Tagged: Egypt

Vodafone report further inflames global surveillance debate

Telecommunications company Vodafone’s report on government surveillance of its customers in 29 countries reveals more than first meets the eye – and is raising questions from Dublin to Delhi about how much spying on email and telephone chats happens in secret.

In Friday’s report Vodafone said most countries required the company’s knowledge and cooperation to hear phone calls or see emails, but at least six governments have given their security agencies the power of direct access.

Vodafone didn’t identify the countries that have tapped into its network, but the report provided some clues. An 88-page appendix reveals that five countries – Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland and Qatar – have provisions that allow authorities to demand unfettered access.

In vague language, the report also indicated similar powers could exist in India and the United Kingdom, too.

In too many cases, Vodafone said, governments kept both the company and wider society in the dark about what was happening, with laws explicitly forbidding government disclosure of any details of its electronic eavesdropping…

Wiretapping of phones and accessing of call records for law-enforcement purposes is a decades-old and accepted practice even in the most open democracies. With backing from courts, police can request cooperation from phone companies to access communications.

But in developing countries such as Congo, Ghana and Lesotho, Vodafone said it cannot support wiretapping, because governments haven’t requested the technology.

Vodafone’s report comes one year after former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden revealed that U.S. and other countries’ intelligence agencies indiscriminately gathered and stored data from phone calls and Internet communications…

Vodafone’s report is also seen as a response to the company’s embarrassing role in the Egyptian protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. As those protests raged, the government forced Vodafone to bombard its Egyptian subscribers with propaganda text messages. The company said it had no choice but to comply, but was severely criticized for its actions.

Here’s the Vodafone report at their website.

If you’re not old enough to recall – there was a time in the United States when courts ruled in favor of the privacy of citizens and Congress and the White House didn’t succeed in sucking info from communications without express judicial permission.

I was part of a class action suit that won victory over the city where I lived, the local police department, the regional phone company – and the FBI – for illegal wiretapping. The creeps even tapped my parents’ phone in case I made any subversive calls when I dropped by for Sunday dinner.

Not anymore, man!

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Why Mohamed El-Erian left Pimco – to be a proper dad

Betty Liu, Mohamed El-Erian
Click for video [possibly after a commercial]

One of the leading political economists in the world staggered everyone when he walked away from PIMCO. Long accepted as next in line – ready to take over full countrol of the world’s largest bond investing firm when Bill Gross retires – people were shocked when Mohamed El-Erian left with no plans for his next career, no move to another investment firm.

His first interview in the four months since he departed PIMCO was this morning – with Betty Liu of Bloomberg TV. And while it’s all interesting to economics and politics geeks, the most memorable moment was him describing the interaction with his 11-year-old daughter that really provoked this change.

Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi prepares for first trip to U.S. as president

Egypt is keen to strengthen its “strategic relations” with the US, and work is currently underway to prepare for the first official visit by President Mohamed Morsi to Washington, the Egyptian ambassador to the US, Mohamed Tawfik, told Ahram Online.

In an interview given to Ahram Online by phone from his office in the US capital, Tawfik, who took up his ambassadorial post in September, said that the recent re-election of US President Barack Obama could ” help keep a good pace for the upgrading of relations between the two countries” given that the current US administration, despite expected changes, is well aware of the details of Cairo-Washington ties and of the demands that Egypt has made to the US.

“Ultimately Egypt and the US do have strategic ties and ultimately it is in the interest of the US as a world power and Egypt as the central Arab state to pursue cooperation on issues of common interest; but certainly continuity is useful at this point in time,” said Tawfik.

Cairo, according to its ambassador in Washington, is going to pursue the immediate processing of an economic aid package that the US promised in the first quarter of 2011.

“The transfer of an aid package of $450 million is a priority that we are currently working on; this is the first instalment of a wider aid package that the US has promised,” Tawfik said. He added that action is already being taken and that the US administration is working with the US Congress to finalise the matter soon…

However, as Tawfik stresses, there is more than simply aid at stake.

“Upgrading trade relations, especially through granting Egyptian products better access to American markets, and encouraging direct US investment in Egypt, are also matters that we would like to pursue actively with the US,” he added.

Economy, Tawfik insisted, is a top priority in Egyptian-American relations, given that it is clearly a priority for the Egyptian state at this point in time. But this economic interest, he added, does not undermine the political cooperation between Cairo and Washington, especially in relation to regional issues – the Arab-Israeli issue being a permanent priority.

Xenophobes, the whole range of nutballs that spawned birthers in the Republican Party will suffer exploding bowels over a visit from Egypt’s new president. Democratic elections have little or nothing to do with their ideology. Middle Eastern nations that have their first democratic election in decades are still expected to rejoice over Israeli’s apartheid politics, stand hat-in-hand waiting patiently for whatever largesse Congress deems appropriate.

The new era of global relationships, in fact, isn’t run as an exclusive American-controlled club. There are dozens of other free and independent nations waiting for the United States to participate in commerce as equals – or get out of the way.

