Recent News from ACT! for America

Published: September 12

SAN FRANCISCO — Anonymous is not so anonymous anymore.

The computer hackers, chat-room denizens and young people who make up the loosely affiliated Internet collective have drawn the attention of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal investigators.

What was once a small group of pranksters has become a potential national security threat, federal officials say.

The FBI has carried out more than 75 raids and arrested 16 people this year in connection with illegal hacking claimed by Anonymous.

Since June, Homeland Security has issued three “bulletins” warning cybersecurity professionals of hacking successes and future threats by Anonymous and related groups — including a call in Manhattan to physically occupy Wall Street on Sept. 17 to protest various U.S. government policies.

San Francisco police arrested more than 40 protesters last month during a rowdy demonstration organized by Anonymous that disrupted the evening commute. The group called for the demonstration after the Bay Area Rapid Transit system blocked cellphone service in San Francisco stations to quell a planned protest over a police shooting on a subway platform.

“Anonymous’ activities increased throughout 2011 with a number of high-profile attacks targeting both public- and private-sector entities,” one of the bulletins issued last month said.

Some members of the group have called for shutting down Facebook in November over privacy issues, though other Anonymous followers are disavowing such an attack, underscoring just how loosely organized the group is and how problematic it is to police.

“Anonymous insist they have no centralized operational leadership, which has been a significant hurdle for government and law enforcement entities attempting to curb their actions,” an Aug. 1 Homeland Security bulletin noted. “With that being said, we assess with high confidence that Anonymous and associated groups will continue to exploit vulnerable publicly available Web servers, Web sites, computer networks and other digital information mediums for the foreseeable future.”

Followers posting to Twitter and conversing on Internet Relay Chat insist there are no defined leaders of Anonymous and that it’s more of a philosophy than a formal club, though a small group of members do the most organizing online.

“Anonymous is not a group, it does not have leaders, people can do ANYTHING under the flag of their country,” wrote one of the more vocal members who asked not to be identified.

“Anything can be a threat to National Security, really,” the member said in an e-mail interview. “Any hacker group can be.”

Some members ‘dangerous’

The member said that the group as a whole is not a national security threat but conceded that some individuals acting under Anonynous’s banner may be considered dangerous.

DHS’s latest bulletin, issued Sept. 3, warned that the group has been using social-media networks to urge followers working in the financial industry to sabotage their employers’ computer systems.

The DHS warning comes on the heels of several Anonymous-led protests of the San Francisco Bay area’s transit agency that led to FBI raids of 35 homes and dozens of arrests, as well as to the indictment of 14 followers in July on felony computer hacking charges in connection with a coordinated “denial-of-service attack” against PayPal’s Web site last year.

Security officials said the “DoS” attacks occur when a Web site is overwhelmed by malicious messages from thousands of followers, usually with easily downloadable software.

“Anonymous has shown through recently reported incidents that it has members who have relatively more advanced technical capabilities who can also marshal large numbers of willing, but less technical, participants for DDoS [distributed denial of service] activities,” the August DHS bulletin said.

Anonymous orchestrated the crashing of PayPal late last year after the online financial service suspended WikiLeaks’ account after the Web site published confidential diplomatic cables and other sensitive U.S. government intelligence. The group also targeted Visa, MasterCard and others for the same reason and has carried out several other hacks during the year. Last month, for example, the group claimed responsibility for hacking a Web site belonging to the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency and releasing the personal information of 2,000 passengers.

Investigators suspect a splinter Anonymous group known as LulzSec was responsible for a June 15 denial of service attack on the CIA’s public Web site.

This summer, Anonymous claimed credit for hacking into a Booz Allen Hamilton Web site and leaking the e-mail addresses of 90,000 U.S. military personnel and hacking a Monsanto Web site and releasing the personal data of 2,500 employees.

On July 19, the FBI fanned out across the United States and raided more than 35 homes, seizing dozens of computers and arresting 16 on charges that they participated in the PayPal attack.

In response, Anonymous said it hacked a Web site on Sept. 1 belonging to police chiefs in Texas. The group posted personal information such as e-mails about internal investigations before the site was shut down.

FBI investigators in court filings said that the raids and arrests were made from a list of 1,000 computer users that PayPal cybersecurity workers identified as the most active attackers. The 14 who appeared in San Jose federal court pleaded not guilty and were released on bail after promising not to access Twitter, Facebook or other social-media sites.

