Tillerson: Political Reconciliation in Kenya ‘a Very Positive Step’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the political reconciliation between Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga is “a very positive step,” adding that the United States supports Kenya’s political inclusion and democracy. Tillerson’s trip to Africa is his first as the top U.S. diplomat and promotes good governance, something high on his agenda. VOA State Department Correspondent Nike Ching reports from Nairobi, Kenya.

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NRA Files Lawsuit Over Florida Gun Control Legislation

The National Rifle Association (NRA), a U.S. gun rights group, is suing the state of Florida for enacting gun control legislation that raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21.

Lawyers for the NRA are asking a federal judge to block the new age restriction, arguing that it violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican long allied with the NRA, signed the legislation earlier Friday after the Republican-controlled statehouse narrowly approved the measure.

The NRA insisted that the measure “punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual.”

In addition to the new age restriction, the Florida bill also adds a three-day waiting period to buy long guns, which was previously only for handguns. It also bans bump stocks, a device that allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire.

The law also creates a so-called “guardian” program that enables school staff to carry handguns if they wish and if they complete law enforcement training.

The legislation comes three weeks after a shooter killed 17 people at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“What I’m proud of in this state is that we reacted to a horrible situation,” Scott said after signing the bill Friday. He said the bill represents a compromise for people on both sides of the gun debate and balances “our individual rights with need for public safety.”

Student activists had campaigned for even tougher gun control restrictions, including a ban on assault-style weapons, which was not included in the final bill.

Authorities say the accused gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was 18 years old when he legally purchased the AR-15 assault-style rifle used in the massacre.

The NRA, which claims 5 million members, is one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups for gun rights. Founded in 1871, it seeks to educate the public about firearms and defend U.S. citizens’ Second Amendment rights. It has directly lobbied for and against legislation since 1975.

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NRA Files Lawsuit Over Florida Gun Control Legislation

The National Rifle Association (NRA), a U.S. gun rights group, is suing the state of Florida for enacting gun control legislation that raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21.

Lawyers for the NRA are asking a federal judge to block the new age restriction, arguing that it violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican long allied with the NRA, signed the legislation earlier Friday after the Republican-controlled statehouse narrowly approved the measure.

The NRA insisted that the measure “punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual.”

In addition to the new age restriction, the Florida bill also adds a three-day waiting period to buy long guns, which was previously only for handguns. It also bans bump stocks, a device that allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire.

The law also creates a so-called “guardian” program that enables school staff to carry handguns if they wish and if they complete law enforcement training.

The legislation comes three weeks after a shooter killed 17 people at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“What I’m proud of in this state is that we reacted to a horrible situation,” Scott said after signing the bill Friday. He said the bill represents a compromise for people on both sides of the gun debate and balances “our individual rights with need for public safety.”

Student activists had campaigned for even tougher gun control restrictions, including a ban on assault-style weapons, which was not included in the final bill.

Authorities say the accused gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was 18 years old when he legally purchased the AR-15 assault-style rifle used in the massacre.

The NRA, which claims 5 million members, is one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups for gun rights. Founded in 1871, it seeks to educate the public about firearms and defend U.S. citizens’ Second Amendment rights. It has directly lobbied for and against legislation since 1975.

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Tillerson Says N. Korea Talks Trump’s Idea, Downplays Exclusion of State Department

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is on the other side of the world on a week-long Africa tour, says President Donald Trump’s decision to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came from Trump himself, but he downplayed any suggestion that the State Department was blindsided by the announcement.

Speaking in Djibouti on Friday, the top U.S. diplomat said he spoke with the U.S. president by phone very early in the day.

“We had a good conversation; this is something he’s had on his mind for quite some time, so it was not a surprise in any way because I think this has long been something he’s expressed it openly before, about his willingness to meet with Kim Jong Un,” Tillerson told reporters.

Tillerson made his remarks one day after South Korean officials, standing in front of the White House, announced the summit between Trump and Kim. Tillerson sought to temper expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea just hours earlier on Thursday.

“In terms of direct talks with the United States — and you asked negotiations, and we’re a long ways from negotiations — I think … we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it,” Tillerson said.

