Megaupload.com shut down by USA… even though it’s run from New Zealand

21/01/2012

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere the past few days, I thought I’d fill you in: the popular “internet locker” storage site Megaupload.com has been closed down by the USA because of charges of alleged “piracy”. Apparently:

Shotguns, a Rolls Royce Phantom and millions of dollars were seized from properties linked to Megaupload on Friday, as the US sought to extradite the file-sharing firm’s founders over online piracy claims

and it seems that our of the seven Megaupload executives arrested, including founder Kim Dotcom, appeared in a New Zealand courtroom for a first appearance in what is likely to be a lengthy extradition process. USA authorities, clearly following orders from the vested interests in the SOPA/PIPA controversy, the US wants to put Megaupload bosses on trial for charges including accusing them of racketeering, money laundering and copyright infringement. It’s widely reported (even by the Guardian, damn their eyes!) that Aukland police seized luxury cars, firearms and millions of dollars in cash. As if ownership of nice legal stuff somehow makes these people guilty.

When Kim Dotcom spoke to press, apparently unfazed, he said he has “nothing to hide”

I really don’t get this raid at all. Megaupload.com is an online locker service, where the pubic can buy storage space for files. Megaupload does not examine all these files, but if someone reports that their intellectual rights are being infringed, Megaupload immediately take down the content in question. This all suggests to me that Megaupload is exactly the lawful, prudent service that should be protected under “safe harbor” laws. Ad I certainly don’t get where the US authorities are involved. As the EFF put it: “If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”.

This is all clearly meant to bolster the case of those who back the draconian SOPA/PIPA laws being considered in the USA. SOPA/PIPA garnered a lot of bad press on “black-out Wednesday” and President Obama’s stated intent to veto the ridiculous laws.

One more interesting factoid: The Pirate Bay was nearly wrecked by Swedish authorities following US orders. And now New Zealand has done the same. So tell me something: when did the entire world become USA juridiction? And WTF are we going to do about it?

Go to Megaupload.com and you get to see this

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

15/12/2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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Wooh! No plans to deploy water cannons on the streets of England… for now.

14/12/2010

Well, Theresa May, the UK Home Secretary, has rule out the use of water cannon in the policing of student protests, saying there was no legal authority for their use on the streets of England and Wales. But the overall message was clear: May has no plans to use water cannons right now; but circumstances change, and police tactics must also change to deal with the ever-evolving problems.

Look what Commander Bob Broadhurst, the head of Scotland Yard’s public order branch, had to say on the matter after May’s speech:

“There has been a great deal of speculation over the weekend about the Met using water cannons. There are no current plans to use water cannons on the streets of the capital but we would be foolish if we did not take time to look at tactics such as this to see if it might be appropriate in the future.

In other words: the water cannons are on their way. Get ready for a soaking, boys and girls.

May also took the opportunity to blame the violence on an “organised group of hardcore activists and street gangs” who had infiltrated the protests. Government ministers always do this: they say the majority of demonstrators are there for a good time, but a hardcore of evil anarchists and street gangsters turn peaceful demonstrations into warzones.

“Some students behaved disgracefully. But the police also assess that the protests were infiltrated by organised groups of hardcore activists and street gangs bent on violence.

Evidence from the other recent protests shows that many of those causing violence were organised thugs, as well as students. It is highly likely that this was also the case last week,” she said.

May made mention of the attack on the Duchess of Cornwall (the adulterous “whore” who shagged Prince Charles while he was still married to Diana – remember that awful recorded phone conversation in whch he said he’d like to be Camilla’s tampon? Ugh!): she said “some contact [was] made” when the Duchess of Cornwall was struck through the window of her royal car (ie she got a well-deserved slap). The Metropolitan police inquiry into the attack on the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla is due to report by this Friday but May warned that, for security reasons, the public details of the report are likely to be limited. No pix of the ugly woman’s war wounds then. Shame!

