Bahraini dictatorship’s hacking of computers in Britain


This 13 May 2013 video is called UK spyware used against Bahraini activists – Ala’a Shehabi.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

UK police asked to investigate alleged Bahraini hacking of exiles’ computers

Rights group Privacy International files complaint that officials illegally monitored devices of pro-democracy trio in UK

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent

Monday 13 October 2014 11.16 BST

The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate claims that computers and mobile phones used by exiled Bahraini pro-democracy activists living in the UK are under illegal surveillance.

A complaint about Bahraini officials’ alleged monitoring of the devices was compiled by the civil liberties group Privacy International (PI) and submitted to the Metropolitan police on Monday.

The remote interference is said to have started after Dr Saeed Shehabi, Jaafar al-Hasabi and Mohammed Moosa Abd-Ali Ali inadvertently downloaded malicious software or had their machines infected by the programs. The intrusive technology is able to copy and transmit documents, remotely turn on cameras and microphones to record, as well as send emails from other people’s accounts, according to PI.

It said the technology involved was FinFisher, software once owned by Gamma International, a company that used to be based in Andover, Hampshire, but is now run by a firm based in Germany.

The complaint is partially based on evidence published in August by Bahrain Watch and WikiLeaks, which, it is said, details exchanges between Bahraini officials and Finfisher staff who were providing technical support.

The three men allegedly targeted are human rights activists who oppose the current regime in Bahrain and have been granted asylum in the UK.

Moosa Abd-Ali Ali and Hasabi had both been detained and tortured in Bahrain. Shehabi has been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia and had his Bahraini citizenship revoked.

“We often had the feeling that they were spying on us but we had no physical evidence of intrusion,” said Shehabi, 60, who is a journalist. “I have lived here since 1971. I thought I was under British protection.”

His only direct evidence of computer interference was when his Twitter account inexplicably began following more and more people; on another occasion, he said, his daughter’s travel plans were disclosed to Bahraini government officials. Three years ago his home in the UK was the target of an arson attack.

Hasabi, 43, an IT specialist, said he had received numerous emails which he did not open because they appeared suspicious. He was alarmed to see his computer’s details appear in the WikiLeaks list online.

Moosa Abd-Ali Ali, 33, a TV camera operator, said: “Many times I received notices from my friends that I had sent them emails when I had not. Once I opened up my Facebook page and found that someone was writing it. Later I found it had been deleted. On other occasions I received notices from Gmail saying someone had tried to hack into my account.

“When I first came to the UK I felt safe but I don’t any more. They have hacked my computer.”

PI said: “It is clear from the Gamma documents published online that among those targeted by the Bahraini government with FinFisher technology were Mohammed, Jaafar and Saeed, along with prominent Bahraini opposition politicians, democracy activists and human rights lawyers.

FinFisher was developed and produced by the British company Gamma International. Promotional material for FinFisher shows that it allows its user full access to a target’s infected device and everything contained within it, even enabling them to turn on functions such as cameras and microphones.

“Reports from the Citizen Lab suggest that FinFisher command and control servers have been found in 35 countries, including Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, and Malaysia.”

The National Cyber Crime Unit is part of the National Crime Agency. Earlier this year PI made a similar complaint to police about alleged surveillance of the computer of an Ethiopian activist living in the UK.

Commenting on the alleged surveillance of the Ethiopian, a Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “On 28 February 2014, we received an allegation that a man in Islington had had his computer accessed without authorisation. This matter is currently under investigation by Islington CID.”

PI alleges that surveillance carried out by Bahraini authorities amounts to unlawful interception of communications under section 1 of the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) 2000.

FinFisher and its previous owner Gamma have previously claimed they only sold their products to responsible governments. The German-based firm did not respond to requests for a comment, nor did the embassy of Bahrain.

See also here. And here.

Bahraini government, with help from FinFisher, tracks activists living in the UK: here.

FinFisher spyware used to snoop on Bahraini activists, police told. Gamma International on the end of UK criminal complaint: here.

Privacy International files criminal complaint on behalf of Bahraini activists targeted by spyware FinFisher: here.

G4S Bahrain to provide manned and electronic security to [Saudi] Al Arab News: here.

Many wildlife sounds on the Internet


This video from the USA is called Wood Thrush singing song close-up. The wood thrush is one of the over 9,000 animal species with sound recordings at the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds from the USA, which is on the Internet.

From Wired.com in the USA:

Nature Zen: Audio Library of Nature

By Gwen Pearson

10.06.14

Stuck at your desk? Need a soundtrack to mellow out on a Monday? I have just what you need! This hour-long recording of a dawn chorus in the mountains of Costa Rica is lovely to listen to, especially as winter edges closer here in the Northern Hemisphere. You might also like an interlude in a very different sounding forest in Queensland, Australia.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a massive digital repository of cool stuff, and a big piece of it is the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds‘s audio and video recordings of wildlife all over the world. Since 1920 scientists at Cornell have been recording wildlife, at first mostly birds, and then branching out to other animals.

