Wikileaks “Vault 7” Dump Proves You Were Right to be Paranoid

In March, Wikileaks started releasing a series of documents titled “Vault 7”, which consists of thousands of pages of sophisticated hacking tools and techniques used by the CIA to break into computers, smartphones, and even smart televisions with listening capability. It also revealed the CIA’s investigations into hacking software in cars to cause them to crash, in effect committing assassinations that would leave no evidence.

After the Snowden revelations, the U.S. tech industry received a commitment from the Obama administration that the NSA would disclose serious vulnerabilities or “zero days” to U.S. manufacturers such as Apple and Google. These new leaks reveal the intelligence community is still hoarding these vulnerabilities.

Software vulnerabilities make everyone susceptible to attack, cybercrime, identity theft, and privacy violations. By discovering but not revealing vulnerabilities, the CIA left these software backdoors open to foreign hackers and cyber criminals, rather than allowing manufacturers to fix them. “The CIA ensures that it can hack everyone; at the expense of leaving everyone hackable,” points out Wikileaks. The US intelligence community has again misled Congress and the public.

To read more articles from the Spring 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

China Bans Coal Imports from North Korea

China has banned all coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year. This comes as a major blow to Pyongyang as coal provides one of North Korea’s major financial lifelines. The announcement comes after recent North Korean missile tests and is a sign that Beijing is increasing pressure on Pyongyang to de-escalate tensions in the region. Coal is North Korea’s single largest export, and the nation is heavily reliant on trade with China due to its increasing international isolation and ensuing economic decline.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry has said that China is fulfilling its obligations to last November’s U.N. Security Council resolution to impose greater economic sanctions on North Korea after its fifth nuclear test of 2016; however, this recent move comes only a day after North Korea’s recent test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

North Korea has continued ballistic missile testing since the ban was announced. A recent test coincided with joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises and aimed 3 missiles into Japanese waters.

To read more articles from the Spring 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

US Drops Some Restrictions on Cyber-Security Sales to Russian Spy Agency

In February the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it would be easing some economic sanctions on Russia, allowing limited cyber-security transactions with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). This move removes some of the sanctions initially imposed by President Obama in April 2015, and strengthened in December 2016 in reaction to the accusations of “malicious cyber-enabled activities” by the FSB during the U.S. presidential election.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said that this does not mark a new policy shift, but that the easing is instead “a regular course of action” that the Treasury has taken to address the sanctions’ unintended consequences. Some U.S. companies had complained that the sanctions limited their ability to sell electronics in Russia, as the FSB maintains control over imports to Russia of devices with encryption technology. Encryption technology is now used in many messaging apps and programs in response to the Snowden revelations that showed the NSA were collecting mass communications data from civilians.

To read more articles from the Spring 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

33 Civilians Dead After U.S. Airstrike on a School in Syria

At least 33 civilians were killed by several U.S. airstrikes on a school in Mansoura, a rural town in Raqqa Province in Syria, early in the morning on March 21. The school had been used as a refuge for around 50 families fleeing from ISIS-controlled Raqqa. It was almost completely levelled in the airstrikes. The number of dead has been confirmed by local residents as well as state television.

The U.S.-backed coalition first claimed that they had no indications that civilians had been hit. Since then they have announced that they are investigating claims that civilians were killed.

Airways, a U.K.-based NGO that monitors international airstrikes against ISIS, has suggested that as many as 370 civilian deaths were caused by coalition attacks in the first week of March alone. These attacks have raised concerns that the U.S. military has become less selective in its targeting, in line with claims made by U.S. President Donald Trump that he would loosen restrictions intended to protect civilians during attacks on ISIS.

To read more articles from the Spring 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

President of Colombia Urges an End to the War on Drugs

Juan Manuel Santos used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for a new approach to the war on drugs. He claims that the current zero-tolerance approach is “even more harmful” than all of the other wars being fought around the world. He said it is “time to change our strategy”, as Colombia had “paid the highest cost in deaths and sacrifices” in the war on drugs.

Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating a peace deal with the Farc rebel group last year. The conflict between the Colombian state and the Farc rebels has killed over 260,000 people and has left over a million internally displaced. The war on drugs played a large part in this conflict.

Aside from the lives lost, the war on drugs is also immoral and ineffective, according to Santos:

“We have moral authority to state that, after decades of fighting against drug trafficking, the world has still been unable to control this scourge that fuels violence and corruption throughout our global community. It makes no sense to imprison a peasant who grows marijuana, when nowadays, for example, its cultivation and use are legal in eight states of the United States.”

To read complete articles from the Spring 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

Russian Ambassador Assassinated in Turkey

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated by a Turkish special forces police officer at an art gallery in Ankara. The attack caused shockwaves around the world because of what it might mean for Russian and Turkish relations, which had only just begun to warm after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet in 2015. Charter flights only resumed between the two countries in August. Fears were somewhat allayed shortly after the attack when Turkish President Recep Erdoğan called Russian President Vladimir Putin, and both condemned the attack in their respective speeches.

Despite the assassination, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, along with Iran’s, flew to Moscow the following day to discuss a new agreement over Syria’s troubled future. They vowed to step up their fight against terror.

The shooter, Mevlut Altintas, was a 22 year-old who had worked for Ankara’s riot police for two and a half years. After shooting the ambassador, he shouted, “Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it!” Twenty minutes later he was killed in a gunfight with police. Altintas has so far not been linked to any terror organizations. Erdoğan, however, has claimed that he had links to last summer’s attempted coup in Turkey, allegedly backed by Fethullah Gulen, according to the Turkish government.

To read more articles from the Winter 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

Humanitarian Crises in Aleppo and Mosul

The autumn and winter have seen heavy fighting in both Aleppo, Syria and Mosul, Iraq. Throughout December, the Syrian Army pushed to retake Aleppo from rebel forces, finally succeeding just before Christmas. Meanwhile in Iraq, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have pushed into Mosul in an attempt to retake it from ISIS. In both cases, the heavy fighting in populated cities has led to massive civilian casualties. Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, while Mosul is the 3rd largest in Iraq.

In Mosul, “the casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims,” according to the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis. The same is true in Aleppo. On top of the scale of mortality, there is the extent of the displacement. Just a week into the Battle of Aleppo, 50,000 people had fled the eastern parts of the city. The Battle of Mosul is expected to displace up to a million people, according to U.N. estimates. This comes at a time when there are already more displaced people worldwide than at any time since World War Two.

The Syrian forces retaking Aleppo are backed by Iran and Russia, while the Iraqi and Kurdish forces retaking Mosul are backed by the U.S., U.K., and France.

To read more articles from the Winter 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

Heckler & Koch to End New Deals with non-NATO Countries

The German small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch announced that they will no longer sign contracts to supply arms to countries outside of NATO and NATO members’ partners. In addition, they will only sell weapons to countries that are democratic and free of corruption.

This change of strategy means that they will no longer deal with countries such as Saudi Arabia, which is known for its human rights abuses, as well as other countries like Brazil and India.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has sought to curb the sale of tanks and small arms since he took office in 2013. He has argued that assault rifles, such as those manufactured by Heckler & Koch, are among the favored weapons in conflicts around the world.

This move comes at a time when companies and countries that export weapons to human rights abusers are coming under renewed calls to end the exports. Countries such as Canada and the U.K. are leading arms exporters to Saudi Arabia, where their weapons have allegedly been used to bomb civilians and hospitals in Yemen.

To read more articles from the Winter 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

Spring 2017