‘Brainwashed’ children of Islamist fighters worry Germany-spy chief

Math and English textbooks found in Islamic State facility that trained children

By Andrea Shalal and Sabine Siebold

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s domestic intelligence chief wants the government to review laws restricting the surveillance of minors to guard against the children of Islamist fighters returning to the country as “sleeper agents” who could carry out attacks.

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV agency, told Reuters that security officials were preparing for the return of Islamic State fighters to Germany along with potentially “brainwashed” children, although no big wave appeared imminent.

Nearly 1,000 people are believed to have left Germany to join up with the Islamist militants. As the group’s presence in the Middle East crumbles, some are returning with family members.

Only a small number of the 290 toddlers and children who left Germany or were born in Syria and Iraq had returned thus far, Maassen said. Many were likely to still be in the region, or perhaps moving to areas such as Afghanistan, where Islamic State remains strong.

He said Germany should review laws restricting surveillance of minors under the age of 14 to prepare for the increased risk of attacks by children as young as nine who grew up in Islamic State schools.

“We see that children who grew up with Islamic State were brainwashed in the schools and the kindergartens of the IS,” he said. “They were confronted early with the IS ideology … learned to fight, and were in some cases forced to participate in the abuse of prisoners, or even the killing of prisoners.”

He said security officials believed such children could later carry out violent attacks in Germany.

“We have to consider that these children could be living time bombs,” he said. “There is a danger that these children come back brainwashed with a mission to carry out attacks.”

Maassen’s comments were the first specific estimate of the number of children affected, following his initial warning in October that such children could pose a threat after being indoctrinated in battlefield areas.

The radicalization of minors has been a big topic in Germany given that three of five Islamist attacks in Germany in 2016 were carried out by minors, and a 12-year-old boy was also detained after trying to bomb a Christmas market in Ludwigshafen.

The German government says it has evidence that more than 960 people left Germany for Iraq and Syria through November 2017 to fight for the Islamic State jihadist group, of which about a third are believed to have returned to Germany. Another 150 likely died in combat, according to government data.

Maassen said Islamic State also continued to target vulnerable youths in Germany through the Internet and social media, often providing slick advertising or age-appropriate propaganda to recruit them to join the jihadist group.

“Islamic State uses headhunters who scour the Internet for children that can be approached and tries to radicalize these children, or recruit these children for terrorist attacks,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

House to vote to renew NSA’s internet surveillance program

An illustration picture shows the logo of the U.S. National Security Agency on the display of an iPhone in Berlin, June 7, 2013.

By Dustin Volz

(Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on Thursday on whether to renew the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program, which has been the target of privacy advocates who want to limit its impact on Americans.

The vote is the culmination of a yearslong debate in Congress on the proper scope of U.S. intelligence collection, one fueled by the 2013 disclosures of classified surveillance secrets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The bill would extend the NSA’s spying program for six years with minimal changes. Most lawmakers expect it to become law if it prevails in the House, although it still would require Senate approval and President Donald Trump’s signature.

Trump appeared on Thursday to initially question the merits of the program, contradicting the official White House position and renewing unsubstantiated allegations that the previous administration of Barack Obama improperly surveilled his campaign during the 2016 election.

“This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” the president said in an early morning post on Twitter.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request to clarify Trump’s tweet but he posted a clarification less than two hours later.

“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!” Trump tweeted.

Unmasking refers to the largely separate issue of how Americans’ names kept secret in intelligence reports can be revealed.

Asked by a Reuters reporter at a conference in New York about Trump’s tweets, Rob Joyce, the top White House cyber official, said there was no confusion within Oval Office about the value of the surveillance program and that there have been no cases of it being used improperly for political purposes.

Some conservative, libertarian-leaning Republicans and liberal Democrats were attempting to persuade colleagues to include more privacy protections. Those would include requiring a warrant before the NSA or other intelligence agencies could scrutinize communications belonging to Americans whose data is incidentally collected under the program.

The White House, U.S. intelligence agencies and Republican leaders in Congress have said they consider the tool indispensable and in need of little or no revision.