In early 2013, they migrated over 150,000 digital recordings online, dating from 1929 to the present. It’s over 10 terabytes of data, representing more than 9,000 species. This museum has thrown open the doors and invites you into rummage around their collection. Beware, though–this library of natural recordings is huge and addictive.

New conservation Internet site


This video from Jamaica says about itself:

Protecting Pedro – Building Conservation Capacity

24 July 2012

Starting in 2005, The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the Government of Jamaica, has been working on the Pedro Bank to develop conservation solutions; including thorough environmental and social assessments, a management plan and the establishment of a fish sanctuary surrounding Southwest Cay (Bird Cay).

From BirdLife:

New online resource to help meet global conservation challenges

By Martin Fowlie, Tue, 30/09/2014 – 20:45

A new online resource, capacityforconservation.org has been launched that aims to support and strengthen conservation organisations and help them to achieve – and sustain – their conservation and organisational development goals.

The free online tool, created collaboratively by BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the Tropical Biology Association and the University of Cambridge, will help conservation organisations to build and expand on existing knowledge and skills, ultimately helping them to better accomplish their conservation goals.

Capacityforconservation.org already contains tools, resources and case studies gathered by the world’s leading conservation NGOs from around the world. It encourages users to upload their own practical tools, resources and case studies covering various aspects of strategic conservation planning, from finance management, fundraising and communications to organisational governance and project development. These tools allow users to learn from best practice, while sharing their own examples so conservationists around the world can learn from each other, ultimately helping to address the complex conservation challenges faced today.

Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife International’s Interim Chief Executive said, “many organisations within the BirdLife Partnership are seeking to become an even stronger force for nature conservation, both nationally and internationally. I believe that capacityforconservation.org is a fantastic platform to help BirdLife Partners to continue to develop and grow, and achieve their organisational goals.”

Two hundred and forty people have already registered on the website, logging on from 103 countries, from Antigua to Zimbabwe. Resources are available in 18 languages, with more being added by users, and work is underway to translate the site into Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

Capacityforconservation.org was created by with support from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and leading internationally-focussed biodiversity conservation organisations clustered in and around Cambridge, UK.

Bahrain regime arrests human rights defender Nabeel Rajab again


This video is called Nabeel Rajab: Bahrain ‘Bought British Government’s Silence’ Over Human Rights Violations.

From AFP news agency:

October 1, 2014 7:45pm

Bahrain detains top activist over ‘insulting’ tweets

Bahraini police on Wednesday detained prominent rights activist Nabil Rajab after questioning him over remarks posted on Twitter deemed offensive to the security forces, the interior ministry said.

Rajab acknowledged during questioning that he was responsible for the remarks posted on his Twitter account, and “legal measures have been taken to refer him to the general prosecution”, a ministry statement said.

It said Rajab “insulted official bodies in his tweets”.

In one tweet posted on Sunday, Rajab charged that Bahrainis allegedly joining Islamist extremists in Syria were originally members of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s security forces.

“Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator,” he wrote, referring to one acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group.

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was released in May after serving two years in jail for participating in unauthorised protests.

The vocal activist had led anti-government protests following a crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the Al-Khalifa ruling family in March 2011.

See also here.

Bahrain’s Prominent Human Rights Activist Arrested for Criticizing Police Defectors Who Joined ISIS: here.

We, the staff and Advisory Board members of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), call for the immediate release of our colleague Nabeel Rajab, GCHR Director, who has been arrested today in Manama. Rajab, who is also President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), returned home from Europe last night, 30 September, after being away for a couple of months: here.

Nabeel Rajab Arbitrarily Detained. Please ask your [British] MP to support the campaign by writing to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: here.

Media Coverage of Nabeel Rajab Arrest: here.

During his visit to Ireland in late August, Rajab spoke with Malachy Browne about his experience in a Bahraini prison, the failure of western media and governments to support human rights in the Gulf, and the challenges facing the pro-democracy movement which began in earnest in February 2011: here.

Record number of visits to my blog this September


This video is called Create a free Blog or Website on WordPress.com.

August 2014 brought a record number of visits to my blog.

In September 2014, there were even more visits. The most ever during one month: 30,853.

Where did those visits come from?

