No. 49December 19, 2020

Who Determines What Constitutes a Threat to National Security

It Is Up To Canadians, Not the Police, to Decide What Constitutes a Threat to "National Security"

Canada's Foreign-Inspired "Threat Assessments"

- Pauline Easton -

Threat Assessments Driven by Business Interests

- Nick Lin -

• Fearmongering About Canada's Supply Chain

Indian Disinformation Operation

Second U.S. Judge Blocks President's Attempt to Ban
China-Based Social Media App

Who Determines What Constitutes a Threat to National Security

It Is Up To Canadians, Not the Police, to Decide What Constitutes a Threat to "National Security"

Threat assessments issued by Canada's intelligence agencies are replete with messages which target speech and association deemed to pose threats to national security. The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada has gone on record to oppose the use of the threat of foreign interference in elections and/or "our democratic institutions" and/or our "way of life," to justify the violation of Canadians' right to speech and association. By any modern definition fit to be called democratic, the people have the right to oppose state interference in their right to speak and associate freely.

An anti-China motion currently before the House of Commons and current "assessments" by the intelligence agencies of "threats to national security" show that the approach of the Liberal Government and of the Conservative Party, which considers itself the government in waiting, is to authorize police powers to monitor and surveil political speech and activities in search of "foreign interference." We are to believe that opposing "foreign interference" will sort out the vicious inter-imperialist rivalry over markets, sources of cheap raw materials and labour, and zones for the export of capital and influence in Canada's favour. Will giving the U.S. imperialists' war machine and their aggressive NATO military alliance absolute control over 5G and 6G technology sort out the problems facing humanity or, for that matter, the fundamental problems that ail our utterly unrepresentative electoral system? The answer is No!

According to the Liberal government and the cartel parties with seats in the House of Commons, the only problem facing our electoral system and democratic institutions is interference by hostile foreign states and hostile non-state actors. This is considered a matter of national security and, presumably, national unity as well. The problem, identified by Canadians time and time again, that our electoral system -- called a representative democracy -- and our "democratic institutions" do not represent the views of the majority of the population, is not acted on. The fact remains that this electoral system is designed to keep the people disempowered and to perpetuate a ruling caste which pays the rich.

The preoccupations of the intelligence agencies and security forces dominate the discourse so as to hide the fact that the state has been put in the service of the U.S. imperialist rivalry with China and that the U.S. war economy covets the great advances China has made in putting artificial intelligence (AI) to practical use. This deepens the crisis in which the electoral and political processes are mired and does nothing to create confidence that they can achieve a mandate resulting from the political participation of Canadians.

Police monitoring of political discourse in a search for malicious foreign actors is not going to solve the problem of the "fake news" these foreign actors are said to generate. Implicating the civilian population and political parties in cooperating in their spying activities is not going to end the discourse and disinformation which is carried out on a massive scale through the communications networks which have already come into being and those that are coming into being today. 

Far from it, to foster the belief that "hostile foreign states" and non-state actors are the problem, the intelligence agencies themselves churn out "fake news" and conduct a large number of disruptive activities through their communications networks. The recent example of what India has been up to worldwide, including in Canada, is a case in point. The already revealed and as yet unrevealed activities of the intelligence agencies into which Canada has been integrated, which do the exact same things, is another.

The claim of the security agencies that their surveillance of political discourse is not aimed at "lawful advocacy and dissent," is silly talk.

We are told that "lawful advocacy and dissent is a healthy part of democracy," as opposed to "clandestine or deceptive foreign interference." But the criteria for deciding who and what can be investigated and targeted for surveillance operations and what will be considered "lawful" is all kept hidden in the name of national security! Investigations and surveillance are to find "threats which may, on reasonable grounds, be suspected of posing a threat to the security of Canada," we are told.

In other words, political expression and speech will be targeted in surveillance operations to safeguard national security. The claim is that it is not by upholding rights that we defend national security, but by their violation.

