide the charities we support in our annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!
Electronic Frontier Foundation The EFF's mission has never been more important: as laws like SOPA are rammed through Congress, as bloggers around the world are arrested and tortured with the collusion of American network-surveillance companies, and as the FBI's unconstitutional, warrantless use of surveillance technology like GPS bugs comes to light, EFF is poised to be center-stage in the fight for a free and open world with a free and open Internet. —CD
Creative Commons Creative Commons has permeated my life in a thousand ways -- on Boing Boing and in my writing, Creative Commons is responsible for how I get the job done and how I get paid for it. CC's advocacy of a nuanced, intelligent position on creativity and sharing changes the lives of creators, educators, scientists, scholars, and kids, all over the world. —CD
83 of the Internet's most prominent inventors, founders, and engineers have penned an open letter to Congress in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is slated for markup in the House today. The signatories warn that the bill will compromise fundamental Internet infrastructure and undermine the security of the net.
Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors and security problems. This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship. It is also true regardless of whether censorship is implemented via the DNS, proxies, firewalls, or any other method. Types of network errors and insecurity that we wrestle with today will become more widespread, and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.
The current bills -- SOPA explicitly and PIPA implicitly -- also threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government. When we designed the Internet the first time, our priorities were reliability, robustness and minimizing central points of failure or control. We are alarmed that Congress is so close to mandating censorship-compliance as a design requirement for new Internet innovations. This can only damage the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power over what their citizens can read and publish.
James from New America Foundation sez, "Ivan Sigal and Rebecca MacKinnon, respectively executive director and co-founder of Global Voices, describe how copyright enforcement legislation must respect Internet freedom. (Remember when CarrierIQ tried to silence Trevor Eckart's research?) The precedent the U.S. sets poses greater dangers abroad:"
In countries whose judicial systems are less independent and where legal defense for bloggers is rare, abuse of copyright law to stifle activism is much easier. The Russian government last year used a crackdown on software piracy as an excuse to confiscate activists' computers. The Chinese government used copyright claims to crack down on critics of the 2008 Beijing Olympics who sometimes used modified images of the Olympic mascots in their critiques.
In China 'copyright' is one of many excuses to crack down on political movements," a Chinese blogger, Isaac Mao, told us. "If a new law like SOPA is introduced in the U.S., the Chinese government and official media will use it to support their version of 'anti-piracy.'"
When Mohammed el Gorani was a boy in Saudi Arabia, he found that he could not find good work or education because his family was from Chad. A friend from Pakistan offered to connect him with relatives there who would help him get educated. He took his work savings and flew to Pakistan, where he was kidnapped by local thugs and sold to the US Army as an Al Qaeda operative. He was tortured by the thugs, then tortured by the Army, then sent to Guantanamo for six years, where he was tortured further. He was eventually released and exonerated, but a confidential agreement between the government of Chad and the US State Department prohibits him from rejoining his family in Saudi Arabia. He suffers lasting health problems. Here is his story.
Read the rest
We landed at another airstrip. It was night. Americans shouted: ‘Terrorists, criminals, we’re going to kill you!’ Two soldiers took me by my arms and started running. My legs were dragging on the ground. They were laughing, telling me: ‘Fucking nigger!’ I didn’t know what that meant, I learned it later. They took off my mask and I saw many tents on the airstrip. They put me inside one. There was an Egyptian (I recognised his Arabic) wearing a US uniform. He started by asking me: ‘When was the last time you saw Osama bin Laden?’ ‘Who?’ He took me by my shirt collar and they beat me again. During all my time at Kandahar, I was beaten. Once it was like a movie – they came inside the tent with guns, shouting: WE CAUGHT THE TERRORISTS!
Four years after their initial Freedom of Information Act request, Gawker has received and published 4,500 pages' worth of detail on the way that mercenaries from Blackwater and other defense contractors conducted themselves in Iraq. Their basic procedure appears to have been to shoot any car that attempted to pass or tailgate any of the convoys they guarded, especially if the driver was a "military aged male." Then, with no followup (or very little), they would conclude that the driver was unharmed and drive on, filing a report later. One victim of a Blackwater mercenary shooting was a judge, who was wounded in the leg (though the mercs' report claimed he was unharmed). The State Department backed the mecenaries on this; in Gawker's words, 'The State Department determined that shooting at judges for driving too fast in their own country is "within the established Department of State policy for escalation of force."' Other drivers were shot because they carried passengers with "devices" in their hands -- such as mobile phones.
When Blackwater teams were caught lying about their roadside battles and executions, they faced little or no discipline. The State Department officials supervising the mercenaries' behavior were told that discipline "would lower morale" among the mercenaries, and seemed to accept this at face value.
Read the rest
A July 2007 email from one State Department official to several colleagues—apparently in reference to the judge's shooting—openly worried about contractor teams indiscriminately shooting their way around Iraq:
When was the last time we...looked into all the other contractor PSD elements running around Iraq?
Hillary Clinton's in The Hague, telling world leaders not to censor the Internet.
