NSA

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

♦ The success of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party at India’s recent state elections is a sign that voters are determined to reshape the political order.
♦ Oligarchs hold the key to Viktor Yanukovich‘s grip on power in Ukraine.
♦ The west is losing faith in its own future, says the FT’s Gideon Rachman.
♦ American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life to conduct surveillance, fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly. 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?

♦ For more than 30 years, female singers in Iran have not been able to sing solo or perform to a mixed audience. Hassan Rouhani’s softening rhetoric has many hoping that restrictions on cultural life will also be eased.
♦ Growing public anger about immigration from former Soviet states poses a dilemma for Vladimir Putin as he seeks to build a regional trade bloc with Russia’s neighbours.
♦ There is something to be learned about people’s personalities from the way they cycle.
♦ Businesses and residents in Chinatowns from London to San Francisco fear that the struggle to keep up with rising rents and other challenges is threatening their communities. Caitlin Moran at The Times thinks that the “self-selecting majority of the wealthy and conservative” could be good news for the rest of the UK, as the young people locked out of the capital choose to make their home towns glorious instead.
♦ Egypt’s deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa-Eldin is an advocate for restraint, but the political climate in the country has put him under fire from both the military’s supporters and its critics.
♦ Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, argues that talks with Iran have succeeded in the past and can succeed again. He uses his discussions with Iranian diplomats after 9/11 as an example: “The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused… And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous “Axis of Evil” speech in early 2002.”
♦ Chrystia Freeland considers how and why populists, “the wilder the better”, are taking over from the plutocrats.
♦ The New York Times examines how the NSA has been revealed as “an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations.” Read more

♦ The FT’s Neil Buckley interviews Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most famous prisoner – a former oligarch who dared to cross Vladimir Putin.
♦ Trade has broken from a 30-year trend of growing at twice the speed of the global economy, pushing economists to wonder whether there has been a fundamental shift in world business.
♦ The Palestinians have called on countries to tell companies linked to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to withdraw immediately because the settlements violate international law.
♦ Mark Carney says the Bank of England is open for business and the days when the Old Lady preached the perils of “moral hazard” without due regard to financial pressures are well and truly over.
♦ The allegation by the German government that the NSA monitored Angela Merkel’s mobile phone has set off recriminations behind the scenes in the US.
♦ The NYT looks at the friction point between the Philiippines and China in the South China Sea, reporting from a ship at the dividing line.
♦ Formula 1 is considered entertainment, not a sport, by the Indian government, while chess is considered to be a sporting event.
♦ There is some disbelief over Al-Sisi mania.
♦ Tony Blair in the the Balkans to deliver some “deliverology”.
 Read more

Merkel's love for her mobile began early on (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Gaining access to the personal communications of the leader of any country would be a highly valued prize for an intelligence agency.

But accessing chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, as Germany strongly suspects the US has done, was a coup indeed. Read more

By David Gallerano
♦ The Kremlin-backed candidate Sergei Sobyanin beats anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and remains mayor of Moscow, although Navalny’s unexpected result looks like an alarm signal for Vladimir Putin.
♦ A school regional programme shows many families in Spain cannot provide their children with basic needs – namely, food and a balanced diet.
♦ Writer John le Carré discusses his life and recent events with Philippe Sands.
While jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates prepare on the Syrian mountains for the US attack (with the lessons of Iraq in mind), Syrian refugees are leaving the country and experiencing a hard time in Egypt, where they are now associated with the discredited regime of Mohammed Morsi. In the New York Times Nicholas Kristof outlines two options for the US – intervention or paralysis – and chooses the latter.
The ancient practice of self-immolation – though relatively uncommon – is Chinese farmers’ ultimate protest. Chinese government will probably respond by increasing compensation for expropriated rural land.
♦ Iowa grants gun permits to people who are legally or completely blind. There is disagreement among advocates for the disabled and public officers on whether this endangers public safety.
♦ Brazilian TV network Globo reveals that the NSA spied on Brazilian Oil giant Petrobras, adding to the existing tensions between United States and Brazil. Read more

Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic Party challenger hoping to unseat Angela Merkel, German chancellor, had everything to fight for. A live 90-minute TV debate broadcast on four of the biggest TV stations to an audience estimated at 15m just three weeks before election day. The “duel” has been the most keenly anticipated election event in the campaign to date.

So did the man who served as Ms Merkel’s finance minister in a previous coalition government from 2005-2009 land any real punches? Read more

(Getty)

The calls in Europe to suspend the EU-US trade talks, in response to allegations that the US has been bugging EU offices, reminds me of the scepticism of some American officials, before the talks were even launched. “The only question in my mind,” said one, “is whether the French use their veto in six months time, or in two years time.” The Americans feared that French protectionist instincts would come into play over agriculture or culture. In the event, the Americans have only themselves to blame – since their cyber-snooping has given Europeans plenty to get outraged about. 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

By Aranya Jain

♦Hassan Rohani, the only moderate candidate left in Iran’s upcoming elections, promised reform and unveiled his past in a documentary aired on state TV.
Japan attempts to increase entrepreneurship by making taking out loans easier and encouraging innovation, but changing the system will not be easy.
♦ We are entering a new age of big data, and have yet to understand what this will mean. Our lack of privacy does not end with the NSA, as many big data companies are also able to collect our data trails, and infer things about us from them.
♦ Post-Arab Spring North Africa remains fragile, and is reminiscent of post-Communist eastern and central Europe, but what Africa needs is a role model for democracy.
♦ Snowden claims that the NSA has been hacking China and Hong Kong for years will test Sino-US ties.
♦ This website, via interactive graphics and charts, allows you to explore information about land deals, from a web of which regions are investing in each other to charts that delineate what the land is being used for.
♦ What Mandela’s legacy can leave behind – Roy Isacowitz argues that Israel should emulate Mandela to pursue peace but that it will not do so. Read more

♦ Laura Poitras tells Salon how she first made contact with Edward Snowden and as says there is more footage coming.
♦ Seymour Hersh’s 2006 report on the debate within the intelligence community about the NSA’s gathering of telephone metadata is well worth a read in light of the recent NSA leaks. We also recommend Wired magazine’s 2012 report on the Utah Data Center – “A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyse, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.”
♦ Child boxing in Thailand is a tradition with a long history, but it has brought the ire of human rights activists.
♦ Michalis G. Sallas, the banker at the helm of Pireaus, capitalised on Cyprus’s banking disaster and bought up the Greek units of the island’s three biggest financial institutions – some say he should be hailed for his entrepreneurial expertise, while others say he has pushed the boundaries of banking too far.  Read more

♦The US National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading internet companies. Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story for the Guardian, has been focused on government surveillance for years and the article is expected to attract an investigation from the justice department.
♦ Turkey is having its 1969, writes Ben Judah, and now it needs its Charles de Gaulle.
♦ Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s absence in Turkey this week has highlighted the difference in style between him and Abdullah Gul, the president.
♦ Ollie Rehn, the European Commission’s economic chief, has lashed out at the IMF’s criticism of the first Greek bailout, accusing the fund of revisionist history.
♦ What are the choices for Syrian citizens now? They are all grim and make the Geneva talks more urgent than ever, says Charles Glass.
♦ The humanities division at Harvard University is attracting fewer undergraduates amid concerns about the degree’s value in a rapidly changing job market. Read more