Today’s tales form thw world of spooks, hackers, militarists, and politics begins with an honor for The Guardian:

Journalists who broke NSA story in Guardian receive George Polk Awards

Ewen MacAskill, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras honoured

Polk curator: repercussions of NSA ‘will be with us for years’

The three journalists who broke the National Security Agency revelations from Edward Snowden in the Guardian are among the recipients of the prestigious 2013 George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras will receive the award for national security reporting, along with Barton Gellman of the Washington Post.

Janine Gibson, Guardian US editor-in-chief, said: “We’re honoured by the recognition from the Polk awards and delighted for Ewen, Glenn, Laura, Barton and their colleagues that their work has been recognised.

And a related story from The Guardian:

Press freedom groups urge David Cameron to lay off The Guardian

A group of the world’s leading press freedom bodies is calling on prime minister David Cameron to distance himself from the investigation into The Guardian over the leaks by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The seven organisations also want Cameron to urge parliament to repeal the statute that underlies the royal charter on press regulation.

Signatories to a letter sent to Cameron today include the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).

The decision to write to Cameron was taken at the annual meeting of the global coordinating committee of press freedom organisations, which took place in London last month. It followed what the signatories call an “unprecedented” fact-finding mission to Britain by WAN-IFRA.

From the International Business Times, intimidation by proxy:

Edward Snowden’s Lawyer Claims Harassment from Heathrow Airport Border Police

Jesselyn Radack, a human rights lawyer representing Edward Snowden, has claimed that she was detained and questioned in a “very hostile” manner on Saturday by London Heathrow Airport’s Customs staff.

Radack told civil liberties blog Firedoglake that she was taken to a room to be questioned by a Heathrow Border Force officer who showed very little interest in her passport documents but subjected her to questioning about whistle-blowers Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.

The 43-year-old lawyer was formerly an ethics advisor to the United States Department of Justice, who became a whistle-blower herself after disclosing an ethics violation made by the FBI in their interrogation of “American Taliban” suspect John Walker Lindh in 2001.

And The Guardian confers an honor:

Edward Snowden elected as Glasgow University rector

Students choose NSA whistleblower over cyclist, author and clergyman in record turnout for rectoral election

Students have elected the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to serve as rector of the University of Glasgow for the next three years.

The result of the online election was announced to candidates and their supporters shortly after polls closed at 5pm on Tuesday.

Snowden was nominated by a group of students at the university who said they had received his approval through his lawyer. Snowden is staying in Russia where he was given temporary asylum.

From TheLocal.fr, European blowback:

‘European internet’ plan to prevent US spying

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss the concept of creating a European Internet when she meets French President François Hollande this week. Her proposal is aimed at preventing US intelligence agencies from being able to intercept data.

Hollande and Merkel will discuss the proposal of creating a European internet when the pair hold talks in Paris on Wednesday.

Germany has been rocked by the revelations of former security contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed a mass spying programme by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

More from Spiegel:

Striking Back: Germany Considers Counterespionage Against US

Unsatisfied with the lack of answers provided by Washington in the NSA spying scandal, officials in Berlin are considering a new approach. Germany might begin counterespionage measures aimed at allies.

The question seemed out of place, especially when asked three times. A female journalist from a satire magazine wanted to know if Thomas de Maizière liked cheese snacks. “Questions like that are more appropriate for breakfast television than here,” the minister snipped back. It was de Maizière’s first visit as interior minister to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. And he was in no mood for jokes.

Instead, the minister preferred to focus on the basics during the appearance two weeks ago, with counterespionage at the top of his list. The issue, he warned, shouldn’t be underestimated, adding that the question as to who was doing the spying was but of secondary importance.

In other words: Germany intends to defend itself against all spying efforts in the future, even if they are perpetrated by supposed friends.

A graphic take from China Daily’s Li Feng:

And another target of Angela’s ire via TheLocal.de:

Merkel targets Facebook in Euro-web privacy push

Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed plans for a “European internet” independent of America and targeted US internet giants Facebook and Google in her push for more privacy.

Merkel mentioned the two US companies in her weekly podcast on Saturday as an example of companies which circumnavigate German data protection laws.

