Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Dutch bills that could curtail the freedom of movement of terrorist suspects and strip them of their Dutch citizenship for joining terrorist organizations may violate human rights, the Council of Europe said, while asking the Netherlands for clarification.
In a letter to the Dutch government, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, expressed concern about three legislative proposals passed this year by Holland’s lower house parliament, the Tweede Kamer, warning that they may violate international human rights treaties.
Included in the legislation under scrutiny is the Temporary Administrative Measures Bill, which would allow restrictions to be placed on a suspect’s freedom of movement and private and family life, the Council wrote in a statement.
In the letter, Muiznieks wrote that he is concerned that the bill directly undermines the “rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),” noting that it includes restrictions that could require a person to report to the authorities or “ban a person’s presence in certain areas or near certain objects.”
The bill would ban individuals thought to be connected with terrorist activities from traveling abroad, and Muiznieks is worried that such restrictions could be imposed based solely on a person’s behavior.
Noting that the wording of the bill is “open to a very expansive interpretation,” he asked the Dutch authorities to explain “how this provision is or can be brought in line with the aforementioned ECHR standards.”
Muiznieks went on to express concern about the Nationality Act, which would allow dual nationals to be stripped of their Dutch citizenship if it is apparent that they pose a threat to national security or have joined an organization that the government deems to be party to an internal or international conflict. A minister could revoke a suspect’s citizenship without needing to go to court if the bill becomes law.
The commissioner stated that such revocations must not be allowed to “unduly affect religious or ethnic groups and social cohesion” and be accompanied by an “effective remedy.” He also asked for clarification of some of the vague language contained in the bill.
Lastly, the bill would expand the authorities’ power to conduct blanket online surveillance on large groups, which could affect individuals that are in no way connected to crimes or activities endangering national security. Muiznieks noted that, with such overarching authority, “strong oversight is crucial,” given the “expansive natures of the powers involved.”
While acknowledging that terrorism is a genuine threat, the commissioner insisted that repressive measures are not the answer.
“Prevention is key. Governments have the duty to ensure that their responses to terrorism uphold human rights standards and are accompanied by systematic, inter-religious and cross-cultural dialogue fostering a cohesive society,” he wrote.
The Tweede Kamer has defended the bills, however, with CDA parliamentarian Madeleine van Toorenburg telling Algemeen Dagblad that “all the arguments that the Council brings, we also considered.”
“The reason why we are not taking away the passport of every terrorist is precisely because we want to adhere to international conventions: people must not be stateless,” she said.
Both bills must still be passed by the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, to become law.
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Thousands of leaked emails from a US cybersecurity contractor were published by WikiLeaks to mark the release of whistleblowing journalist Barrett Brown from federal prison. Among other things, the emails discussed targeting journalists and governments.
Emails belonging to HBGary Federal were first obtained by hacktivist collective Anonymous in February 2011. WikiLeaks published them for the first time on Tuesday in the form of a searchable database comprised of some 60,000 emails.
The release was dedicated to Brown, a Texas journalist who spent almost two years in federal prison for his work in reporting on the HBGary leaks and the 2012 hack of the private intelligence company Stratfor. Some 5.5 million emails from that hack were published by WikiLeaks between 2013 and 2014.
In January 2014, Brown was sentenced to 63 months behind bars for obstruction of justice, threatening a federal officer and being an accessory after the fact. He was paroled Tuesday.
Among the revelations contained in the HBGary Federal emails was the company’s proposal to spy on Russia using mobile telephony and wireless “sniffers,” hinting at capabilities of the NSA before they were disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.
Sniffing and fake personas
In a July 2010 email exchange, HBGary executive Greg Hoglund proposed “sniffing” operations in Russia, targeting cell phone operators Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and Vimpelcom.
“NSA has all the collection resources you could imagine, CIA likewise has operatives coming out the wazooo. What they don't have is an ability to manage complex campaigns,” Hoglund wrote.
HBGary CEO Aaron Barr built upon the proposal by discussing the plan to infiltrate governments and groups using social media, by setting up fake “personas.”
“I will create a few personas for the executive members of the company so there can be some email traffic. You will at some point be able to use this guys [sic] accounts as compromised,” Barr wrote.
“If this looks too big we could probably pitch this as a whitepaper to either a large defense contractor like Mantech,” he added. After the 2011 hack and the resulting scandal, Barr had to resign, HBGary was sold to the Virginia-based ManTech, and the HBGary Federal subsidiary was shut down.
Collusion with Palantir
HBGary also worked with Palantir Technologies on a project targeting WikiLeaks and its volunteers, pitched to Bank of America before the whistleblowing organization released some of the bank’s documents.
Palantir, a big data analysis company serving the US military and intelligence communities, was founded by Peter Thiel – now a major backer of President-elect Donald Trump and member of his transition team.
Part of the strategy was to go after journalists who supported the work of WikiLeaks – specifically naming Glenn Greenwald (now editor of The Intercept and instrumental in publishing the Snowden disclosures).
“Without the support of people like Glenn [WikiLeaks] would fold,” said a presentation by HBGary, Palantir and Berico Technologies.
A December 2010 email from Barr to Palantir engineer Matthew Steckman gives a glimpse into how the presentation was put together.
“These are established proffessionals [sic] that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause,” Barr wrote. That exact line made it into the presentation, which also contained a detailed dossier on WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.
Among the proposed strategies were “disinformation” and creating messages intended to “sabotage or discredit the opposing organization.”
“Submit fake documents and then call out the error,” the presentation proposed – a tactic used against WikiLeaks when it began publishing emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta in October.