FBI hacked into 8k computers in 120 countries using single disputed warrant – report

The FBI hacked into more than 8,000 computers in 120 countries during an investigation into a child pornography website with just one warrant, a court hearing transcript has shown. It represents the largest known law enforcement hacking campaign to date.

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The hacking centers around an FBI investigation in February 2015, in which the bureau seized the Playpen child pornography website and ran it from a government server for 13 days. It used a piece of malware known as a network investigative technique (NIT) to break into the computer of anyone who visited certain child pornography threads on the website. It then sent the suspects’ IP addresses back to the FBI.

Over the past year, Motherboard has found that the FBI hacked computers in Australia, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, and likely the UK, Turkey, and Norway during the investigation.

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However, the new transcript from a related case shows that the bureau’s campaign was far larger than previously believed, and that the FBI actually hacked into more than 8,000 computers in 120 different countries.

“The fact that a single magistrate judge could authorize the FBI to hack 8,000 people in 120 countries is truly terrifying,” Christopher Soghoian, a principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who has testified for the defense in Playpen cases, told Motherboard.

The hacking campaign is believed to be the largest ever to be conducted by law enforcement officials.

“We have never, in our nation’s history as far as I can tell, seen a warrant so utterly sweeping,” federal public defender Colin Fieman said in a hearing at the end of October, according to the transcript. The attorney is representing several defendants connected to the child pornography investigation.

It appears, however, that the magistrate judge did not actually have jurisdiction to issue such a sweeping warrant. According to a filing from the Department of Justice, 14 court decisions have found that the warrant granted by Judge Theresa C. Buchanan in the Eastern District of Virginia was not properly issued under Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which determines how search warrants can be authorized.

Courts in four cases have decided to throw out all evidence obtained by malware in the operation due to the violation.

‘New normal’

Despite the hurdles being faced by the FBI in the Playpen investigation, the bureau could soon have undisputed freedom when it comes to using single warrants to conduct similar probes. Changes to Rule 41 are likely to take effect on December 1, meaning judges will be given more power to issue warrants exactly as Judge Buchanan did.

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Many have expressed concern that the changes will give law enforcement too much power to hack internet users both inside and outside the US, with Soghoian saying the technique is “probably the new normal.”

“We should expect to see future operations of this scale conducted not just by the FBI, but by other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and we should expect to see foreign law enforcement agencies hacking individuals in the United States, too,” he added.

The Department of Justice defended the changes to Rule 41 in a Monday blog post.

“We believe technology should not create a lawless zone merely because a procedural rule has not kept up with the times,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Criminal Division wrote in the post.

Although such mass hacking techniques are believed to have so far been limited to child pornography investigations, critics are concerned US authorities will use the changes to Rule 41 to expand the practice to other crimes.

US orders evacuation of Istanbul diplomatic staff families

The US State Department has ordered the families of American diplomats in Istanbul, Turkey, to leave due to an increased risk of terrorism following extremists’ threats to “kidnap and assassinate Westerners and US citizens.”
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Family members of personnel stationed at the US Consulate General in Istanbul have been asked to leave because the State Department’s security assessment deems it unsafe for them to stay.

“The Department of State made this decision based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack US citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent,” the Turkey travel warning states. “This order applies only to the US Consulate General in Istanbul, not to other US diplomatic posts in Turkey.”

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While the consulate remains open and fully operational, Washington is urging US citizens to avoid travel to southeast Turkey and “carefully consider the risks” of traveling throughout the country.

The diplomats continue to monitor the security situation on the ground in the wake of recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the southeast of the country, where Turkish armed forces continue to engage Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

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“Recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of US citizens in Turkey. Delays or denial of consular access to US citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue,” the warning reads.

The State Department notes that “international and indigenous terrorist organizations” in Turkey over recent years have targeted foreigners at major events, tourist sites, or restaurants, warning Americans that such threat still exists.

“Extremists have also threatened to kidnap and assassinate Westerners and US citizens. US citizens are reminded to review personal security plans, monitor local news for breaking events, and remain vigilant at all times,” the State Department said.

Citing a series of terrorist attacks on the border with Syria, US citizens are urged to defer travel to large, urban centers near the Turkish-Syrian border. In addition, Washington reminded its citizens that the Syrian border with Turkey is closed, offering guidance for US citizens in need of medical aid.

“Border crossings from Syria into Turkey are prohibited, even if the traveler entered Syria from Turkey. Individuals seeking emergency medical treatment or safety from immediate danger are assessed on a case by case basis,” the bulletin said.

The travel warning, issued Saturday, updates a warning last week of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey.

