Edward Snowden

By Richard McGregor

US President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with French President François Hollande in the East Room of the White House on February 11 2014It has long been an article of faith that the so-called Anglosphere countries, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, don’t spy on each other.

The ‘Five Eyes’, as they are known, came together as an intelligence alliance after the second world war, initially bringing together the US and the UK, before they were quickly joined by the other countries. Read more

Getty Images

First things first. Everything that happened on Friday, from President Barack Obama’s long-awaited speech on the National Security Agency to the long list of reforms published by the White House, would not have taken place without Edward Snowden.

When he first started leaking documents, the former NSA contractor said that all he wanted to do was initiate a debate. “I’ve already won,” he said last month. “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished.” Read more

On Friday, seven months after Edward Snowden began leaking documents about the National Security Agency, President Barack Obama will give a speech in Washington outlining his plans to reform US electronic surveillance. Here are five issues to watch out for: Read more

By Richard McGregor

When the US and Australia hold their annual top-level security consultations in Washington on Wednesday, they will doubtless exchange the usual bromides about the enduring value and strength of their alliance.

But the Australia defence and foreign ministers might also want to vent a little as well to their counterparts about the diplomatic mess that the former US intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, has landed them in.

The revelation that the National Security Agency, America’s eavesdropping body, had bugged the mobile phone of German’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, provoked a crisis in Washington’s ties with Berlin. Mr Snowden has given Australia its own “Merkel moment” this week, with the publication of leaked documents detailing how Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate bugged the phones of top Indonesian leaders. Read more

Spying scandal spotlight moves from US to UK
As the scandal around spying and surveillance continues, Gideon Rachman is joined by James Blitz in the studio and Geoff Dyer down the line from Washington, to discuss the latest developments. Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the activities of the US National Security Agency, but this week it was the turn of the British intelligence chiefs to give evidence in an open session of a Parliamentary committee, the first time that has ever happened. Did they say anything interesting? And are the intelligence agencies being held to account in the US?

“Journalist changes jobs” is not usually the kind of headline that merits much attention. But the news that Glenn Greenwald is moving from The Guardian to a new media venture, funded by a Hawaii-based billionaire with libertarian views, is something that the British and American governments have reason to worry about.

Greenwald is the reporter who has acted as the conduit for Edward Snowden’s leaks about the US National Security Agency. Most of the NSA stories have been published by The Guardian – with the New York Times also publishing a fair amount that the Guardian has shared with it. However, as Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, pointed out recently on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, the Times has actually chosen not to publish some of the Snowden cache, on grounds of national security. As Abramson explained – “Quite a bit has not yet been published… Responsible journalists care, as citizens do, about national security.” The Guardian has also considered national security in choosing what to publish. However, it seems quite likely that Greenwald will be rather less constrained in his use of the Snowden material when he gets going on his new venture. Read more

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The vote to determine who will lead the Fed will be “razor thin,” and there are a lot of questions about White House favourite Larry Summers’ record on regulation, which suggest that though he might embrace tough capital and liquidity requirements, he is likely to be less sympathetic towards structural proposals.
♦ The question of military intervention in Syria on the backdrop of deteriorating US-Russia relations is dominating the G20 meeting and bringing to light just how reluctant many western powers are to engage in global policing, which raises the question of who will enforce global rules.
♦ The reluctance to intervene is often blamed on the shadow of US intervention in Iraq, but some say the situation in Syria should rather be compared to the sectarian Bosnian civil war where a US-led bombing campaign was hailed as bringing peace. Regardless of the outcome of Obama’s vote on Syrian intervention in Congress, the US President will still lose – either his integrity, or his domestic authority and will alienate all his “friends and frenemies.”
Top secret documents revealed by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that US and UK intelligence agencies successfully developed methods to crack encryption used to protect online privacy, compromising all internet security guarantees.

