Friday, April 17, 2009

Greek wiretapping scandal revisited

Lest we forget...

From Schneier on Security :

June 22, 2006
Greek Wiretapping Scandal

Back in February, I wrote about a major wiretapping scandal in Greece. The Wall Street Journal has a really interesting article (link only good for a week, unfortunately) about it:

Behind the bugging operation were two pieces of sophisticated software, according to Ericsson. One was Ericsson's own, some basic elements of which came as a preinstalled feature of the network equipment. When enabled, the feature can be used for lawful interception by government authorities, which has become increasingly common since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. But to use the interception feature, operators like Vodafone would need to pay Ericsson millions of dollars to purchase the additional hardware, software and passwords that are required to activate it. Both companies say Vodafone hadn't done that in Greece at the time.

The second element was the rogue software that the eavesdroppers implanted in parts of Vodafone's network to achieve two things: activate the Ericsson-made interception feature and at the same time hide all traces that the feature was in use. Ericsson, which analyzed the software in conjunction with Greece's independent telecom watchdog, says it didn't design, develop or install the rogue software.

The software allowed the cellphone calls of the targeted individuals to be monitored via 14 prepaid cellphones, according to the government officials and telecom experts probing the matter. They say when calls to or from one of the more than 100 targeted phones were made, the rogue software enabled one of the interceptor phones to be connected also.

The interceptor phones likely enabled conversations to be secretly recorded elsewhere, the government said during a February 2006 news conference. At least some of the prepaid cellphones were activated between June and August 2004. Such cellphones, particularly when paid for in cash, typically are harder to trace than those acquired with a monthly subscription plan.

Vodafone claims it didn't know that even the basic elements of the legal interception software were included in the equipment it bought. Ericsson never informed the service provider's top managers in Greece that the features were included nor was there a "special briefing" to the relevant technical division, according to a Vodafone statement in March.

But Ericsson's top executive in Greece, Bill Zikou, claimed during parliamentary-committee testimony that his company had informed Vodafone about the feature via its sales force and instruction manuals.

Vodafone and Ericsson discovered something was amiss in late January 2005 when some Greek cellphone users started complaining about problems sending text messages. Vodafone asked Ericsson to look into the issue. Ericsson's technicians spent several weeks trying to figure out the problem, with help from the equipment maker's technical experts at its headquarters in Sweden. In early March of that year, Ericsson's technicians told Vodafone's technology director in Greece of their unusual discovery about the cause of the problems: software that appeared to be capable of illegally monitoring calls. It's unclear exactly how the rogue software caused the text-messaging problem.
Ericsson confirmed the software was able to monitor calls, and Vodafone soon discovered that the targeted phones included those used by some of the country's most important officials. On March 8, Mr. Koronias ordered that the illegal bugging program be shut down, in a move he has said was made to protect the privacy of its customers. He called the prime minister's office the next evening.

The head of Greece's intelligence service, Ioannis Korantis, said in testimony before the parliamentary committee last month that Vodafone's disabling of the software before authorities could investigate hampered their efforts. "From the moment that the software was shut down, the string broke that could have lead us to who was behind this," he said. Separately, he distanced his own agency from the bugging effort, saying it didn't have the technical know-how to effectively monitor cellphone calls.

Interferences of the CIA in Europe: wiretaps

Wiretappings: The Tsalikidis case
On march the 4th 2005 Vodafone Greece discovered a spying software in its network. On march the 9th Costas Tzalikidis, security manager of the British company, was found hung in his apartment. On march the 10th mister Koronias, Vodafone CEO, meets the Greek Prime Minister and tells him that his telephone has been spyed for months, as well as the phones of State top officials. The biggest scandal in recent Greek history. The controversy originated by this (still ongoing) involves politicians, foreign telephone companies, secret services and foreign intelligence companies. On july 21st 2006 Amedeo Bove, security manager of Italian Telecom, commits suicide in Naples. His death happens while Telecom is involved in wiretapping affair. There are many disturbing aspects to this case. The radar network controlled by Bove was able to catch sensitive pieces of information about any citizen, without leaving any trace. Moreover Bove had helped Milan judges in tracing the phone calls in the area of Via Gerzoni, in Milan, where, on the 17th of February 2003 imam Abu Omar was kidnapped. The following investigation allowed Milan’s Attorney General to send arrest warranties to CIA agents involved in the abduction and to arrest the Sismi managers who cooperated with American secret agents. Adamo Bove and Costas Tzalikidis, two security managers, two suicides, two wiretapping affairs. Strange connections for one scenario: the one of European telecomunications destiny. While Italian judges still investigate on Bove’s strange death (and it’s not impossible that he could have been pushed to commit suicide), realtives of the Greek Tzalikidis and their lawyer claim that Costa was killed. By whom? by Mario Sanna -

Greek telephone tapping case 2004-2005

...On January 24, 2005, an intruder update of exchange software resulted in customer text messages not being sent. Vodafone Greece sent firmware dumps of the affected exchanges to Ericsson for analysis. On March 4, 2005, Ericsson located the rogue code, 6500 lines of code written in the PLEX language used by Ericsson AXE switches.[6] Writing such sophisticated code in a very esoteric language required a high level of expertise. Much of Ericsson's software development for AXE had been done by an Athens-based company named Intracom Telecom, so the skills needed to write the rogue software were likely available within Greece.[7]