Without congressional action, legal support for Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes the program, will expire next week, although intelligence officials say it could continue through April.

Section 702 allows the NSA to eavesdrop on vast amounts of digital communications from foreigners living outside the United States through U.S. companies such as Facebook Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

The spying program also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas, and can search those messages without a warrant.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)

Vietnam unveils 10,000-strong cyber unit to combat ‘wrong views’

Men use computers at an internet cafe in Bim Son town, outside Hanoi, Vietnam May 15, 2017.

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has unveiled a new, 10,000-strong military cyber warfare unit to counter “wrong” views on the Internet, media reported, amid a widening crackdown on critics of the one-party state.

The cyber unit, named Force 47, is already in operation in several sectors, Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the military’s political department, as saying at a conference of the Central Propaganda Department on Monday in the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

“In every hour, minute, and second we must be ready to fight proactively against the wrong views,” the paper quoted the general as saying.

Communist-ruled Vietnam has stepped up attempts to tame the internet, calling for closer watch over social networks and for the removal of content that it deems offensive, but there has been little sign of it silencing criticism when the companies providing the platforms are global.

Its neighbor China, in contrast, allows only local internet companies operating under strict rules.

The number of staff compares with the 6,000 reportedly employed by North Korea. However, the general’s comments suggest its force may be focused largely on domestic internet users whereas North Korea is internationally focused because the internet is not available to the public at large.

In August, Vietnam’s president said the country needed to pay greater attention to controlling “news sites and blogs with bad and dangerous content”.

Vietnam, one of the top 10 countries for Facebook users by numbers, has also drafted an internet security bill asking for local placement of Facebook and Google servers, but the bill has been the subject of heated debate at the National Assembly and is still pending assembly approval.

Cyber security firm FireEye Inc  said Vietnam had “built up considerable cyber espionage capabilities in a region with relatively weak defenses”.

“Vietnam is certainly not alone. FireEye has observed a proliferation in offensive capabilities … This proliferation has implications for many parties, including governments, journalists, activists and even multinational firms,” a spokesman at FireEye, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

“Cyber espionage is increasingly attractive to nation states, in part because it can provide access to a significant amount of information with a modest investment, plausible deniability and limited risk,” he added.

Vietnam denies such charges.

Vietnam has in recent months stepped up measures to silence critics. A court last month jailed a blogger for seven years for “conducting propaganda against the state”.

In a separate, similar case last month, a court upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a prominent blogger.

(Reporting by Mi Nguyen in HANOI; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre in BANGKOK and Eric Auchard in FRANKFURT; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie)

PTL Shop is Coming in January! Faith Based Shopping just for you!

PTL Shop

By Kami Klein

Beginning Tuesday, January 2nd PTL Shop will be LIVE from 4pm to 8pm Central Monday through Friday for the month of January!  Your hosts will be Tammy Sue, Mondo, Ricky, Lil’ Lori and many more from the Bakker Family, the PTL Band and singers as well as some of our amazing staff.  They can’t wait to show you some outstanding deals, none of which can be found anywhere else!  

PTL shop offers apparel and jewelry, Christian books and media, wonderful products for health and beauty, beautiful and useful products for your home and garden, and some brand new gizmos and gadgets you just have to see!  Now you can join us every Monday through Friday in January to ring in the New Year AND celebrate Pastor Jim’s birthday as well!    

Every day, we will offer great deals with incredible prices, all from the convenience of your home!  Mark your calendars for Tuesday January 2nd at 4pm Central to begin this journey with us on YOUR Faith Based Home shopping network!  Go to ptlshop.com and simply push the “Watch Live” button to take you on a truly fun and bargain filled shopping adventure!  You can also tune in with your Roku or Apple TV by going to the PTL Television Network channel and watching the Live Stream. Remember, check us out Monday through Friday beginning January 2nd at 4pm Central to celebrate 2018 the faith based way!!

 

Vietnam unveils 10,000-strong cyber unit to combat ‘wrong views’

An internet user browses through the Vietnamese government's new Facebook page in Hanoi December 30, 2015.