— Associated Press
Credit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-authorities-take-on-anonymous-hackers/2011/09/11/gIQAYrhgMK_print.html 

 

New Report Highlights Economic Threat of Weak U.S. Cyber Security

An Intelligence and National Security Alliance report on cyber attacks outlines vulnerabilities in computer networks across private industry, and calls for a systematic response to prevent the harm these weaknesses could inflict on the U.S. economy.

Catherine Dunn
Corporate Counsel
September 13, 2011
A new report on cyber intelligence and cyber attacks outlines overlapping vulnerabilities in computer networks across private industry and the U.S. government, and calls for a systematic response that would prevent the harm these weaknesses could inflict on national security and the economy.

According to the white paper released on Monday by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA)—a non-partisan organization that represents elite leaders in the U.S. intelligence community—coordinated efforts across the private sector, academia, and the government would "mitigate risks associated with the threat, enhance our ability to assess the effects of cyber intrusion, and streamline cyber security into a more efficient and cost-effective process based on well-informed decisions."

The paper, "Cyber Intelligence: Setting the Landscape for an Emerging Discipline," [PDF] was slated to be released later this month, but after the Associated Press reported on a preview of the paper, INSA decided to publish the report on its website earlier than planned.

The report tallies the potential cost of damages to cyber infrastructure and the pressing need for the government to share its insights into the "threat space" with the "very industries that own and operate over 90 percent of the telecommunications' infrastructure and operations."

Such attacks can be debilitating for citizens and businesses alike:
 
Civilian 'casualties' and collateral damage are very likely. For example, attacks on critical infrastructure, like electricity, can have second- and third-order effects on hospitals, emergency services, and other unintended victims. Cyber threats can breach touch-points between government unclassified and classified systems.
 
Over and over again, the report stresses the interconnectivity between government and private systems. Because the multi-dimensional cyber environment is made up of "spatial, physical, logical, and social layers," potential perpetrators have a wide latitude for attack, the report states. Consider, for example, wireless devices, whose user base includes the military, law enforcement, shoppers, drivers, and many other people "using GPS-enabled devices."

"In the absence of a completely new Internet architecture, the public and private sectors are intrinsically linked, interdependent, and must collectively devise and adopt solutions to be effective," the report says.
 
The Associated Press points out:
 
The report comes amid growing worries the U.S. is not prepared for a major cyber attack, even as hackers, criminals and nation states continue to probe and infiltrate government and critical business networks millions of times a day. . .Many of the report's observations echo sentiments expressed by Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security officials who have been struggling to improve information sharing between the government and key businesses. But efforts to craft needed cyber security legislation have stalled on Capitol Hill.
 
Last week, Northrop Grumman's CEO, Wes Bush, called for more regulations focused on cyber security, prompting some surprise that a business executive would make such a pro-regulation recommendation.

"What [Bush] was pointing out is that cyber attacks are becoming much more frequent," said Randy Belote, a spokesperson for Northrop Grumman. "What Mr. Bush was suggesting is we need to think about cyber security in the same way we think about national defense."

Belote said while he would expect regulations to have some level of effect on industry, "I wouldn't consider the impacts necessarily negative." He said that input from the private sector, academia, and the government could generate regulations that would still allow for industry and innovation to "flourish."

The Obama Administration submitted a legislative proposal, to mixed reviews, on cyber security to Congress in May. The proposal proffered stricter penalties for cyber crimes and clarified the Department of Homeland Security's powers with regard to cyber security; but it was also criticized by opponents for giving "the government unprecedented access to private data," as Grant Gross wrote in Computerworld.

In July, a Republican Congressional task force was convened to develop a Republican point of view regarding cyber security legislation, according to Kevin Gronberg, senior counsel for the House Committee on Homeland Security, who was part of a cyber security panel during the Technology Policy Institute Aspen Forum in August.

"It's a long road," said Gronberg, referring to the quest to arrive at a comprehensive legislative package on cyber security. "I think there is some momentum that is building in the House finally. And I think we'll be able to get something in the next year or so."

Credit: http://www.law.com/jsp/cc/PubArticleFriendlyCC.jsp?id=1202514151376
 
 TORONTO - It was probably no surprise to the Dalai Lama that his participation at the Second Global Conference on World’s Religions, organized by Montreal’s McGill University, caused unease among some.

To others, it was par for the course for His Holiness.

Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress who is heroic in his opposition to Muslim extremism, feared that the Dalai Lama might be duped into supporting radical Islam.

