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A fascinating article by der Spiegel staff including Laura Poitras.

Quantum Spying: GCHQ Used Fake LinkedIn Pages to Target Engineers
Elite GCHQ teams targeted employees of mobile communications companies and billing companies to gain access to their company networks. The spies used fake copies of LinkedIn profiles as one of their tools.

The Belgacom employees probably thought nothing was amiss when they pulled up their profiles on LinkedIn, the professional networking site. The pages looked the way they always did, and they didn't take any longer than usual to load.

The victims didn't notice that what they were looking at wasn't the original site but a fake profile with one invisible added feature: a small piece of malware that turned their computers into tools for Britain's GCHQ intelligence service.
The computers of these "candidates" were then infected with computer malware that had been placed using infiltration technology the intelligence agency refers to as "Quantum Insert," which enabled the GCHQ spies to deeply infiltrate the Belgacom internal network and that of its subsidiary BICS, which operates a so-called GRX router system. This type of router is required when users make calls or go online with their mobile phones while abroad.

SPIEGEL's initial reporting on "Operation Socialist," a GCHQ program that targeted Belgacom, triggered an investigation by Belgian public prosecutors. In addition, two committees of the European Parliament are investigating an attack by a European Union country on the leading telecommunications provider in another EU member state.

Part 2 of the Spiegel series on Quantum Insert techniques.
Part 2: GCHQ Wants To Make Mobile Web an All-Seeing Surveillance Machine

'Any Mobile Device, Anywhere, Anytime!'

For the British, all of this was apparently only an intermediate step on the path to a greater goal. In addition to the conventional Internet, GCHQ now wants to turn the mobile web into an all-seeing surveillance machine.

This is how the GCHQ spies described their "vision" in 2011: "Any mobile device, anywhere, anytime!"

In this context, the attacks on Belgacom and the clearinghouses merely serve as door openers. Once the telecommunications companies' actual mobile phone networks have been infiltrated, completely new monitoring possibilities present themselves to the spies. A briefing dating from 2011 stated the agency wanted to "increase operational capability to remotely deploy implants when we only know the MSISDN." In other words, GCHQ's phone hackers would ideally like to repurpose every mobile phone in the world into a bugging device, merely on the basis of the phone number. "That would be game changing," the document reads.

Ars Technica.
UK spies continue “quantum insert” attack via LinkedIn, Slashdot pages
Targets included engineers at Global Roaming Exchange providers and OPEC.

GRX is roughly analogous to an IX (Internet Exchange), and it acts as a major exchange for mobile Internet traffic while users roam around the globe. There are only around two dozen such GRX providers globally. This new attack specifically targeted administrators and engineers of Comfone and Mach (which was acquired over the summer by Syniverse), two GRX providers.

Der Spiegel suggests that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British sister agency to the NSA, used spoofed versions of LinkedIn and Slashdot pages to serve malware to targets. This type of attack was also used to target “nine salaried employees” of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the global oil cartel.

Looks like France blindsided everyone and scuttled the negotiations in Geneva.  Rumor has it that Saudi Arabia offered them a sweet arms deal and that France is currying favor with Israel.  Iran is none too happy about it.  Kerry is... I don't know what he's doing with his statements about it.  He and other diplomats scurried to Dubai and Jerusalem after the talks ended, but it really looks like they're standing up to the Saudis and Israelis.  Talks are supposed to resume again in 10 days.  This  CS Monitor piece by Scott Peterson does a good job of recapping things. Regardless of the setback, tthese look like real, honest to goodness, peace talks.  I'm optimistic -- more optimistic than the author of this article but to be fair the title and opening paragraphs do not really describe the tone of the whole article, oddly enough.
Failure to reach Iran nuclear deal may fortify hardline opponents (+video)
French objections helped block talks that appeared close to a preliminary deal. Kerry warned each day of delay meant 'Iran will continue to enrich, and Iran will continue to put centrifuges in.'

The failure of three days of the most intensive, high-level negotiations yet between Iran and six world powers to reach a preliminary deal on Iran’s nuclear program has exposed the delicate process to the wrath of hardliners on all sides.

Hopes of agreement soared on Friday when US Secretary of State John Kerry unexpectedly joined the talks, prompting the arrival of foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany, and Russia. Their sights were set on a deal that would have frozen Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work for perhaps six months until a final deal could be reached, in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

Though diplomats on all sides tried to put a brave face, failure to strike a deal – reportedly due to objections led publicly by France – will give more room for hardliners in Israel, the US Congress, and in Tehran, whose maximalist demands could wreck prospects of a diplomatic solution.