When asked about what had changed in 24 hours, Tillerson made a distinction between “talks” with North Korea, and structured “negotiations.” Tillerson said what stood out for him was what he termed the dramatic shift in Kim Jong Un’s position.

“Really what changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way that, in all honesty, came as a little bit of a surprise to us as well that he was so forward-leaning in his conversations with the delegation from South Korea,” the secretary said, referring to meetings this past week between a delegation from South Korea and the North Koreans in the North’s capital, Pyongyang.

Some former national security officials say it’s likely Tillerson was unaware such an announcement could come from Trump.

“We can only assume this announcement took the secretary by surprise because, earlier in the day, he [Tillerson] told reporters the United States was “a long way” from negotiations,” said Jeff Prescott, a senior national security aide to former President Barack Obama, told VOA on Friday.

“The secretary being out of the loop would fit a pattern of an erratic foreign policy that lacks process and rigor,” he added.

A number of North Korea and arms control experts have also expressed surprise at the announcement, saying they welcome talks, but are also concerned about the stakes of such a high-profile meeting, set to happen by May.

 

Prescott says the Trump administration must do all it can to turn this potential opening into an opportunity to advance U.S. interests, not Kim’s.

“That objective has been made all the more difficult because this administration confronts today’s news with one hand tied behind its back,” the former Obama administration official said. “We have no ambassador in Seoul—not even a nominee—and no senior State Department official charged with overseeing the North Korean nuclear challenge.”

Robert Einhorn with the Brookings Institution welcomed news of the summit and that North Korea will suspend nuclear and missile tests while talks are underway. But the senior fellow for the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative said he has some reservations on the terms of such a summit.

“I am concerned by President Trump’s response to the invitation that he meet with Kim Jong Un — not that he agreed to meet but that he agreed to meet by May,” Einhorn said. “Such meetings have to be well prepared, and the president should have insisted on lower-level exploratory talks that could test North Korea’s seriousness before committing to a date.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce welcomed the summit announcement.

“Kim Jong Un’s desire to talk shows sanctions the administration has implemented are starting to work. We can pursue more diplomacy, as we keep applying pressure ounce by ounce,” the Republican lawmaker said Friday.

The ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, noted the president should rely on experts in other parts of his administration to carefully prepare for such a meeting.

 

“In the weeks before the summit, clear-eyed diplomacy and preparation will be vital, given the risks involved in such a high-stakes leaders meeting this early in a negotiation,” Schiff said in a statement. “It will require the president to rely on the expertise within the State Department, the intelligence community, and throughout the government, and not simply on his own estimation of his skills as a deal maker.'”

Former advisor to both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state Aaron David Miller told VOA the Trump administration currently lacks the experts on North Korea to prepare for direct talks.

 

“Right now, it is hard to identify any single individual or team of individuals that has both the negotiating experience and knowledge of the history, the cultural and political sensitivity, and knowledge of how the North Koreans behave and how they see the world,” he said.

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Tillerson Says N. Korea Talks Trump’s Idea, Downplays Exclusion of State Department

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is on the other side of the world on a week-long Africa tour, says President Donald Trump’s decision to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came from Trump himself, but he downplayed any suggestion that the State Department was blindsided by the announcement.

Speaking in Djibouti on Friday, the top U.S. diplomat said he spoke with the U.S. president by phone very early in the day.

“We had a good conversation; this is something he’s had on his mind for quite some time, so it was not a surprise in any way because I think this has long been something he’s expressed it openly before, about his willingness to meet with Kim Jong Un,” Tillerson told reporters.

Tillerson made his remarks one day after South Korean officials, standing in front of the White House, announced the summit between Trump and Kim. Tillerson sought to temper expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea just hours earlier on Thursday.

“In terms of direct talks with the United States — and you asked negotiations, and we’re a long ways from negotiations — I think … we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it,” Tillerson said.

When asked about what had changed in 24 hours, Tillerson made a distinction between “talks” with North Korea, and structured “negotiations.” Tillerson said what stood out for him was what he termed the dramatic shift in Kim Jong Un’s position.

“Really what changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way that, in all honesty, came as a little bit of a surprise to us as well that he was so forward-leaning in his conversations with the delegation from South Korea,” the secretary said, referring to meetings this past week between a delegation from South Korea and the North Koreans in the North’s capital, Pyongyang.