 Read more

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The public mood in Egypt is hardening against Islamists since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed – a result of fatigue with the turmoil caused by Brotherhood marches, and hostile local media that refrain from covering the bloody crackdown on Islamist protest camps.
♦ On the flip side, the crackdown on Islamist camps caused the most violent wave of Islamist violence against Christians in modern history, with attacks on 30 churches and at least four Christian deaths.
♦ In the hours before Egyptian security forces launched a crackdown on camps of pro-Morsi supporters, American diplomats were pushing for agreements between the two groups to avoid violence – all of which failed, as generals in Cairo ignored Americans “in a cold-eyed calculation that they would not pay a significant cost.”
♦ An event that brought together India’s prime minister with past, present and future bosses of the central bank yielded some insight into what the future might hold for the volatile economy, including bringing incoming RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on earlier, not adding new capital controls, and narrowing the trade deficit.
♦ Being an American among Brits sometimes “feels like being a guest who shows up at a memorial service wearing a Hawaiian shirt and traumatizes the mourners with intrusive personal questions,” writes Sarah Lyall of her 18 years as the New York Times’ UK correspondent.
♦ The partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who revealed surveillance programs by the NSA using documents passed to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained for almost nine hours by UK authorities in Heathrow airport to be questioned under the Terrorism Act 2000.
♦ After almost 60 years, the US intelligence community has openly acknowledged that it was behind the controversial overthrow of Iran’s former prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
♦ Turkey’s greatest writer Orhan Pamuk converses with Simon Schama about recent developments in his country, including the “wonderful” uprising in Taksim square and the twilight of prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, and allows him to step into his home that has been transformed into a “Museum of Innocence.” Read more

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Internet billionaires are putting their money into futuristic, even outlandish, ventures that could herald the new era of scientific innovation or just be exercises in hubris.
♦ German politicians may be saying that they have no intention of joining a coalition now, but all the party “colour combinations” will become viable once the election comes round, says the FT’s Quentin Peel.
♦ For those who have never been inside a gulag, New Republic takes a tour of a Russian penal colony through photographs to give an idea of what sort of conditions prisoners like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the members of the punk bank Pussy Riots face.
♦ New calculations that show that jumping into a black hole would cause one to be flash-fried by a firewall of energy – rather than smote to particles smaller than dust – have ignited a tense debate among the world’s physicists.
♦ The New York Times profiles documentary film maker Laura Poitras, looking at her investigations into growing surveillance in the United States and how her involvement with releasing information from Edward Snowden changed her life.  Read more

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ An era of “digital hippies” answered the needs of crunched budgets with start-ups that focused on building communities where goods and services could be traded and shared. Their success has resulted in a regulatory backlash as traditional businesses and tax collectors look for their fair share.
♦ Obama has not been able to take control and “unwind” the “war on terror apparatus”, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer, instead stoking jitters with increased security levels, vague warnings of Al Qaeda resurgence and lack of transparency regarding surveillance programs.
♦ Bank of England interest rates will remain at the historic low of 0.5 per cent until unemployment falls to 7 percent, new governor Mark Carney has pledged, saying that the economy has not reached escape velocity. It appears Carney is wary of removing stimulus measures too quickly, but will this forward guidance be enough?
♦ General Abdul Fattah Sissi, who led the coup to depose Mohamed Morsi, seems a popular choice to lead an increasingly divided country. Sissi is often cast as a modern Gamal Abdel Nasser, and though his western military training has not softened his views on the United States, he is seen as a leader that is dedicated to bringing liberal democracy to Egypt.
♦ The decision by US President Barack Obama to cancel talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum is a sort of boiling point in a series of uncomfortable conversations between the two nations since Obama announced his plans to “reset” relations.  Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Edward Snowden seems like a bright chap. So he will probably have noticed the irony of voicing his complaints about persecution by the US legal system from the confines of Moscow airport. There are few governments in the world that abuse the law, for political purposes, with the ruthlessness and cynicism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