On March 7, 2005, Ericsson notified Vodafone of the existence of rogue wiretaps and software in their systems. The next day the general manager of the Greek Vodafone branch, George Koronias, asked for the software to be removed and deactivated. Because the rogue software was removed before law enforcement had an opportunity to investigate, the perpetrators were likely alerted that their software had been found and had ample opportunity to turn off the "shadow" phones to avoid detection.[6] According to the head of Greece's intelligence service, Ioannis Korantis: "From the moment that the software was shut down, the string broke that could have lead [sic] us to who was behind this."[3]

On March 9, the Network Planning Manager for Vodafone - Greece, Kostas Tsalikidis, was found dead in an apparent suicide. According to several experts questioned by the Greek press, Tsalikidis was a key witness in the investigation of responsibility of the wiretaps. Family and friends believe there are strong indications he was the person who first discovered that highly sophisticated software had been secretly inserted into the Vodafone network.[2] Tsalikidis had been planning for a while to quit his Vodafone job but told his fiancée not long before he died that it had become "a matter of life or death" that he leave, says the family's lawyer, Themis Sofos.[3] There is speculation that either he committed suicide because of his involvement in the tapping of the phones, or he was murdered because he had discovered, or was about to discover, who the perpetrators were.[6][8]
In November, 2007, press reports in Greece quoted the Tsalikas family attorney, Themistokles Sofos, as saying they had commenced legal action against Vodafone, "suspect[ing] he was poisoned".[9]

On March 10 Kornoias asked to meet Prime Minister Karamanlis to discuss matters of national security. At 20:00 on the same day he presented the facts to the Minister of Public Order and the Prime Minister's chief of staff, and on the next day he presented them to the Prime Minister.

A preliminary judicial investigation was carried out, which due to the complexity of the case, lasted until February 1, 2006. The preliminary investigation did not point out any persons connected with the case. The investigation was hindered by the fact that Vodafone disabled the interception system, and therefore locating the intercepting phones was no longer possible (the phones were apparently switched off), and that Vodafone had incorrectly purged all access logs. Police rounded up and questioned as suspects persons who called the monitoring phones, but all callers claimed they called these phones because their number was previously used by another person.

Ericsson has checked their equipment in other markets world-wide and has not found the illegal software installed anywhere else. "As far as Ericsson knows, this is a unique incident. We have never discovered anything like this before or since." Vodafone spokesman Ben Padovan said.[3]

After a four-month investigation of his death, Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos said that the death of Tsalikidis was directly linked to the scandal. "If there had not been the phone tapping, there would not have been a suicide," he said...

Kostas Tsalikidis

...Kostas Tsalikides died on March 9th, 2005 at the age of 39 - it looked like a suicide. He was Vodafone’s - Greece, Network Planning Manager.

A year later it was uncovered that Vodafone in Greece was involved in one of the biggest political scandals of recent history - tapping mobile phones of members of the cabinet, the Prime Minister, and hundreds of others.

The authorities and the media strongly feel that Costas‘ death was associated with his position in the company.

Calendar of events according to the press

March 4, 2005 Vodafone discovers (as per company statements) foreign “interception” software in its network. Vodafone Greece doesn’t formally take the position that Ericsson installed before the Olympic games a “legal interception” software, which was subsequently locked and shut down.

March 5, 2005 Vodafone decides to remove the foreign interception software without finding the culprits of the wire tapping. Thus, according to many experts the culprits can no longer be traced. Mr. Koronias, CEO of Vodafone Greece, claimed before the Parliamentary Committee on Transparency that no one had asked him to reactivate the illegal software in order to trace the phones that intercepted the conversations in question.

The company claims that they have back up copies of the deleted data and that they committed no illegal act within the boundaries of the Act for the Protection of the Privacy of Telecommunications.

March 9, 2005 Mr. Costantinos Tsalikidis, Network Planning Supervisor for Vodafone and top level manager for the company, is found hanged in his apartment. He never left a (suicide) note nor any indication that he was suffering from any personal problems. No autopsy was conducted in situ, and the forensic report was inconclusive.

The circumstances around the death of Mr. Tsalikidis, were pronounced a year later as questionable and directly connected to his professional position at Vodafone, and the Athens Prosecutor re-opened the case. Vodafone Greece never sent a condolence telegraph to the deceased’s family, regardless of the fact that Mr. Tsalikidis worked at Vodafone for over a decade. March 10, 2005 The CEO of Vodafone Greece, Mr. Koronias, briefs the Prime Minister of Greece in the presence of a Prosecutor about the wire tapping. Among the phones that were tapped was that of the Prime Minister as well as all the ministers of the current government, Members of the Parliamentary Opposition, as well as other non-parliamentary officials. He also mentions the «suicide» without however, connecting it to the wire tapping incident.

The following year however, in the context of the legal proceedings that began on February 8, 2006, Mr. Koronias claimed that he had the complete approval of the government, especially the Prime Minister himself, for his actions. The matter was deemed one of top national security and top secret by the government. The question at hand is why the Greek Authority for the Assurance of Information and Communication Privacy was not informed and why regular legal procedures were not followed before deactivating the software.

March 11, 2005 The Prosecutor for the Supreme Court, Mr. Linos gives a direct order for an urgent and secret preliminary investigation to the Head Prosecutor in person. In this order there is no written mention of the suicide.

The question at hand concerns what are the findings of this 11-month investigation that has been conducted since 11 March 2005 until today, and why the entire case seems to be re-examined from scratch.