May revealed that 35 people had been arrested so far and expected the number to rise significantly. So far the mugshots of 14 of “key perpetrators of violence” have been published. The Met are to continue to publish pictures of other key individuals over the next week. All very interesting. But what about the police officers who used excessive violence and concealed their identification numbers? After the police actions that led to the death of Ian Tomlinson (an innocent passerby, not a demonstrator or rioter), Met police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said it was “absolutely unacceptable” for officers to cover or remove their shoulder tags bearing identification numbers. Yet a number of officers at this latest “riot” were seen with ID numbers concealed – look at this Youtube video. And what about the cop who slugged Alfie Meadows across the head with a truncheon – an attack that left Alfie needing emergency brain surgery. Will a mugshot of the offending officer be posted on the internet? Of course not: May used the standard cop-out answer when asked about this. She said that she was unable to comment as the Independent Police Complaints Commission had begun an investigation into the incident that had left him seriously injured.Yeah right.

May even defended the controversial “kettling” tactic, where police officers in full riot gear and armed with long batons corner groups of demonstrators and hem them in, even refusing to release peaceful demonstrators with major health problems. Even little children and old-age pensioners are forced to stay in the “kettle”. One woman asked a cop where she was supposed to go if she needed the toilet. The leering swine pointed down at the road surface in front of him.

It’s hard to blame individual officers: after all, they are merely following orders issued from on high. Then again, it’s very easy to blame those bobbies: they chose to join the force; they chose to obey the evil orders.

A little advice for those among you who might attend a demo where the water cannons are brought out: make sure you take with you a nice, dry set of clothes in a waterproof bag. When the filth shoot you with water, they’re hoping that you’ll become cold and dis-spirited and piss off home. If you go change into something dry then come back to continue demonstrating/rioting/whatever, the cops will become very confused. Remember, most cops are thick as pig shit (why else would they join up?); when faced with a situatuion that their orders don’t cover, most will just walk in ever-decreasing circles until they disappear up their own bottoms. So don’t let the assholes scare you. Believe me, they are probably more scared of you.

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Is Hamas a terrorist organization? Funnily enough: no.

31/03/2010

My recent post on the documentary film “Children of Gaza” has provoked a couple of comments from someone calling him/herself “Facts First” (both to the post referred to above and an earlier one also about the Israel-Palestine conflict). While “Facts First” is most eloquent in his/her support for Israel and dismissal of Hamas, he/she has basically restated the US and Israeli position that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no legitimacy as a government. This has persuaded me that I need to state the truth about Hamas’ legitimacy both in the Palestinian territories and the wider world.

In 2006, Hamas beat its opposition party Fatah in a free and fair election. This resulted in Hamas forming a government with Fatah. Unfortunately, supporters of both parties continued to fight each other.

As well as this factional conflict, Hamas’ position as a legitimate government partner was undermined by the USA and EU’s refusal to recognize a government that contained Hamas – their view is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and therefore unqualified to govern.

Matters came to a head when Fatah seized control of the West Bank territory and Hamas did the same in the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt, with US and EU support, then imposed a political, economic and humanitarian blockade on the Gaza Strip, again because Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Many critics of Hamas, including the US, the EU and “Facts First” make much of Hamas’ terrorist status. They tend to claim that Hamas’ status as a terrorist organization is a fact.

They are wrong. It is simply their opinion that Hamas are terrorists. There is an equal argument that Hamas is a legitimate political party qualified to govern the Palestinian territories.

For instance the Council on Foreign Relations says of Hamas:

Is Hamas only a terrorist group?

No. In addition to its military wing, the so-called Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70-million annual budget to an extensive social services network. Indeed, the extensive social and political work done by Hamas – and its reputation among Palestinians as averse to corruption – partly explain its defeat of the Fatah old guard in the 2006 legislative vote. Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities,” writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority often fails to provide such services, and Hamas’s efforts in this area—as well as a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of corruption—help to explain the broad popularity it summoned to defeat Fatah in the PA’s recent elections.