Mrs. Clinton, in her remarks, also cited efforts by countries to change the way the Internet — now largely self-regulated and globally interconnected — is governed. Although she did not name the countries, Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan introduced a draft resolution at the United Nations this year that would allow greater government control over the Internet in individual countries. The United States opposes the resolution.
Mrs. Clinton said such a proposal would undermine the very nature of the Internet. “They aim to impose a system, cemented in a global code, that expands control over Internet resources, institutions and content and centralizes that control in the hands of the government,” she said.
Meanwhile, the US government is set to pass SOPA, a censorship law that gives America the power to censor and shutter any website in the world. In case you're wondering how that might work, have a look at what happened with Dajaz1.com.
Dajaz1.com is a hiphop blog that was seized by ICE and the Justice Department a year ago, on the basis of incompetent research by a new hire fresh out of college and some lying affadavits from the RIAA (who claimed, among other things, that they represented the copyrights of companies who are not RIAA members).
Dajaz1.com was sent music by hiphop labels, who begged them to post it -- they even got requests from the VP of one label -- and was a powerhouse in the hiphop world, appearing on Vibe's list of top hiphop blogs. Read the rest
James Losey from the New America Foundation sez, "Sascha Meinrath and I have a new article arguing that bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP amount collectively punishment, something that Americans have a history of rebelling against:"
The United States of America was forged in resistance to collective reprisals—the punishment of many for the acts of few. In 1774, following the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed a series of laws—including the mandated closure of the port of Boston—meant to penalize the people of Massachusetts. These abuses of power, labeled the “Intolerable Acts,” catalyzed the American Revolution by making plain the oppression of the British crown.
More than 300 years later, the U.S. Congress is considering bills that would lead to collective reprisals against online communities. The Senate’s PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House are supposed to address copyright infringement and counterfeiting. In reality, they are so technically impractical that they do little to address these problems. They would, however, undermine participatory democracy and human rights, which is why these bills have garnered near-universal condemnation from both human rights groups and technologists.
The UK government has officially apologised to computing giant and war hero Alan Turing for forcing him to take hormone injections as "therapy" for being gay (driving him to suicide), but now a petition has been mounted to get an official pardon Turing's 1952 for "gross indecency."
We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of 'gross indecency'. In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency' with another man and was forced to undergo so-called 'organo-therapy' - chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the UK government and UK history. A pardon can go to some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws.
My latest Publishers Weekly column is "Copyrights vs. Human Rights." In honor of Human Rights Day on Dec 10, I've written a piece on publishing's shameful support of SOPA, a law that will punish the online services that are so key to coordinating and publicizing human rights struggles around the world.
Read the rest
The U.N. characterizes access to the Internet as a human right, and government research in the U.K. and in the U.S. shows the enormous humanitarian benefits of network access for poor and vulnerable families: better nutrition, education, and jobs; more social mobility and opportunity; and civic and political engagement. Yet the services that provide the bulk of these benefits—search engines, Web hosts, and online service providers like Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube—could never satisfy the requirements set out in SOPA. The only way for these platforms to satisfy SOPA would be to all but shut off the public’s ability to contribute and to throttle free expression for all but those entities that can afford to pay a lawyer to certify that their uploaded material will not attract a copyright complaint.
Another group of important entities that could never satisfy SOPA are the civic-minded hackers and security researchers scrambling to improve the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). In 2011, the DNS was attacked several times, including a breach attributed to the Iranian secret police, which used forged certificates to allow them to impersonate governments, banks, and online e-mail providers like Gmail and Hotmail. If passed, SOPA would ban the production or dissemination of tools that could subvert its blocks, and that would include tools the world’s technologists are creating specifically to help defeat government censorship and surveillance.
The head of Canada's secret police has asked the government to fight against a proposed ban on information gleaned through torture. The chief of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says that torture is essential to Canada's security in its fight against terrorism.
In the letter, Judd urges the minister to fight an amendment to C-3 proposed by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh that would prohibit CSIS and the courts from using any information obtained from torture or “derivative information”: information initially obtained from torture but subsequently corroborated through legal means.
“This amendment, if interpreted to mean that ‘derivative information’ is inadmissible, could render unsustainable the current security certificate proceedings,” Judd writes.
“Even if interpreted more narrowly to exclude only information obtained from sources and foreign agencies who, on the low threshold of ‘reasonable grounds’ may have obtained information by way of torture, the amendment would still significantly hinder the Service’s collection and analysis functions...”
Bahdi said the prohibition on torture was part of Canadian law long before the C-3 amendment. But CSIS needs to be made accountable, she said. “There has to be a cultural shift in CSIS so they take seriously the prohibition on torture and understand it’s not there to tie their hands behind their backs so they can’t do their work, but to ensure that their work has some integrity. … If torture produced national security, the regimes in the Middle East would be the safest places in the world.” [emphasis mine]
Tumblr has rounded up the effects of its participation in American Censorship Day, a global day of protest of the prosed Stop Online Piracy Act, the worst proposed Internet law in American legislative history. Tumblr users did themselves very proud indeed:
Yesterday we did a historic thing. We generated 87,834 phone calls to U.S. Representatives in a concerted effort to protect the Internet. Extraordinary. There’s no doubt that we’ve been heard.