Germany has been rocked by the revelations of former security contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed a mass spying programme by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

By creating a “European internet” all servers and cables would be based in Europe meaning they would be subject to European data protection laws.

“Google or Facebook can naturally go where privacy is at its lowest and we in Europe cannot approve this in the long run,” Merkel said.

From Ars Technica, a sad tale of underutilized hysteria:

Clapper: We should have disclosed NSA bulk data collection in 2001

Intelligence chief says program would have seen support in the wake of 9/11 attacks.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has admitted that the National Security Agency should have disclosed more about the bulk data collection that it has engaged in for more than a decade. He made the surprising statements in an interview with The Daily Beast.

The bulk data program is designed to collect certain information on all US phone calls, although there have been recent disagreements about how much cell phone data is swept up. In the interview, Clapper said the controversy could have been avoided if more information about the program was disclosed at its outset, back in 2001. He suggests the public, still shaken from the 9/11 attacks, would have been on board with such a program.

The Guardian offers a rationale:

Merkel phone tapping fair game under international law, says ex-MI6 deputy

Nigel Inkster says interception of German chancellor’s calls by NSA might be judged ‘politically unwise’

Intercepting the telephone calls of Angela Merkel would have been “politically unwise” and “certainly illegal under German law”, according to a former senior British secret intelligence officer.

However, he says that under international law, tapping into the German chancellor’s telephone conversations “would appear to be fair game”.

Nigel Inkster, former deputy chief of MI6, was responding to the disclosure by Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency targeted Merkel’s mobile telephone. Though the White House has not officially admitted it, it has said the US will not monitor the chancellor’s conversations in future.

And the latest Snowden lead, via The Intercept:

Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters

Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.

The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.

One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.

Another classified document from the U.S. intelligence community, dated August 2010, recounts how the Obama administration urged foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs.

And the target speaks, via RT:

‘Reckless & unlawful’: Assange calls for probe into NSA ‘manhunt’ on WikiLeaks

Julian Assange has called on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate NSA spying on WikiLeaks. Secret documents have revealed how the NSA spied on WikiLeaks and its followers, seeking to classify it as “a malicious foreign actor.”

In its latest release of US government documents, WikiLeaks has accused the National Security Agency of tracking its members and followers. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called the NSA’s espionage program “reckless and illegal” and has demanded Washington open an investigation into the claims.

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said in a statement on WikiLeaks’ website. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”

The Hill desists:

NSA, DHS drop parody complaint

It isn’t illegal to print the National Security Agency’s (NSA) official seal above the words “Spying On You Since 1952″ on a novelty mug, the agency acknowledged on Tuesday.

The NSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are abandoning their protests against a line of mugs, hats and shirts that mock official government insignia, settling a lawsuit filed by the consumer interest group Public Citizen on behalf of Dan McCall, a Minnesota activist who sold products poking fun at the government.

“This is an important win,” said Paul Levy, a Public Citizen lawyer involved in the case, in a statement on Tuesday. “Citizens shouldn’t have to worry whether criticizing government agencies will get them in trouble or not. This settlement proves the First Amendment is there to protect citizens’ rights to free speech.”

McCall’s site, LibertyManiacs.com, sold bumper stickers, shirts, hats and other goods featuring a series of parody images. One graphic featured the DHS seal with the words “Department of Homeland Stupidity.”

The McClatchy Washington Bureau sources:

Report: Cyberattack on German government traced to China

Hackers attempted to take control of senior German government officials’ computers last year and the source has been traced to China, the news magazine Der Spiegel said Sunday.

Emails infected with a virus were sent to officials in several ministries and to banks in September, just before G-20 nations including China met for a summit in St Petersburg, Russia.

One of the emails pretended to contain an exchange of information among economic advisers known as “sherpas,” the officials below the rank of minister who conduct most of the negotiations in advance of summits.

A well-considered rationale from Slate:

Why the NSA Should Keep Holding On to Surveillance Data

Let the NSA Keep Hold of the Data

Giving it to private companies will only make privacy intrusion worse.

I think the proposal makes things worse in several respects.