Although the USA, the EU, Israel, Canada, Japan and others call Hamas a terrorist organization, there is not an international consensus on this matter. The United Kingdom and Australia consider Hamas’ independent military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to be terroristic, but accept that Hamas does have legitimacy. Norway is resolute in its position of recognizing Hamas as a legitimate party, and Russia also refuse to regard Hamas as terroristic because Hamas was elected democratically.

Considering the above facts, one has to wonder what exactly Israel was trying to achieve when it attacked Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, and with its ongoing blockade on the region. Israel claims its goal is to remove Hamas’ ability to operate as a terrorist organization. But this has involved the destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza, including police stations, prisons, power and water supplies, roads, communications, commerce – and hospitals, schools and residential buildings have also been attacked. This all looks like an attempt to destroy Hamas’ ability to provide the services mentioned by the Council on Foreign Relations in the passage quoted earlier – and as no one else can provide those services, this means Israel is trying to destroy Gaza as a functional territory. Exactly who are the terrorists in this scenario?

“Facts First” has criticized my use of Wikipedia as a source of information on this subject. And I’m well aware of Wikipedia’s problems. But I think the article on Hamas is well researched, with a large and diverse number of references, and is very balanced in its presentation of the facts. In fact, I believe it is the article’s thoroughness and neutrality that makes “Facts First” dislike it so much – he/she would prefer to use US or even Israeli sources of information instead as they are more likely to present the “facts” the way he/she likes to see them. But don’t take my word on the Wikipedia’s Hamas article’s balance and thoroughness – read it and decide for yourself. And please, feel free to comment here on what has been said (and also what has not been said). All I ask is that you take “Facts First’s” pseudonym as advice: let’s stick to the facts rather than deal in opinion. And I contend that one simple fact is: Hamas is not a terrorist organization just because some governments think that’s so.


Countless Americans claim asylum in Britain from US government persecution

25/01/2010

Monday 25 January 2010

Okay, so maybe I was exaggerating when I said “countless” Americans are claiming political asylum in the UK. Actually, between 2004 and 2008, 45 US citizens claimed asylum in Britain, claiming they were being persecuted by their government.

The UK Home Office released this info after a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian newspaper. Between 2004 and 2008 there were 132,640 asylum claims made in the UK, according to government statistics. 45 were made by Americans, and 15 came from Canadian citizens. The Home Office refused to reveal the reasons for asylum requests, but a source within the US government suggested that the US requests were made by self-declared “political refugees” claiming persecution by the Bush administration. Applications from the US peaked in 2008, the final year of George Bush’s presidency, when 15 Americans submitted asylum claims. All 60 North American claims were refused – again, the Home Office refused to divulge why they were refused, claiming that a manual search of records to collect the information would take too long.

Maybe you think 45 claims over 4 years isn’t a huge number. But remember: these are just the claims for asylum made in the UK. How many other US citizens have sought refuge in other countries? It would be extremely difficult to collate world-wide information. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that if the UK, America’s biggest ally, received 45 claims for asylum from Americans, other countries probably received many more.

Liza Schuster, an asylum expert from the department of sociology at City University in London, quoted in the Guardian article, suggested another reason to believe these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. She said:

“I don’t know the details of those cases, but assume the US citizens are deserting before being sent to somewhere like Afghanistan. With the Canadians I’m really not sure. It is, as is clear from the numbers, pretty unusual – if only because it is relatively easy for those people to leave their countries and settle elsewhere. Why not just apply for a work visa and renew and then apply for leave to remain?

“As someone who would not find admission to European countries too difficult, it would only make sense to claim asylum if you feared extradition back to Canada or the US, or if there was some reason you might be refused entry. It is interesting – I’d be curious to know more – not least because in spite of what the law books say, granting asylum is a criticism of the originating state.”

On various online forums, people claiming to be American refugees have outlined their cases. One Texan hoping to be allowed sanctuary in Scotland claimed he had been “persecuted as a political dissident against US government war-mongering”.