One of the threats to national security the intelligence agencies have cited in the past is the "discrediting of liberal-democratic institutions in order to advance alternative governance models." What is wrong with advancing alternative governance models? By what definition can it be said that "advancing alternative governance models" is a threat to Canada's security? Who determines the definition? By what process?

Surely, the very definition of democracy gives the people the right to decide what governance models suit their needs. How can that right be taken away from people in the name of national security, using the justification that it is the police, not the people, who are responsible for the preservation of the institutions of democracy? If the security agencies are concerned about who poses the threat to our democratic institutions, we suggest they turn their eyes to the very ruling party government and cartel parties whose everyday actions are de facto changing the model of democratic governance which came out of rebellion against rule by decree. It is their self-serving shenanigans which have brought the democratic institutions, cartel parties, government and House of Commons into disrepute.

It is not acceptable, by any definition or any norms save those of a police state, that, based on intelligence reports and discussions with "elected officials," CSIS can be permitted to take "reasonable and proportionate measures" to interfere with the right to speech and association. Such police activity is indefensible in a country which calls itself democratic and claims that it is the people, not the police agencies of the state, which determine what views are in the interest of Canada's progress and advancement, and which views are not. To accuse other countries of tyranny and dictatorial rule, neither of which are defined in a manner that means something rational in today's conditions, does not hide that the shoe fits their own foot.

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Canada's Foreign-Inspired "Threat Assessments"

Communications Security Establishment Canada's Centre for Cyber Security issued a "National Cyber Threat Assessment 2020" on November 16. To evaluate its assessment it is important to know the criteria it uses. However, neither are these criteria openly explained, nor are they up for discussion. On the contrary, one has to discern the criteria for oneself and seriously think about what criteria would serve the peoples when discussing national security. Without establishing the reference points which serve the peoples and society, the "key judgments" of the Centre for Cyber Security remain unchallenged. Not only that, they are used by the government, by the cartel parties with seats in the House of Commons, and by state agencies across the board to pass laws, criminalize individuals and collectives, and fund war production.

The Executive Summary of the CSE's Centre for Cyber Security's report provides what it calls seven "Key Judgments." One of its claims is that "threat actors will almost certainly continue attempting to steal intellectual property related to combatting COVID-19 to support their own domestic public health responses or to profit from its illegal reproduction by their own firms."

Why China, Russia and Iran need to "steal intellectual property related to combatting COVID-19" when they have minds of their own second to none in the world is a real stretch. It illustrates the high degree of paranoia the intelligence agencies are intent on promoting. Creating hysteria against the target countries is the same method used in the recent period when hysteria against Muslims and Islamophobia were promoted and raised to fever pitch, all the while accusing others of xenophobia. Every Muslim was considered either a terrorist or a potential terrorist and entire countries were invaded and subjected to bombs, assassinations, torture, drone warfare and every conceivable crime against human beings. Evidence of how the ruling circles are creating hysteria to attack China and infiltrate terrorist groups there is the justifications given that such actions defend the Uighurs who are Muslims and presumably not acceptable to the Chinese government. Meanwhile, pogroms organized by the ruling government in India against the Muslim population there were met with silence. Similar arguments are used to justify infiltrating Tibet and organizing anti-China instability there. 

All of it is a reincarnation of state-organized disinformation to keep the polity diverted, divided and overwhelmed so that it does not establish an agenda which serves its interests and those of humankind. These hysterical threat assessments appear to be designed to make it impossible for the people to address what the rulers themselves are up to. This includes deciding what constitutes a cyber threat, a crime and cyber warfare, that justifies aggression. The assessments are based on an outlook designed to tear Canadians apart based on whether they support or oppose whatever the security agencies say poses a danger to society.

The modus operandi is well known. The climate of hysteria is despicable for its harmful anti-social consequences due to the added stress and anxiety and criminalization of people who are dehumanized and categorized as "criminal," or "traitor," or "spy," labels which presumably mean they deserve whatever they have coming to them.