First, the NSA is going to do a better job at database security than corporations are. I say this not because the NSA has any magic computer security powers, but because it has more experience at it and is better funded. (And, yes, that’s true even though Edward Snowden was able to copy so many of their documents.) The difference is of degree, not of kind. Both options leave the data vulnerable to insider attacks—more so in the case of a third-party data repository because there will be more insiders. And although neither will be perfect, I would trust the NSA to protect my data against unauthorized access more than I would trust a private corporation to do the same.

Second, there’s the greater risk of authorized access. This is the risk that the Review Group is most concerned about. The thought is that if the data were in private hands, and the only legal way at the data was a court order, then it would be less likely for the NSA to exceed its authority by making bulk queries on the data or accessing more of it than it is allowed to. I don’t believe that this is true. Any system that has the data outside of the NSA’s control is going to include provisions for emergency access, because … well, because the word terrorism will scare any lawmaker enough to give the NSA that capability. Already the NSA goes through whatever legal processes it and the secret FISA court have agreed to. Adding another party into this process doesn’t slow things down, provide more oversight, or in any way make it better. I don’t trust a corporate employee not to turn data over for NSA analysis any more than I trust an NSA employee.

On the corporate side, the corresponding risk is that the data will be used for all sorts of things that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. If corporations are forced by governments to hold on to customer data, they’re going to start thinking things like: “We’re already storing this personal data on all of our customers for the government. Why don’t we mine it for interesting tidbits, use it for marketing purposes, sell it to data brokers, and on and on and on?” At least the NSA isn’t going to use our personal data for large-scale individual psychological manipulation designed to separate us from as much money as possible—which is the business model of companies like Google and Facebook.

The Independent beams:

Star Wars to become reality as US Navy on course to arm ship with laser

Some of the US Navy’s futuristic weapons sound like something out of Star Wars, with lasers designed to shoot down aerial drones and electric guns that fire projectiles at hypersonic speeds.

The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.

For the Navy, it’s not so much about the whizz-bang technology as it is about the economics. Both are cheap compared with missiles and smart bombs, and they can be fired continuously.

“It fundamentally changes the way we fight,” said Captain Mike Ziv, programme manager for directed energy and electric weapon systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command. The Navy’s laser technology has evolved to the point where a prototype to be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer can be operated by a single sailor, he said.

After the jump, the latest in the Asian zonal, militarism, and historical crises, a stealthy spyware infestation, automotive espionage, the total tab $200 million] for the Target hack, a digital assault targeting an online tollbooth, A Dutch spookshop takedown, and another kind of war on the press. . .

For our first Asian headline we turn to the Associated Press:

Indonesia baffled by spying on shrimp spat

Indonesia’s foreign minister says he’s baffled by the latest report of a top-secret document about Australia spying on Indonesia and offering to share that information with the U.S.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says he’s not sure how snooping on a trade spat could relate to security.

He said Monday he found mindboggling Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s explanation concerning allegations that Canberra conducted surveillance of an American law firm hired by the Indonesian government to help in a trade dispute with the U.S

The Guardian chills:

Indonesia says ties with Australia will remain on ice for at least six months

Full diplomatic links not expected to be restored until October, notes Indonesian ministry document

Indonesia expects ties with Australia to remain on ice for at least six months given the time it will take to negotiate a code of conduct to govern intelligence gathering in the wake of reports Canberra spied on top Indonesians.

A document from a 13 January meeting organised by Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs noted that Jakarta did not expect full diplomatic links to be restored until October.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced in November he was freezing military and intelligence co-operation with Canberra, including over the thorny issue of asylum seekers who use Indonesia as a departure point to try to reach Australia by boat.

The Jakarta Globe covers a singular exception:

Australian Spying Fails to Dent Relations Between Indonesia, United States

Observers have lauded Indonesian government officials’ restraint in not confronting visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry with allegations that Washington may have benefited in a trade spat with Indonesia from espionage carried out by Canberra, saying Australia was solely to blame in the affair.

Hikmahanto Juwana, a law professor at the University of Indonesia, said on Monday that by focusing his outrage on the alleged spying by Australian intelligence, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa had wisely chosen to localize the problem.

“The fact remains that the party doing the spying on Indonesia was Australia, not United States,” he said. “Whether the US was involved before or after the spying, whether they shared information for their interests, is not the main concern for Indonesia. The main concern is why Australia [spied]. “This is a matter between Indonesia and Australia,” he added.