TURKEY PREDICTS SYRIAN ‘PROXY WAR’ WILL LEAD TO WAR BETWEEN US AND RUSSIA

“If the proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war”

Darius Shahtahmasebi | Anti Media – OCTOBER 14, 2016

Following a renewal of Turkish-Russian relations, Turkey has taken a diplomatic stance regarding the Syrian conflict, warning against serious consequences if the five-year civil war is not resolved. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned this week that the Syrian proxy war between the U.S. and Russia could lead to worldwide conflict between the two powers.

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“If the proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war,” the Deputy Prime Minister stated.

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However, Russia and Turkey continue to hold different views regarding what a resolution of the Syrian conflict might look like. The Deputy Prime Minister called Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a “pawn” before arguing his removal from power is necessary for long lasting peace, the Independent reported. Russia is unlikely to accept this proposal anytime soon.

Turkey’s support for jihadists, including ISIS militants, is extensive and well-documented. Because of this, and the fact the NATO member still calls for Assad’s removal, the extent to which Turkey will refuse to participate in the formation of a global conflict between Russia and the U.S is increasingly unclear.

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It could simply be the case that Turkey’s warnings are merely a warning to Russia — especially in light of the fact that due to its NATO alliance, Turkey will be forced to back up the United States in a global conflict between Eastern powers and Western powers.
Further, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hawkish stance on Middle Eastern affairs was confirmed this week when he told the Iraqi president to “know his place.” This flagrant disregard for international law came in response to Iraq’s stance that they do not want Turkish assistance in their upcoming offensives, which are intended to retake Mosul from ISIS. In fact, Iraq boldly requested that Turkish troops leave Iraqi territory some time ago, but Turkey refuses to listen, further indicating Turkey looks to expand its regional influence.

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Meanwhile, Iran has moved its warships to the coast of Yemen following attacks on Houthi rebel positions by the United States military. The move is reportedly intended to patrol the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the world’s most important shipping routes.
Everything appears to be in place for a worldwide military confrontation. Whether or not Turkey’s warnings are genuinely intended to seek resolution, one would hope they do not go unheeded.

 

‘S-300, S-400 air defenses in place’: Russian MoD warns US-led coalition not to strike Syrian army

Russia’s Defense Ministry has cautioned the US-led coalition of carrying out airstrikes on Syrian army positions, adding in Syria there are numerous S-300 and S-400 air defense systems up and running.
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Russia currently has S-400 and S-300 air-defense systems deployed to protect its troops stationed at the Tartus naval supply base and the Khmeimim airbase. The radius of the weapons reach may be a surprise to all unidentified flying objects, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson General Igor Konashenkov said.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, any airstrike or missile hitting targets in territory controlled by the Syrian government would put Russian personnel in danger.

The defense official said that members of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria are working on the ground delivering aid and communicating with a large number of communities in Syria.

“Therefore, any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen.”

Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,  Konashenkov added.

He also noted that Syria itself has S-200 as well as BUK systems, and their technical capabilities have been updated over the past year.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s statement came in response to what it called “leaks” in the Western media alleging that Washington is considering launching airstrikes against Syrian government forces.

“Of particular concern is information that the initiators of such provocations are representatives of the CIA and the Pentagon, who in September reported to the [US] President on the alleged controllability of ‘opposition’ fighters, but today are lobbying for ‘kinetic’ scenarios in Syria, he said.

He cautioned Washington to conduct a thorough calculation of the possible consequences of such plans.”

US-led coalition jets bombed positions of the Syrian government forces on September 17, resulting in the deaths of 83 servicemen. Washington said the airstrike was a mistake, however Damascus claimed the incident was a blatant aggression.”

The relocation of the S-300 system in order to protect Russian ships and the naval base in Syria was confirmed by Russian defense officials on October 4. Konashenkov assured that the S-300 is a “purely defensive system and poses no threat. Russia also has S-400 missile defense systems at Khmeimim base that were placed there after Turkey downed a Russian SU-24 jet in November of 2015.

‘Americans are on our side’: Al-Nusra commander says US arming jihadists via 3rd countries

US weapons are being delivered to Jabhat Al-Nusra by governments that Washington supports, a militant commander told the German media, adding that American instructors were in Syria to teach how to use the new equipment.
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“Yes, the US supports the opposition [in Syria], but not directly. They support the countries that support us. But we are not yet satisfied with this support,” Jabhat al-Nusra unit commander Abu Al Ezz said in an interview with Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper from the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo.

According to the commander, the militants should be receiving more “sophisticated weapons” from their backers to succeed against the Syrian government.

The fight is difficult. The regime is strong and gets support from Russia, he explained.

Al Ezz said that Jabhat Al-Nusra “won battles thanks to TOW rockets. Due to these rockets, we reached a balance with the regime. Our tanks came from Libya via Turkey, joined by the [BM-21] multiple rocket launchers,” he said.