Mohamed Morsi issues wholesale pardon for political protesters

Egyptian protesters detained and tried in incidents relating to the country’s uprising have received a blanket pardon from the president, Mohamed Morsi, to mark his first 100 days in office.

All felony convictions or attempted crimes “committed to support the revolution and its goals” were to be pardoned, the decree stated, with the exception of murder cases.

The pardon covers the period from the onset of the revolt against the regime of Hosni Mubarak on 25 January 2011 through the army-led transitional period that ended on 30 June 2012, when Morsi assumed office.

…”He might sincerely see that the people he is pardoning did a lot to bring him to power. Without the revolution there wasn’t a chance that Morsi would be president, and it wouldn’t have happened without the support and participation of the Egyptian people,” said Elijah Zarwan…

…The pardon will not extend to those detained during the clashes at the US embassy in September when irate protesters breached the embassy walls after the release of a film in the US deemed offensive to Islam and the prophet Muhammad…

Good politics, good sense and a good start to a new era. Let’s hope Egypt can continue on a course to democracy and progress.

Palestine is the number one global issue says President Morsi

Egypt’s new president on Wednesday hit out at Israel over its veiled threats to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and the deadlock in the Middle East peace process.

President Mohamed Morsi received a rousing ovation for his first speech to the 193-member UN General Assembly since becoming Egypt’s first civilian, democratically elected leader in June.

Without specifically mentioning Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal, Morsi said the Middle East “no longer tolerates” any country’s refusal to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “especially if this is coupled with irresponsible policies or arbitrary threats.”

“The acceptance by the international community of the principle of pre-emptiveness or the attempt to legitimize it is in itself a serious matter and must be firmly confronted to avoid the prevalence of the law of the jungle,” Morsi said…

Morsi also put the Israel-Palestinian conflict ahead of the Syria war in the list of priorities he laid out before the General Assembly.

“The first issue which the world must exert all its efforts in resolving, on the basis of justice and dignity, is the Palestinian cause,” Morsi said.

He said that UN resolutions on the conflict had not been implemented and that Palestinians “must also taste the fruits of freedom and dignity” that other countries in the Arab region have won in the past year.

“It is shameful that the free world accepts, regardless of the justifications provided, that a member of the international community continues to deny the rights of a nation that has been longing for decades for independence,” Morsi said.

“It is also disgraceful that settlement activities continue on the territories of these people.”

The Palestinians have refused to hold direct talks with Israel for the past two years because of Israel’s refusal to halt settlement activities in the occupied territories.

It’s election time in the United States; so, the mindset of our out-of-date politicians demands statements and a belief that American Jews will vote in a bloc on questions regarding Israel. I don’t think that has been true for decades.

Given that our foreign policy hasn’t strayed from the side of dictatorships, lebensraum for Israel, guaranteed profits for Big Oil since the late 1940’s — I don’t expect principled changes from Congress or the White House anytime soon. Arm-twisting from American citizens is as necessary here as it ever has been for peace and civil rights.

Mohamed Morsi explains new terms for US-Arab relations

On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.

We see right out of the gate what is politically correct for Washington flunkies. Morsi has made it clear that he represents a broader constituency than his Muslim background – yet, the TIMES sticks to the War-on-Terror mantra calling him Islamist.

A former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi sought in a 90-minute interview with The New York Times to introduce himself to the American public and to revise the terms of relations between his country and the United States after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic but reliable ally.

He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.

If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.

And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.

“We took our time” in responding to avoid an explosive backlash, he said, but then dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators.

“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees were never in danger…

Mr. Morsi…said the United States should not expect Egypt to live by its rules…“If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”

He suggested that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, but would not be as compliant as Mr. Mubarak either.

“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he said, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians…

A view of history shared by almost all of the educated world, Western or otherwise. Including those who think it should be so.

“The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop. Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.”

He added, “We are behaving according to the Egyptian people’s choice and will, nothing else — is it clear..?”

I’m not any more confident about Barack Obama adopting an objective world view or turning American foreign policy towards democracy and fairness – than I would be over Romney and the Kool Aid Party. Imperial greed and arrogance have been central to our foreign policy since we supported the last ditch efforts of British and French colonialism right after World War 2. We continued that criminal behavior from Iran and Guatemala through VietNam to Iraq. Neither of our political parties missed a beat. Nor do I expect them to do so until and unless our elected officials are qualitatively changed.

Egypt’s President Mursi “retires” 70 generals

Seventy generals in the Egyptian armed forces are to be retired, the government has announced.

The move comes weeks after President Mohammed Mursi replaced the defence minister and the chief of staff…However, six of the generals will keep their positions on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Some analysts say Mr Mursi is asserting his authority over the army. There has so far been little adverse reaction from the military establishment.

Defence Minister Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who was appointed in President Mursi’s military reshuffle last month, announced the changes…

In July, SCAF formally handed over power to Mr Mursi, Egypt’s first ever democratically elected president.