It is also quite well understood in many circles that reports that raise the spectre of threats and dangers posed by foreign actors serve to lobby for increased funding for security agencies and all their tools and toys. Massive spending is devoted to cyber security which is linked with the defence industry and war production.

One method used, which is less well understood, is how the security agencies try to embroil the people in diversions. One is a demand against the involvement of social media companies in cyber spying, which is a just demand. However, the security agencies manipulate the anti-war movement into waging campaigns which are then used to cover up the fact that the big social media companies are funded by the war department of the United States from the time they emerge on the scene.

The striving of the war industry to control artificial intelligence is driving the narrow private interests involved into a frenzy and, consequently, entire societies that are subject to their threat assessments are also made unstable. Obscene sums of money are handed over to the war industry while members of the polity are criminalized and anxiety over potential threats becomes the rallying cry for national unity.

Scientific discoveries belong to humanity. The new developments in 5G networks and the scientific advancements made by Chinese scientists in quantum encryption are new forms of mass communications being brought forward by the social productive forces. Such developments are not the property of anyone. This is the greatest significance of these new developments in the experiments in ultra-secure communications which are so important for the functioning of any high speed network. No single entity, whether a nation or corporation can control or monopolize it because it is based on the law of physics which can be applied universally. This is also the case for the fruits of artificial intelligence which tread where science has never even been before. Science and scientific discoveries belong to humanity. The demand of the peoples of the world is to use the products of the technical scientific revolution for the enhancement of the human species.

The younger generation is born to this technology and to a world in which scientific discoveries are revolutionizing all hitherto comprehension of the universe. This generation also comprises the majority of those called cyber actors and cyber criminals. This kind of fearmongering will only go so far to justify spending on the war industry and its destructive capacity. The younger generations will develop the capabilities needed to bring a world of peace, justice and democracy into being, as they are already doing in many ways.

Against this, the one-sided self-serving view of the rulers of what the ensemble of social relations reveals is clear in each one of the "key judgments" of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Never once do the authors consider that removing the current anti-democratic system of rule will go a long way to solving the problems societies face. The only concern of those who have usurped power by force is to imbue the entire world with their own profit-motive, in the misguided belief that this will make the peoples of the world hand them riches without question.

As the rulers continue to dream in Technicolor, the peoples of the world continue to lay the claims on society for what belongs to them by virtue of being human. They continue to strive for a society which will define rights on that basis.

(Photos: VOR, TML)

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Threat Assessments Driven by Business Interests

Covert state intelligence agencies tied to the U.S. imperialist war machine as part of the "Five Eyes" global espionage network recently issued their annual reports and "threat assessments." The countries which belong to the "Five Eyes" are the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Private cyber security firm the Kaspersky Lab, said to be "Russia-based," also recently issued an assessment.

What are called threats by the U.S. imperialists and their allies are an indication of which countries will be targeted for interference and aggression, including cyber warfare. Such calculations are of interest to the anti-war movement and the movement to defend the rights of all, so they can draw warranted conclusions and not lose their bearings. It is important not to become embroiled in the U.S.-led warmongering by getting sucked into the scenarios created by the intelligence agencies to justify their latest assessments of what constitutes a foreign or domestic threat.

Strikingly absent from all of these threat assessments are the threats to privacy and political rights of the people of those countries by their own governments. Since the exposure of wide-ranging illegal surveillance by the National Security Agency of U.S. citizens by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, attacks on the privacy and political rights of the people of the U.S. and of the other Five Eyes countries have not been curtailed. They have become institutionalized and even broader.

One of the major changes in U.S. legislation since 2013 has been to have Internet Service Providers (ISPs) divulge metadata concerning their clients, instituting what is called an obligation to provide a "back-door" access to metadata. Such metadata can include personal information, histories, etc. and highly sensitive material. For their part, ISPs had been campaigning against illegal intrusions by the state agencies and asking for protection from state agency intimidation.