Top Views by Country for 30 days ending 2014-10-01 (Summarized)

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 20,981
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 2,101
Jamaica FlagJamaica 832
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 698
Sweden FlagSweden 554
Canada FlagCanada 457
Germany FlagGermany 411
France FlagFrance 335
Australia FlagAustralia 319
India FlagIndia 293
Spain FlagSpain 210
Italy FlagItaly 178
Greece FlagGreece 134
Japan FlagJapan 126
South Africa FlagSouth Africa 124
Korea, Republic of FlagRepublic of Korea 112
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand 109
Romania FlagRomania 109
Belgium FlagBelgium 104
Norway FlagNorway 101
Brazil FlagBrazil 93
Ireland FlagIreland 92
Pakistan FlagPakistan 90
Switzerland FlagSwitzerland 87
Philippines FlagPhilippines 87
Turkey FlagTurkey 84
Indonesia FlagIndonesia 80
Malaysia FlagMalaysia 78
Bahrain FlagBahrain 69
Singapore FlagSingapore 65
Poland FlagPoland 65
United Arab Emirates FlagUnited Arab Emirates 65
Sri Lanka FlagSri Lanka 54
Thailand FlagThailand 52
Armenia FlagArmenia 50

Archbishop’s secret child porn archive discovered


Archbishop Wesolowski

From the Corriere della Sera in Italy:

Child Porn Found [on] Former Nuncio’s Computer

Józef Wesołowski knew how to use technology to make illicit internet connections. Grave violation of duties

by Fiorenza Sarzanini

ROME – Monsignor Józef Wesołowski kept a secret archive on a computer at the Santo Domingo nunciature. The 66-year-old Polish former archbishop, arrested three days ago for paedophilia by Vatican gendarmes at the order of Pope Francis, had more than 100,000 files containing pornographic photos and videos. Some were downloaded from internet and others the victims themselves were forced to take. The prelate stored part of this chamber of horrors on his own laptop. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults. Inquiries to discover others involved continue as investigators seek anyone who may have aided Wesołowski to procure minors or taken part in sex acts. The charge sheet explicitly mentions “offences committed in complicity with persons unknown” and case documents make it clear that Vatican investigators have already found evidence that will help them to identify the offenders. The case file pieces together the picture of an affair that looks anything but over and could still produce more spectacular revelations. Wesołowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.

Four volumes and deleted photos

The extent of the network emerges clearly from an expert IT report that reconstructs the activities of the Santo Domingo nuncio, who was recalled by the Holy See a year ago and then defrocked. In the report, experts underline “the particular ability of the defendant to use electronic instrumentation that can be procured for illicit connections. The defendant pursued these actions in a manner that was strongly compulsive”.

Józef Wesołowski had “more than 100,000 files of a sexual nature, to which must be added more than 45,000 deleted images”. Investigators were alerted by the discovery of an archive on a Vatican-owned computer “divided into four volumes and containing about 130 videos and more than 86,000 photographs”. The former archbishop had saved the rest on the laptop he used mainly when he was travelling. The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males.

Network of accomplices and email traffic

The report reconstructs all the relevant data traffic, including visits to gay sites and Wesołowski’s correspondence. Analysis of his network connections, email and other writings stored on the hard disk could reveal the identity of those with whom he exchanged images and provide leads to his accomplices. Investigators are confident that Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, the deacon arrested by Dominican police in June 2013 who subsequently blew the whistle on Wesołowski in a letter to the Vatican hierarchy, is only a pawn in a much bigger game. Now they have extended their inquiries to all the countries where Józef Wesołowski was based before he went to Santo Domingo. Above all, they want to investigate people with whom he was in frequent contact.

Testimony of three children

Wesołowski is believed to have solicited dozens of children but the case file names only three minors and their mothers as prosecution witnesses who have elected to denounce the horror and violence to which the prelate subjected them. They have confirmed what the Dominican police had partially reconstructed with the help of a local TV journalist who had conducted an investigation into Józef Wesołowski’s double life. One of the charges faced by the former priest is that he “acted, as a high-ranking member of the church hierarchy, in grave violation of his institutional duties in such a way as to cause damage to the public image of the state and the Holy See”. This is understood to be what convinced the Pope to approve the exceptional measure of house arrest.

Nuncio claims “I can explain”

When he was brought before prosecutors to be served with a detention order last Tuesday, Wesołowski said he wanted to make a statement: “I can clear my position and explain the mistake”. He was informed that he could do so with a lawyer, even though the evidence against him is overwhelming. It was this that led to action being taken against him so quickly. There was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited. In that case, he would have had to be imprisoned until proceedings with the Holy See were completed. Prosecutors, acting in full collaboration with the Santo Domingo judicial authorities, preferred to avoid this situation. Józef Wesołowski will be questioned in the next few days and could face a fast-track trial, in compliance with international treaties on violence against minors.

English translation by Giles Watson

Article in Italian here

26 September 2014