♦ The ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ talks to the FT about dividing his time between the UK and Iraq.
♦ Edward Snowden has managed to stir up “the biggest bout of anti-Americanism since the Iraq war.”
♦ Edward Luce thinks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are wrong about US debt – “At 4 percentage points of GDP, the salient worry is whether it is falling too rapidly.”
♦ China’s government may be less fixated on GDP targets, but it still needs to sustain confidence in the economy.
♦ Chairman Mao banned golf in China as a bourgeois frippery and China’s first golf course is younger than Tiger Woods, but the game is catching on fast – Chinese wunderkinds are being incubated and some are infiltrating the game at the highest levels.
♦ A new language has been discovered – Warlpiri rampaku is spoken only by people under the age of 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village in northern Australia.
♦ Charles Pierce pens his furious response to the verdict over Trayvon Martin’s death: “Of course, black kids can’t win fights without getting shot through the chest. They are supposed to act very politely, speak when spoken to and, maybe, just get off the sidewalk when they come in contact with people like George Zimmerman”. Read more

♦ Keeping Brussels on board in its counter-terrorism data-gathering operation has arguably been Washington’s most important diplomatic concern with the EU. However, this has been put at risk after the recent revelations from Edward Snowden. Indeed, the US and the EU might need couple-therapy.
♦ A Syrian hacktivist has set up an alert system to warn Syrians about incoming missiles – but Assad is already trying to take it down.
♦ A former member of Nirvana and Soundgarden has become a war hero.
♦ Legendary British war photographer Don McCullin recounts his life, capturing international conflicts.
♦David Gardner warns Egyptians cheering the armed forces to remember that “there is no such thing as a liberal coup d’etat”.
♦And as Egypt hurtles further into political crisis, Robert Springborg asks if the army can really control the forces it has unleashed.  Read more

♦ Italy faces billions of euros in potential losses, after restructuring eight derivatives contracts last year. Italy’s judiciary is investigating whether the Treasury risked too much monetary loss in its management of the public debt, according to the FT. The inquiry began after a 2012 treasury report was leaked to the FT and Italian daily La Repubblica.
♦The New York Times asks “Is the Civil Rights Era Over?” as it gets experts to ponder Tuesday’s rejection of the Voter’s Rights Act and Wednesday’s same-sex ruling to recognize legally married gay couples. The FT finds a polarised national response to the measures.
♦ The Sydney Morning Herald finds a historical precedent of backstabbing underlying Australian politics and the run up to elections for prime minister. Julia Gillard “died by the sword,” the Herald says, after competing against Kevin Rudd and Labor power broker Bill Shorten for the role of Australian prime minister.
♦ The Daily News Egypt sees no “safe possible outcome” and certain military involvement with the approach of the “Tamarrod,” the nationwide protest movement scheduled for June 30 to demand new presidential elections in Egypt to replace president Mohamed Morsi.
♦ Foreign Policy asks why Mr Snowden missed his flight from Moscow to Ecuador — did Russian military intelligence detain him for questioning or security services question his dubious travel documents, was he afraid the plane would be grounded in the US or simply shy of journalists?
♦ The FT analyses aggressive EU lobbyists in Brussels funded by American tech companies that advocate for more liberal internet privacy rules. The issue has moved to the top of the EU legislative agenda, as the EU summit begins Thursday.
♦ A BBC interactive maps children’s chances of success around the worldin health, education, work, and general well being. Read more

Edward Snowden is fast becoming a hot potato nobody wants to handle. Russia does not want him – so he can’t leave the legally-grey area of the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on foot. He could fly away – that is Putin’s preferred solution and, indeed, it seems that he now has travel papers, after Ecuador granted him a “safe pass” for temporary travel, according to images of travel documents posted by Spanish language Univision late on Wednesday.

