Thursday, October 29, 2015

Britain uses drones in Syria illegally on British citizens

The British Parliament's Human Rights Committee has asked Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify its policy on drone strikes through a formal inquiry. Specifically, the inquiry will focus on the strikes on Raqqa, Syria in August, which killed 3 people, 2 of them British citizens. Reyaad Khan, a native of Cardiff, England, was featured in a prominent ISIS  recruiting video. Prime Minister Cameron has asserted that the strike was an act of self defense.

Specifically, the committee will focus on the legality of the strike. Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, the British government claims it can attack and strike these British citizens under self defense. This is the same defense the US government claimed when it killed American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki in 2011. However, the Prime Minister is claiming self-defense when there was no formal declaration of war from ISIS against the United Kingdom.

In addition, the British government's formal policy is to use drone strikes in international conflicts they are involved in, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Many MP's are also upset because Parliament previously voted against the use of force in Syria a few years earlier.

As the legal director of the human rights group "Reprieve" said, "The Prime Minister has given himself sweeping power to kill anyone, anywhere in the world, in secret and without due process. This is a huge shift in British policy and the public deserves to know how far these powers go and what, if any, safeguards are in place."

Although not expressly written in any laws, the Prime Minister should be restricted to the use of drones. The Prime Minister had no authority to authorize the use of force or declare war in an area that he didn't get express approval for. In addition, as British citizens, the victims had a right to due process as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

America’s Secret weapon against cyber-attacks? Try a new military for cyber crimes, by Lereiya Edmonson

 The main focus of this article was about the recent theft of millions of Federals records in 2014 called the “year of the hacked “and it looked at the effect cyber breech has on our nation’s which is now a growing crisis. It is believed that this is becoming a major issue and there is a need for a new approach to this significant threat.  The cyber society believes that the governments need to defend this new cyber warfare and the only way to do this is to create a sixth branch of the military; that specialize only, in cyber security. In response to the civil and moral leadership and thinking through it West Point is believed to have these values and the writer suggests that this needed for our nation’s cyber defense. Many think that if the United States government follows the West point model and it will help our military operations to become globally effective.

Based on the issues we had covered in Dr. Davis Spies, Assassins and Cyber Warriors:  Modern National Security Law class. I agree with the writer because the military must strengthen the force in order for them to deal with the enemy, and since cyber-crimes are now becoming a major deterrence in the cyber world. Learning about “The Olympic Game” and the “year of the hacked “we as a nation now understand how intrusion can attack our domain. I believe if we provide our military with adequate training an extended military branch this will teach the troops strategies in regards to the conflict in cyber warfare. This will also provide the military with the capability to follow through on missions while yet still abide by the rule of law.  Therefore the best thing to do is to be prepared for confronting cyber threats, so that the military is prepared to have a dedicated military branch assigned to cyber space.  Establishing cyber command will help our national security, new warfare domain; and this will provide the troop with jurisdiction over the new technology, which will put all the military trained personnel to a leverage where they can detect and defend our nation from cyber war.  

We have seen in history, how not being prepared for warfare; the effect it has on our nation when we looked  how the Japanese planes attacked the “Pearl Harbor”, this completely destroyed our battleships which were nerve racking for the United States. Therefore, by equipping our nation with arms in cyberspace will close the door for our combatants. Having a Defense Intelligence community will challenge and protect the things we value, because as a nation, it is necessary to have a department that covers cyber authorities. Furthermore, having a six military branch for cyber command will strengthen the intelligence community and detect any adversaries overseas.  We see where other nations are making this preparation, for example, China they have cyber professionals in the military. However, this alone shows the need why our troops are needed in cyberspace. Should our nation come under attack from any one of these threatening enemies, our energy focus is to protect our networks and save America’s resources and security.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cyber-Security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Keep Attacking US Companies