Part of the raison d'être of the Five Eyes is to spy on each other's people to get around the laws of their own countries. Since Canada, for example, cannot legally spy on its own people, the spying is done by the U.S. and the result is then "shared." Meanwhile, measures are being taken to change the laws in each country to permit spying and recriminations in the name of high ideals.

The threat assessments also have in common that they do not address the well-documented practice of interfering in the political affairs of other countries by U.S., Israeli, French, British and other agencies through cyberattacks and other technical manipulations. 

There are double standards too when it comes to "foreign interference." For example, when the U.S. openly interfered in the 2019 federal election in Canada through major media gossip stories, an investigation of this as foreign interference was not considered.

For Your Information
Canadian Centre for Cyber Security's "Key Judgments"

The Centre for Cyber Security's "Key Judgments" are:

"- The number of cyber threat actors is rising, and they are becoming more sophisticated. The commercial sale of cyber tools coupled with a global pool of talent has resulted in more threat actors and more sophisticated threat activity. Illegal online markets for cyber tools and services have also allowed cybercriminals to conduct more complex and sophisticated campaigns.

"- Cybercrime continues to be the cyber threat that is most likely to affect Canadians and Canadian organizations. We assess that, almost certainly, over the next two years, Canadians and Canadian organizations will continue to face online fraud and attempts to steal personal, financial, and corporate information.

"- We judge that ransomware directed against Canada will almost certainly continue to target large enterprises and critical infrastructure providers. These entities cannot tolerate sustained disruptions and are willing to pay up to millions of dollars to quickly restore their operations. Many Canadian victims will likely continue to give in to ransom demands due to the severe costs of losing business and rebuilding their networks and the potentially destructive consequences of refusing payment.

"- While cybercrime is the most likely threat, the state-sponsored programs of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest strategic threats to Canada. State-sponsored cyber activity is generally the most sophisticated threat to Canadians and Canadian organizations.

"- State-sponsored actors are very likely attempting to develop cyber capabilities to disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure, such as the supply of electricity, to further their goals. We judge that it is very unlikely, however, that cyber threat actors will intentionally seek to disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure and cause major damage or loss of life in the absence of international hostilities. Nevertheless, cyber threat actors may target critical Canadian organizations to collect information, pre-position for future activities, or as a form of intimidation.

"- State-sponsored actors will almost certainly continue to conduct commercial espionage against Canadian businesses, academia, and governments to steal Canadian intellectual property and proprietary information. We assess that these threat actors will almost certainly continue attempting to steal intellectual property related to combatting COVID-19 to support their own domestic public health responses or to profit from its illegal reproduction by their own firms. The threat of cyber espionage is almost certainly higher for Canadian organizations that operate abroad or work directly with foreign state-owned enterprises.

"- Online foreign influence campaigns are almost certainly ongoing and not limited to key political events like elections. Online foreign influence activities are a new normal, and adversaries seek to influence domestic events as well as impact international discourse related to current events. We assess that, relative to some other countries, Canadians are lower-priority targets for online foreign influence activity. However, Canada's media ecosystem is closely intertwined with that of the United States and other allies, which means that when their populations are targeted, Canadians become exposed to online influence as a type of collateral damage."

U.S. Homeland Threat Assessment

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its 26-page Homeland Threat Assessment in October. It identifies seven general categories of threats in the assessment's table of contents. The following quotes from the report give an idea of what the categories refer to.

- Cyber: "We are concerned with the intents, capabilities, and actions of nation-states such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Nation-state targeting of our assets seeks to disrupt the infrastructure that keeps the American economy moving forward and poses a threat to national security. On top of the threats to critical infrastructure, cybercriminals also target our networks to steal information, hold organizations hostage, and harm American companies for their own gain."

- Foreign Influence Activity: "Threats to our election have been another rapidly evolving issue. Nation-states like China, Russia, and Iran will try to use cyber capabilities or foreign influence to compromise or disrupt infrastructure related to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, aggravate social and racial tensions, undermine trust in U.S. authorities, and criticize our elected officials. Perhaps most alarming is that our adversaries are seeking to sway the preferences and perceptions of U.S. voters using influence operations."

