FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington speaks at the the British Chamber of Commerce annual conference in London, Britain, March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
April 25, 2019
GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) – Britain will not consider high risk equipment vendors in security critical parts of its next-generation 5G networks, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Thursday.
Sources told Reuters on Wednesday Britain’s National Security Council had decided this week to bar China’s Huawei Technologies from all core parts of the 5G network and restrict its access to non-core parts.
Speaking at a cyber security conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Lidington said Britain had rigorous procedures to manage risk in its telecoms infrastructure and the government’s decision was based on “evidence and expertise not supposition or speculation.”
“We will not countenance high risk vendors in those parts of the UK’s 5G network that perform critical security functions,” he said.
“The government approach is not about one company or even one country, it is about ensuring stronger cyber security across telecoms, greater resilience in telecoms networks and more diversity in the supply chain.”
(Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Michael Holden; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)
The White House should put a halt to a program that surveils Americans’ phone calls and text messages because it’s not worth the effort, the National Security Agency is arguing.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the NSA told the Trump administration that the program, which will expire in December pending Congressional action, is not proving to be effective.
The first iteration of the surveillance program began after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. It was altered in 2015 via the USA Freedom Act, but the Journal reported that issues with compliance have dragged it down.
“The candle is not worth the flame,” a former senior intelligence official told the Journal.
It was reported in March that the data collection program had not been used in months. It was originally designed to hunt for terror suspects.
The government said after the passage of the USA Freedom Act that it would destroy the bulk phone data collected via the original program.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Iran will continue to find buyers for its oil and use the Strait of Hormuz to transport it, the country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, warning that if the United States tries to stop Tehran, then it should “be prepared for the consequences.”
“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif also told an event at the Asia Society in New York.
“If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences,” he said, without giving specifics.
The United States on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.
Oil prices hit their highest level since November on Tuesday after Washington announced all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.
When asked if the U.S. pressure campaign on Tehran was aimed at sparking further negotiations or regime change, Zarif said: “The B team wants regime change at the very least.” He described the B Team as including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton.
“We’re allergic to pressure,” he said, adding in a message to the Trump administration: “Try the language of respect, it won’t kill you, believe me.”
Zarif also said that Iran had told the U.S. administration six months ago that it was open to a prisoner swap deal, but had not yet received a response.
“All these people that are in prison inside the United States … we believe their charges are phony. The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phony. Let’s not discuss that,” he said.
“Let’s have an exchange. I’m ready to do it and I have authority to do it,” Zarif said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)
A woman reacts during a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
April 24, 2019
By Shihar Aneez, Ranga Sirilal, Joe Brock and Sanjeev Miglani
COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan intelligence officials were tipped off about an imminent attack by Islamist militants hours before a series of suicide bombings killed more than 300 people on Easter Sunday, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Three churches and four hotels were hit by suicide bombers on Sunday morning, killing 321 people and wounding 500, sending shockwaves through an island state that has been relatively peaceful since a civil war ended a decade ago.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on Tuesday, without providing evidence of its involvement.
Indian intelligence officers contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches, one Sri Lankan defense source and an Indian government source said.
Another Sri Lankan defense source said a warning came “hours before” the first strike.
One of the Sri Lankan sources said a warning was also sent by the Indians on Saturday night. The Indian government source said similar messages had been given to Sri Lankan intelligence agents on April 4 and April 20.
Sri Lanka’s presidency and the Indian foreign ministry both did not respond to requests for comment.
Sri Lanka’s failure to effectively respond to a looming Islamist threat will fuel fears that a rift between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena is undermining national security.
The president fired Wickremesinghe last October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.
Opposing factions aligned to Wickremesinghe and Sirisenahave often refuse to communicate with each other and blame any setbacks on their opponents, government sources say.
Sri Lankan police had been warned weeks ago about a possible attacks by a little-known domestic Islamist group, according to an Indian intelligence report given to Sri Lankan state intelligence services, and seen by Reuters.
Sirisena, announcing plans on Tuesday to change the heads of the defense forces, said his office never received the Indian report.
Junior Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, an ally of Wickremesinghe, told Reuters that he was also not privy to the Indian intelligence findings.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez, Ranga Sirilal, Joe Brock and Sanjeev Miglani; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Alex Richardson)
The chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee says the White House is in “open defiance” of his panel after lawyers advised a former official to ignore a subpoena related to the committee’s investigation of White House security clearances .
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said he is consulting with other lawmakers and staff about scheduling a vote to hold former White House personnel security director Carl Kline in contempt of Congress after Kline did not show up on Tuesday for a scheduled deposition. The committee subpoenaed Kline after one of his former subordinates told the panel that dozens of people in President Donald Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds.