Cyber-security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Keep Attacking US Companies
                 This article states that Chinese hackers have continued to attack US companies despite signing an agreement with the US stating that China and the US would not solicit cyber missions whose aims were to steal private company intellectual property or trade secrets that presented evident commercial advantages.  However, the Chinese breached this agreement the very next day. 
                A hacking group, with connections to the Chinese government, hacked US private companies in an attempt to look for trade secrets and was tracked by security service provider CrowdStrike.  Companies the Chinese were particularly targeting were pharmaceutical and technological companies.  The attacks were thwarted but still raised a concern for US cyber security, since these attacks happened after the US and China had signed the agreement.  The news is hopefully going to stagnate future attacks on private companies despite doubts from the US audience.  If the attacks continue, Obama has stated that the US will not rule out economic sanctions against Chinese companies.  Upon investigation, it is evident that the intent of these hackings is to steal intellectual property and trade secrets from private pharmaceutical and technology sectors.  Tempers are continuing to rise on the side of the US considering that many China-affiliated hackers are said to have persistently tried to re-enter US networks even after multiple failed attempt.  It would seem that despite the negotiation and signed agreement, that China has not ceased its cyber warfare.  The group of the utmost concern is called Deep Panda, whose main goal is to reveal national security targets, but who also dabbles in invading agriculture, finance, chemical, and technology industries.  The deal is not entirely for not however, as the Obama administration is expecting lag time between agreement and the execution of that agreement.  The real test will come when an adequate amount of time has passed and the agreement is in full execution, to see if the Chinese hacking attempts will really stop.  China is given some credit though, in that they have taken markers to see that this agreement is upheld, namely arresting a number of hackers who were said to have stolen secrets of US companies prior to the agreement.  As of now, the US is viewing future attacks as a setback but not a deal breaker.  The US administration has faith that China will be able to control groups like Deep Panda and uphold their end of the agreement for now.
                This controversy displayed in this article relates to the issues of cyberwarfare discussed in the course. Agreement breaching aside, the article defines what the Chinese hackers are doing as an attack.  According to the US Army definition of cyber-attack, it must be “a premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat, against computers and/or networks with the intention to cause harm…”  In contrast, cyber exploitation and espionage is defined as using cyber tools in order to extract confidential information from the adversary’s computer.  The main difference between attack and espionage is whether or not the intent was to harm or father information.  According to the article, the Chinese objective was to glean intellectual property and steal information from private companies.  Additional information that groups attempted to glean was regarding national security targets.  By definition, this is espionage because the Chinese were trying to gather information.  As a side note, the companies being targeted were private US companies that are part of specific areas of industry.  They were not hacking military computers or other typical essentials of fighting a war.  Therefore, to label the Chinese hacking as an “attack” is slightly inaccurate.  Due to the breaching of the agreement, and the objective to steal intellectual property that rightfully belongs to US private companies, it is surely illegal and in no way self-defense or anything like that.  However, the hackings should be more accurately described as espionage rather than an attack according to the themes discussed in the course.  However, despite the slightly inaccurate label, the US reaction and threats of economic sanctions imply that the Obama administration is not willing to counter the situation the way one would if it was a conventional or “more obvious” cyber-attack.  For example, the threat of economic sanctions should the Chinese not comply with the agreement are not force because the conditions of the sanctions are not to cause harm.  Rather, they would be used, as sanctions often are, to get China “in line” with the terms of the signed agreement that they just breached.  Sanctions are open and direct, despite cyber-attacks not being as pin-pointed.  These sanctions are the threat of choice because of the nature of the victims in these hackings.  In other words, the Obama administration is choosing sanctions over other means in part because the victims in the article have been specified as private companies.
                If the attack is from a company controlled by the state, and acting for the state, then the state is liable to be attacked.  The perpetrators in the article are said to have connections to the Chinese government.  This is why the entire state of China is being held responsible.  If it was simply a private company located in but not working for the state doing the attack, then the victim country, in this case the US, would make a demand for it to stop and demand that the host country take care of the situation, because the attacking company is located in that country.  In this case, if China does not handle the hacking situation, the US is legally able to act and take care of it themselves, hence the threat of sanctions.  Because it would be on record that the US made demands to China for it to be handled without US involvement, the US would then have more legal grounds for means that it takes to handle the situation itself if that arises. 
                Overall, I think that the US is handling the situation appropriately, as far as legality goes.  To attack or sanction China right away, without giving China a chance to fix the situation and reprimand the people responsible, would set an unfair precedent in China-US relations.  Also, because of the government connections that the hacking groups have, I think it is adequate that the US is demanding that China as a state handle the situation before the US decides to take matters into its own hands.  It will be interesting to see how this situation develops now that an official agreement has been signed and China is now expected to halt all future attacks.  It will be interesting to see how this situation affects future Chinese-American foreign relations.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Locking up Leakers

Why locking up leakers makes sense
The Economist, Jan 29th  2015

In January of this year, a US District court convicted Jeffrey Sterling of leaking classified documents about a covert CIA plot. The operation, which consisted of using proxies to pass faulty nuclear technology to Iran, was revealed in a book published by New York Times journalist James Risen. In the prosecution, the government had subpoenaed Risen to testify about his involvement with the leaked documents. However, Risen refused to disclose his source, citing his promise of anonymity to his contact.