- Economic Security: "DHS is specifically concerned with the direct and indirect threat posed to the Homeland by the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-led PRC is challenging America's place as the world's global and economic leader. Threats emanating from China include damaging the U.S. economy through intellectual property theft, production and distribution of counterfeit goods, and unfair trade practices. DHS has a mandate to mitigate these threats [...] with a clear-eyed view that China is a long-term strategic competitor to the U.S."

- Terrorism: The DHS presents its concerns about terrorism as two-fold, one aspect being domestic violent extremism. It says its programs are "threat agnostic," meaning DHS will decide across a broad spectrum of "left," "right" and religious views, who and what is a threat. They claim to be "particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years."

The other aspect is to target the people's resistance movement, referring to it as the "exploitation of lawful and protected speech and protests" and "anti-government, anti-authority and anarchist violent extremism."

- Transnational Criminal Organization (TCOs): The DHS says that these groups "continue to profit at the expense of Americans. Mexican cartels and other TCOs will continue to smuggle hard narcotics like fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine into our communities, contributing to an alarming level of overdoses in the United States. "

- Illegal Immigration: The DHS claims that "illegal and mass migration to the United States [...] during a pandemic [...] poses a more specific threat to the migrants, the communities they transit, to U.S. border communities, and to our officers and agents who encounter migrants when they enter the United States."

- Natural Disasters: The DHS cites here the threat posed by events like storms, wildfires as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaspersky Lab's Advanced Threat Predictions for 2021

Kaspersky Lab is a global cyber security company founded in 1997 with headquarters in Russia. It issued its Advanced Threat Predictions for 2021 on November 16. A Kaspersky press release highlights the following areas of concern from those it deems "advanced persistent threats" (APTs):

"- APT threat actors will buy initial network access from cybercriminals. One of the key, and potentially most dangerous, trends that Kaspersky researchers anticipate is the change in threat actors' approach to the execution of attacks. Last year, targeted ransomware attacks reached a new level through the use of generic malware as a means to get an initial foothold in targeted networks. Connections between these attacks and well-established underground networks such as Genesis, which typically trade in stolen credentials, were observed. Kaspersky researchers believe that APT actors will start using the same method to compromise their targets. [...]

"- More countries using legal indictments as part of their cyber strategy. Kaspersky's previous predictions of 'naming and shaming' of APT attacks carried out by hostile parties has come true, and more organizations will follow suit. Exposing toolsets of APT groups carried out at the governmental level will drive more states to do the same, thereby hurting actors' activities and developments by burning the existing toolsets of their opponents in an effort to retaliate.

"- More Silicon Valley companies will take action against zero-day brokers. Following scandalous cases in which zero-day vulnerabilities [i.e., security flaws unknown to the software vendor on release date] in popular apps were exploited for espionage on a variety of different targets, more Silicon Valley corporations are likely to take a stance against zero-day brokers in an effort to protect their customers and reputation.

"- Increased targeting of network appliances. With remote work, organizational security has become a priority, and more interest in exploiting network appliances such as VPN [virtual private network] gateways will emerge. Harvesting credentials to access corporate VPNs via 'vishing' remote workers may also appear.

"- Demanding money with menace. Ransomware gangs have become more targeted in their attacks and have more often threatened to release stolen data. Following the success of these strategies, the groups will use the money they have extorted to invest significant funds into new advanced toolsets with budgets comparable to that of some state-sponsored APT groups. These changes in strategy may also lead to the consolidation of the ransomware ecosystem.

"- More disruption will result from direct, orchestrated attacks designed to affect critical infrastructure or cause collateral damage, as our lives have become even more dependent on technology with a much wider attack surface than ever before.