June 11, 2005 The local police precinct that investigated the death of Mr. Tsalikidis, closes the case on the suicide and sends the files to the Prosecutor’s office. According to the police, no evidence of a break-in was found, therefore, they did not see the need to conduct an autopsy nor to take fingerprints.

Vodafone Greece did not hand over any personal effects of Mr. Tsalikidis nor any data from his personal computer to his family or to the authorities, which would have greatly assisted in any investigation by the local precinct.

January 30, 2006 The Head Prosecutor, Mr. Papagelopoulos, claims to have been informed about the suicide case from the Major General, who mentioned the suicide outside of the court proceedings. A year later Vodafone Greece remained silent on the type of internal investigation that took place, on whether suspects were located and what type of sanctions were imposed on them relating to what is possibly the biggest political scandal in the modern history of Greece.

February 1, 2006 The preliminary investigation conducted by Mr. Papangelopoulos regarding the wire tapping is concluded with the closing statement that he was awaiting evidence from the State authorities.

February 2, 2006 Criminal charges are filed against unknown perpetrators for wire tapping. On the same day, three ministers make statements to the press where they congratulate Mr. Koronias for his stance to erase the software program. The next day the press characterizes the handling of this case as a huge political and communication blunder.

February 3, 2006 The press widely believes that the wire tapping case is related to the suicide of Mr. Tsalikidis. This is first page news in all the press and mass media of the country for the next two weeks. Countless news programs are assuming that the suicide of Mr. Tsalikidis may not have been a suicide.

February 8, 2006 The investigation of Mr. Tsalikidis’ death is handed over to the highly experienced Prosecutor, Mr. Diotis. For the first time in a year since the death of Mr. Tsalikidis an investigation of his apartment is conducted. The results have not been made public yet.

March 9, 2006 The day of the anniversary of Mr. Tsalikidis’ death, Mr. Koronias is cross-examined by the Parliamentary Committee on Institutions and Transparency. He stated that he did not order or receive the «lawful interception» software program. He also said that as the producer of the software, Ericsson was responsible since they had fully trained personnel on the functioning of the software program.

Mr. Koronias stated that Vodafone has a very technologically elaborate security system and that it was because of his diligence that the incident was considered to be of «national security.» Parliament also suppoenaed the head of Ericsson to appear in a future hearing.

With regard to the death of Mr. Tsalikidis, Mr. Koronias said that he mentioned the «suicide» to the ministers that he met with in March 2005 and that Vodafone was assisting authorities in any way possible with their investigation. The question here is whether an internal investigation file exists on Mr. Tsalikidis, and if so why the family members have never been informed of its findings...

IEEE Spectrum: The Athens Affair

The Greek illegal wiretapping scandal: some translations and resources.

Email comments or more resources to gdanezis at esat dot kuleuven dot be

2006-02-07: Quintessenz was just provided a link to the technical manuals describing the interception interfaces of the equipment in the same family as the one used to make the illegal interceptions.

The first hand source about how interception was taking place, through the lawful interception subsystems provided by Ericsson:Greek Government Press Briefing: 06-02-02. Below is a rough translation by G. Danezis:

BOULGARAKIS (Public order minister): Good day. It is the case indeed that Mr Koronias (CEO of Vodaphone), who asked, as Mr Rousopoulos suggested, to meet with the prime minister or someone that could get in touch with him -- the PM, I believe, was absent at that time in Madrid for a convention on terrorism -- had a meeting in Mr Aggelou's office with us. He informed us that in a routine control that took place on his company's software, it was realised that there was a system that was wiretapping some mobile phones. Mr Koronias briefed us in detail, which was initially difficult for us due to the level of technical details. In brief the system was setup in the following way: The [mobile phone] companies have software that allows then to activate mobile phones. This software has different subsystems. For example, it has a subsystem to send sms messages, a subsystem for images messages, a subsystem for the voicemail etc. There is also a subsystem that deals with lawful conferencing (lowphone interception) [(sic) this should be 'lawful interception']. This system, that is provided by Ericsson, has either been bought nor activated by Vodaphone. As Mr Koronias explained to us, there were some customer complaints about calls not getting through, delays or messages not getting delivered. In any case they were they were not provided with the full services they should and a routine investigation was started to look into the matter. Because they could not find out what the problem was, they asked for a control from the 'mother' company [ed: British Vodaphone] -- beyond the greek company -- that sent people here to study the matter further. During this process it was found that in some way the lawful interception subsystem had been activated, for some numbers: while those numbers were called it was active, and it was deactivating itself when the callers hand up, resulting in being invisible. In other words there was a process that was working only for some phone number, while they were talking, and after that the it was hiding itself using a special method. Every time someone would do a regular check of the system, they would not be able to detect it. Through that process it was found. The question is what phones were listened to, in what way they were doing it, and where, at the end, someone could record, if someone could record, what was going on.

As the minister told you there is a list of people under surveillance that is now being made public.

There were about 100 numbers under surveillance. They were under surveillance though Vodaphone with 14 'shadow' phones. There were 14 to 16 -- more like 14, but it is not important -- phones that were working as electronic shadows of the 100 phones. When a number was called, though the system described before, it was connected in some way with one of the shadows, that was working a bit like in duplex. Most probably the shadow using some software was performing the recoding. Using a system of redirections, in case a [shadow] phone was called twice, another out of the 14 numbers would be called, and if it was also busy another one would be called, etc. In other words this system was wiretapping those 100 numbers, redirecting them to the 10 phones, that most likely were then recorded somewhere else.