In previous cases, courts had attempted to force journalists to reveal their sources, such as when Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to divulge the information. Primarily, Risen had objected to testifying, claiming that the freedom of the press protected journalists from testifying in such cases. However, this was not upheld; the Supreme Court found last year that the constitution provided no special protection for reporters.

Nevertheless, the government decided not to use this ability, with Eric Holder, Attorney General at the time, stating: “no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail.” He refused to allow prosecutors to make Risen reveal his source, thus removing the testimony of the only direct link at the trial. Despite this, they were able to make a case against Sterling, leading to his conviction on circumstantial evidence by linking him to interaction with Risen. He could potentially face decades in prison.

This episode could set a crucial precedent for the prosecution of leakers of classified information, and journalistic protections of reporting on the information. Journalists will be encouraged that the government will uphold the rights of reporters to have confidential sources, allowing them to publish information without compromising their journalistic integrity. Potential leakers may also feel safer in the knowledge that their reporters will not be forced to reveal them. However, the leakers may also worry that circumstantial evidence will be used against them, specifically their links to the reporter breaking the story, as was the case with Sterling and Risen. In future, leakers will be wary of evidence linking them with the reporters.

The case brings to light the manner in which the judicial system can influence the government's policy when it comes to national security issues, as we have seen in many previous cases. Here, in balancing the freedom of the press with national security issues, the government has sent a clear message that upholding that freedom is a priority. This is crucial in the oversight of government action, in which the press plays a key role. However, the government made clear that leaking sensitive information would not go unpunished. The precedent set, therefore, is optimistic for press oversight of government, but less rosy for those who divulge secret information that allows this oversight.

One aspect of the case to note is that, in contrast to many of our previous cases, the prosecution has set the precedent, rather than the court. Even though the Supreme Court ruling allowed them to do so, the prosecution decided not to force Risen to testify, hopefully setting an example for the future. However, since the courts have given the government the power to force journalists to testify, it may not be long before they use this power, reversing what we saw in this case. The freedom of the press to withhold their sources may not be protected as well as they hope.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