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has unveiled a new, 10,000-strong military cyber warfare unit to counter “wrong” views on the Internet, media reported, amid a widening crackdown on critics of the one-party state.

The cyber unit, named Force 47, is already in operation in several sectors, Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the military’s political department, as saying at a conference of the Central Propaganda Department on Monday in the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

“In every hour, minute, and second we must be ready to fight proactively against the wrong views,” the paper quoted the general as saying.

Communist-ruled Vietnam has stepped up attempts to tame the internet, calling for closer watch over social networks and for the removal of content that it deems offensive, but there has been little sign of it silencing criticism when the companies providing the platforms are global.

Its neighbor China, in contrast, allows only local internet companies operating under strict rules.

The number of staff compares with the 6,000 reportedly employed by North Korea. However, the general’s comments suggest its force may be focused largely on domestic internet users whereas North Korea is internationally focused because the internet is not available to the public at large.

In August, Vietnam’s president said the country needed to pay greater attention to controlling “news sites and blogs with bad and dangerous content”.

Vietnam, one of the top 10 countries for Facebook users by numbers, has also drafted an internet security bill asking for local placement of Facebook and Google servers, but the bill has been the subject of heated debate at the National Assembly and is still pending assembly approval.

Cyber security firm FireEye Inc said Vietnam had “built up considerable cyber espionage capabilities in a region with relatively weak defenses”.

“Vietnam is certainly not alone. FireEye has observed a proliferation in offensive capabilities … This proliferation has implications for many parties, including governments, journalists, activists and even multinational firms,” a spokesman at FireEye, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

“Cyber espionage is increasingly attractive to nation states, in part because it can provide access to a significant amount of information with a modest investment, plausible deniability and limited risk,” he added.

Vietnam denies such charges.

Vietnam has in recent months stepped up measures to silence critics. A court last month jailed a blogger for seven years for “conducting propaganda against the state”.

In a separate, similar case last month, a court upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a prominent blogger.

(Reporting by Mi Nguyen in HANOI; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre in BANGKOK and Eric Auchard in FRANKFURT; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie)

U.S. regulators ditch net neutrality rules as legal battles loom

U.S. regulators ditch net neutrality rules as legal battles loom

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, setting up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape.

The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal in a 3-2 vote marked a victory for internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access. It also is the biggest win for Pai in his sweeping effort to undo many telecommunications regulations since taking over at the agency in January.

Democrats, Hollywood and companies such as Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content. The new rules give internet service providers sweeping powers to change how consumers access the internet but must have new transparency requirements that will require them to disclose any changes to consumers.

The meeting, held amid protests online and in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington, was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after law enforcement with sniffer dogs checked the room.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the administration “supports the FCC’s efforts. At the same time, the White House certainly has and always will support a free and fair internet.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement he will lead a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the reversal.

Shares of Alphabet, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp moved lower after the vote.

The FCC said the rules would take effect in a few months after the White House Office of Management and Budget formally approves them.

Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed and stifled competition and innovation among service providers.

“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia,” he said on Thursday.

NEXT STEPS

Consumers are unlikely to see immediate changes but smaller startups worry the lack of restrictions could drive up costs or lead to their content being blocked.

Internet service providers say they will not block or throttle legal content but may engage in paid prioritization. They argue that the largely unregulated internet functioned well in the two decades before the 2015 order.

Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly noted that self-driving vehicles and remotely monitored medical procedures may require internet service and that their needs could be given priority “over cat videos.”

O’Rielly said it is unlikely any internet provider would voluntarily submit to a “PR nightmare” by “attempting to engage in blocking, throttling or improper discrimination. It is simply not worth the reputation cost.”

Still, Democrats have pointed to polls showing a repeal is deeply unpopular and say they will prevail in protecting the rules, either in the courts or in U.S. Congress.

Immediately after the vote, Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat, said he and 15 other senators planned to introduce a resolution to undo the FCC action and restore the net neutrality rules.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said in a written dissent released on Thursday that the decision grants internet providers “extraordinary new power” from the FCC.