But Snowden’s flight path to the apparent safety of possible political asylum in another country, such as Venezuela (which has offered the possibility) or Ecuador (which has said it would consider it), is blocked by a problem. All commercial flights between Moscow and Quito or Caracas touch down in third countries with which the US has extradition agreements. And that includes Cuba. Read more

♦ In Qatar, the emir, voluntarily resigned in favour of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as he spoke of the need for younger blood in government. This move is a sign that some monarchies are still more open to change than those in neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia that have “hardened arteries.” Qataris debate whether Sheikh Tamim will follow in his father’s footsteps or take a more conservative, religious, or nationalistic stance, the FT reports.
♦ In Syria, the government and the rebels fight for control of the oil fields, and one gas and electricity plant is representative of the strife. Foreign Policy reports that Obama’s current strategy in Syria is contradictory, taking separate military and diplomatic courses that clash.
♦ If Edward Snowden were Chinese, Americans would respect him as a “brave dissident.”
♦ The European Commission raided the London offices of oil companies – BP, Shell and Norway’s Statoil – as well as Platts, the price reporting agency, for colluding to manipulate prices of oil on the international markets, the BBC reports.
♦ The US Supreme Court amended parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a measure that required mostly southern states to obtain Washington’s approval to change election practices because of discrimination against black voters – but some legislators now see it as an intrusion on state’s rights and no longer relevant – the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report. The Times sees this amendment as a usurpation of Congress and denial that discrimination still exists in the South on the part of the Supreme Court. For the New Yorker, it is all apart of the Republican’s systematic undermining of Democratic influence.
♦ In Foreign Affairs, the military historian Rick Atkinson gives a colourful depiction of London on the eve of D-Day. Read more

Rafael Correa (Getty)

While no one knows with certainty where Edward Snowden is heading after leaving Hong Kong on Sunday, Ecuador appears to be his most likely destination – a small country on the equator, as its name tells us, with fiery Rafael Correa as its outsize president. However, Correa is not the only larger-than-life politician that Ecuador has produced for the world. Indeed, for much of its history, Ecuador seems to have drawn its political inspiration from the gigantic volcano Chimborazo depicted on its coat of arms. Furthermore, like many of the titans who have dominated Ecuadorean politics, Correa has brought a rare stretch of political continuity to his country, although, as critics might argue of him but certainly his forebears, it has been at a cost. Read more

♦ Evan Osnos discusses how the Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has been embraced by US Republicans.
♦ The US Supreme Court rules this week on the constitutionality of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed at the height of the civil rights movement and requires jurisdictions where there has been a history of racial discrimination to submit any proposed voting changes to the Justice Department for approval.
♦ A five-year farm bill was defeated on the US House of Representatives last week. E.J. Dionne argues that it is a lesson in the real causes of Washington dysfunction: “Our ability to govern ourselves is being brought low by a witches’ brew of right-wing ideology, a shockingly cruel attitude toward the poor on the part of the Republican majority, and the speaker’s incoherence when it comes to his need for Democratic votes to pass bills.”
♦ The Atlantic looks at why Edward Snowden would look to Ecuador for asylum.
♦ Jon Stewart appears on the show of Bassem Youssef, his Egyptian counterpart.
 Read more

A recent cartoon in the China Daily depicted the Statue of Liberty holding a listening device instead of a torch and a tape-recorder in place of a legal tablet. The Global Times, in both its Chinese and English editions, noted what it said was US “aggressiveness in cyberspace” and its “hypocrisy in saying one thing and doing another” – a reference to Washington’s demands that China stop its nefarious hacking campaign. The Global Times even suggested Beijing keep Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked information about US domestic and international information-gathering activities, and milk him for all the information he’s worth. “This concerns China’s national interest,” it said. Read more

By Aranya Jain

♦ Ewen Macaskill describes how and why Edward Snowden revealed himself to the Guardian, starting with emails in February.
♦ Geoff Dyer examines the extent of government surveillance and why we might need a ‘Church committee for the digital age’.
♦ Turkey – The struggle for Taksim continues, and the stand-off is here to stay – any new developments will likely come from within Erdogan’s own party.
♦ A plea for help from Masanjia labour camp in China was hidden in Halloween decorations and found by a woman in Oregon, leading to an exposition of the camp’s brutal system.
♦ The North Pond Hermit of Maine has committed at least 1,000 burglaries over 27 years, while living alone in the woods. Read more