Isnin, 28 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. spy chiefs face Congress amid spying rift with Europe


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When top U.S. intelligence officials testified at a congressional hearing weeks ago, the public uproar was over the National Security Agency collecting the phone and email records of Americans.

But when the NSA director and other spy chiefs appear at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday it will be against a backdrop of angry European allies accusing the United States of spying on their leaders and citizens.

The most prominent target appears to have been German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose mobile phone was allegedly tapped by the NSA.

More than any previous disclosures from material given to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the reports of spying on close U.S. allies have forced the White House to promise reforms and even acknowledge that America's electronic surveillance may have gone too far.

"We recognize there needs to be additional constraints on how we gather and use intelligence," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate's intelligence committee, joined the ranks of critics on Monday, expressing outrage at U.S. intelligence collection on allies, and pique that her committee was not informed.

"With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies - including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany -let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed," said Feinstein, who appeared to confirm U.S. spying on Merkel's communications since 2002.

The White House is conducting a review of intelligence programs prompted by disclosures about top secret spying programs to the media by Snowden, who is living in Russia, out of reach of U.S. attempts to arrest him.

NSA Director General Keith Alexander, NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Attorney General James Cole will testify at an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee at 1:30 p.m. (17:30 p.m. British time) on Tuesday.

Their testimony will cover NSA programs and potential changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates electronic eavesdropping.

"The House Intelligence Committee continues to assess a number of proposals to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections to further build the confidence of the American public in our nation's FISA programs," said Susan Phalen, spokeswoman for Republican committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted a similar hearing in late September at which Feinstein said proposals included putting limits on the NSA's phone metadata program, prohibiting collection of the content of phone calls, and legally requiring that intelligence analysts have a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that a phone number was associated with terrorism in order to query the database.

Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe, said the administration needed to be more proactive in handling the uproar.

"The administration has been completely reactive to these leaks," she said.

The allegations of U.S. spying on Merkel and other leaders are likely to have a lasting impact on relations, Conley said.

In the last several years, Europeans have been disappointed with the Obama administration over its failure to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and its use of drone strikes to kill terrorism suspects. The spectacle of the recent federal government shutdown also dented U.S. prestige in Europe.

"It's just raising really big doubts, uncertainties and question marks about not only the president's leadership but whether the United States is a reliable ally," Conley said.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Steve Holland; Editing by Warren Strobel and Paul Simao)

China probes Xinjiang connection to Tiananmen car deaths


BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police are looking for two suspects from its restive Xinjiang region in connection with a "major incident", after five people were killed and dozens injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians and caught fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Police in the capital are asking local hotels about suspicious guests who had checked in since Oct 1 and named two suspects it said were from Xinjiang in a notice issued on Monday night, four hotels told Reuters.

Judging by their names, the suspects appeared to be ethnic Uighurs, who are Turkic-speaking Muslims from Xinjiang, a province in the far west of China. Many Uighurs chafe at Chinese controls on their culture and religion.

"To prevent the suspected persons and vehicles from committing further crimes ... please notify law enforcement of any discovery of clues regarding these suspects and the vehicles," said the notice, which was widely circulated on Chinese microblogs.

The notice also listed four car licence plates from Xinjiang.

Beijing police, contacted by telephone, declined to comment.

Calls to the Xinjiang government went unanswered.

Police said on Monday that the car veered off the road at the north of the square, a major tourist attraction, crossed the barriers and caught fire almost directly in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City, in front of a huge portrait of the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong.

The three people in the car died, as well as two tourists.

China says it grants Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms and accuses extremists of separatism.

Many rights groups say China has long overplayed the threat posed to justify its tough controls in energy-rich Xinjiang, which lies strategically on the borders of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom, writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

New Australia government upholds ban on China's Huawei


SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's newly elected conservative government is upholding the ban on China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd tendering for work on the country's $38 billion National Broadband Network (NBN), the attorney-general said on Tuesday.

The former Labour government cited cyber-security concerns when it banned Huawei, the world's largest supplier of telecoms network equipment by revenue, from bidding for contracts on the infrastructure rollout last year.

Some senior officials in the new Liberal-led Coalition government, including Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, have supported a review of the ban, raising expectations it would be scrapped.

But Attorney-General George Brandis said that after due consideration the government had decided not to change the policy, citing new briefings from Australia's national security agencies.

The move is likely to rile major trading partner China in the midst of negotiations on a free trade agreement, while pleasing Australia's traditional ally the United States where lawmakers have warned against awarding Huawei major contracts over spying fears.

"Since the election the new government has had further briefings from the national security agencies. No decision has been made by the new government to change the existing policy," Brandis said in an email to Reuters.

"The decision of the previous government not to permit Huawei to tender for the NBN was made on advice from the national security agencies. That decision was supported by the then opposition after we received our own briefings from those agencies," he said.

The government would not comment on advice from the national security agencies, he added.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee last year described Huawei as a national security threat and urged American firms to stop doing business with the Shenzhen-based company. Huawei has denied the U.S. lawmakers' allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for espionage.

The British government said in July that checks on Huawei's role in British telecommunications infrastructure had been "insufficiently robust" in the past, and announced a review of security at a cyber centre the company runs in southern England.

Huawei spokesman Jeremy Mitchell said the company believed the Australian government was still reviewing its policy.

"Huawei's understanding is that no decision has been made regarding the NBN and that the review is ongoing," Mitchell said in an emailed response after Brandis released his statement.

Huawei has become a significant market force in Australia. It supplies equipment to Singapore Telecom's local unit Optus as well as Vodafone, and has conducted trials with Australia's biggest telco company, Telstra Corp Ltd.

The company, founded in 1987 by former People's Liberation Army officer Ren Zhengfei, last year proposed building a cyber security evaluation centre in Australia.

It has also employed former senior Liberal Party officials as part of its lobbying effort to overturn Australia's ban.

(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Stephen Coates)


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