Some analysis by Moon of Alabama (two articles from Sunday and Monday).
France Blocks U.S. Pivot To Persia

France has been and is a major nuclear proliferator in the Middle East. While it worked and works to enable some countries to build nuclear weapons it wants to deny any and all civil nuclear capabilities to others. The primary reasons are greed and a certain craving for its former grandeur which today is no longer supported by the necessary economic and military means.
The current break down gives the U.S. Congress and the Netanyahoo lackeys therein a chance to add further sanctions on Iran by attaching them to next weeks National Defense Authorization Act. But the P5+1 disunity is, at least in the short term, positive for Iran. No one can accuse it now of not being willing to negotiate and of not actively seeking a compromise. The sanctions Congress will enact are third party sanctions where it will "punish" other countries for dealing with Iran. As it is obviously not Iran that is holding up a deal those third party countries will be quite unwilling to follow such a U.S. Congress diktat. The sanction regime will thereby break down. Slowly first, but then with ever increasing speed.

It is dubious that France, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be capable of holding up an Iran deal for more than a year or so. There is a historic logic in a U.S. and general "western" pivot to Persia as such a pivot would allow to disentangle itself from the capricious "allies" it currently has in the Middle East. The hostile reaction of the U.S. public towards the attempt of waging an open war on Syria was a sign that historic changes in the current alliances are unavoidable.

Moon of A is really tough on Kerry's partner, Wendy Sherman in this post but he attempts to explain why Kerry's statements after the talks ended make no sense.
While France Blocked Negotiations Kerry Blames Iran

Under pressure from the Zionist lobby Secretary of State Kerry and his acolytes are now trying to change that story and to blame Iran for the failure of the negotiations. A propagandistic NYT story takes the lead in this attempt [...]

The Revolutionaries in Our Midst

On Friday the 28-year-old activist will appear for sentencing in the Southern District Court of New York in Manhattan. After having made a plea agreement, he faces the possibility of a 10-year sentence for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor, which does work for the Homeland Security Department, the Marine Corps, the Defense Intelligence Agency and numerous corporations including Dow Chemical and Raytheon.

Four others involved in the hacking have been convicted in Britain, and they were sentenced to less time combined—the longest sentence was 32 months—than the potential 120-month sentence that lies before Hammond.

Hammond turned the pilfered information over to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone and other publications. The 3 million email exchanges, once made public, exposed the private security firm’s infiltration, monitoring and surveillance of protesters and dissidents, especially in the Occupy movement, on behalf of corporations and the national security state. And, perhaps most important, the information provided chilling evidence that anti-terrorism laws are being routinely used by the federal government to criminalize nonviolent, democratic dissent and falsely link dissidents to international terrorist organizations. Hammond sought no financial gain. He got none.
Freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by the corporate state. The resulting self-exile of investigative journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras, along with the indictment of Barret Brown, illustrate this. All acts of resistance—including nonviolent protest—have been conflated by the corporate state with terrorism.

Big feature in Vanity Fair by Todd Purdum.  I'm not familiar with the author. I mostly found the article amusing but there were also some interesting tidbits in it.  It's not something that's easy to excerpt but I'll just include a some paragraphs anyway.
The Lonely Guy
He’s a community organizer who works alone. What was once his greatest strength—he kept his cool and didn’t need feedback—is now a liability.

Obama’s self-evident isolation has another effect: It tends to insulate him from engagement in the management of his own administration. The latest round of “what did the president know and when did he know it” on the disastrous rollout of Obamacare and the tapping of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone raised troubling questions: Were Obama’s aides too afraid to tell him? Was he too detached to ask? Or both? At the least, such glaring failures cast fresh doubt on Obama’s invariable assurance to those around him in times of trouble: “I got this.”