The fight over Kline’s appearance comes as the White House has stonewalled the panel in several different investigations. On Monday, Trump and his business organization sued Cummings to block a subpoena that seeks years of the president’s financial records. The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington, said a subpoena from Cummings “has no legitimate legislative purpose” and accuses Democrats of harassing Trump.
The administration also appears sure to defy a demand from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns by the close of business on Tuesday. Neal hasn’t announced next steps after sending two letters to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig demanding Trump’s taxes, but he could opt next to issue a subpoena to enforce his demand, sent under a 1924 law that requires the Treasury secretary to furnish any tax return requested by a handful of lawmakers with responsibility over the IRS.
Cummings said on Tuesday in a statement that “it appears that the president believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight.”
He said the White House “has refused to produce a single piece of paper or a single witness” in any of the panel’s investigations this year. Democrats took control of the House in January.
In a series of letters over the past month between the White House, the oversight committee and Kline’s lawyer, the White House demanded that one of its lawyers attend the deposition to ensure executive privilege was protected. Cummings rejected that request. The White House then ordered Kline, who now works at the Pentagon, to defy the subpoena.
Cummings said that the committee has for years required that witnesses are represented only by their own counsel.
“There are obvious reasons we need to conduct our investigations of agency malfeasance without representatives of the office under investigation,” Cummings said.
The oversight panel has been investigating security clearances issued to senior officials, including Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former White House aide Rob Porter.
Tricia Newbold, an 18-year government employee who oversees the issuance of clearances for some senior White House aides, told the committee earlier this year that she compiled a list of at least 25 officials who were initially denied security clearances last year because of their backgrounds. But she says senior Trump aides overturned those decisions, moves that she said weren’t made “in the best interest of national security.”
According to a committee memo, Newbold said the disqualifying issues included foreign influence, conflicts of interest, financial problems, drug use, personal conduct and criminal conduct.
Newbold said she raised her concerns up the chain of command in the White House to no avail. Instead, she said, the White House retaliated, suspending her in January for 14 days without pay for not following a new policy requiring that documents be scanned as separate PDF files rather than one single PDF file. Kline was Newbold’s supervisor.
Newbold said that when she returned to work in February, she was cut out of the security clearance process and removed from a supervisory responsibility.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
April 23, 2019
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Wing Aviation unit on Tuesday got the okay to start delivering goods by drone in Virginia later this year, making the sister unit of search engine Google the first company to get U.S. air carrier certification, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
This means Wing can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes, which includes flights beyond visual line of site and over people, the FAA and Wing said. Wing Aviation plans to start commercial package delivery in Blacksburg, Virginia later this year.
Wing partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech, as one of the participants in the Transportation Department’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.
“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
The FAA said Wing demonstrated that its operations met the agency’s safety requirements, based on extensive data and documentation, as well as thousands of safe flights conducted in Australia. Wing plans to reach out to the local community before it begins a food delivery trial, to gather feedback, the FAA said.
Wing has recently begun commercial air delivery service in the north of Canberra, Australia and is also about to begin its first trial in Europe, delivering to homes in Helsinki, Finland.
Wing said its data shows a lower risk to pedestrians from drone deliveries than the same trip made by car.
In May 2018, Chao announced it had approved 10 projects to help it assess how to regulate drones and integrate them safely into U.S. air space. The United States has lagged other countries in experimentation with drones, something the program hopes to correct.
In January, the FAA proposed rules that would allow drones to operate over populated areas and end a requirement for special permits for night use. The FAA is also considering moving ahead with additional rules in response to public safety and national security concerns as it works to integrate drones with airplane traffic.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)
Polling officers wait to collect the election materials at a distribution centre ahead of third phase of general elections in Ahmedabad, India April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave
April 23, 2019
By Devjyot Ghoshal
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Voting began in the third and largest phase of India’s staggered general election on Tuesday, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat and southern Kerala, where opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting.
In all, 188 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in 117 constituencies during the day – across 15 states and federally-controlled territories.
The general election, which has seven phases, began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
“This is, sort of, an inflection point,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the New Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Policy Research, with more than half of India’s parliamentary constituencies having voted by the end of the third phase. The country’s parliament has 545 members.
So far, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has aggressively pushed Modi’s national security record as it seeks to offset the opposition’s charges of economic mishandling, inadequate jobs creation and widespread farm distress.
“I think job creation, sustainable development, and communal harmony should be the top priorities for the upcoming government,” said Ubaidullah Mohyideen, 26, who voted on Tuesday in Kerala’s Wayanad, one of the two seats that Gandhi is contesting.
At an election rally in western Maharashtra state on Monday, Modi mentioned the attacks on Sri Lankan hotels and churches on Easter Sunday that killed 290 people before saying India’s security had been enhanced after his government came to power in 2014.