From the Los Angeles Times, drone woes:

U.S. seeks new bases for drones targeting Al Qaeda in Pakistan

If the U.S. must withdraw all forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, alternative sites will be needed for drone strikes on Pakistan targets.

The Obama administration is making contingency plans to use air bases in Central Asia to conduct drone missile attacks in northwest Pakistan in case the White House is forced to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan at the end of this year, according to U.S. officials.

But even if alternative bases are secured, the officials said, the CIA’s capability to gather sufficient intelligence to find Al Qaeda operatives and quickly launch drone missiles at specific targets in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal region will be greatly diminished if the spy agency loses its drone bases in Afghanistan.

The CIA’s targeted killing program thus may prove a casualty of the bitter standoff with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over whether any U.S. troops can remain in Afghanistan after 2014, as the White House has sought. Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement to permit a long-term American deployment, and some White House aides are arguing for a complete pullout.

And the sensation of the day, via BBC News:

World must act on North Korea rights abuse, says UN report

The international community must act on evidence that crimes against humanity are being committed in North Korea, says a long-awaited UN report.

A panel of experts mandated by the UN’s Human Rights Council said North Koreans had suffered “unspeakable atrocities”, and that those responsible, including leader Kim Jong-un, must face justice.

The panel heard evidence of torture, political repression and other crimes.

Pyongyang refused to co-operate with the report and rejects its conclusions.

The BBC has posted the entire report here [PDF].

On response, also from BBC News:

China rejects ‘unfair criticism’ in UN North Korea report

China has rejected what it termed “unreasonable criticism” from the UN over its response to alleged crimes against humanity in North Korea.

A UN report on Monday said that the countries must act on evidence that such crimes were being committed.

A panel of experts said that China might be aiding and abetting the crimes by forcibly repatriating North Koreans.

But a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said China saw them as illegal migrants.

Jiji Press gets defensive:

Japan Defense Ministry to Launch Cybersecurity Force

Japan’s Defense Ministry will launch a special force of 90 members mainly from Self-Defense Forces personnel late next month to beef up its ability to counter cyberattacks.

The new force will unify cybersecurity functions at the Ground, Air and Maritime SDFs. It will monitor the SDF’s computer systems around the clock to cope with cyberthreats such as illegal access and virus attacks.

If suspicious access is found, the force will analyze how it was done and collect related data to share them across the ministry and the SDF.

And from the Mainichi, taking exception to a key element of the emerging Japanese national security state:

Mainichi poll shows 71% of Japanese want state secrets law revised

Seventy-one percent of respondents to a fresh nationwide survey by the Mainichi Shimbun think it necessary for the Japanese government to revise the recently enacted state secrets protection law, while only 19 percent say changes are unnecessary.

The Mainichi survey, conducted Feb. 15 and 16, reflects the public’s deep-seated concern about the new law and about the probability that the government may arbitrarily designate certain government information as state secrets under the law, which was promulgated last December.

An information protection advisory panel, touted by the government as a regulatory organ, does not check each secret designation and is understood to deliberate guidelines for the implementation of the new law, which the government hopes will take effect in one year.

The Asahi Shimbun covers another locus of discontent:

ASAHI POLL: 52% support immediate summits with China, S. Korea

A majority of Japanese want the central government to hold immediate talks with China and South Korea, according to an Asahi Shimbun poll conducted Feb. 15-16.

The nationwide telephone survey found that 52 percent of the respondents said the government “should rush” to hold summits with Japan’s two neighbors, surpassing the 34 percent of those who said there was “no need to rush.”

The approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet dropped slightly to 47 percent from 50 percent surveyed in January, while 30 percent said they do not support the Abe administration.

Thirty-three percent of the respondents “approved of” Abe’s diplomatic stance toward China and South Korea, while 48 percent said they “did not approve.”

A logical conclusion from Kyodo News:

Abe’s visit to Yasukuni only benefits China: U.S. lawmaker

A senior U.S. congressman expressed concern Monday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s contentious visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine would only benefit China, in an apparent show of U.S. frustration with Japan over the issue.

Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, conveyed the message to former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, during a meeting in Tokyo of bipartisan groups of U.S. and Japanese lawmakers.

At the meeting, Nakasone said Abe’s visit was designed to make a pledge “never to go to a war again” and not to hurt the feelings of the people of China and South Korea, according to Japanese lawmakers.

People’s Daily declares:

Abe has no choice but to honor past wartime apology–former Japanese PM

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, known for his apology for past wartime atrocities while in office, said Wednesday that Shinzo Abe, incumbent prime minister, has no choice but to honor the Murayama Statement.

“All previous prime ministers of Japan said that they inherit the Murayama Statement. Abe also stated once that he inherits the statement. I believe there has been no falsehood in that pledge,” Murayama said during his lecture to South Korean lawmakers at the parliamentary headquarters.

Murayama came here Tuesday for a three-day visit to Seoul at the invitation of South Korea’s minor opposition Justice Party. Murayama made an official apology via the famous “Murayama Statement” in 1995, when he was in office, for Japan’s past atrocities and war of aggression during its colonial rule of Asian nations.

From Jiji Press, yet another rational suggestion:

Ex-U.S. Official Points to Humane Approach to Comfort Women Issue

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell suggested in a recent interview with Jiji Press that Japan should resort to a humanitarian approach to deal with the “comfort women” issue.

“I think the key here is to view this through the human lens, not through … a precise legal way,” said Campbell, a key official responsible for Asia policy during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term.

The issue of Korean comfort women who were forced to work as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers during World War II has been a major source of political bickering between Japan and South Korea.

From China Daily, too little, too late:

NHK president regrets comfort women remarks

Katsuto Momii, the new head of Japan’s NHK public broadcaster expressed “sincere remorse” on Tuesday amid the mounting criticism of his remarks about Japanese wartime atrocities.

As worldwide anger grows over several NHK executives’ recent inflammatory comments on Japan’s behavior during World War II, the new US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, rejected an NHK interview request, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported.

Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported that Momii said at an NHK budget meeting held on Tuesday by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party: “I will be more cautious by understanding a situation before making a statement in the future.

“To eliminate the mistrust — which I am responsible for — I will work and fully engage my heart and soul.”

Kyodo News takes the pledge:

Japan, ASEAN agree to cooperate in disasters, terrorism

Senior defense officials from Japan and ASEAN countries agreed Tuesday to expand cooperation in joint development of equipment to combat natural disasters and antiterrorism, as Tokyo seeks to set new rules on arms exports.

Some officials from the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said development of an early warning system and an information-gathering mechanism will be potential areas of technological cooperation, a Japanese Defense Ministry official said.

The officials met in Okinawa for the first time, seen as strategically important amid China’s assertive activities at sea and in the airspace.

Ryota Takeda, Japan’s parliamentary vice minister of defense, told the gathering that there have been “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force,” a reference to China.

From South China Morning Post, high anxiety:

China concerned by reports of Japan holding weapons-grade plutonium

China said on Monday it was “extremely concerned” by a report that Japan has resisted returning to the United States more than 300 kg of mostly weapons-grade plutonium, the latest dispute between the two Asian neighbours.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said that Washington had pressed Japan to give back the nuclear material which could be used to make up to 50 nuclear bombs. Japan had resisted, but finally given in to US demands, it added.

The material was bought for research purposes during the 1960s and the two governments will likely reach an official agreement on its return at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague in March, an official at Japan’s Education Ministry said.

More from People’s Daily:

China wants non-nuclear Japan to remain nuke-free

China on Monday urged Japan to stick by the three non-nuclear principles, after Japanese officials hinted at allowing the United States to bring in nuclear weapons in emergency.

The three non-nuclear principles state that Japan will not produce, possess or allow the entry into its territory of nuclear weapons. They are an important part of Japan’s peaceful post-war development, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

“They are also significant to regional peace and stability,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

Japan may allow the United States to bring nuclear weapons into the country in an emergency that threatens the safety of Japanese citizens, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida indicated Friday, according to Japanese media reports.

And from Want China Times, a warning:

Japan secretly developing nuclear weapons: Yazhou Zhoukan

The Hong Kong-based Yazhou Zhoukan reports that Japan is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program in anticipation of a potential crisis over the Diaoyutai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) islands in the East China Sea.