The government forces have an advantage because of aircraft and missile launchers, but “we have the American-made TOW missiles, and the situation in some areas is under control,” Al Ezz added.

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When asked if the TOW missiles were initially intended for Jabhat Al-Nusra or if the group obtained them from the moderate Free Syrian Army, the jihadist clarified: “No, the missiles were given to us directly.”

He also said that when Jabhat Al-Nusra was “besieged, we had officers from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and America here… Experts in the use of satellites, rockets, reconnaissance and thermal security cameras.”

The journalist asked specifically if the US instructors were really present among the jihadists’ ranks and Al Ezz replied: “The Americans are on our side.”

He also said that Jabhat Al-Nusra has been paid for achieving specific military goals during the Syrian conflict.

“We got 500 million Syrian pounds (around $2.3 million) from Saudi Arabia. To capture the Infantry School in Al Muslimiya years ago we received 1.5 million Kuwaiti dinars (around $500,000) and Saudi Arabia’s $5 million,” Al Ezz said.

The money came from the “governments” of those states, not private individuals, he said.

“Israel is now giving us support because Israel is at war with Syria and with Hezbollah,” Al Ezz said.

The West also “paved the way” for jihadists coming to Syria, saying that “we have many fighters from Germany, France, Britain, America, from all the Western countries,” the commander said.

‘Al-Nusra using ceasefire to regroup, prepare for new attacks’

In the interview, he confirmed claims made by Moscow and the Syrian government that the militants were using the Syrian ceasefire, agreed by Russia and US on September 9, to prepare for a new offensive.

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“We do not recognize the ceasefire. We will regroup our groups. We will carry out the next overwhelming attack against the regime in a few days. We have regrouped our forces in all provinces, including Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and Hama,” Al Ezz said.

He said that Jabhat Al-Nusa would not let trucks with humanitarian aid enter Aleppo “as long as the regime [forces] are along the Castello Road, in Al Malah and in the northern regions.”

“The regime must withdraw from all the territories, and we will let the trucks in. If a truck is going in anyway, we will detain the driver,” he said.

The idea of a transitional government in Syria is also not supported by Jabhat Al-Nusra, the commander said.

“We accept no one from the Assad regime or of the Free Syrian Army, which is described as moderate. Our goal is to overthrow the regime, and establish an Islamic state in accordance with the Islamic Sharia,” he said.

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As for the people who represent the Syrian opposition at the Geneva talks, Al Ezz said that “these people are weak, they’ve got a lot of money. They’ve sold themselves.”

“There are mercenaries in Syria, Alloush fights with Al Nusra-Front,” he said talking about Mohammed Alloush, a leader in the Jaysh al-Islam group, part of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) in the peace talks. “The group that was housed in Turkey and which was turned into the Free Syrian Army, used to be part of Al Nusra-Front.”

The commander openly confirmed that Jabhat Al-Nusra “are part of Al Qaeda,” the terrorist network responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

“Actually, we were inside one group together with the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). But the Islamic State has been used in accordance with the interests and political purposes of the big powers like America, and the group has drifted away from our principles. Most of the IS leaders are working with intelligence services, and it’s now clear for us. We, the Jabhat Al-Nusra, have our own way,” Al Ezz said.

The interview with Jabhat al-Nusra’s commander was taken at a stone quarry in Aleppo on September 17 by Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger journalist Jurgen Todenhofer on his seventh trip to war-torn Syria.

Turkey considering military ties with Russia as NATO shows unwillingness to cooperate – Ankara

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has lashed out at NATO, saying the alliance is not fully cooperating with Ankara. In an interview with Sputnik, he hinted that Turkey would consider military cooperation with Russia.
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Cavusoglu says that Ankara has become alarmed at the lack of willingness shown by NATO to cooperate with Turkey, which is a member of the alliance.

It seems to us that NATO members behave in an evasive fashion on issues such as the exchange of technology and joint investments. Turkey intends to develop its own defense industry and strengthen its defense system, he said in an interview with Sputnik.

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In this sense, if Russia were to treat this with interest, we are ready to consider the possibility of cooperation in this sector, Cavusoglu said when asked about the possibility of working with Russia in the defense sphere.

It is Cavusoglu’s strongest rebuke of NATO to date. In an interview with the Anadolu news agency on August 10, he said that Turkey and Russia would look to establish a joint military, intelligence, and diplomatic mechanism, while adding that relations with NATO were not as satisfactory as he would have wished.

“Turkey wanted to cooperate with NATO members up to this point,” he said. “But the results we got did not satisfy us. Therefore, it is natural to look for other options. But we don’t see this as a move against NATO, he told Anadolu.