While my respect for Fatah is undiminished, I doubt after a lifetime of standing up to Beijing’s oppression and lies, that the Dalai Lama is likely to be either naïve or duped.

The inclusion of radical Swiss-born Tariq Ramadan at the conference was also controversial — and maybe concern is justified, although to me he seems rational and balanced when he advocates that Muslims have a duty to obey the laws of the countries they live in.

If that attitude were adopted by all Muslims, instead of just most, there’d be no trouble with blending in and being accepted.

Designed to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, where the conference raised some eyebrows was the hope of organizer Arvind Sharma (a professor of religion at McGill) that there’d be agreement that violating the sanctity of any religion violates the sanctity of all religions.

If you think about that for a moment, it not only makes no sense but is a grotesque insult to those religions that are above reproach, or guilty of nothing.

To Tarek Fatah, saying religions are immune from criticism is a justification or rationale for the imposition of Sharia law, which wittingly or not, denigrates women and justifies their continuing oppression.

And a religious faith can be so corrupted or misused that it undermines the trust and integrity of that religion. That is what Islamic fundamentalists, jihadists, extremists, have done to Islam.

It’s up to Muslims to rescue their faith from those who abuse it.

The controversial Mr. Ramadan is on record saying that Sharia law should be amended to fit with the laws of countries in which Muslims live, and that the draconian penalties (death by stoning, amputations, etc.) should be softened according to satisfy societies in which offenders reside.

Critics of Tariq Ramadan say he changes his tune according to the audience he addresses, and that he’s plausible and dangerous. Perhaps, but much of what he’s written or has said sounds reasonable. If he’s a dangerous radical, he disguises it well.

As it turned out, the Dalai Lama reminded people that “your enemy is your best teacher” which, one supposes, is another way of saying that you can learn from those who oppose you. By following a path of gentle, persistent, non-violent resistance the Dalai Lama drives Beijing nuts.

The idea that by bringing all religions together at a conference can advance world peace is a noble ideal, but not if select religions are deemed immune from criticism. Or accountability.

The greatest terrorist threat in today’s world comes from Islamic extremists. To deny that reality is to perpetrate a deception.

Moderate Muslims seem to be slowly responding to the challenge to take their religion back from the extremists who are doing so much harm.

Tarek Fatah and Salim Mansur are voices of sanity and hope, but if they remain lonely, courageous symbols, the enemies of tolerance and decency will continue to prevail.

Toronto Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/2011/09/08/religion-cant-be-free-from-criticism

 
 Lawsuit being prepared on behalf of ministers excluded from 9/11 event
Posted: September 08, 2011
9:35 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WND

There's been criticism of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to exclude clergy from this weekend's 10th anniversary events marking the day the Islamic terrorists struck New York, Washington and in Pennsylvania in 2001, killing almost 3,000.

It's come from the religious right and left both. Some 62,000 Americans signed petitions assembled by theFamily Research Councilasking him to relent. Jay Sekulow of theAmerican Center for Law and Justicewrote that the United States "has a long and cherished history of prayer, from the first prayer in Congress in 1774 to the National Day of Prayer celebrated each year. Even the Supreme Court acknowledges our religious heritage."

But all apparently without impact on the mayor who made the decision.

Now, however, a new incentive is coming into Bloomberg's world: A lawsuit that challenges his decision on the basis of the 1st Amendment's freedom of speech and religion provisions.

"What he is doing is sending a message that radical Islam takes precedence over the Judeo-Christian tradition in New York City and throughout the country. He's sending a message that terrorists are welcome in New York City. That's not the message that one should be sending on 9/11," said attorney Larry Klayman, who founded Judicial Watch and now is ofFreedom Watch.

"His actions are an absolute disgrace to all Americans, whatever their race, color or creed," he said.

He said his clients – who will be plaintiffs in the legal action that is being prepared for filing as early as tomorrow – include Bishop Dan Johnson, a member of the "World Bishops Council" who on the early morning hours of 9/11 had arrived in Manhattan.

According to his story, he was resting when his wife called concerned about an airplane accident. He immediately responded to offer his help, and was asked by the New York Police Department to set up the first morgue in the financial district.

He kept records of victims brought in, performed last rites on the dead and prayed for them, and has participated in every 9/11 ceremony at Ground Zero since.

"Originally I was invited to attend this year's 9/11 ceremony as a first responder, just like I was every year since 2001," Bishop Johnson told former U.S. Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who also is involved in the case.