“Friends, remember what India’s situation was before 2014,” Modi said. “Weren’t there bombs going off in different corners of the country every other day?”
Verma said Modi’s repeated reference to the Sri Lankan attacks were a sign that the BJP would double down on the security issue for the remainder of the election campaign, which the prime minister began as a front-runner amid escalated tensions with neighboring Pakistan.
“I feel BJP is hell-bent on running this campaign on national security,” Verma said. “Basically if they bring up any other thing, they would be on a difficult terrain, like on economic issues or on their performance.”
In late February, Modi sent warplanes to Pakistan to bomb a purported training camp in response to a suicide attack in India-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian paratroopers. The attack was claimed by an Islamist militant group based in Pakistan.
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil; Editing by Martin Howell and Michael Perry)
A person in an Easter Bunny costume looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
April 22, 2019
By David Alexander and Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump dismissed questions from reporters on Monday about his staff’s reluctance to carry out his orders and the chances of impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Congress, days after the Mueller report highlighted both issues.
The 448-page report from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election revealed staff and associates sometimes ignored requests from Trump to deliver messages, including one to fire Mueller.
“Nobody disobeys me,” Republican Trump said when asked if he was worried about his orders not being followed. He made the remark at the White House during an annual Easter celebration.
Mueller’s report said that the 22-month investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians during the 2016 election campaign, but Mueller did find “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”
According to the report, White House Counsel Don McGahn had been on the brink of resigning when Trump told him to ask Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. Trump then denied using the word “fire,” according to McGahn’s retelling to Mueller.
Trump lashed out at the report on Twitter later on Monday.
“Isn’t it amazing that the people who were closest to me, by far, and knew the Campaign better than anyone, were never even called to testify before Mueller,” Trump wrote.
Mueller’s report drew upon interviews, notes and communications with Trump advisers. Trump’s personal lawyer during the campaign, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to crimes as did campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller’s report drew upon dozens of interviews, notes and communications with White House advisers.
Asked on Monday whether he was concerned about the threat of impeachment on allegations of obstruction of justice as some Democrats have called for, Trump said, “Not even a little bit.”
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Friday said Congress should begin the process of removing Trump from office. Other Democratic leaders have played down talk of impeachment, just 18 months before the 2020 election.
Republicans have stood by Trump and while an impeachment effort might succeed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, it was unlikely to do so in the Republican-led Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday House Democrats’ views vary on how to proceed.
Trump, speaking from the White House balcony on Monday, returned to favorite topics of his by touting the strong United States economy and saying his administration was rebuilding the military “to a level never seen before.”
“Our country is doing fantastically well, probably the best it has ever done economically,” he said.
(Reporting by David Alexander and Alexandra Alper; writing by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Grant McCool)
FILE PHOTO: A smartphones with Sprint logo are seen in front of a screen projection of T-mobile logo, in this picture illustration taken April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
April 22, 2019
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior executives at T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp made the case to U.S. officials in Washington last week that they should approve a planned tie-up between the two wireless companies, arguing a combined firm would have incentives to “aggressively lower prices.”
T-Mobile US Chief Executive John Legere, Sprint executive chairman Marcelo Claure, T-Mobile US chief operating officer Michael Sievert, and other senior executives met with Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on Thursday, according to a federal filing on Monday.
In a presentation made public on Monday, the firms said they would “focus on taking share from Verizon and AT&T through lower prices.”
If completed, the $26 billion merger would create a carrier with 127 million customers that would be a formidable competitor to the No.1 and No.2 wireless players, Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T, respectively.
A group of eight Democratic senators and independent Senator Bernie Sanders in February urged the Justice Department and FCC to reject the deal, saying monthly bills for consumers could rise as much as 10 percent. Consumer advocates warn the deal will reduce the number of national wireless carriers to three from four.
Sources told Reuters last week that the Justice Department had concerns about the merger in its current structure.
A person briefed on the matter confirmed Legere met on Thursday with the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, as the government’s review nears a conclusion. A decision is likely by early June, people briefed on the matter said.
The Justice Department declined comment.
T-Mobile has said the combined company would be better and faster at building 5G, the next generation of wireless, to compete with AT&T and Verizon.
In its presentation to Rosenworcel, T-Mobile cited Verizon’s decision to charge $10 extra per month for 5G service. “This won’t happen when new T-Mobile introduces 5G,” the presentation said.
The agreement to combine the carriers, struck in April 2018, was approved by both companies’ shareholders in October and has received national security clearance, but still needs approval from the Justice Department and FCC. A number of state attorneys general are also reviewing the deal.
To win support for the deal, T-Mobile had said it would not increase prices for three years and has pledged to use some spectrum for wireless broadband in rural areas. The firms say the combined entity would add 11,000 additional employees by 2024 compared to the standalone firms.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)