"- The emergence of 5G vulnerabilities. As adoption of this technology increases, and more devices become dependent on the connectivity it provides, attackers will have a greater incentive to look for vulnerabilities that they can exploit.

"- Attackers will continue to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. While it did not prompt changes in tactics, techniques and procedures of the threat actors, the virus has become a persistent topic of interest. As the pandemic will continue into 2021, threat actors will not stop exploiting this topic to gain a foothold in target systems."

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Fearmongering About Canada's Supply Chain

Prior to doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being shipped across the country, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) held a briefing for companies involved in the vaccine supply chain. News reports on the CSIS briefing report predictions of threats to Canada's supply chain by "malicious foreign actors" who would exploit "vulnerabilities" of companies which form part of the supply chain and their workers.

"CSIS observes persistent and sophisticated state-sponsored threat activity, including harm to individual Canadian companies, as well as the mounting toll on Canada's vital assets and knowledge-based economy," said a spokesperson for the agency. "As a result, CSIS is working closely with government partners to ensure that as many Canadian businesses and different levels of government as possible are aware of the threat environment and that they have the information they need to implement pre-emptive security measures."

When asked to specify which countries, the spokesperson referred to a July briefing that CSIS gave to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that highlighted China and Russia as countries actively involved in commercial espionage.

A December 17 item from CBC News cites various self-described "intelligence analysts" who take their cue from CSIS's fearmongering to run wild with their own spectres of possible "security threats."

One such analyst suggests that the vaccine supply chain is "perhaps" a target because Canada's adversaries would benefit from Canada not having access to vaccines or not having a fully vaccinated population, or to undermine confidence in the distribution system. She goes on to concoct that a militant terrorist faction of those opposed to vaccines could seek to disrupt their distribution. She concludes saying that if state security agencies and the police are briefing those in the supply chain, then there must be threat. This despite the many well-known examples of fearmongering, black ops and state-organized terrorist activity by the police and security agencies, to undermine and criminalize the people's movement and organizations.

Former CSIS director Ward Elcock is quoted as saying that organized crime is a threat. "If you're a criminal organization, you can make money out of anything. People make money off of cigarettes. They make money off of drugs. This is no different than any other commodity." 

Of course, the new vaccines are unstable and difficult to transport, requiring specialized refrigeration infrastructure that is not readily available. What purpose is served by a country's security establishment sowing doubt about a modern society's ability to transport vaccines safely, except for that security establishment to have increased funds and deployment?

One participant in the briefing noted that the supply chain is very "data rich" which makes it a target. A spokesperson for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) said, "CSE and its Canadian Centre for Cyber Security continue to work with our domestic and international partners to support the Government of Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccine research and distribution. It is always important to note that we continue to monitor for cyber threats through our foreign intelligence mandate. We are working with our Canadian security and intelligence partners, including the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, to address foreign and cyber threats facing Canada."

Major-General Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccination logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, stated that "the underlying issue that you're raising here is that we need to ensure that some information is not divulged, for obvious reasons. So when it comes to the exact routing [of vaccine shipments], we prefer not to disclose the routing, the exact location or transfer points in the cold chain to protect the integrity of the ... supply chain."

All of it indicates that those claiming to be responsible or knowledgeable about "security threats" to Canada and its vaccine supply chain are part of an outlook based on the premise that all countries must submit to U.S. domination, and those that do not constitute a threat to security. They seek to take advantage of people's high anxiety about COVID-19 to justify increased powers for the state security agencies, instead of uniting their thinking in actions which defend rights. In the name of defending Canada against "malicious foreign actors," Canadians are to rely on malicious foreign actors (e.g., the U.S. imperialists, NATO, etc.), because agencies in the service of those very malicious foreign actors say they can be trusted. It makes no sense.