After nearly two decades, the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is remembered and its 20th anniversary commemorated by survivors, friends, families, and other Americans. With over 168 casualties, this attack was “one of the deadliest act[s] of terrorism in U.S. history” prior to September 11, 2001. Unlike September 11th, this attack brought to light the previously inconceivable danger of “American citizens targeting their own government with a deadliness hitherto unseen.” This, in turn, brought attention to the brewing dangers of the “extreme right,” due to the anti-government ideology and white supremacist attributes of the two culprits, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, responsible for the bombing. Prior to the bombing, in the FBI’s annual report on terrorism as of 1994, it focused more on the activities of Puerto Rican radicals and other seemingly harmless extremists, such as those for animal rights and the environment, rather than right-wing extremists, which were only devoted one measly paragraph, without mention of the rapid increase in militia and sovereign citizen movements. Two events in particular that took place in Idaho and Texas, respectively, apparently instigated the outrage of the right-wing extremists, who saw them as “deliberate attempts by the government to kill American citizens.” However, following the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, the FBI began focusing on new priorities, hiring new agents, and distributing them to different domestic terrorism cases, resulting in an expansion of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Subsequently, many arrests involving terrorist plots and hate crimes were made, seemingly showing the United States’ new found recognition of the dangers of the extreme right-wing. However, this was not very long-lived, as following the events of September 11, 2001, the new focus of the public, the media, and more importantly, law enforcement and the government, became the issue of Islamic extremism. Instead of drawing the attention of the nation to both potential dangers, 9/11 basically stole all the attention, albeit rightfully so. However, while the whole nation’s focus was on the danger of radical Islamic terrorism, the danger of right-wing extremists did not subside. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, right-wing extremists were behind over 47 different terrorist acts, conspiracies, or plots during the period between 1995 and 2000, and at least 42 different actual or attempted terrorist acts from 2009 to 2014, which is surprisingly, fairly recent. This shows that the levels of violence by the extreme right have remained very similar to that during the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. The point is, the United States is not limited to being threatened by just one source, but multiple, and it is important to keep this in mind and learn from it, particularly regarding the events of the Oklahoma City bombing. Hopefully, with the 20th anniversary, Americans will be reminded of this once again, and be able to respond more effectively to such ideological violence in the future.
This story addresses multiple issues related to our class, with the most important one being national security. In this case, however, the terrorists were Americans, thus making it an issue of domestic security. On the other hand, the author tied the events of the Oklahoma City bombing with the events of September 11th together in a very skillful manner, by contrasting them by their source of danger, only to address them both as issues that must be taken seriously, particularly by the American people and the government. It is likely that as a result of the latter, clandestine government actions, such as that of extraordinary rendition were devised and are still being carried out. It is also likely that the culprits behind the bombing, being anti-government right wing extremists, were very distrusting of the U.S. government, which can relate to our cases of legal cases involving extraordinary rendition, as well as the government getting involved in them and asserting the state secrets doctrine. We have discussed the possibility of previously rendered suspects actually becoming terrorists after their release. On the other hand, the government’s misuse (abuse?) of the state secrets doctrine in order to cover up their involvement in extraordinary rendition most likely does not reflect very well on many Americans, as well. Lastly, it is important to note, although not mentioned in this article, the previous suspects of the bombing (not long after the actual bombing) before they were determined to be McVeigh and Nichols, were actually believed to be three people of Middle Eastern descent. This is interesting in that although the author of this article claims that right-wing extremists were a problem during the 90s (time of Oklahoma City bombing), the issue of Islamic extremists did not arise until 9/11, there may have already been some awareness to the dangers of Islamic extremists, which resulted in the unreasonably racist belief that the culprits were Middle Eastern, only to later find out that they were two Caucasian, and more importantly, American, men.[0]=1351422923&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Av%2Cm%3Asa&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=mozilla&tt=b (where I got the other information not from the article)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Court Censures Poland Over C.I.A. Renditions, by Morgan Bennett

In late July of 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a case involving two terrorism suspects detained at a C.I.A prison in Poland (Bilefsky 2015). The two men are Abu Zubaydah, believed to have operated guesthouses in Pakistan for terrorist recruits, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of plotting to bomb the American destroyer Cole in 2000. Both men were taken to a C.I.A prison in Poland where they were detained, and according to General Michael V. Hayden (a former C.I.A director), subjected to harsh forms of interrogation such as waterboarding. In response to this, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Poland has violated the rights of these two men by allowing them to be put into this secret C.I.A-run detention center located in Poland, where they were subsequently tortured for information.
            This controversial case is directly related to cases of extraordinary rendition involving deportation and torture of suspects by the United States that we have studied in class. We have discussed torture and its legality in documents such as the Geneva Convention and the Convention against Torture. According to these documents, Poland as well as the United States should be held accountable for acts of torture committed to these two men. These men were subject to intentional physical and mental torture that was inflicted by C.I.A officials for the purpose of gaining information. According to the Convention against Torture as well as the Geneva Convention, this is prohibited and should be dealt with through effective legislative, administrative, or judicial action by the state.
            In addition, the Convention against Torture states that no state shall deport or return a person to another state if there is reason to believe that they will be tortured. In this case, the United States knew these men would be tortured and specifically sent them to a C.I.A “black site” prison in Poland so they would be able to torture their prisoners off the record. For these blatant breaches of these very important documents studied in class, I believe that both the United States and Poland should be held accountable for their cruel and inhumane actions towards these prisoners.


Bilefsky, Dan. “Court Censures Poland Over C.I.A. Renditions.” The New York Times(2014): A 13. The New York Times. Web. 15 September 2015.