At the same time as the reshuffle, Mr Mursi issued a decree voiding an interim constitutional declaration from June that gave SCAF broad executive and legislative powers…

It’s a beginning. Not unusual – except in that it succeeded. The act speaks well for President Mursi and, hopefully, it speaks well for the generals who appear to have cooperated with the decision.

Nothing cynical about recognizing the number of times nations reaching out for democracy and liberty have been frustrated by generals who officially cooperate – and then takeover via military coup.

Mohamed Morsi defies Egypt’s military in a fiery speech before tens of thousands in Tahrir Square


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president-elect, took a symbolic oath of office during a rousing speech in Cairo, promising dignity and social justice to a crowd of tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square.

Morsi opened his speech by addressing himself to “the Muslims and Christians of Egypt,” and promised to preserve a civil state.

“We will complete the journey in a civil state, a nationalist state, a constitutional state, a modern state,” he told the crowd, to applause and cheers.

Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood official, promised to end torture and discrimination, and to deliver social justice for millions of Egyptians.

He insisted that “no institution will be above the people,” critiquing an army which has sought to shield itself from parliamentary oversight. “You are the source of authority,” he told the crowd…

He will take office amidst a great deal of political uncertainty. He swore to uphold the constitution, but Egypt still does not have a permanent constitution, only a series of “constitutional declarations” issued by the ruling generals.

The SCAF generals and their tame high court dissolved parliament before the recent election. Under civil conditions that would be where Morsi would be sworn in as president. Instead the official swearing-in ceremony will be before that high court. Mohamed Morsi made it clear he doesn’t recognize either the shutdown of Parliament or the quasi-private ceremony.

He took his own ceremony to the people in Tahrir Square where so much of Egypt’s uprising against Hosni Mubarak was centered. And the people of Egypt responded in the tens of thousands to cheer the peoples’ version of the swearing-in of their new president.

Two candidates lead the final stretch for presidency of Egypt


Amr Mousa election posters
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Egypt enters the last stage of its first democratic presidential race on Monday with its field narrowing to a two-horse race between the urbane former head of the Arab League and a charismatic Islamist medic jailed for years under Hosni Mubarak.

A poll published in state-run al-Ahram daily on Monday showed veteran diplomat Amr Moussa in the lead, followed by Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, who has emerged in recent days as the leading Islamist candidate after securing the support of the ultra-conservative Salafist movement.

Both men are well ahead of 11 other candidates and, for now, look the most likely to face each other in a second round. That would give Egyptians a stark choice about the future of the Arab world’s most populous state.

Moussa, 75, served for a decade as Mubarak’s foreign minister before taking over the leadership of the Arab League, and must win over voters skeptical of the old elite.

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Egypt’s first elections absent Mubarak peaceful, high turnout

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Egyptians voted Monday in the first election since a popular revolt toppled Hosni Mubarak’s one-man rule, showing new-found faith in the ballot box that may sweep long-banned Islamists into parliament even as army generals cling to power…

The ruling army council, which has already extended polling to a second day, kept voting stations open an extra two hours until 9 p.m. “to accommodate the high voter turnout…”

Parliament’s lower house will be Egypt’s first nationally elected body since Mubarak’s fall and those credentials alone may enable it to dilute the military’s monopoly of power.

A high turnout throughout the election would give it legitimacy. Despite a host of reported electoral violations and lax supervision exploited by some groups, election monitors reported no systematic Mubarak-style campaign to rig the polls…

Oppressed under Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties have stood aloof from those challenging army rule in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere, unwilling to let anything obstruct a vote that may bring them closer to power…

Nevertheless, the Brotherhood has formidable advantages that include a disciplined organization, name recognition among a welter of little-known parties and years of opposing Mubarak…

Many voters engaged in lively political debate as they waited patiently in long queues…

The world is closely watching the election, keen for stability in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, owns the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia, and which in Mubarak’s time was an ally in countering Islamist militants in the region…

Individual winners are to be announced Wednesday, but many contests will go to a run-off vote on December 5. List results will not be declared until after the election ends on January 11…

Egyptians seemed enthused by the novelty of a vote where the outcome was, for a change, not a foregone conclusion…

The army council has promised civilian rule by July after the parliamentary vote and a presidential poll, now expected in June — much sooner than previously envisaged.

It’s reasonable that many of those who fought to push Mubarak out the door are impatient about getting to a modern secular democracy. Perhaps they supported a boycott – as some did – because they felt the military was still too strong. Or perhaps they worried over their own inability to marshall an electoral struggle that would result in an appreciable voice in the new parliament. Not such a great reason.

As I’ve noted here in recent weeks, winning the revolution after the revolution is a lot more demanding than tearing down the walls of dictatorship. It may be less dangerous. It ain’t easier. The grunt work of building a democratic base is not only required – it’s how you guarantee democracy.