Japan is currently the only nation in the world which has a complete nuclear industry. Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba are the three largest Japanese companies which produce nuclear energy. Under those three corporations, there are an additional 200 smaller firms which possess nuclear fuel or who have the know-how to handle plutonium.

For this reason, Yazhou Zhoukan said Japan has the ability to build its own nuclear bomb if it were to revise its postwar peace constitution. Japan holds a total of 40.7 tonnes of plutonium, including 5.5 tonnes in Japan, 21.6 tonnes in France and 13.6 tonnes in the United Kingdom. The country also accumulates about 3,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in its six disposal facilities located in Aomori prefecture, which surpasses the figure for the United States.

Major General Yoshiaki Yano of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force said in an article written for Japan Military Review magazine that Tokyo should adjust its nuclear policy despite the damage this might do to its relationship with Washington.

From Jiji Press, more anxiety:

New Komeito Remains Cautious over Collective Self-Defense

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi reiterated on Tuesday his party’s readiness to urge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to be careful about changing the government’s interpretation of the constitution to lift the country’s self-imposed ban on collective self-defense.

“When the ruling coalition discusses the issue, we will ensure that we won’t cause problems in the future,” Yamaguchi, head of the coalition partner for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said in a seminar organized by the Research Institute of Japan, a Jiji Press affiliate.

On Japan’s strained relations with China and South Korea, Yamaguchi called on the government to try to hold bilateral summit meetings with the two neighboring countries on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit 2014, to be held in The Hague in late March.

SINA English reports with conviction:

Pro-DPRK lawmaker in S. Korea gets 12-year prison term on treason charges

A South Korean lawmaker, who has been considered by some conservative local media as a blind follower of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), was sentenced to 12 years in prison on treason charges, becoming the second incumbent lawmaker to face conviction on sedition charges.

The Suwon District Court ruled that Rep. Lee Seok-ki of the left-leaning Unified Progressive Party (UPP) plotted to instigate a rebellion if a war with the DPRK breaks out, according to local media reports. The court also said that Lee will be disqualified for a legislator for 10 years after his release from the imprisonment.

The court in Suwon, south of Seoul, said that two rounds of secret gathering, where Lee and members of a secret organization met in May last year, should be considered as conspiracy to overthrow the government.

While Jiji Press conciliates:

Japan, S. Korea Senior Officials Hold Talks in Seoul

Asian bureau chiefs at the Japanese and South Korean Foreign Ministries held talks in Seoul on Tuesday for the first time since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine late last year fueled anger among South Koreans.

The meeting followed calls from Washington for the two countries to improve relations.

“We had frank discussions on a broad range of issues that both sides have an interest in,” Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters after the meeting.

From People’s Daily, a gesture:

Expert: China’s participation in Cobra Gold military exercise confirms rise of Chinese military influence

The Cobra Gold 2014 multilateral military exercise opened on Feb. 11 in Thailand’s Phitsanulok. China has sent troops to attend the military exercise for the first time. Seventeen Chinese soldiers, mainly from the Guangzhou Military Area Command, will participate in humanitarian relief drills.

In the opinion of Du Wenlong, a military expert, this innovative move indicates a noticeable rise in China’s regional military influence. He considers that China’s status and function in this type of exercise will become more and more important.

According to reports, the conventional Cobra Gold exercise includes three major elements: command post, humanitarian rescue, and field operations. The Chinese squad will take part in operations at the command and coordination center, engineering assistance, and medical aid, as well as in discussions and exchanges on military medical science.

Du Wenlong sees it as an innovative move for China to dispatch troops to participate in Cobra Gold for the first time. It is a large-scale broad-based military exercise led by the United States and Thailand. As a neighbor to Thailand, China has previously taken part in the capacity of observer. This time, China has changed its role to that of a “team member”. This indicates that the rise of Chinese military capacity and influence in this region cannot be ignored.

The London Telegraph expands:

Chinese military port approved in Hong Kong

Chinese military port in Hong Kong’s historic Victoria Harbour fuels concerns over Beijing’s role in the former colony

The controversial construction of a People’s Liberation Army port along Hong Kong’s historic Victoria Harbour has been approved, amid growing unease about China’s role in the former British colony.

