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Posts tagged ‘Angela Merkel’

US, France Warn Russia of ‘New Measures’ Over Ukraine.

President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of “new measures” against Russia if it fails to work toward defusing the crisis in Ukraine, the French presidency said.

In a phone call on Saturday, Obama and Hollande insisted on the “need for Russia to withdraw forces sent to Crimea since the end of February and to do everything to allow the deployment of international observers,” it said.
Obama’s conversation with Hollande was one of a half dozen telephone conversations he had with world leaders Saturday about Ukraine, the White House says.

He  also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and held a conference call with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The new warnings come in the wake of Russia’s insistence that any U.S. sanctions will have a boomerang effect on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula.

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In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“Sanctions…would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.

“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared to the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over.

Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.

The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War – resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence – escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia.

The region’s government set a referendum for March 16 – in just nine days’ time.


Turkey scrambled jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along its Black Sea coast and a U.S. warship passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus straits on its way to the Black Sea, although the U.S. military said it was a routine deployment.

European Union leaders and Obama said the referendum plan was illegitimate and would violate Ukraine’s constitution.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.

Obama ordered visa bans and asset freezes on Thursday against so far unidentified people deemed responsible for threatening European Union leaders Ukraine’s sovereignty. Earlier in the week, a Kremlin aide said Moscow might refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks, the top four of which have around $24 billion in exposure to Russia.

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia constitute “a threat to international peace and security”, after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the Crimean referendum.

The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel and on a broad new pact governing Russia-EU ties “extremely unconstructive”. It pledged to retaliate.


Senior Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, freed from prison after Yanukovich’s overthrow, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin and appealed for immediate EU sanctions against Russia, warning that Crimea might otherwise slide into a guerrilla war.

Brussels and Washington rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance. The regional director of the International Monetary Fund said talks with Kiev on a loan agreement were going well and praised the new government’s openness to economic reform and transparency.

The European Commission has said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the IMF, which requires painful economic reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.

In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine had not paid its $440 million gas bill for February, bringing its arrears to $1.89 billion and hinted it could turn off the taps as it did in 2009, when a halt in Russian deliveries to Ukraine reduced supplies to Europe during a cold snap.

In Moscow, a huge crowd gathered near the Kremlin at a government-sanctioned rally and concert billed as being “in support of the Crimean people”. Pop stars took to the stage and demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Crimea is Russian land”, and “We believe in Putin”.


Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said no one in the civilised world would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea.

He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia if Moscow pulls its additional troops out of Crimea and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov ridiculed calls for Russia to join an international “contact group” with Ukraine proposed by the West, saying they “make us smile”.

Demonstrators encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.

Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.

“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”

Unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row on Friday, the OSCE said on Twitter.

The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.

Ukrainian television has been replaced with Russian state channels in Crimea and the streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have harassed journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.

Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.

“With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo,” Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

German TV Claims NSA Spied on Merkel’s Predecessor Too.

U.S. intelligence spied on former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder from 2002, NDR television reported Tuesday, adding fuel to the flames of a row over spying on incumbent Angela Merkel.

Schroeder, the Social Democrat chancellor who served from 1998 to 2005, appears on a list of names of people and institutions put under surveillance by the US National Security Agency from 2002, at the start of his second mandate as German head of state.

At the time Germany was opposing intervention in Iraq.

The NSA has been at the heart of a spying scandal which erupted last year.

US-German ties soured amid revelations leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden that US intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on Merkel and collected vast amounts of online data and telephone records from average citizens.

The dispute has threatened to derail negotiations on a sweeping transatlantic free trade agreement known as TTIP.

Schroeder said he was unsurprised by the latest spying report.

“At the time the idea would never have occurred to me, but now it doesn’t surprise me,” he told NDR and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

US President Barack Obama in a recent interview assured that Merkel was no longer under surveillance.

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Friday that relations with Germany had gone through a “rough period” over the NSA snooping but said that shared interests would help put ties back on track.

Kerry, speaking in Berlin, said then that the United States took Germany’s anger over revelations that US intelligence monitored Merkel’s mobile phone seriously.

Asked whether the US administration would sign a no-spying agreement that Germany has demanded in the wake of the scandal, Kerry said only that Merkel and Obama were in “consultations” on the issue.


© AFP 2014

NSA Panel Member: Edward Snowden Guilty of ‘Treason, High Crimes’.

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is guilty of treason and high crimes, a member of a White House panel examining the agency’s vast surveillance operations says.

“What Mr. [Edward] Snowden did is treason, was high crimes, and there is nothing in what we say that justifies what he did,” Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism adviser, who is now an ABC News consultant, told the network news.

“Whether or not this panel would have been created anyway, I don’t know, but I don’t think anything that I’ve learned justifies the treasonous acts of Mr. Snowden.”

Earlier this week, the five-member panel of experts appointed by President Barack Obama recommended ending the NSA’s program that collects Americans’ telephone records, saying the practice does not prevent attacks but causes a “lurking danger of abuse.”