It is impossible to know whether Obama’s go-it-alone approach is instinctual or learned, but he comes by it honestly—and painfully. From a far earlier age and to a far greater degree than is generally understood, Obama has always been alone. He was abandoned not only by his black African father, whom he later met just once at age 10, but also by his white American mother, who left him as a teenager with her parents in Hawaii to pursue graduate fieldwork in anthropology in Indonesia. At an age when most adolescents are grappling with how to break away from their families, Obama’s had crumbled away from him.
Successive flights of frustrated senior aides to both the president and the First Lady have battled the Obamas’ persistent assumption that supporters (and staffers, for that matter) don’t need to be thanked—a battle fought largely in vain. Five years into their tenure, the couple has a social reputation few would have envisioned when they came to town: more standoffish than the Bushes, and ruder than the Clintons.
Just how someone wired the way Obama is got so far in politics remains a puzzlement. His aloneness is generally regarded as springing from a surfeit of self-confidence, a certitude that he really does know best. But at least one former senior administration adviser has argued that the trait springs from the opposite source: a basic insecurity on the president’s part, one that keeps him from surrounding himself with strong intellectual rivals in either the White House or the Cabinet. Competent they may be, but with Hillary Clinton gone there is no figure of unquestioned stature. He has quietly purged from his inner circle those most likely to stand up to him, and barely suffered the manful efforts of his latest chief of staff, McDonough, to encourage him to reach out to the remaining slivers of the Republican sanity caucus in Congress.

Long form article by Benjamin Wallace in New York magazine.
Who Killed Michael Hastings?
Reflexively distrustful, eager to make powerful enemies, the young journalist whose Mercedes exploded in Los Angeles one night couldn’t possibly have died accidentally, could he?

t the end of his life, Michael Hastings, like many of the progressive journalists he counted among his friends, felt besieged by an overreaching government. Hastings was living in Los Angeles, and at a Beverly Hills theater in April, he took part in a panel discussion about the documentary War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State. Interviewed in May on The Young Turks, a talk show on Current TV, Hastings railed against the Obama administration, which “has clearly declared war on the press”; the only recourse, he said, was for the press to respond: “We declare war on you.” On May 31, he dashed off an urgent tweet: “first they came for manning. Then Assange. Then fox. Then the ap.drake and the other whistle-blowers. Any nyt reporters too.” He attended screenings of his friend Jeremy Scahill’s film Dirty Wars, which seeks to expose “the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars,” and when leaks about the NSA began appearing in The Guardian, and Edward Snowden was charged with espionage, Hastings was deeply troubled by the revelations and the Justice Department’s response. On June 7, his last post for BuzzFeed, where he was a staff writer, focused on “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” and at the time of his death, Hastings was working on a profile of CIA director John Brennan for Rolling Stone.
With the campaign over, the pressures of the road subsided, and Hastings apparently sobered up. But he remained a chronic pot smoker (in L.A. he obtained a medical-marijuana card for PTSD), and some friends think he showed traces of unusual agitation in the weeks before his death. When Hastings made his appearance on The Young Turks in May, he looked hollow-cheeked and seemed wired. His weight fluctuated, and when Cullen saw him a week before his death, “he looked so fucking emaciated.” That weekend, Cullen asked whether Hastings could relate to a point Scahill made in his film about returning to Brooklyn and feeling like life back home was mundane. “Oh, yeah,” Hastings said with a laugh. “I totally miss it. That’s why I re-created the sense of that here by getting involved in NSA stuff. That’s why I create the similar drama and stress and war zone over here.” There was something else, too. While friends say Hastings and Jordan made a great couple, Hastings “wasn’t Husband of the Year,” as a friend puts it. When he moved to L.A., his wife stayed behind in New York. “Elise was hurt by that,” another friend says. “Mike was in a mode of doing things, being really regretful, asking for forgiveness—this cycle of fucking up and straightening out.”

The final days of Hastings’s life were beset by worry. Beyond the e-mails to BuzzFeed and WikiLeaks, he told people the LAPD had knocked on his door. He changed his phone number. To his family, who remembered the apparently Adderall-induced mania of his 19th year, Hastings’s behavior suggested a drug relapse, and his elder brother, Jon, flew to L.A. that Monday as part of an effort to get him back into rehab. Mike picked him up at the airport. He had told his neighbor Thigpen that he thought his car had been tampered with, and back at the apartment, he asked his brother to look under it with him. That night, shortly after midnight, he asked Thigpen if he could borrow her Volvo; he needed to “get away.” She’d been having her own mechanical problems and declined. Shortly after 4 a.m., as Jon slept in a writing space his brother used in Thigpen’s building, Michael left his apartment. Around three hours later, police arrived at the building with terrible news.


Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

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