Syria's lethal Facebook checkpoints

An anonymous tip from a highly reliable source: "There are checkpoints in Syria where your Facebook is checked for affiliation with the rebellious groups or individuals aligned with the rebellion. People are then disappeared or killed if they are found to be connected. Drivers are literally forced to load their Facebook/Twitter accounts and then they are riffled through. It's happening daily, and has been for a year at least." Anyone have any corroboration for this? Read the rest

Doc film on surveillance seeks fund to film Syrian activist subjected to state surveillance

Charles Koppelman writes, "Zero Day (working title) is a documentary film being produced and directed by Charles Koppelman. BBC Storyville is co-producing and intends to air it. The film begins with the story of a single malware attack by the Assad regime in Syria using Skype as a platform. This targeted phishing attack used a Remote Access Tool (Xtreme RAT) to infect an activist’s computer. He was then tracked surreptitiously by security forces. He suffered very real physical consequences — detention, jail, and torture. His jailers showed him a file with hundreds of pages of email, web posts and surveillance reports on his movements. It is well-documented that he was the first Syrian activist to be attacked in the ongoing cyberwar conducted by the Assad regime. The Assad regime uses this same digital surveillance tool to compromise countless other activists and citizen journalists." Read the rest

Detailed analysis of Syria's network censorship with logs from Blue Coat's surveillance boxes

In Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF], researchers from INRIA, NICTA and University College London parse through 600GB worth of leaked logfiles from seven Blue Coat SG-9000 proxies used by the Syrian government to censor and surveil its national Internet connections. They find that the Assad regime's censorship is more subtle and targeted than that of China and Iran, with heavy censorship of instant messaging, but lighter blocking of social media. They also report on Syrians' use of proxies, Tor, and Bittorrent to evade national censorship. It's the first comprehensive public look at the network censorship practiced in Syria.

Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF] (Thanks, Gary!) Read the rest

Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"

Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance. Read the rest

Leaked trove of 55,000 photos detail brutal torture and killing of 11,000 Syrian detainees

A Syrian defector who worked for the regime as a forensic photographer Read the rest

Sen. John McCain played 'VIP Poker' on his iPhone as colleagues debate bombing Syria

Making the media rounds as America formalizes a decision to go to war against Syria, this photo by Melina Mara at The Washington Post:
Senator John McCain plays poker on his IPhone during a U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing where Secretary of State JohnKerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testify concerning the use of force in Syria, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Tuesday, September 3, 2013.

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Britain denies selling "nerve gas chemicals" to Syria after civil war began

The Sunday Mail claims that a British company was given an export license to sell chemicals to Syria that could be used to make chemical weapons. The government says the licenses were revoked, the chemicals never made it to Syria, and that they could not be used for that purpose in any case. [BBC] Read the rest

United Nations to brief press on Syria Saturday, 12:30pm ET

Reuters reports that the U.N. will be holding "an extraordinary press briefing at 12:30 pm EDT on Saturday," which will be webcast ( Read the rest

NYT public editor on skepticism over NYT's past US war coverage

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, writes about skepticism surrounding the paper's Syria coverage given the paper's shameful role in the run-up to the Iraq war. It's a thoughtful piece, with only one quote that suggests itself as an easy target for snark: NYT managing editor Dean Baquet's. “The press’s coverage of Iraq always lurks in the background. But it was a long, long time ago.” Read the rest

German pundits on Syria: 'Humanitarian wars are also wars.'

"Humanitarian wars are also wars. Those who jump into them for moral reasons should also want to win them. Cruise missiles fired from destroyers can send a message and demonstrate conviction, but they cannot decide the outcome of a war. Neither can a "we'll see" bombardment. There has to be a strategic motivation behind the moral one, and it demands perseverance." The business daily Handelsblatt, from a roundup of German pundits in der Spiegel. Read the rest

Transcript of Obama’s remarks on Syria--“limited, narrow act” under consideration

President Obama says he is considering a “limited, narrow act” against Syria, but has not made a final decision on a possible military attack following the Syrian government's reported use of chemical weapons against civilians. Full transcript at Read the rest

A brief history of US military intervention in Syria: "The Baby and the Baath-water"

At BBC News, Adam Curtis has a compelling look at how the US intelligence and military services have botched regime change and justice-by-bombs in Syria, over the past 65 or so years. Read the rest

Report: U.S. had intel on Syria's chemical attack before it happened

Foreign Policy reports that American intelligence agencies "had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people," which set the stage for what now appears to be a likely U.S. military strike on Syria. "What, if anything, did it do to notify the Syrian opposition of the pending attack?" Read the rest

As US weighs possible strikes, Syria's largest city goes offline

As the U.S. government continues weighing the possibility of military intervention in Syria, there are reports that the largest city in Syria has lost all internet access. "Aleppo, a city in Northern Syria that has been the site of intense fighting between rebel forces and the Assad regime, and the surrounding area" appear to have gone offline last night/ Andrea Peterson at the WaPo has technical details and context. Read the rest

Transcript of Secretary of State Kerry’s remarks on Syria, Aug. 30

Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered these remarks at the State Department on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. It seems likely that the US will soon launch air strikes against Syria, in retaliation. [WaPo]. Here's the video. [CSPAN]. Read the rest

Here are the US and UK intel and legal docs on Syria

At, the documents released by the United States and United Kingdom which "outline their legal position and a summary of their intellgence assessment on the alleged chemical weapon use by the Syrian government." Read the rest

Some historical context for America's next bombing campaign

Paul Waldman at The American Prospect points out that nearly every American president eventually bombs something. And on average, we've bombed another nation at least once every 40 months since 1963. "If you're wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go." [via MoJo] Read the rest

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