I said it as simply as I could, but the system is roughly that.

When the list was provided to us by Mr Koronias, the PM ordered to have a full investigation. In the ministry for public order was started a very difficult and very detailed investigation. Why difficult and detailed? As soon as the system came to the attention of the company, the first thing it did was to isolate it. By isolating it the system stopped. Surely in this way was stopped one of the ways, that could maybe, lead to where the phones were. It was noticed when the [shadow] phone numbers were given to us that those phones number had been called. In particular, the 14 phones that I mentioned before, while not making calls were receiving calls. Since we could not get directly to them -- since there was no more the signal that I described you before -- we had to get at them indirectly. This was a complex and difficult task because because all those phones were pre-paid. This means that they had multiple owners in the past. To give you an example: one of those phones had received many calls. This phone has received all those calls [social network diagram of calls unfolded in the press room.] So we tried, using these calls, to get to this phone number. To find out why those calling were calling etc. This was a difficult, painful and time consuming process. Because those phones belong to someone. All those people were, after following all the legal process, were interrogated to find out the reason they called these phones. Were they calling, to listen to what the phones had been recoding using a secret pin? Was it possible for them to remotely activate some redirection?

I simply showed you one phone number but there were tens of those actions. I give you another card with phone numbers that were linked amongst them, because of the system of redirections in place. We had to study hundreds of calls that originated from phones all across Greece: on the islands, the cyclades, the dodekanese, in crete, in ebros, in thessaloniki, everywhere. Most of the phones that we could investigate -- because there were some we could not, because there were some pre-paid phones, that were calling pre-paid phones -- were people that were calling because they thought they were calling some previous owner of the phone. As you know pre-paid phones that are not used for a while, have their number returned to the company, that then gives it to someone else. Those callers thought they were calling the previous owners. And this comes out of many interviews.

In short, the whole process was painful and time consuming, and this is the reson that it took so long, because for every person interviewed we had to check that what they were saying was truthful, and cross check all the fact that were provided with what we knew. All this lead nowhere. All those calling though they were calling the previous owners.

In conclusion from the moment the phones stopped transmitting, it was difficult to determine the antena or cell they were active in, that was initially determined. And in particular it was initially determined in the wider region of the network that is serving by the following 6 mobile masts: From Lukavitos, to Mabili Sq, to the Athens Tower, and the area of the clinic 'White Cross'. Despite having a general geographic location about the masts that the [shadow] phones used, it was difficult using our systems, which are the best there are, to get a precise fix, because the phones were switched off. So no one could get close and find where the phones are. This is the reason the process took so long, and ended in the clarification of all the calls to the 14 shadow phones.


LAMPROPOULOS (Journalist): Two technical question. Mr Voulgarakis, you talked to the people that were calling [the shadow phones], did they give any information about someone picking up, who pick it up, and what are the results of the investigation of where the phones were bought? You told us these were shops in 'Ibi' and 'Nea Ionia'.

VOULGARAKIS: Mr Lampropoulos, since he is usually covering crime news, is giving us an interesting question. The first thing that surprised us when we got the list of numbers was that the call duration [from random people to the shadow phones] was in the order of seconds, which means that no one actually talked. That is the calls received by the phones in group B [the shadow phones], the phones under investigation. Phones in group A were my phone and the phone of mr Papaligouras, Mr Spiliotopoulos, etc. Those were known. The second group, that we are investigating, had calls that lasted a few seconds. One second, one and a half second. They were not normal calls. So our first hunch was that these calls were sending a code to activate a system, that would allows them to retrieve some intercepted voice data from those phones. [We thought] This was the reason there were so many calls. As a result when we approached the callers, that used the phone which called the phones, we knew how many times he had called, how much time they lasted, and the previous calls of the phone. I mean to say that there was a very big investigation.

JOURNALIST: What did they reply? What were they saying? Those 3 to 4 seconds what was happening?

VOULGARAKIS: Say they called Voulgarakis, for example, that they believed the phone belonged to, he did not pick up, and the voicemail was activated. Then the callers hang up.

JOURNALIST: In Greek or in English?

VOULGARAKIS: It was all in Greek. We also called.

JOURNALIST: Did you go to the shops in Nea Ionia?

VOULGARAKIS: We started an investigation, but there was no...(interruption into another, unrelated, question)...

Technology advances put police behaviour in focus

16 Apr, 2009

For years police have filmed protesters at demonstrations to identify potential troublemakers and collect evidence for prosecutions.

Now, with advances in digital technology and mobile phones with cameras and videos, ordinary members of the public are turning the tables on the authorities.

The issue was brought into focus this week with the suspension of two London police officers after footage emerged of apparent excessive force being used during protests against this month's G20 summit in the British capital.

Video taken by a New York fund manager showed an officer shoving a man to the ground minutes before he died of a suspected heart attack. More film taken the next day captured an officer lashing out at a woman who was remonstrating with him.

"In the 21st century, everybody now has...a mobile phone that can record instantly exactly what is happening," Keith Vaz, chairman of the British parliament's Home Affairs Committee, told BBC TV.

"Therefore it is not possible for someone just to get away with unacceptable behaviour. It is instantly captured on film. You can't in a sense hide anything these days."

The London incidents are the latest examples of how technology is being seized on to bring those in authority to account who might otherwise have escaped justice.

In December, a Greek court convicted eight police officers for beating up a Cypriot student in the northern city of Thessaloniki in 2006 after they were caught on camera by media.

