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Archive for abbottabad pakistan

Auctioning off the internet to the UN

WASHINGTON: It is expected to be the mother of all cyber diplomatic battles.

When delegates gather in Dubai in December for an obscure UN agency meeting, fighting is expected to be intense over proposals to rewrite global telecom rules to effectively give the United Nations control over the Internet.

Russia, China and other countries back a move to place the Internet under the authority of the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency that sets technical standards for global phone calls.

US officials say placing the Internet under UN control would undermine the freewheeling nature of cyberspace, which promotes open commerce and free expression, and could give a green light for some countries to crack down on dissidents.

Observers say a number of authoritarian states will back the move, and that the major Western nations will oppose it, meaning the developing world could make a difference.

“The most likely outcome is a tie, and if that happens there won’t be any dramatic changes, although that could change if the developing countries make a big push,” said James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But there is a lot of discontent with how the Internet is governed and the US will have to deal with that at some point.”Lewis said there was still an overwhelming perception that the US owns and manages the Internet.

Opponents have a “powerful argument” to create a global authority to manage the Internet, Lewis said, but “we need to find some way to accommodate national laws in a way that doesn’t sacrifice human rights.” Terry Kramer, the special US envoy for the talks, has expressed Washington’s position opposing proposals by Russia, China and others to expand the ITU’s authority to regulate the Internet.

“The Internet has grown precisely because it has not been micro-managed or owned by any government or multinational organization,” Kramer told a recent forum.

“There is no Internet central office. Its openness and decentralization are its strengths.”The head of the ITU, Hamadoun Toure, said his agency has “the depth of experience that comes from being the world’s longest established intergovernmental organization.” Toure wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian that any change in regulation should “express the common will of ITU’s major stakeholders” and “find win-win solutions that will act as a positive catalyst.” But Harold Feld of the US-based non-government group Public Knowledge said any new rules could have devastating consequences.

“These proposals, from the Russian Federation and several Arab states, would for the first time explicitly embrace the concept that governments have a right to control online communications and disrupt Internet access services,” Feld said on a blog post.

“This would reverse the trend of the last few years increasingly finding that such actions violate fundamental human rights.”Paul Rohmeyer, who follows cyber-security at the Stevens Institute of Technology, pointed to a “sense of anxiety” about the meeting in part because of a lack of transparency.

He said it was unclear why the ITU is being considered for a role in the Internet.

“The ITU historically has been a standards-setting body and its roots are in the telecom industry. I’m not familiar with anything they’ve done that’s had an impact on the Internet today,” Rohmeyer told AFP.

And the analyst noted that the significance of extending “governance” of the Internet to the ITU remains unclear.

Some observers point out that the ITU hired a Russian security firm to investigate the Flame virus, which sparked concerns about the dangers in cyberspace and the need for better cyber-security cooperation.

Rohmeyer said it was unclear whether a conspiracy was at hand, but that “the suggestion that the Internet is a dangerous place could be used to justify greater controls.” Observers are also troubled by a proposal by European telecom operators seeking to shift the cost of communication from the receiving party to the sender. This could mean huge costs for US Internet giants like Facebook and Google.

“This would create a new revenue stream for corrupt, autocratic regimes and raise the cost of accessing international websites and information on the Internet,” said Eli Dourado of George Mason University.

Milton Mueller, a professor of information studies at Syracuse University who specializes in Internet governance, said most of the concerns are being blown out of proportion.

Mueller said the ITU “already recognizes the sovereign right of nations to restrict communications into and out of the country.”

“What gets lost in the confusion over content regulation is that the real motive of most of the reactionary governments is to protect themselves from economic competition caused by telecom liberalization and deregulation, of which the Internet is only one part,” he said.

Source: Dawn News


Pakistan orders Save the Children foreign workers to leave

Aid group is accused of being used as cover for US spies while they were hunting for Osama bin Laden

Pakistan has given foreigners working for Save the Children a week to quit the country after becoming convinced the aid organisation was used as cover by US spies hunting Osama bin Laden.

The leading aid group had been under suspicion from authorities ever since a doctor accused of assisting the CIA in its search for the al-Qaida leader claimed that Save the Children had introduced him to US intelligence officers.

But now Pakistani officials claim they have “concrete proof” backing up the story of Shakil Afridi, the doctor from the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan who confessed to the ISI, the country’s military spy agency, after being arrested last year.

Although both Save the Children and the US government have always denied any relationship between the CIA and the aid organisation, Pakistani officials say they are fully justified in expelling the few foreign staff still working in the country.

The six foreigners will have to leave by next Wednesday. The former country director, David Wright, left on Monday.

A Pakistani intelligence official said evidence had been found showing “spies” at the NGO had “engaged” Afridi, who is currently serving a 33-year jail term.

“Pakistan carried out a thorough investigation involving all our leading agencies,” he said. “It was one of the longest investigations in our history.”

“It is a very serious matter and the foreign staff were asked to leave only after concrete proof was uncovered.”

The expulsions come despite lobbying by western diplomats on behalf of Save the Children, which has been working in impoverished areas of the country for decades, including during the devastating 2010 floods when it assisted more than 3 million people. Diplomats have argued that the organisation had no involvement with the CIA, but have stopped short of denying that intelligence officers may have used Save the Children as a front.

The CIA imposes some restrictions on itself over what cover its agents can use in the field. It is not known whether limits are placed on the use of foreign NGOs.

Members of the foreign aid community fear the claim that a leading NGO became entangled – even unwittingly – in the activities of the CIA could endanger staff and affect operations around the world.

Critics say the widely publicised story has already affected efforts to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against polio, the devastating disease that Pakistan is struggling to eradicate.

Many Pakistanis were deeply suspicious of outside doctors coming to their areas even before Afridi, who used to run anti-polio campaigns, became publicly associated with the CIA.

Save the Children recently restructured, merging previously autonomous branches run from the US, the UK and Sweden. The new organisation has been in protracted negotiations with the government about its future, with Pakistan so far refusing to sign an agreement formalising its operations in the country.

The organisation’s trouble began after Afridi was arrested in the aftermath of the US raid on 2 May last year that killed Osama bin Laden.

Afridi is accused of setting up a bogus hepatitis B vaccination campaign in the area to try to pinpoint bin Laden’s exact location.

Pakistani officials say blood samples, which it had been hoped would be collected from people living in the Abbottabad house where the terrorist leader was thought to be hiding, were to be tested by the CIA for genetic matches to bin Laden.

Although Afridi never succeeded in persuading the occupants of the crowded building to give blood, his collaboration with a foreign intelligence service is regarded as an act of treason by Pakistan’s security establishment.

Foreigners working in the country, including diplomats and aid workers, have been under intense suspicion ever since.

Embassies and aid groups have complained of harassment, tight restrictions on the movement of their staff and acute difficulty obtaining visas.

The operations of Save the Children were particularly badly hit.

A spokesman said it was still “urgently seeking clarification” over a letter it received from the Interior Ministry ordering staff out of the country.

“Like many other NGOs in Pakistan, there have been ongoing problems with documentation over the last 15 months,” he said.

“However, Save the Children in Pakistan employs just six expatriates out of a workforce of almost 2,000 people. We will continue with our daily work helping millions of children across Pakistan. We have been operating in the country for the last 30 years and currently support 7 million people – the vast majority women and children.”

Source: Guardian News