"But then I heard Mayor Bloomberg banned clergy, so it took five phone calls to his office before [a Bloomberg senior staffer] asked me if I was going to wear my clerical collar. I said I planned to dress just like I did the previous nine years, so she replied 'they' prefer you not attend. And that was it. I was disinvited."

"Disinvited because of his religion, his clergyman status, and his faith in Jesus Christ. Bishop Dan Johnson is a hero who faces arbitrary and illegal persecution and discrimination for religion by the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg," Klingenschmitt, who runs the Pray In Jesus Name organization, said.

Sekulow noted that when America was attacked, thousands gathered for the "Prayer in America" event at Yankee Stadium for a united time of seeking God.

"There's a growing chorus of Americans – religious and non-religious alike – calling on Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his decision," Sekulow said. "And in the past week, we have heard from thousands of Americans who have signed our letter urging Mayor Bloomberg to change his mind. He still has time to act. He should clear the way for clergy and religious leaders to participate – to pray for our nation, and to pray for those who are still suffering from the pain and loss of Sept. 11, 2001."

There are other plaintiffs who also may join in the action, Klayman told WND.

Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said there are clegy members who also are trying to have a public prayer service at Ground Zero on Saturday, Sept. 10.

"In the dark days after 9/11, millions of Americans turned to God in prayer for strength, comfort, guidance and assurance. This was especially true for those who lost loved ones," he said. "It is extremely troubling for Mayor Bloomberg to exclude public prayer and expressions of faith from the 9/11 memorial service.

"In response to his tragic decision by the mayor, we felt it was imperative to have a public prayer service at Ground Zero during the 9/11 weekend," he said.

Rev. Rob Schenck, of the National Clergy Council, joined the sentiment.

"On Sept. 11, 2001, millions of Americans did the most important and natural thing in the face of such an enormous tragedy, they prayed. In the days following, they went to church to pray, to remember, to grieve, to cry," he said. "Pastors around the nation spent countless hours comforting the bereaved, assuring their flocks, engaging in acts of compassion and speaking words of hope.

"The absence of both at this week's 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero may seem like a reasonable situation to some, but it will only compound the pain and loss for some many others. Our intention is to address that need in the hearts and minds of so many affected by the pain of that infamous day."

The Associated Press speculated that perhaps Bloomberg's decision was prompted by his effort to dodge the controversial issue of including a representative of Islam, in whose name the terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers, part of the Pentagon and apparently tried to hit either the White House or Capitol.

A Bloomberg spokeswoman, Evelyn Erskine, told the wire service the program includes moments of silence.

"Rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate, we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died," Erskine told AP.

But Cathy Cleaver Ruse, of the FRC, said, "Before Todd Beamer uttered his now iconic last words, 'Let's roll,' he recited the Lord's Prayer with Lisa Jefferson, the GTE Airfone operator. Yet there is no place for this or any prayer at Mayor Bloomberg's event.

"When our country was attacked, Americans didn't say: 'Oh, Great Politicians, please hold a press conference!' No, they turned to God for help and solace. It was and is their natural response to a great tragedy," she continued.

"Banning religion from the memorial of this tragedy is, in fact,unnaturalfor America, and for Americans. It's hollow and strange. It feels like an attempt to scrub the history books of the importance that God and faith played on that day and afterwards, and even to rewrite our long-cherished tradition as a nation of elected officials including clergy and invoking God at every point of crisis.

"Government can only do so much, politicians can only do so much. The presence of politicians and presidents will not make up for the absence of prayer and pastors."

Pamela Geller, author of the new "Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance," said the Sunday anniversary events are nothing more than a "whitewash" of the Islamic enemy trying to destroy America.

Geller, of Atlas Shrugs and a key leader in planning Sunday's second annualFreedom Rallyat 3 p.m. at Park Place and West Broadway, told WND tens of thousands, including first responders and members of the clergy, are expected to be in attendance.

The focal point will not be obfuscated, either, by high-sounding calls to "service" and advocacy for "tolerance," she warned.

"If we don't understand who wants to destroy our country, our way of life and civilization, how can we possibly be able to defeat them," she asked.

The event is being assembled by her American Freedom Defense Initiative, and its Stop the Islamization of America Program, as well as Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch.

"We must show the jihadists we are unbowed in the defense of freedom," she said.



Read more:Bloomberg facing legal challenge to censorship of faithhttp://www.wnd.com/?pageId=343005#ixzz1XUlWSnMp
 

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