A year later a Greek police officer was suspended after a mobile phone video showing two Albanian detainees being struck with a cane and forced to hit each other appeared on media and video sharing websites such as YouTube.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, one human rights group has begun distributing small video cameras to Palestinians to document attacks by Jewish settlers and abuses by Israeli soldiers and policemen.

The scheme has led to the Israeli military charging a unit commander and a soldier with "unworthy conduct" after a rubber bullet was fired at point-blank range at a bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainee during a protest in the West Bank.


Professor Peter Waddington, from Britain's Wolverhampton University, said technology had previously driven changes in police tactics, and the proliferation of mobile phones with cameras was the latest innovator.

"This has been an incremental process. The reality is we are a surveillance society, but this is true as much for police officers as anyone else," he told Reuters.

"We are further up the slope of public surveillance of police actions now thanks to handheld mobile phones. The police will have to adjust to that."

Waddington helped to develop "kettling", where police enclose protesters in a confined space, a tactic that replaced the use of horses or crowd charges by lines of baton-wielding officers to disperse demonstrations.


He said there might now be attempts to prevent police having any close contact with protesters, instead using methods such as "banana skin paving", where slippery material is sprayed on the ground to make it impassable.

Whilst the advantages are that police tactics are more controlled, this would not prevent innocent people being caught up in police action -- which they always are in mass disorder.

London police chief Paul Stephenson has already ordered a review of the use of "kettling", saying he wanted "to be reassured that the use of this tactic remains appropriate and proportionate".

However, David Murakami Wood from the Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academics, said he suspected the focus on police practices might not last, even if it temporarily resulted in greater scrutiny.

Britain already leads the way in the use of surveillance, with a rough estimate suggesting there are at least 4 million closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on buildings, shops, and stations, and the government is seeking more powers.

It has said it wants to collect more data about the public's phone calls and emails to help fight terrorism.

David Omand, the government's former Security and Intelligence Coordinator, told Reuters last month that law enforcement agencies should have the power to examine the private data of the entire population.

Meanwhile in February, the government brought in measures to restrict the ability of the public to photograph police and security services if the photos were "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Human rights campaigners say that could give the authorities the right to stop media or the public recording police behaviour at protests.

Murakami Wood said photographers already faced increasing harassment, and no other country was trying to control photography and video in the same way Britain was.

"It is looking more totalitarian, whether that's what the government wants to call it or not," he said.

But Waddington said the new legislation would not stop people taking pictures at demonstrations, even if police interpreted the law in such a way. Nor would any court prohibit their publication in cases such as the G20 protest incidents.

"They can't physically confiscate every mobile phone," he said.

LONDON, April 15 (Reuters Life!) 

~ Source: Nanyang 100 ~

Wall Street salary caps drive away assholes

From the Borowitz Report :

Experts Warn of 'Douchebag Drain'

As the federal government moves to institute salary caps for Wall Street executives, an increasing number of assholes are seeking employment elsewhere, a study confirmed today.

According to the report commissioned by the University of Minnesota's School of Business, at a time when the economy needs experienced hands at the tiller, some of the financial world's best-trained dickwads are fleeing the ship.

And if the trend continues, the study warns, Wall Street could soon be facing a "douchebag drain" as top buttholes migrate to other countries and industries.

"There is no question that our company is losing some of its most valued assholes," says Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis.  "I have tried to convince them to stay, but how do you reason with them?  After all, they're assholes."

At Blarney O'Malley's, a popular watering hole catering to Wall Street traders, prominent assholes congregated after work last week to ponder the career options facing douchcicles today.

"When I graduated from B-school in '98, you could write your own ticket," said Dirk Bendelson, a veteran asshole from Stamford, Connecticut.  "It was a glorious time to be a mofo."

Mr. Bendelson said he was considering using his Wall Street experience to pursue a career that would not be subject to regulation or salary caps: "I'm thinking of becoming a pirate."

Elsewhere, the IRS announced that April 15 is the tax-filing deadline for all Americans not in the president's Cabinet.

Tomlinson 'died of abdominal bleeding, not a heart attack'

From G20 officer quizzed after death :

A policeman has been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter after new tests overturned the cause of a newspaper-seller's death.

Ian Tomlinson, 47, was struck and pushed over by a police officer during G20 protests on 1 April in the City.

Now a fresh post-mortem examination has found he died of abdominal bleeding, not a heart attack, as first thought.

Lawyers for the family said the new post-mortem test raised the likelihood of a manslaughter charge.

In its statement, the Coroner's Court said the inquest had looked at the first post-mortem examination carried out after Mr Tomlinson collapsed and died on the evening of 1 April.

That examination, carried out by Dr Freddy Patel, concluded Mr Tomlinson had diseased heart and liver and a substantial amount of blood in the abdominal cavity.

"His provisional interpretation of his findings was that the cause of death was coronary artery disease," said the statement.

"A subsequent post-mortem examination was conducted by another consultant forensic pathologist, Dr Nat Cary, instructed by the IPCC and by solicitors acting for the family of the late Mr Tomlinson.

"Dr Cary's opinion is that the cause of death was abdominal haemorrhage. The cause of the haemorrhage remains to be ascertained.

"Dr Cary accepts that there is evidence of coronary atherosclerosis but states that in his opinion its nature and extent is unlikely to have contributed to the cause of death."

