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Friday, August 16, 2013

NSA Violating Privacy Thousands of Times Annually

A scathing report in today’s Washington Post outlines a range of privacy violations by the National Security Agency (NSA), based on top-secret documents and an internal NSA audit obtained by the paper (courtesy of whistleblower Edward Snowden). That audit showed that the agency had committed thousands of violations of privacy rules since being granted expanded surveillance authorizations in 2008. Some of those privacy violations were clear, conscious violations of existing laws; in other cases, the agency stumbled into additional data on American citizens through errors (e.g., accidentally intercepting unintended data due to a typographic error in an information request).

An NSA official told the Post, in an interview that the White House later tried to have the paper remove from their story: “We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line.”

Thankfully, we’ve got the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) program to look out for instances in which the NSA oversteps its bounds, right? Well, not exactly. The program’s chief judge, Judge Reggie B. Walton, says sorry, but no. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”

Violent Clashes in Egypt Continue to Escalate

The “day of rage” protests by Muslim Brotherhood members against the interim Egyptian government turned bloody today, as security forces opened fire during clashes, killing at least 95 people in Cairo and injuring hundreds more. Protesters told Al Jazeera that they were shot at by snipers and gunmen in helicopters. “Helicopters started to shoot us as we were walking,” said one. “Not bombs this time, it was bullets. My friend took a shot in the neck and he died.” While the deadliest violence occurred in Cairo, protesters battled with police and military forces elsewhere, including Alexandria, Fayoum, and near the Suez Canal.

Meanwhile, Saudia Arabia’s King Abdullah spoke out publicly, declaring his support for the interim Egypt government against what he characterized as “terrorism”. He warned that Egypt’s stability is being undermined by “haters,” and warned that those interfering in Egypt’s affairs would be “igniting sedition.” The Saudi stance seems to mirror that of a number of other regional powers. The governments of both Jordan and the United Arab Emirates praised King Abdullah’s support for the current Egyptian regime.

A Ferry Sinking in the Philippines Leaves Dozens Dead

A ferry carrying at least 700 passengers collided with a cargo ship Friday and sank off the port of Cebu in the Phlippines, killing at least 24 people. At press time, AFP reports that more than 300 others are missing. The latest numbers contradict earlier reports of more than 500 passengers already rescued, or suggest the vessel was carrying significantly more people than first reported. Passengers told the Associated Press that the ferry was approaching its pier at the port of Cebu to dock, when it was struck by the cargo ship, which was exiting the harbor.

The Philippines has a long history of deadly ferry accidents; the 1987 sinking of the ferry Dona Paz killed 4,341 people, the world’s worst maritime disaster. A more recent sinking in 2008 left nearly 800 people dead.

A Female Politician in Iran is Barred from Office Because She’s ‘Too Sexy’

Nina Siakhali Moradi is a 27-year-old female politician who was successfully elected as an alternate member of the city council in Qazvin, Iran. Despite the popular vote, she’s been prohibited from participating because she’s been deemed “too sexy” by an election review board. Another member of the city council was recently promoted to mayor, and, Moradi, as first alternate, should have taken the vacated council seat. That move was blocked by the local election board.

Moradi ran for the city council on a platform of “Young ideas for a young future”, but critics, including local religious groups, say that her campaign relied too heavily on posters touting her attractiveness. One official told reporters “We don’t want a catwalk model on the council.”

Weekend Read: How Laura Poitras helped Snowden spill his secrets

Eight months ago, Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, received an anonymous e-mail from a stranger promising “sensitive information”. That initial exchange would lead to the biggest story of the year: the extent of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs. Peter Maass tells how it all unfolded in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine.

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