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Indian Disinformation Operation

A European Union (EU) non-profit group called EU DisinfoLab, whose mission is to research disinformation campaigns, has said it unearthed a 15-year-long Indian disinformation campaign of massive proportions. DisinfoLab says that the campaign is an influence operation "targeting international institutions and serving Indian interests." The DisinfoLab Report is entitled "Indian Chronicles: deep dive into a 15-year operation targeting the EU and UN to serve Indian interests." The forward to the report says:

"'Indian Chronicles' -- the name we gave to this operation -- resurrected dead media, dead think-tanks and NGOs, as well as dead people. The actors behind this operation highjacked the names of others, tried to impersonate regular media and press agencies such as the EU Observer, the Economist and Voice of America, used the letterhead of the European Parliament, registered websites under avatars with fake phone numbers, provided fake addresses to the United Nations, created publishing companies to print books of the think-tanks they owned. They organized supposedly multi-stakeholder events where -- in essence -- everyone speaking was tied to 'Indian Chronicles.' They misappropriated the picture of a former UK Government Minister and BBC Director on Facebook, registered the names of deceased persons to attend events five years after their death, invented dozens of journalist identities. They used layers of fake media that would quote and republish one another. They used politicians who genuinely wanted to defend women or minority rights to ultimately serve geopolitical interests and gave a platform to far-right politicians when convergent objectives could be reached."

The online publication The Wire reported on December 10:

"In 2019, EU DisinfoLab had published a study that claimed to have uncovered an Indian influence network covering '265 fake local news sites in more than 65 countries.'

"That study began as a probe into possible Russian disinformation when articles published on Russia Today were republished on a website, 'EP Today', which led the investigators to the network of sites and NGOs, largely linked to the New Delhi-based Srivastava Group.

"This business firm was apparently the main backer of the Delhi-based 'think tank,' International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies (IINS) that had sponsored a group of right-wing members of European Parliament (MEPs) to visit Kashmir in October 2019 -- the first time any politicians (including Indian ones) were allowed to visit the former state after it was placed in lockdown following the scrapping of Article 370 [of the Indian Constitution] in August that year.

"Following up on its earlier study, the group now says it has found evidence of a 15-year-old influence operation by Srivastava group.

"In the latest investigation report -- 'Indian Chronicles,' released on Wednesday [December 9] -- the EU DisinfoLab claims to have identified over 10 NGOs accredited to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which are apparently being managed by the Srivastava Group. Most of these seem to have been genuine NGOs which went into decline and whose identity has been 'hijacked,' as per the authors of the report.

"For example, in May 1938, the Canners International Permanent Committee was founded to promote the 'consumption of canned food' and ceased to exist in 2007. However, the domain name of the organization was registered on January 10, 2016, 'the same day as the registration of other accredited NGOs domain names, and it is hosted on the IP address with several other Srivastava-owned websites.'

"Accredited to UNHRC, the organization has been making 'pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan' oral interventions. 'The core theme of the original NGO -- 'canned foods' -- was totally diverted to undermine Pakistan at the Human Rights Council,' said the report.

"Another UN-accredited NGO to have a presence on the servers used by the Srivastava Group, the report said, is the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP).

"This organization had been inactive from the late 1970s, before it was revived in 2005. 'Shockingly, we discovered that the organization had not only been revived. Its former Chairman and 'grandfather of international law in the U.S.,' Louis B. Sohn, who passed away in 2006, seemingly attended a UN Human Rights Council meeting in 2007 and participated in an event organized by 'Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan' in Washington, DC in 2011,' the report says.

"These groups were organizing side events in the European parliament or UN offices, which were used to bring in MEPs 'using causes such as minorities rights and women's rights as an entry point.'

Further, the report claims that the 'actors' behind the operations registered over 550 domain names of NGOs, think-tanks, media, European Parliament informal groups, religious and Imam organizations, obscure publishing companies and eight public personalities.

"EU DisinfoLab claims to have found a new fake media -- 'EU Chronicle' -- which is largely a platform for MEPs to sign pro-India articles. 'In less than 6 months of existence, already 11 MEPs, most of them already involved with EP Today, have written or endorsed op-eds at a remarkably high pace for EU Chronicle.'