The military port was “unanimously” passed by Hong Kong’s planning board, China’s state broadcaster, announced.

The port, which would be the PLA’s first in Hong Kong, was first discussed in 1994 as part of pre-handover talks between London and Beijing, CCTV claimed.

And from Want China Times, another great leap forward for the Chinese navy:

Hainan’s Yalong Bay: China’s new nuclear submarine base

A photo revealed by a Chinese internet user shows that the People’s Liberation Army Navy has deployed three Type 094 Jin-class ballistic missile submarines to its new naval facility in Yalong Bay on the southern island province of Hainan, which is likely to become China’s new base to demonstrate its nuclear deterrence capability to the United States, reports the Communist Party-run English-language Global Times.

An earlier report by the Office of US Naval Intelligence said China was secretly constructing the world’s largest nuclear submarine base in the world at Sanya in Hainan. Satellite photos on the website of the Chinese military taken during the recent Chinese New Year holidays showing three Type 094 Jin-class submarines appearing frequently in the waters around Yalong Bay also added to speculation.

Cao Weidong from the PLA Navy Military Academic Research Institute told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that China’s nuclear submarine force should not be considered a homebody by its adversary. Cao said the Type 094 submarine has most likely already conducted patrol missions secretly in open waters. With an operational range of 14,000 kilometers, the US Navy believes that the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile is capable of reaching the west coast of the continental United States.

From The Guardian, growing pains:

China’s growing soldiers struggle to fit in tanks

The People’s Liberation Army is also having trouble with its rifles as a result of average Chinese being bigger

China’s average soldier has grown taller and wider over the past two decades, leading to cramped tanks and other equipment problems, according to official sources.

The official People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday that a survey of 20,000 troops begun in 2009 has found them to be an average of two centimetres (about three-quarters of an inch) taller and five centimetres (about two inches) bigger around the waist.

It said that was causing discomfort when soldiers tried to squeeze into tanks designed 30 years ago for troops of considerably smaller size. It said rifle barrels were also relatively short for the taller soldiers, leading to accuracy problems.

SINA English pours more oil on long-troubled waters:

Xi says Beijing respects Taiwan’s social system and lifestyle

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said the Chinese mainland respects the social system and lifestyle that Taiwan compatriots have chosen.

Xi made the remarks while meeting with Lien Chan, honorary chairman of Taiwan’s Kuomintang party, on Tuesday afternoon.

Noting that Taiwan compatriots have their own mentality due to the island’s unique history and social environment, Xi said that “we completely understand how Taiwan compatriots feel”.

“Family affection will help heal past wounds and sincerity will help resolve existing problems,” Xi said, adding that the mainland has patience and confidence.

From Mashable, a major metastasis:

Controversial Government Spyware Crops Up in 21 Countries, Report Says

Four cyber sleuths claim to have found evidence of “untraceable,” government-grade surveillance software in use in 21 countries, some of which have records of dubious practices when it comes to human rights and Internet freedom.

The report marks the first time that researchers have been able to map the worldwide proliferation of the spyware that Hacking Team, an Italian company, sells to governments and law enforcement agencies.

The company claims it doesn’t sell its products to “repressive regimes,” but some of the 21 governments linked to its software, like those of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, or Sudan, have questionable human rights records. It also claims its Remote Control System (RCS) spyware, which allows law enforcement to record and monitor just about everything that happens on a target’s computer, is untraceable.

Driven to snitching with Businessweek:

Your Car Is Spying on You and Congress Isn’t Sure What to Do About It

Cars are finally talking to drivers—piping up with directions and making every person in a new vehicle feel at least a little bit like David Hasselhoff in the 1980s.

Now lawmakers are starting to explore the privacy and tax implications of smart cars. In short, your car may talk to you, but legislative policy that gets hammered out in the near future will craft how much it talks about you—to automakers, marketing companies, the government, and others.