Some former national security officials say it’s likely Tillerson was unaware such an announcement could come from Trump.

“We can only assume this announcement took the secretary by surprise because, earlier in the day, he [Tillerson] told reporters the United States was “a long way” from negotiations,” said Jeff Prescott, a senior national security aide to former President Barack Obama, told VOA on Friday.

“The secretary being out of the loop would fit a pattern of an erratic foreign policy that lacks process and rigor,” he added.

A number of North Korea and arms control experts have also expressed surprise at the announcement, saying they welcome talks, but are also concerned about the stakes of such a high-profile meeting, set to happen by May.

 

Prescott says the Trump administration must do all it can to turn this potential opening into an opportunity to advance U.S. interests, not Kim’s.

“That objective has been made all the more difficult because this administration confronts today’s news with one hand tied behind its back,” the former Obama administration official said. “We have no ambassador in Seoul—not even a nominee—and no senior State Department official charged with overseeing the North Korean nuclear challenge.”

Robert Einhorn with the Brookings Institution welcomed news of the summit and that North Korea will suspend nuclear and missile tests while talks are underway. But the senior fellow for the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative said he has some reservations on the terms of such a summit.

“I am concerned by President Trump’s response to the invitation that he meet with Kim Jong Un — not that he agreed to meet but that he agreed to meet by May,” Einhorn said. “Such meetings have to be well prepared, and the president should have insisted on lower-level exploratory talks that could test North Korea’s seriousness before committing to a date.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce welcomed the summit announcement.

“Kim Jong Un’s desire to talk shows sanctions the administration has implemented are starting to work. We can pursue more diplomacy, as we keep applying pressure ounce by ounce,” the Republican lawmaker said Friday.

The ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, noted the president should rely on experts in other parts of his administration to carefully prepare for such a meeting.

 

“In the weeks before the summit, clear-eyed diplomacy and preparation will be vital, given the risks involved in such a high-stakes leaders meeting this early in a negotiation,” Schiff said in a statement. “It will require the president to rely on the expertise within the State Department, the intelligence community, and throughout the government, and not simply on his own estimation of his skills as a deal maker.'”

Former advisor to both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state Aaron David Miller told VOA the Trump administration currently lacks the experts on North Korea to prepare for direct talks.

 

“Right now, it is hard to identify any single individual or team of individuals that has both the negotiating experience and knowledge of the history, the cultural and political sensitivity, and knowledge of how the North Koreans behave and how they see the world,” he said.

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US Tariffs Spark Fears of Trade Conflict in Asia

Several Asian nations that are major trading partners with the U.S. reacted strongly Friday to a U.S. decision to impose tariffs on metal imports, raising concerns of global trade conflicts.

China, a key target of U.S. trade concerns, said it was “resolutely opposed” to the U.S. tariff decision, with Japan warning of the impact on bilateral ties.

South Korea said it may file a complaint to the international trade dispute body, the World Trade Organization (WTO). South Korea is the third-largest steel exporter to the U.S. after Canada and Brazil.

Several Southeast Asian nations say they fear a wave of import dumping of steel and aluminum products.

U.S. President Donald Trump, turning aside warnings from economists and members within the Republican Party, signed an order Thursday for new tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports to the U.S., saying the measures were necessary to protect U.S. industry.

Trump has exempted key exporters of steel and aluminum, Canada and Mexico, while negotiating changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and other countries such as Australia also may be spared.

The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of steel, totaling 35 million tons of raw material in 2017, with South Korea, Japan, China and India accounting for 6.6 million tons.

Global reaction

Thai economist Wisarn Pupphavesa, a senior adviser to the Thai economic think tank, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), called the tariff aiming to protect U.S. industry a “very bad situation.”

“The U.S. has been a leader in the multilateral system, the leader in the trade liberalization, and the U.S. played a most important role in writing all the rules that are governing the global market now. But now President Trump decided to break those rules … so this is a very bad situation,” Wisarn told VOA.

Economists at London-based Capital Economics said in a release Friday the major concern over U.S. steps to increase tariffs is they mark a “turning point in U.S. policy to a much broader and deeper shift toward protectionism.”

Malaysia’s Second International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, says the government is monitoring the impact of the tariff increase, although steel and aluminum contributed to less than one percent of Malaysia’s total exports.