Lawsuit targets psychologists who design CIA torture program

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists and former U.S. Air Force trainers, are being held accountable for their design and oversight of a CIA interrogation program that allegedly tortured al Qaeda suspects. Mitchell and Jessen were experts teaching members of the military methods to avoid interrogations through a technique called learned helplessness.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three men (Gul Rahman, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud) who were all held captive by the CIA. Mitchell and Jessen were accused of violating human rights by committing torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, and war crimes. A500-page executive summary of the Senate report discusses the CIA’s involvement with utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques for members suspected of al Qaeda activity after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The CIA claims that enhanced interrogation techniques were a mistake in the past, but the program did effectively obtain vital details that protected the national security of the U.S.
The Senate report stated that Rahman was tortured at a CIA site known as the Salt Pit in Afghanistan by Jessen and CIA employees and died due to hypothermia. Salim was also taken to the Salt Pit where he endured torture techniques that included sleep deprivation, being soaked in cold water while nude, being dressed in a diaper, and being restrained in small boxes. Salim said, “The terrible torture I suffered at the hands of the CIA still haunts me,” and continued by saying, "This lawsuit is about achieving justice.” Ben Soud was taken to black sites in Afghanistan and claimed that Mitchell was involved with his interrogations. The Justice Department has investigated this CIA interrogation program three times, but a prosecution never ensued because doing so would expose classified information.
The big controversial question portrayed in this article is whether or not torture is lawful if the intent is to protect national security and potentially prevent future terrorist attacks. Discussion in the last few weeks of classes has focused on detention and interrogation. The Torture Victims Protection Act defines torture to include  “any act, directed against an individual in the offender’s custody or physical control, by which severe pain or suffering…whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted…” By this definition, the three men in the article who were held captive at CIA black sites were indeed tortured. Did torturing these men contribute the future safety of the United States? Was torture the only way to get the necessary information out of them? These are some questions that were raised in my mind after reading this article. El Maseri v Macedonia and Mohamed v UK Secretary of State are two related cases that were also discussed in class and that both involved extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation techniques. Similar to the article, both cases were dismissed on grounds of state’s secret privilege. I can see both sides to this argument about the use of torture and state’s secret privilege. On one side, it is important that the United States do everything they can to protect the citizens and not cause panic. On the other side, it is difficult to determine if what the CIA is doing is actually lawful if we cannot hear the full story in court because the state’s secret privilege has been enacted.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Prism and Privacy: What Could They Know About Me?

Among all the documents leaked by Edward Snowden are details about the Prism Program, which keeps surveillance information on citizens of the United States as well as citizens of the European Union.  This program allows the United States National Security Administration access to private online files via private Internet firms.  However, the United States Government is not the only governing body that has employed these, among other, practices to attempt to keep its citizens “safe” with the information collected.

The United Kingdom has used the data collected by the United States in addition to using their own information gathering methods. According to “Prism and Privacy: What Could They Know About Me?” by Tom de Castella and Kayte Ruth in BBC Magazine the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), the United Kingdom’s premiere electronic surveillance agency, collects a plethora of information on its citizens in a multitude of ways, all in the name of safety. The information is collected via IP addresses, searched terms, algorithmic analysis of emails, and the GPS locator in cell phones activated by phone calls, Wi-Fi and applications usage. Travel system swipe cards, shopping loyalty programs, street security cameras, credit reference agencies and voter registrations lists are also used by the GCHQ to track citizens movements outside the digital world and have proved useful for local law enforcement. Though there has been a call for much tighter regulations on what data is stored on street security camera, how long it is stored for and the usage of the footage.

The controversy in all this information gathering is the right to privacy that citizens feel their government is encroaching on, even if this right is only implicit in some governing documents.  Another argument against the mass collection of information is that the conclusions drawn for data gathered can be misinterpreted or misused resulting in the uprooting and traumatization of another’s life. This is arguably the situation in the Khaled El-Marsi’s and Binyam Mohamed cases. In both men’s cases, as well as arguably in others, data was gathered, possibly incorrect conclusions were drawn and two men were allegedly tortured because of these conclusions. Not only is torture illegal according to the Geneva Convention the whole process in which these men were extraordinarily rendered broke laws of due process and associated prisoner treatment policies.  Since information gathering of this type allows governments to keep tabs on its citizens and make decisions about them without their knowledge the intelligence compiled needs to be regulated and carefully reviewed before conclusions are drawn and action is taken that can drastically affect a person’s life.

Personally I believe that what governments have done in these situations is not particularly illegal, at least in the information-gathering phase outside of the extraordinary rendition process. However, their actions do walk the fine line between morally right and wrong in their invasion of data citizens feel is private or should be kept private, violate a citizen’s feelings of trust in their government and lead to more mistrust, all in the name of safety. All citizens may not explicitly have a right to privacy according to some governing documents yet they are still afforded the courtesies of international law, the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights where applicable, though this range should be expanded. If citizens are treated like a faceless mass these courtesies of basic human rights become lost in the translation to keeping the collective safe. Our humanity must be remembered.