“They have the technical ability and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic,” she said. “And now this agency gives them the legal green light to go ahead.”

Several state attorneys general said before the vote they would oppose the ruling, citing issues with the public comment period. Other critics have said they will consider challenging what they see as weaker enforcement.

The 2015 rules were intended to give consumers equal access to web content and prevent broadband providers from favoring their own content. Those practices are now allowed as long as they are disclosed.

The broadband industry cheered the move. USTelecom, a lobbying group representing internet providers and broadband companies said after the vote they had “renewed confidence” to make network investments, particularly in rural communities.

On the other side, the trade group Internet Association, whose members include content providers Alphabet, Facebook and Pandora Media Inc, said “the fight isn’t over” and that it was weighing legal options in a lawsuit against the FCC order.

A University of Maryland poll had found more than 80 percent of respondents opposed a repeal. The survey of 1,077 registered voters was conducted online by the Program for Public Consultation from Dec. 6-8.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Diane Bartz, Katanga Johnson; Writing by Chris Sanders; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Bill Trott)

Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality rules

Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality rules

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, setting up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape.

The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal marks a victory for internet service providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access.

Democrats, Hollywood and companies like Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai, a Republican appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, to keep the Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

Consumer advocates and trade groups representing content providers have planned a legal challenge aimed at preserving those rules.

The meeting was evacuated before the vote for about 10 minutes due to an unspecified security threat, and resumed after sniffer dogs checked the room.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said in the run-up to the vote that Republicans were “handing the keys to the Internet” to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed and stifled competition and innovation among service providers.

“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success,” he said on Thursday.

The FCC voted 3-2 to repeal the rules.

Consumers are unlikely to see immediate changes resulting from the rule change, but smaller startups worry the lack of restrictions could drive up costs or lead to their content being blocked.

Internet service providers say they will not block or throttle legal content but that they may engage in paid prioritization. They say consumers will see no change and argue that the largely unregulated internet functioned well in the two decades before the 2015 order.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Chris Sanders; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Meredith Mazzilli)

Federal Communications Commission set to reverse net neutrality rules

Federal Communications Commission set to reverse net neutrality rules

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to rescind net neutrality rules championed by Democratic former President Barack Obama that barred the blocking or slowing of internet traffic.

The 2015 rules barred broadband providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more for certain content. They were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to web content and prevent broadband service providers from favoring their own content. Chairman Ajit Pai proposes allowing those practices as long as they are disclosed.

Internet service providers clashed with Democrats and celebrities like “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill ahead of a vote this week as the battle over net neutrality stretched from Hollywood to Washington.

Protesters including some members of Congress are expected to rally outside the FCC in Washington before the vote.

Pai’s proposal marks a victory for big internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc that opposed the rules and gives them sweeping powers to decide what web content consumers can get. It is a setback for Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc, which had urged Pai not to rescind the rules.

Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman who heads a trade group representing major cable companies and broadcasters, told reporters that internet providers would not block content because it would not make economic sense and consumers would not stand for it.

“They make a lot of money on an open internet,” Powell said, adding it is “much more profitable” than a closed system. “This is not a pledge of good-heartedness, it’s a pledge in the shareholders’ interest.”

A University of Maryland poll released this week found that more than 80 percent of respondents opposed the proposal. The survey of 1,077 registered voters was conducted online by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland from Dec. 6-8.

Democrats have said the absence of rules would be unacceptable and that they would work to overturn the proposal if it is approved. Advocates of the net neutrality rules also plan a legal challenge.

Pai’s proposal is “like letting the bullies develop their own playground rules,” said Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Many Republicans back Pai’s proposal but want Congress to write net neutrality rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the FCC would “return the internet to a consumer-driven marketplace free of innovation-stifling regulations.”