But Thailand’s Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said the threat lies in import dumping of steel and aluminum to the Southeast Asian market.

FTI secretary general, Korrakod Padungjit, told local media there were several leading exporters — Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India, China, Vietnam and Turkey — that may now target Southeast Asia.

The vice president of the ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] Iron and Steel Council, Roberto Cola, told media that excess steel supplies from China would head to Southeast Asia.

High demand

Southeast Asia’s fast-growing economies, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, face a high demand for steel to meet growing infrastructure and development needs.

Japan at 11 percent and China at 14 percent are reported to be the largest Asian exporters of aluminum to the U.S. A shift in exports to Asia would put producers in South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand under competitive pressure.

Thanomsri Fongarunrung, an economist at the Bangkok-based Phatra Securities, said Thailand already was facing steel import “dumping” by China. She said another fear lies in indirect impacts from any escalation into “tit-for-tat” trade protection measures from other regions, such as the European Union (EU).

The EU already has said it will seek to impose tariffs on selected U.S. imports ranging from alcohol to motorbikes.

But the TDRI’s Wisarn says the economic growth in Southeast Asia in the past decade, with its focus on China, will shield the region from major moves by the U.S. to boost trade protectionism.

“East Asia [has] become the new growth core of the global economy. So the impact of the U.S. action, in fact, would have very little impact as far as East Asia is concerned,” he told VOA.

As a result, the role of the economies of China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Australia and New Zealand, will be enhanced by the U.S. decision.

Trade war

But analysts say the greater concern for regional trade and potential conflict lies ahead with a battle over intellectual property theft, especially targeting China.

Economists say the region’s economic growth potential could be hit by a trade war. The World Bank in a January assessment said growth in East Asia and Pacific is forecast at 6.2 percent in 2018, down slightly from 6.4 percent in 2017.

The World Bank, while upbeat, says “rising geopolitical tension, increased global protectionism” a tightening of global financial conditions, or a “steeper-than-expected” slowdown in major economies, including China, pose a downside risk to the regional outlook.

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China Gears Up to Retaliate Against US Tariffs

China is gearing up to retaliate in response to stiff U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum as Chinese industry associations urge authorities to take “resolute measures.” Retaliation from Beijing could contribute to a possible trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, analysts said.

China’s Ministry of Commerce has pledged to “firmly defend its legitimate rights and interests” and called for an end to the measures as quickly as possible.

In a statement posted on the website of the China Iron and Steel Association, the group appealed to the government in Beijing “to take resolute measures against imports of some U.S. products, including stainless steel, galvanized sheet, seamless pipe, coal, agriculture products and electronic products.”

While the possibility of retaliating over steel and hitting agricultural imports and other sectors has been mentioned previously, it was the first time that coal has been drawn into the brewing spat.

China’s increased imports of coal over the past year have given the U.S. industry a needed boost.

The group also said U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel would impact the global industry and be met with opposition from more countries. The U.S. has already taken other actions impacting Chinese exports of aluminum, solar panels and washing machines in recent months.

The Trump administration has asked China to reduce the trade deficit by $100 billion and threatened several actions to force Beijing to listen. In 2017, the trade gap between the two countries stood at $375 billion; but, there are early indications that the deficit might be much higher this year. In January, the monthly trade deficit with China surged 16.7 percent, to $36 billion, its highest level since September 2015.

Flashpoints

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi acknowledged growing concerns about a trade war, while indicating that Beijing was working on possible retaliatory actions.

“I would like to say that history has taught us that trade wars are never the solution,” he said at a recent press conference on the sidelines of China’s annual political meetings. “It will only hurt both sides, and China will surely make a justified and necessary response.”

The minister advocated a “calm and constructive dialogue as equals” in order to find “a mutually beneficial and win-win solution.”

The stakes are high for both sides, but there are limits to the amount of damage they can inflict without hurting their own economies, analysts note.

China has already launched a probe into imports of U.S. sorghum, a grain used in animal feed and liquor.

There are two other flashpoints on the horizon — an upcoming report on whether China deserves blame for the large-scale theft of intellectual property rights, and a decision on the issue of dubbing Beijing as a currency manipulator.