For years, people have been leery of their smartphones tracking them and selling their personal information, but sentient cars largely went unnoticed until recently. The Government Accountability Office released a report (PDF) in December that concluded that consumers aren’t aware of the privacy risks posed by their cars’ software. Shortly after, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Jim Farley, Ford’s marketing chief, put a finer point on it: “We know everyone who breaks the law; we know when you’re doing it.” More recently, Ford (F) drew attention with its new patent to serve up targeted in-car advertisements based on GPS coordinates, according to the Detroit News.

The Verge totals the damage:

Target hack cost banks and credit unions more than $200 million

Last year’s cyberattack on US retail giant Target in which up to 40 million credit cards were compromised and up to 70 million names, email addresses, and phone numbers were stolen — has cost banks and credit unions more than $200 million.

The Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) have replaced 21.8 million cards, more than half of those compromised in the attack. The cost to CBA member banks has now reached $172 million, while credit unions have spent $30.6 million. Both figures have increased from original estimates of $153 million and $25 million respectively, and still don’t take into account the cost of replacing cards for financial institutions that are not members of the Consumer Bankers Association or Credit Union National Association.

Hackers were able to access Target’s systems by stealing credentials from a contractor. Target has responded by fast-tracking new security policies, but The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that its own security staff may have been aware of vulnerabilities in the retailer’s systems, but were “brushed off” when they requested the issue be fixed. The scale of the attack, and the sheer number of cards and customers affected, has propelled the issue of credit card security to the top of political agendas. In January, a new bill was announced that would ensure companies would have to inform their customers when their personal data had been compromised.

TheLocal.es attacks an information superhighway tollbooth:

Cyber activists target Spain’s ‘Google tax’

Cyber activists hacked the website of a major Spanish media industry body on Monday after the group came out in favour of a new draft law which would see websites like Google having to pay media outlets to post their content.

A group linked to Anonymous hacked the website of the Spanish Newspaper Editors Association (AEDE) at around 5pm on Monday.

The ‘hacktivist’ group known as La Nueve called for people to boycott the member sites of AEDE, an association which represents all of Spain’s major national newspapers as well as many regional and specialist publications .

“The media outlets that belong to this association only represent the interests of those who are exploiting the weakest (members of society),” said the hackers in a message posted on the AEDE homepage.

The hackers then called on people to “neither follow nor link to” the media companies represented by AEDE.

A ghost rematerializes, via The Guardian:

New IRA sent bombs to army recruitment centres, Met confirms

Scotland Yard says terror group used recognised codeword to claim responsibility for sending packages to offices in Britain

The republican terror alliance known as the new IRA has said it was responsible for a series of parcel bombs sent to army recruitment offices across England.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that the new IRA used a recognised codeword in claiming responsibility for sending the suspect packages to military careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury and the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough last week.

Earlier the terror group had sent similar packets to Aldershort, Reading and the RAF careers office in Chatham, Kent. A number of the packages had Dublin postmarks on them and were thought to contain low grade explosives.

From DutchNews.nl, busting those who do as governments do:

Police arrest 13 after raid on Amsterdam spyware shop

Amsterdam police on Tuesday arrested 13 people and seized weapons and cash following raids on city spyware shop One2spy and eight other premises.

In total, 200 officers and special investigators were involved in raids which took place in the early hours of the morning.

The shop, in the Baarsjes district of the city, ‘facilitated crime in all possible ways’, acting police chief Jeroen Poelert is quoted as saying by the Parool newspaper. The shop’s 39-year-old owner Farah el O is among those arrested.

The shop was raided after a far-reaching investigation following a tip-off, the paper says. Police found automatic weapons, radio frequency jammers, large sums of money and a range of ‘gadgets’, such as an electric shock device in the form of a lipstick.

Finally, from the Oakland Tribune, another way to silence the press:

Bay Area News Group photographer robbed in West Oakland

A Bay Area News Group photographer was robbed at gunpoint Tuesday while on an assignment in West Oakland.

The photographer was held up about 11:25 a.m. near 29th and West streets, according to police. The suspects fled the scene in a car. No injuries were reported.

Veteran photographer Ross Cameron was leaving his assignment when two men with guns ran up to him and robbed him of his two cameras and two lenses.

In recent years, several news photographers and television camera crews have been robbed of their equipment in Oakland. Another BANG photographer was robbed twice at gunpoint. Some TV stations now send armed guards with media crews covering stories in Oakland.

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