This really does raise some important questions. For one, there’s the question of how many Americans in total have felt the need to seek political asylum abroad. And why have they sought asylum? Why are citizens of “the land of the free” running away from a country whose constitution allegedly grants them “undeniable rights”? Is American democracy actually no better than the brand of “democracy” on offer in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia?

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Random security screening won’t stop the suicide bombers

06/01/2010

In his blog, Bruce Schneier draws our attention to what Matt Blaze has said about the new system of random security screening at US airports:

“Paradoxically, the best terrorist strategy (as long as they have enough volunteers) under unpredictable screening may be to prepare a cadre of suicide bombers for the least rigorous screening to which they might be subjected, and not, as the strategy assumes, for the most rigorous. Sent on their way, each will either succeed at destroying a plane or be caught, but either outcome serves the terrorists’ objective.”

Schneier also quotes a comment from a reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

“[T]he terrorist didn’t care if he blew the plane up or not, that he went back to his seat instead of detonating the explosive in the toilet precisely because he wanted his fellow passengers to see his attempt — just in case it failed.”

Remember: to succeed, airport security must stop all suicide bombers from getting through; just one bomber needs to get through to succeed at  his task.  Even if the suicide bomber is stopped in the airport, he hasn’t necessarily failed.  His mere presence strikes terror into the hearts of the public.


Dept. Homeland Security blocking “illegal” websites?

19/10/2009

Have you seen this craziness? For those who’ve never heard of DigZine: it’s a “hacker” zine similar to Phrack. This is what puzzles me. Phrack.org hasn’t been closed down. So why DigZine?

This ought to be a freedom of speech/free press issue. 2600 Hacker Quarterly has survived as long as it has largely because it’s a printed magazine – the printed press is afforded protection by the Constitution. But the US authorities are comfortable about persecuting webzines. It’s clear to me that this is wrong. There’s no real difference between a regular, printed-on-paper magazine and a webzine. So they should both be protected from over-zealous cops. Unfortunately, that isn’t how the world works. And if a website is on servers located in the USA, that website has virtually no protection from the evil morons in power.

Incidentally, if you scroll down to the bottom of that web page, you’ll see your ip address and some rubbish about how the Dept Homeland Security will log your ip and investigate you. Then, at the end it says:

Be aware that disguising or concealing IP information shall be considered a criminal violation of section 814 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Should you suspect that your IP address and host have been improperly recorded, contact a DHS representative immediately.

This is a blatant violation of the right to privacy. Using an anonymous proxy or some other anonymiser to protect your privacy is illegal? The US government has got right into the role of Big Brother. You don’t need a tin foil hat to realiize this.

But what tips this over into absurdity is the fact that any idiot with a web browser can view Digizine.com and its archive of seditious literature. All you need to do is go to the Wayback Machine. This is an archive of the internet: snapshots of what the internet used to look like. You go to the Wayback page and type in the URL of the site you’re interested in – say, Digizine.com – then click the button marked “Take Me Back!” This brings you to a list of dates when snapshots of the site in question were taken. In the case of Digizine.com, you can see that snapshots were taken most recently in 2007. So, you choose a date from the list and click it. In this case 8 Jan 2007. And this takes you to an archived copy of the website on that date.

So, we can visit this evil site despite the DHS’s best efforts to censor it. We can view the archive of the DigiZine e-zine and read all that treacherous content that the US govt wants to protect us from! (There’s a link to the magazine archive here.)

But if you take the time to view the e-zine, you’re gonna wonder why in hell the DHS wants to block this site! The last issue was released in 2006. And the content is, on the whole, a lot tamer than what you can find elsewhere. This censorship makes no sense. Then again, when do any of the DHS’s actions make any sense?

Thing is, the content of Digizine.com is irrelevant. The point is, just about any website that the DHS want to “protect” us from can be accessed via the Wayback Machine. The US govt wants to keep us ignorant? No sweat, information always finds a way out of bondage. The internet is based on the idea that information wants to be free. And archive.org is a shining example of that freedom!

Digizine.com censored by Dept Homeland Security

Digizine.com censored by Dept Homeland Security


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