“They will retaliate; they’ve already signaled following Trump’s steel tariffs [announcement] last week that they are going to take some measures. I think it is just a question of what they are going to decide to do,” Gareth Leather, a senior Asia economist with Capital Economics, told VOA while discussing the Chinese leadership’s plans going forward.

He said Beijing is clever and will likely target sectors of the economy in a manner that hurts the administration at a political level, he said.

Political acupuncture

“I think the key one [target] is going to be the U.S. agriculture sector. It’s obviously a politically key area for them,” Leather said. “So, they will look at certain sectors such as orange juice from Florida, for example. They will look at which senators are from there and see whether they are pro-free trade or not.”

Following the announcement, the communist party-backed Global Times said in an editorial that Beijing should show it will not be cowed.

“It [China] must retaliate against U.S. tariffs that forcibly interfere with Sino-U.S. trade and violate World Trade Organization rules. China must show it won’t be bullied,” the editorial said.

Beijing is expected to target soybeans, one of the most valuable U.S. exports to China. China has also used its purchase of Boeing aircraft as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations in the past and might now threaten to shift its preference to Airbus.

Leather said China is also closely studying the coming U.S. midterm elections to fine-tune its attack if that is necessary.

“I suspect what they’ll do is they’ll look at plants in certain swing states that may be suffering but have Republican congressmen up for elections and probably target those,” he said.

While the Trump administration’s measures go into effect in about two weeks, they alone will not have a major impact on the Chinese economy. For now, China’s response is likely to be quite symbolic, Leather said, and the Chinese are not likely to ratchet up the pressure too much.

“I think the risk is, however, that if the U.S. does press ahead on further protectionist measures, which do specifically target China, then, I think, China will have to respond in a much more aggressive way, and then obviously risks all end up getting a lot worse,” he said.

Trade is not the only area that could be a factor going forward.

In a daily newsletter, Trivium China, a research group in Beijing, said news that Trump is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un soon [to discuss ending the North’s nuclear program] could have an impact as well.

“If Xi Jinping helps to facilitate that meeting, it might buy China some time; but, it would only be a temporary reprieve from Trump’s trade ire,” the newsletter noted.

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Students Learn Real Skills, Earn Simulated Profits

Young people around the United States are creating virtual businesses that produce simulated products, which are marketed and sold for virtual money. Thirteen hundred students recently showcased their ventures, ranging from telecom firms to gourmet food providers, in Pasadena, California.

At what looked like a corporate trade show, students from Miguel Contreras Business and Tourism School in Los Angeles solicited customers for their tour company. Teacher Darrell Iki helped the students launch Big City Tours, which exists only in the classroom and online. The company stages virtual tours to different parts of Los Angeles, highlighting the city’s ethnic heritage, fashion or high-end shopping. A related virtual company sells travel gear.

Students from Century High School in Santa Ana, California, sell a hypothetical translation device geared toward travelers. 

It all starts with a business plan, according to Iki, as students are named to executive positions and learn to “work together, having a common goal in a potentially successful business.”

The students quickly realized that business is complicated, according to the head of the nonprofit group that works with schools around the country to impart skills through simulations. Thirteen thousand students go through the program each year.

“They’re running meetings, they’re networking, they’re meeting with professionals, they’re working with mentors,” said Nick Chapman of Virtual Enterprises International. The students showcase their companies at competitions, like this one in California. Similar virtual business programs exist in schools in 40 countries.

One student entrepreneur said he now understands the pressure of running a company, in this case a food firm called Taste of the World. He has overseen human resources and digital media for the virtual firm at Century High School in California.

“You really need to be hands-on with your employees and make sure your guys have strong communication,” said Miguel Santin. “Otherwise, the company just won’t prosper.”

Taste of the World is a subscription service that, at least in theory, sends snacks to subscribers through the mail.

“You sign up for three months, six months, a year, and you receive a snack box with trinkets and information about that company every single month throughout your subscription time,” said teacher Alan Gersten.

No real money changes hands.

“You would pay within our virtual economy,” Gersten said, “using virtual money in a web-based simulated banking system. All the kids in the program have bank accounts, so when they buy something, we give them a receipt.”