A group of nearly 20 state attorneys general asked the FCC to delay the vote until the issue of fake comments is addressed.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker)

U.S. agency prepares to hand over internet oversight to FTC

U.S. agency prepares to hand over internet oversight to FTC

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to turn over oversight of internet service providers to another federal agency as it plans to vote on Thursday to revoke the landmark 2015 “net neutrality” rules.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last month unveiled plans to repeal the rules that prohibit internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content. The 2015 rules bar broadband providers from blocking or slowing access to web content.

On Monday, the FCC and Federal Trade Commission said they plan to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate efforts under the new rules. The agencies said the proposal will “return jurisdiction to the FTC to police the conduct of ISPs.”

Pai said Monday in a statement the agencies “will work together to take targeted action against bad actors.”

Under Pai’s proposal, the FCC would no longer bar any specific internet provider practice but require companies to disclose if they block, throttle or offer paid prioritization of internet traffic.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said the agreement “is a confusing, lackluster, reactionary afterthought: an attempt to paper over weaknesses in the chairman’s draft proposal repealing the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules.”

The FTC will investigate if internet providers fail to make accurate disclosures or if they engage in deceptive or unfair acts or practices. “The FTC is committed to ensuring that Internet service providers live up to the promises they make to consumers,” said Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said “FTC enforcement would happen long after the fact — many months, if not years, after consumers and businesses have been harmed.”

Chris Lewis, vice president of advocacy group Public Knowledge, said the FCC is “joining forces with the FTC to say it will only act when a broadband provider is deceiving the public. This gives free reign to broadband providers to block or throttle your broadband service as long as they inform you.”

Democrats and net neutrality advocates plan a series of protests ahead of Thursday’s vote. Pai’s proposal has already won the backing of the three Republicans on the five-member commission. The reversal represents a victory for big internet providers such as AT&T Inc <T.N>, Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O> and Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N> that opposed the 2015 rules.

Pai’s proposal is opposed by large internet companies including Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O> and Facebook Inc <FB.O>.

The new rules are expected to take effect in January and draw court challenges.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Marguerita Choy)

Over half of public comments to FCC on net neutrality appear fake: study

Over half of public comments to FCC on net neutrality appear fake: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than half of the 21.7 million public comments submitted to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission about net neutrality this year used temporary or duplicate email addresses and appeared to include false or misleading information, the Pew Research Center said on Wednesday.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump, proposed in April to scrap the 2015 landmark net neutrality rules, moving to give broadband service providers sweeping power over what content consumers can access.

Pai has said the action would remove heavy-handed internet regulations. Critics have said it would let internet service providers give preferential treatment to some sites and apps and allow them to favor their own digital content.

From April 27 to Aug. 30 the public was able to submit comments to the FCC on the topic electronically. Of those, 57 percent used either duplicate email addresses or temporary email addresses, while many individual names appeared thousands of times in the submissions, Pew said.

For example, “Pat M” was listed on 5,910 submissions, and the email address john_oliver@yahoo.com was used in 1,002 comments. TV host John Oliver supported keeping net neutrality earlier this on his HBO talk show.

The flood of purportedly fake comments has made it difficult to interpret the public’s true thinking on net neutrality and has even spurred New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate for the last six months who posted the comments to the FCC website.

Pew did not say how many of the comments supported or opposed the FCC’s proposal. With three Republican and two Democratic commissioners, the FCC is all but certain to approve the repeal.

Pew found that only 6 percent of submitted comments were unique while the rest had been submitted multiple times, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of times.

Thousands of identical comments were also submitted in the same second on at least five occasions. On July 19 at precisely 2:57:15 p.m. ET, 475,482 comments were submitted, Pew said, adding that almost all were in favor of net neutrality.

“In fact, the seven most-submitted comments (six of which argued against net neutrality regulations) comprise 38 percent of all the submissions over the four-month comment period,” the study said.

Pew said its analysis of the submissions “present challenges to anyone hoping to understand the attitudes of the concerned public regarding net neutrality.”

The regulatory agency will vote at a Dec. 14 meeting on Pai’s plan to rescind the rules championed by Democratic former President Barack Obama.

The rules bar broadband providers from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging consumers more for certain content, and treated internet service providers like public utilities.

(Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)