~ more... ~

Riding a revolution to nowhere

Boris Kagarlitsky

The Moscow Times - 16 Apr, 2009

Recent political struggles in Eastern Europe remind me of the excellent novel by O. Henry "Cabbages and Kings." In this work, regimes change and governments are overthrown (or they desperately cling to authority). But in the end, absolutely nothing changes.

No matter who wins, life continues according to the same old rules -- government officials continue to steal, the business community cheats both workers, and the state and politicians lie. Now even those who respond to calls by the opposition to take to the streets know in their hearts that this is true. But their dislike of the corrupt officials in power outweighs their distrust of the demagogues among the opposition forces. And if new leaders eventually do come to power, the same scenario can be repeated by just changing the names and places of the characters.

The current crises in Moldova and Georgia mirror previous events in other countries. Storming parliament, smashing windows and destroying furniture has become a familiar scene played over and over again in the former Soviet republics. The difference between current events and those in South America in the late 19th century is that most of today's revolutions and uprisings are bloodless -- at least for now.

No matter who wins in Moldova and Georgia, there is no reason to expect any changes to their economic, political or social systems. Both the governments and the opposition parties advocate a market economy, and both lash out at anybody who expresses the slightest doubt as to the benefits of private business. Both sides are eager to establish closer ties with the West and NATO and to rewrite their laws according to European standards.

The fact that Moldova's ruling elite still refers to itself as the Communist Party adds some color to the crisis. This allows the political battle to be cast as a struggle between Communists and liberals, or between the right and the left. But this is bereft of any political meaning. The social policies of the "left-leaning" government in Chisinau and the "right-leaning" government in Tbilisi are identical. Privatization of state assets was conducted in Moldova with just as much zeal as it was in the other countries of the Eastern Bloc.

The mobs of protesters in Chisinau and Tbilisi are not demanding any radical changes to policies or the system as a whole. They are simply expressing frustration with the condition of their lives and society in general. But by failing to demand concrete solutions to those problems, they tacitly agree to endure them further.

There is less difference between the government and the opposition than between any two types of yogurt. At least when you buy yogurt, you can choose between different flavors. But in Moldova and Georgia, the only difference between those in power and those wanting power is the packaging. The reason is simple: Each political group has its own capitalists who, together with state officials, can milk the budget for funds, win profitable contracts from the authorities and use connections to defeat their competitors.

The economic crisis is hitting Eastern Europe harder than Western countries. Thousands of people who had been working abroad have lost those jobs and have returned home to find even greater difficulties. An entire generation of young Moldovans cannot find a place for themselves in their homeland or abroad. Moldova's social safety net has unraveled at the very moment that they needed it most. And neither the ruling authorities nor the opposition know how to overcome this crisis.

~ Transnational Institute ~

Moldovan turmoil grew out of unresolved social problems

Its not only political reasons that are behind Moldovan protests, says Boris Kagarlitsky Moscow's Institute of Globalization and Social Movements.

Iraqi dead join us optimists to extol success of surge

Saul Landau

Progreso Weekly, 9 Apr, 2009

A man at a horse show danced joyfully in a pile of manure.
“Why are you so happy?” another attendee asked.
“There must be a pony in here somewhere!”

The U.S. media has attacked the Iraq War story by going straight for the periphery. For example, instead of focusing attention on the devastation caused by an unjust, imperial war that has endured for six plus years, the media changed the debate: “Has sending more U.S. troops to Iraq in 2007 --“the surge” -- succeeded or failed?”

“It’s no longer a close call,” wrote Peter Beinart. (Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2009) “President Bush was right about the surge.” By being “right” Beinart means that the number of Iraqi dead came to only 500 in November 2008, compared with 3,475 in November of 2006. And only 12 Americans died in Iraq in that same period, compared to a higher number in previous years. (Figures from The Iraq War Index, a Brookings Institution report by Michael O'Hanlon and Jason Campbell) The realist might have added: “That’s 12 more than should have died.”

The New York Times Op-Ed page editors seemed undaunted about printing columns on the surge’s success by the very pundits who had only recently assured the public of the biggest lies of the young 21st Century: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda. Among the surge proselytizers, emerged Kenneth Pollack. In The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (2002), he wrote: “The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam’s regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.” He dismissed wusses who “exaggerated the danger of casualties among American troops.”

Pollack even helped persuade Times columnist Bill Keller to support the Iraq war. “Kenneth Pollack, the Clinton National Security Council expert whose argument for invading Iraq is surely the most influential book of this season,” wrote Keller (February 8, 2003), “has provided intellectual cover for every liberal who finds himself inclining toward war but uneasy about Mr. Bush.”

After expressing absolute certainty about Saddam’s WMD, Pollack threw his enthusiasm behind the surge -- without apologizing for his role in helping to perpetuate destruction and death. Again using the Times as his propaganda organ, Pollack offered new dogma. The surge had provided “the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.” (“A War We Just Might Win” with Michael O’Hanlon, June 30, 2007)

Like Shakespeare’s Polonius, Pollack the Pompous babbles clichés. Luckily for him, he didn’t get himself killed hiding in Barbara Bush’s bedroom while spying on W. But he shares with Polonius the characteristics of a pedantic who wields no real power. Shakespeare uses Polonius to mock obfuscators who ladle out “wisdom” like watery soup -- like Pollack’s and fellow surge zealots’ recipe for Iraq.