There’s a lot to learn, noted teacher Stephen Jarvis of the Elizabeth Learning Center in Cudahy, California. “It isn’t just selling something. It’s all the things that go on behind the scenes — creating documents, figuring out if you’re making money or losing money,” he said.

The money isn’t real, but the skills are, said a student entrepreneur with the virtual company Big City Tours, who won a scholarship to college.

“I went to the interviews, and being in this company has helped me really prepare my presentation skills and be able to talk to other people,” said student Catalina Garcia, who will start college this fall and hopes to become a doctor. She says the skills she gained in a virtual company have helped her, whether or not she starts her own company or works in the corporate sector.

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Watchdog: Western Tech Used for Hacking in Turkey, Syria

A Canadian company’s hardware is being used to hack internet users along Turkey’s border with Syria, researchers said Friday, adding that there were signs that Kurdish forces aligned with the United States might have been targeted.

The revelation comes as Turkey presses its offensive against the Kurds dug in along the country’s frontier with northwestern Syria, a conflict that threatens to disrupt the American-led effort to extinguish the Islamic State group. The apparent use of Canadian technology to target a U.S. ally was an irony underlined by Ron Deibert, the director of the internet watchdog group Citizen Lab, which published a report on the spying.

“These companies are not closely regulated, and that can lead to a lot of unintended consequences, including consequences that harm our foreign policy interests and human rights interest as well,” Deibert said. “It’s a strong argument for government control over this kind of technology.”

Canadian tech

 

Citizen Lab identified the hardware behind the hacking as PacketLogic devices produced by Procera, a Fremont, California-based company that was recently folded into Canada-based network management firm Sandvine, which is owned by American private equity group Francisco Partners. 

 

In a statement issued before the report’s release, Sandvine said it investigates all allegations of abuse but said it had been unable to complete its inquiry because Citizen Lab refused to provide the company with its findings in full. 

“Once we have the necessary data, we will conduct a full investigation and take appropriate action,” Sandvine said.

The statement also said Citizen Lab’s allegations were “technically inaccurate and intentionally misleading,” but a representative for the company has yet to supply an example of a misleading or inaccurate claim.

Government spying

Citizen Lab said it discovered the hacking after a European cybersecurity company reported that network service providers in two unidentified countries were trying to compromise their users using a powerful hacking technique known as network injection. Citizen Lab scoured the internet for signs of the spying and eventually traced the activity to the Turkish provinces of Adana, Hatay, Gaziantep, Diyarbakir and to the Turkish capital, Ankara, as well as parts of northern Syria and Egypt. 

 

Network injection — so-called because malicious software is injected into everyday internet traffic by whoever controls the network — has long been feared as a particularly powerful form of government spying.

“This can potentially be used to target anyone in the country with the click of the button,” said Bill Marczak, the lead author of the report.

 

Although the identities of those being spied on in Turkey and Egypt aren’t clear, Marczak said that the devices appeared to be installed on the network belonging to Turk Telekom, a leading phone and internet provider in Turkey as well as parts of northern Syria. He said there were hints suggesting some of the targets are affiliated with the YPG, the Kurdish Marxist rebel group which is fighting Turkish forces for control of the northwestern Syrian province of Afrin. Although Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization, the group provides the backbone of the U.S.-backed operations against the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

 

American officials acknowledged Monday that ground operations against the jihadist group’s remnants in eastern Syria were on hold because Kurdish fighters were being diverted to the battle against Turkey. 

Turk Telekom statement

 

Turk Telekom said in a statement that it complies with Turkish law and doesn’t interfere with internet users’ access. It added that the company “does not redirect any internet user to receive malicious downloads of popular software applications.” A representative for the company did not immediately respond to follow-up questions.

 

Sandvine’s ties to the Turkey government have been the subject of previous reporting. In 2016, Forbes reported that engineers at Procera were so troubled at the prospect of supplying surveillance hardware for use by Turk Telekom that six of them quit in protest. 

 

“I do not wish to spend the rest of my life with the regret of having been a part of (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s insanity, so I’m out,” one the engineers said in a letter of resignation quoted by Forbes.

 

LinkedIn shows at least 16 Procera-Sandvine employees listed as working in Egypt or Turkey. One Sandvine engineer based in Cairo listed “lawful interception” — a commonly used euphemism for state-sanctioned surveillance — as one of his interests.

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