"These op-eds in EU Chronicle were then repackaged by news agency ANI. 'Without Times of Geneva and 4 News Agency which stopped their activities following our previous investigation, ANI remains the only press agency to extensively cover the activities of dubious NGOs in Geneva.'

"This media coverage, the report observed, was primarily targeted at Indian nationals 'with an extensive coverage of these barely known 'media', MEPs and 'NGOs' in Europe.'

"Summarising their findings, EU DisinfoLab said that their investigation details 'activities of a fake zombie-NGO and that of a fake specialized media can then be repackaged, distorted and amplified by malicious actors to influence or disinform globally, using loopholes in international institutions and online search engines.'

"The researchers clarified that they were aware that the findings of the report would be used by vested interests, in a reference to Pakistani authorities. 'Let us bear in mind that it is not because one side uses dodgy influence campaigns that the other side does not -- and a simple Google search will lead you to read about inauthentic behaviours supporting Pakistani interests,' they add."

"This report, they noted, was not a judgment about the situation of human rights in Pakistan or undermine the credibility of minority movements.

"Asserting that there is no such thing as 'good disinformation,' the authors claimed the 'report simply shines a light on how Indian stakeholders have used these struggles to serve their own interests.'

"While the report did not point any specific fingers at Indian intelligence agencies, it noted that there were 'several elements that suggest the possible involvement of other stakeholders' in the influence operations. These elements were identified in the report as the close relationship between ANI and the Indian government, a Srivastava group firm's alleged involvement in offering information warfare services only to Indian agencies and apparent threats made against a speaker at UN by a Srivastava group member, followed by interrogation by Indian security agencies."

For the full report, click here.

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Second U.S. Judge Blocks President's Attempt to Ban China-Based Social Media App

On December 8, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, ruled that the U.S. Commerce Department "likely overstepped" its use of presidential emergency powers "and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives" regarding President Donald Trump's attempt to ban TikTok, a social media app used to share short user-created videos.[1] TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance filed suit against the ban on September 18, arguing that the ban violated free speech and due process rights.

ByteDance proposed that TikTok's U.S. operations be taken over by U.S. companies. The Trump administration tentatively agreed in September that software giant Oracle and Walmart invest in TikTok, in which Oracle would manage user data. This deal was to have been finalized on December 6. The U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees the agency reviewing this arrangement, said that the agency "is engaging with ByteDance to complete the divestment and other steps necessary to resolve the national security risks arising from the transaction."

Previously, a ruling from Judge Nichols had temporarily blocked the presidential ban on September 27. Then, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled against the ban on October 30 in a suit filed by three TikTok users against the presidential ban, who said it interfered with their free speech.

ByteDance reports 100 million TikTok users in the U.S. and 700 million worldwide. The Trump administration says that TikTok is a security threat, claiming that the Chinese government could use it to spy on users personal data. Trump signed an executive order on August 6 which sought to ban TikTok transactions in the U.S. by September 20 unless its Chinese parent company ByteDance sold off its U.S. operations. This was followed by another order on August 14 giving ByteDance 90 days to sell or spin off TikTok's U.S. operations.

The developments in the TikTok case take place in the context of U.S. imperialists' attempts to isolate China through fearmongering and anti-communist rhetoric, in which escalating sanctions and trade wars threaten to break out into open military aggression. There is no evidence to back up the Trump administration's accusations against TikTok, while the U.S. government is notorious for its long-established practice of cyber espionage or cyber warfare on its own people and those of other countries.

This is a situation in which the ruling circles in Canada have fully embroiled the country in anti-China intrigues in subservience to U.S. imperialist interests. This includes the RCMP's arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, acting on a U.S. extradition request. Also notable is the execrable use of Halifax as the venue for the Halifax Security Conference, which devoted a great deal of attention to attacking China, in opposition to Canadians' desire that Canada be a zone for peace.

(With files from Associated Press, Washington Post, CNBC)

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