Snowden remains in Russia after downloading and stealing about 1.7 million confidential documents before he fled to Hong Kong and turned information over to former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and others.

One of the first major reports was about how the NSA has authority to store details such as origin, destination, and duration of calls from Americans. A federal judge ruled that the practice is unconstitutional, ABC reports.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul told CNN Wednesday that he thinks Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is guilty of “lying” to Congress about NSA surveillance programs.

Clapper at first told lawmakers that the NSA does not collect Americans’ information, and later admitted his statement was “clearly erroneous.”

“I think the law is the law and they both broke the law and one shouldn’t get off scot free,” Paul said.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that U.S. contracting companies should be barred from passing sensitive data to the NSA, reports Reuters.

In addition, Hans-Peter Uhl, parliamentary spokesman on interior policy for Merkel’s conservative party, said the German government wants to monitor U.S. contracting companies, such as the one that hired Snowden, more closely in the future.

Among Snowden’s reports were documents showing the NSA has also tapped phones and emails in Europe, including Merkel’s cell phone, sparking outrage in Germany.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

NSA Colleague: Snowden ‘in a Class of His Own,’ a ‘Genius’ Techie.

Image: NSA Colleague: Snowden 'in a Class of His Own,' a 'Genius' Techie

By Melissa Clyne

NSA secrets-leaker Edward Snowden was a giant among geeks, a former colleague tells Forbes, revered and respected by fellow techies working in the intelligence arena.

“NSA is full of smart people, but anybody who sat in a meeting with Ed will tell you he was in a class of his own … I’ve never seen anything like it,” the anonymous NSA staffertold the magazine.

Communicating with journalists using the codename Verax – Latin for truth-teller – Snowden, 30, leaked up to 200,000 classified documents detailing countless amounts of information gleaned from U.S. cyberspying operations that revealed wiretapping of phones and computers around the globe.

The information uncovered has mostly centered on the NSA’s electronic surveillance program. It showed the United States eavesdropped on the cellphone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and tracked the porn-watching habits of Muslim terrorist sympathizers, Time magazine reports.

The colleague recalled Snowden, a high-school dropout who grew up near NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., as “principled, ultra-competent and somewhat eccentric.”

He said Snowden was “a genius among geniuses.”

He frequently roamed the underground NSA halls in Hawaii called the “tunnel” carrying a Rubik’s cube and wearing a black hoodie sweatshirt parodying the National Security Agency logo, with an eagle clasping AT&T cables and eavesdropping headphones covering the bird’s ears, according to the Forbes article.

Snowden frequently reported security vulnerabilities in NSA software to his bosses and developed a backup system widely implemented by the NSA in its codebreaking operations, according to Forbes.

Despite his status as a contractor, Snowden earned “full administrator privileges” when his supervisors decided he was the best qualified person to build one of its projects, something the former colleague admits was “a big mistake in hindsight.”

“But if you had a guy who could do things nobody else could, and the only problem was that his badge was green instead of blue, what would you do?”

A neighbor in Hawaii, where Snowden was working before fleeing the country, recalled Snowden as “unremarkable but oddly standoffish.”

The former colleague disputed claims that Snowden cut corners and cheated on tests to get where he got. And the person insisted that while Snowden may have been duplicitous by leaking the information, he did not do anything dishonest to gain access to the information.

“I was shocked and betrayed when I first learned the news, but as more time passes I’m inclined to believe he really is trying to do the right thing and it’s not out of character for him. I don’t agree with his methods, but I understand why he did it,” the colleague says. “I won’t call him a hero, but he’s sure as hell no traitor,” Forbes reports.

Snowden is living in Russia where he has been granted temporary asylum. The U.S. government has charged him with theft and violating the Espionage Act.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

NSA Director Offered to Resign After Snowden Leak.

The director of the National Security Agency offered to resign after Edward Snowden admitted to leaking details of the agency’s top-secret phone and Internet surveillance program, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to an unnamed senior U.S. official, the Obama administration rejected Gen. Keith Alexander‘s offer. But the agency still faces an uncertain future as it struggles to redefine the scope of its operations without hampering its effectiveness to combat terrorism.

“This is the hardest problem we’ve had to face in 62 years of existence,” Richard Ledgett, head of a special NSA Snowden response team, told the Journal. He described the Snowden disclosures as “cataclysmic” for the agency.

The White House already has terminated some of the NSA’s surveillance programs, which included the electronic monitoring of roughly 35 world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who expressed outrage that she was being bugged.

The legislation that supported the surveillance programs also is likely to change when the Patriot Act expires in about 18 months and lawmakers push to ban the mass collection of records.

The administration also is expected to put in place a system that would evaluate surveillance operations against the possibility of disclosure, introducing political calculations into intelligence work, according to the Journal.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the NSA scandal continues to reverberate abroad. Germany is pushing for a “no-spy” agreement and for a U.S.-European trade pact that would include strict new data-privacy measures. Some in the international community believe the Internet should no longer be global, but instead divided up by country.