Meanwhile, a week ago, the Turkish ambassador to Russia, Umit Yardim, said NATO has no right to dictate foreign policy to Ankara.

“In no way can NATO limit our contacts with other countries… It means NATO has no right to dictate its terms and tell us who we should or should not meet and communicate with, Yardim said on August 11, as cited by RIA Novosti.

The warming of relations between Turkey and Russia, which were previously at a low after a Turkish warplane shot down a Russian warplane over Syria in November, has led to apprehension in the West.

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Cavusoglu also previously pointed out that there is growing resentment in Turkey due to a perception that the EU and US have only been giving mild support to Ankara in the wake of the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15.

Turkey has been incensed by the US’ refusal to hand over cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara believes organized the attempted coup.

The Turkish government wants Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, to be extradited to face trial at home, but Washington has repeatedly refused. The US says it needs clear evidence that there was a link between Gulen and the attempted coup before it will consider complying with Turkey’s request.

Speaking to Sputnik, Cavusoglu accused the West of treating Turkey and Russia like second class countries” simply because they did not see eye-to-eye.

They consider Russia and Turkey to be second class countries, and they are outraged that these second class countries dare to criticize them… Therefore, faced with the straightforwardness and resilience of Erdogan and [President Vladimir] Putin, they feel very worried and anxious,” Cavusoglu said.

READ MORE: ‘Turkey gave up EU membership hope, seeking other partners’

Cavusoglu’s criticism was not restricted to NATO, as he launched a broadside towards the West, saying it was largely responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

Look at what has happened in Ukraine, he told Sputnik. They were always threatening the country and forcing it to make a choice between them and Russia. They were saying, ‘you will either be with us or with Russia.’ This course of action is futile. What is happening in Ukraine is a reflection of the main problems in the region.”

In contrast, the Turkish diplomat says that Ankara wants peace around the Black Sea region and does not want it to become an epicenter for tension. He called on all parties to try and find a peaceful resolution and said there needed to be greater dialogue between Russia and NATO.

“There should be no threats emerging in the region for anyone, for Turkey, for Russia or for anyone else,” Cavusoglu said.

According to the minister, the need for dialogue with Russia was apparent at the last NATO summit. “In my opinion, all existing issues should be overcome through establishing dialogue,” he added.

Turkey to suspend European human rights convention following failed coup

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Turkey’s state of emergency means temporary suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights, the deputy prime minister has said, adding this is expected to last for a month and a half. The state of emergency in Turkey follows a failed military coup.
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LIVE UPDATES: #TurkeyPurge: Post-coup crackdown

“We want to end the state of emergency as soon as possible. We believe [it could end within] one to one and a half months. I do not need a second extension,” said Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus, as cited by Turkish broadcaster NTV.

According to Kurtulmus, there were “structural and individual” intelligence failures during the coup attempt. He added that the government is planning to restructure the army.

As a result, the European Convention on Human Rights will be “temporarily suspended” due to the state of emergency, he added.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag later said the state of emergency will not negatively affect the economy or investments.

On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a state of emergency for three months following a coup attempt. It took effect Thursday morning.

“The purpose of the state of emergency is to most effectively and swiftly take steps necessary to eliminate the threat to democracy in our country,” Erdogan said, adding that EU has no right to criticize the decision.

Under the emergency measure, the Turkish president and his ministers are allowed to bypass the parliament in passing new laws. Rights and freedoms in the country may also be limited or suspended if the government decides to do so, the news agency explained.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has urged Ankara to lift the state of emergency in the country as quickly as possible, Reuters reported.

“We continue to expect that Turkey will adhere to the rule of law and that it will lift the state of emergency after three months as planned. Everything else would exacerbate tensions inside Turkey and harm Turkey itself,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the German FM told the media he did not have full confidence that the state of emergency was an appropriate response to the failed coup.

Steinmeier said the Turkish government should prosecute only those proven to be involved in illegal acts, but not their political opponents.

The military’s attempt to seize power in the country took place on July 15, when Erdogan was on holiday in the Turkish resort of Marmaris. Thousands of people took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. Erdogan said that 246 government supporters were killed. At least 24 coup plotters were also killed, officials said.

Tens of thousands have already been detained or lost their jobs following the failed coup, with some 60,000 people suspected of backing the coup attempt being investigated. The large-scale purge of state institutions has affected judiciary officials, civil servants, law enforcement and education workers.

Erdogan won’t miss the chance to use the coup to “strengthen his grip on Turkey,” Ali Rizk, a Middle East expert, told RT.

He warned that “there is going to be a big clampdown” which “is going to intensify” in the country.
“This could indeed transform Turkey from ‘a beacon of democracy’ into a police state. With these particular developments taking place, I do expect that Turkey will walk more and more on the way of an authoritarian police state,” Rizk said.