The surgists focused on reducing violence in Baghdad which, if successful, would serve as a model for smaller cities. By late 2007, almost a year after its onset, the Pentagon sold the surge to the usual media suckers as the U.S. “success story.” The Pentagon claimed it had reduced by 60 percent the war violence and had driven Al Qaida from Baghdad and mostly from Anbar Province as well.

The increased number of U.S. soldiers did allow U.S. forces to disarm some Sunnis in Baghdad. Then, the U.S. occupiers invited Shiite militias to invade Sunni neighborhoods and ethnically cleanse them. By mid 2007, Baghdad, once about 65% Sunni, emerged as a predominantly Shiite city. Indeed, leader of the multinational armies in Iraq General David Petraeus, now in charge of Central Command, purposely or inadvertently encouraged Shiites to drive Sunnis from their homes. Many went to Syria. (George Hunsinger, Common, October 23, 2008)

One mainstream media exception on surge reporting, Karen de Young, explained how many Iraqis had homes destroyed or, “the homes they left no longer exist. Houses have been looted, destroyed or occupied. Most Baghdad neighborhoods, where Shiites and Sunnis once lived side by side, have been transformed into religiously homogeneous bastions where members of the other sect dare not tread.” (Washington Post, Dec. 16, 2007)

She cited Col. William E. Rapp, a senior aide to Petraeus, who admitted the decline in violence was “the result, in part, of the city’s segregation. There are now far fewer mixed neighborhoods where religious militias can target members of the other sect.”

“In most of Baghdad,” de Young wrote, “the population shift has been at the expense of Sunnis, many of whose former neighborhoods are newly populated by poorer Shiite migrants under militia protection and, often, control.”

Alongside cleansing, came payola. The U.S. military paid some Sunni groups to stop fighting U.S. occupiers and turn their guns on “outsiders” -- meaning Al Qaeda. This payoff also reduced the number of attacks against U.S. forces.

The White House used the surge with media cooperation to shift debate from the wisdom of starting an unjustified war to how to leave Iraq with a taste of victory. No one defined the “surge” for what it was, however: the old military tactic of bribing the opponent.

From mid 2005 until November 2008, the U.S. paid thousands of “Awakening Council” Iraqis $300 a month not to fight against U.S. forces. Al Jazeera’s military analysts estimated that as many as 100,000 Awakening fighters in Iraq were responsible “for the marked reduction in violence in the country.”

By late 2008, thanks to increased oil sales, reported Al Jazeera, “The Iraqi government started paying the salaries of about 54,000 Awakening fighters at 60 locations in Baghdad on Monday.”

In other words, Bush was paying unknown quantities of U.S. taxpayers’ money to Iraqis in return for them not attacking U.S. forces. So, while the infusion of more U.S. troops played some role in cutting down violence, it didn’t compete with the part played by death squads. Bob Woodward in The War Within (Simon & Schuster, 2008) suggests that by creating Iraqi “Death Squads” the Pentagon also helped reduce fighting in Iraq. A “Top Secret” memo, according to Woodward, implies that U.S. forces targeted certain Sunni groups for systematic assassination. This operation, like the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam, called for killing those who refused to “reconcile” to U.S. reason; they wouldn’t even take bribes.

The surge fans, however, ignored such minor details. They focus on the bright side. Iraq now sells 2 million barrels of oil per day! Tie that marketing fact to 2 million Iraqis who have fled their homes and remain displaced inside the country; or the 3 plus millions who felt forced to leave their unbalanced country. They don’t tie together?

Surgites like Pollack and Beinart say, like Bush, that the $610 billion spent on the war has built a “democracy” in the region. Indeed, by knocking off Saddam, the United States opened to the entire Arab world the road to democratic reform. And pigs will fly!

Thus far, thousands of Iraqi professors, scientists, and doctors have been assassinated. Bush’s rescue of Iraq also cost the lives of some 350 journalists. Tens of thousands of prisoners remain in detention camps and, according to a UN report, “the detention of children in adult detention centers violates U.S. obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as accepted international human rights norms.” (AP, May 19, 2008)

In September 2002, I visited Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Most Iraqis enjoyed electricity, running water and functional sewage -- even though the impact of multilateral sanctions and continuous air strikes throughout the 1990s by U.S. and British war planes kept destroying parts of the already mangled post 1991 War infrastructure.

After the surge’s success, Iraqis average 3 hours of electricity daily; many water and sewage systems remain un-repaired. By 2008, Iraqis suffered some 10,000 cases of cholera -- the average over the last five years. By August 2007, Iraqis still suffered some 25 car bombs per month. (Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly, August 24, 2007)

The surge did succeed in reducing Iraq war coverage by some 60%, according to the NY Times. (“With Success of Surge, NY Times’ Iraq War Coverage Drops to All-Time Low,” Oct. 21, 2008) Reduced violence equals loss of media interest.

If not for Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, and occasional articles by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, and an exceptional case like Karen de Young and a few others, the public would have little access to the facts of war. The media gives the war mongers lots of space to promote the deadly events in which few of them ever fight. But they do cheer for the troops -- almost like fans at a ballgame.

Saul Landau is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and a senior fellow of the Transnational Institute. His latest book is A Bush and Botox World. His latest film is We don't play golf here! And other stories of globalisation.

~ Source: Transnational Institute ~

Deadbolt - 'You Don't Scare Me!'