“This is threatening the existence of the World Wide Web,” Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency, told the Journal.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melanie Batley

Snowden Tells German He Is Willing to Testify Before Congress.

Image: Snowden Tells German He Is Willing to Testify Before Congress

Hans-Christian Stroebele, member of the German Greens Party and the Bundestag, on Nov. 1 holds up a letter given to him by Edward Snowden during an Oct. 31 meeting in Moscow.

BERLIN — Edward Snowden is ready to assist a German probe into U.S. spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel but also wants to talk directly to the U.S. Congress, a German lawmaker who met the fugitive said Friday.Snowden late on Thursday met German Green party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele at an undisclosed location in Moscow to discuss his revelations that Washington for years monitored Merkel’s mobile phone, which has caused an uproar in Europe.

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On his return to Germany, Stroebele published a letter from Snowden and said the American was ready to testify to Congress to shed light on “possibly serious offenses.”

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, who began work at an undisclosed Russian Internet firm on Friday, was granted asylum in Russia in August to the fury of the United States, where he faces trial on charges under the Espionage Act.

In the letter, a copy of which was posted on Stroebele’s website, Snowden said he was prepared to provide details of U.S. spying to Germany and he was “heartened” by the global response to his leaks despite the unrelenting U.S. pressure.

“I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents,” he wrote. “I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved.”

Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Friday after his return from Moscow, Stroebele said Snowden also wanted to testify before Congress.

“He said first up he would prefer to lay the facts on the table in front of the U.S. Congress — in front of a committee of the U.S. Congress and explain,” he said in English. “Mr. Snowden didn’t appear to me as anti-American or an enemy of America or some such, but quite the opposite.”

The letter was addressed to the German government, the Bundestag lower house of parliament, and the federal public prosecutor, Stroebele’s office said.

Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said his client would not be able to travel to Germany for security reasons but was willing to help with the probe.

“Snowden will not go to Germany. This is not possible because he has no right to cross Russian borders,” Kucherena told the popular Echo Moscow radio. “If he does that, he can lose temporary asylum.”

But the Kremlin-friendly lawyer added: “Within the framework of international agreements Snowden can give testimony in Russia but this should be decided by the German authorities.”

Media reports based on Snowden’s disclosures of mass U.S. surveillance — including eavesdropping on nearly three dozen foreign leaders — have strained Washington’s ties with key allies.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Friday the government would like to speak to Snowden.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Snowden’s contacts with the Germans.

Snowden spent more than a month in the transit zone of a Moscow airport before receiving a year-long temporary asylum in August after exposing the massive surveillance by the NSA.

President Vladimir Putin has said Snowden was welcome to stay in Russia as long as he did not harm U.S. interests.

Security expert Pavel Felgenhauer suggested Russian security services were likely to control Snowden’s access to foreign officials.

“Security services and the Kremlin will decide what he can and cannot say publicly,” he said.

Also Friday, Snowden began providing IT support for an unnamed Russian Internet company, Kucherena told AFP, refusing to say whether he would be working from home.

“It’s a security issue.”

Kucherena added that Snowden had had many job offers. “He is hugely popular in our country.”

One of those offers came from the country’s top social network VKontakte (In Touch), after Snowden won asylum in Russia.

But the company on Friday refused to say whether Snowden was now working for them. “We do not comment on this information,” VKontakte spokesman Georgy Lobushkin told AFP.

Two other major Russian Internet companies, Group and Yandex, have earlier said they have not hired Snowden.

© AFP 2013


Journalist Greenwald: NSA Spying Is Not About Terrorism.

The National Security Agency’s surveillance program has nothing to do with fighting terrorism and is all about politics and money, says the man who has leaked thousands of documents from renegade contractor Edward Snowden.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald says the information he and Snowden have released proves the NSA spy tactics are “clearly about political power and economic espionage” rather than the war on terror.

Last week Greenwald released information showing the agency spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s personal cellphone calls. He says that is proof the NSA isn’t focusing its surveillance efforts on those looking to harm Americans.

“Is Angela Merkel a terrorist?” Greenwald rhetorically asked CNN host Christiane Amanpour. “The claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.”

Story continues below video.

NSA officials have repeatedly said the information leak has “caused irreversible and significant damage” to the United States and its allies. NSA Director General Keith Alexander says the surveillance program has helped the agency foil at least 50 global terrorist plots, 10 of which were in the United States.

“From my perspective, our most important job is defending this nation . . . When you look at, on balance, over 50 cases that we’ve helped disrupt terrorist plots and contributed information to those, zero times have we come up with a place where we have failed the public’s confidence or Congress’ confidence,” Alexander said in June.

Still, Greenwald, who recently left Britain’s Guardian newspaper to work for a new online venture funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, remains adamant that the surveillance program collects information on millions of innocent Americans.

“It’s something that the world didn’t know, and now they do know, and that’s the reason why U.S. officials are so angry,” he said. “Not because it damaged national security, but because it damages their reputation and credibility around the world.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Lisa Furgison

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