Deadbolt - 'Down in the Lab'

From their album Shrunken Head

Bob Dylan interview segments at Huffington Post

From Bob Dylan Exclusive Interview: Reveals His Favorite Songwriters, Thoughts On His Own Cult Figure Status :

BF: A lot of the acts from your generation seem to be trading on nostalgia. They play the same songs the same way for the last 30 years. Why haven't you ever done that?

BD: I couldn't if I tried. Those guys you are talking about all had conspicuous hits. They started out anti-establishment and now they are in charge of the world. Celebratory songs. Music for the grand dinner party. Mainstream stuff that played into the culture on a pervasive level. My stuff is different from those guys. It's more desperate. Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly ... exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I'm no mainstream artist.

BF: Then what kind of artist are you?

BD: I'm not sure, Byronesque maybe. Look, when I started out, mainstream culture was Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Sound of Music. There was no fitting into it then and of course, there's no fitting into it now. Some of my songs have crossed over but they were all done by other singers.

BF: Have you ever tried to fit in?

BD: Well, no, not really. I'm coming out of the folk music tradition and that's the vernacular and archetypal aesthetic that I've experienced. Those are the dynamics of it. I couldn't have written songs for the Brill Building if I tried. Whatever passes for pop music, I couldn't do it then and I can't do it now.

BF: Does that mean you create outsider art? Do you think of yourself as a cult figure?

BD: A cult figure, that's got religious connotations. It sounds cliquish and clannish. People have different emotional levels. Especially when you're young. Back then I guess most of my influences could be thought of as eccentric. Mass media had no overwhelming reach so I was drawn to the traveling performers passing through. The side show performers - bluegrass singers, the black cowboy with chaps and a lariat doing rope tricks. Miss Europe, Quasimodo, the Bearded Lady, the half-man half-woman, the deformed and the bent, Atlas the Dwarf, the fire-eaters, the teachers and preachers, the blues singers. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got close to some of these people. I learned about dignity from them. Freedom too. Civil rights, human rights. How to stay within yourself. Most others were into the rides like the tilt-a-whirl and the rollercoaster. To me that was the nightmare. All the giddiness. The artificiality of it. The sledge hammer of life. It didn't make sense or seem real. The stuff off the main road was where force of reality was. At least it struck me that way. When I left home those feelings didn't change.

~ more... ~

Future of U.S. depends on torture accountability

Countdown’s Keith Olbermann makes one more plea to President Barack Obama to prosecute Bush administration officials who allowed the torture of prisoners to occur, to set an example for the future that America does not tolerate torture.

Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums

Courtesy of A Perfect Circle

The original download is available on the official A Perfect Circle page :

People died because of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, why won't corporate media admit it?

By Harvey Wasserman

AlterNet - 6 Apr, 2009

Chernobyl exploded and Three Mile Island missed by a whisker. They both killed people. 

But thirty years after the Pennsylvania melt-down, a Soviet-style Iron Curtain has formed between the corporate media and the alternatives, with nuclear power at its center. 

The Soviets denied for days that the Chernobyl accident had happened at all. America's parallel corporate media says "no one died at TMI." 

Take National Public Radio's Scott Simon. On March 28, Simon smirked on air that "no one was killed or injured" at Three Mile Island, "not so much as a sprained ankle." 

Except when people are fleeing them, as they did 30 years ago, radiation releases have never been linked directly to joint sprains. 

But cancer, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirths, malformations, spontaneous abortions, skin lesions, hair loss, respiratory problems, sterility, nausea, cataracts, a metallic taste, premature aging, general loss of bodily function and more can be caused by radioactive emissions of the type that poured out of TMI. And all such ailments have been documented there outside the corporate media. 

Simon and everyone else inside the corporate media missed the well-organized, well-executed press event in the statehouse at Harrisburg on March 26. Despite solid publicity from Eric Epstein and the long-standing Three Mile Island Alert, not a single corporate reporter covered presentations by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen and University of North Carolina epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Wing. 

Once a top industry executive, Gundersen has shown that the containment at Three Mile Island Unit 2 did not completely hold, and that far more radiation was released than previously believed. 

Dr. Wing reports that levels of radiation-related disease significantly rose in the downwind area. Wing and three co-authors looked at statistics used in a major study by Columbia University and other sources. They concluded that -- despite official denials -- the numbers clearly indicate serious potential health effects. 

Gundersen and Wing were neither hiding nor alone. University of Pittsburgh radiology Professor Emeritus Dr. Ernest Sternglass and health researchers Joe Mangano and Jay Gould have long since documented that public health catastrophe. House-to-house surveys from local residents Jane Lee and Mary Osborne confirm the damage. Massive anecdotal evidence collected in a book and radio show by Robbie Leppzer appears at Published in 1982 by DellDelta, Killing Our Own correlated the death toll at TMI with that from other mis-uses of radiation. Other books have followed with similar conclusions. 

This tidal wave of proof about the TMI death toll spread through the "alternative" media prior to the accident's anniversary. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales talked with me about it on March 27. Announced by the Institute for Public Accuracy, the story appeared on the Pacifica and Counterspin/Fair radio networks , and with Peter B. Collins on the Thomm Hartmann Show. It was also heard on stations such as WORT (Madison), KBOO (Oregon), KDKA (Pittsburgh),, and more. Websites like Huffington Post, CommonDreams, AlterNet,, NukeFree, CounterPunch, BuzzFlash, Smirking Chimp, Daily Kos, and dozens more got the story out, as did environmental groups like Greenpeace, NIRS and Beyond Nuclear.

~ more... ~

Jean-Paul Sartre (21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980)


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