Who/What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz] – cont'd

It was reported this afternoon that the two journalists wounded in Baba Amr quarter of Homs, Syria last week [in the same “Media Center” where Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik died in shelling that their satellite phone use very probably helped target], were “smuggled” out — and that 13 Avaaz activists died in the operation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the effort. Speaking from the southern French city of Montpelier, where he is campaigning for the forthcoming elections, Sarkozy said he was “glad that this nightmare is over”, according to the AP http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_15716/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=ypSDmCoh.

But, a few hours later, Sarkozy retracted his remarks.

It seems that French journalist Edith Bouvier, who pleaded for evacuation from Baba Amr — because her leg was broken in two places, she could not walk, and she badly needed urgent fast surgery — was left behind and had not reached safety in Lebanon, as was previously announced. Only British journalist/cameraman Paul Convoy made it out, overnight, the BBC reported, here.

According to this BBC report, Bouvier’s whereabouts were unknown, though she apparently may have made it out of Homs, all of which is a danger zone under attack.

The BBC also reported that there was no news about the bodies of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

Before this surprising turnaround, and before Sarkozy’s retraction,
Zak @TheZako commented, with apparent admiration, on Twitter:
“.@Avaaz spoxman on @BBCRadio4: 23 activists were killed during the evacuation of foreign journalists. Crazy, crazy!”

Was it 23? Or, 13?

[@Avaaz Tweeted today that: “Ricken Patel, from #Avaaz, is live on #NSCNN CNN now. “There were over 50 activists in the opp, 23 died”. But an Avaaz press release, below, says it was 13…]

And, who are these Avaaz activists, really?

    Avaaz itself announced here that “a network of Syrian activists coordinated [though a Tweet by @Avaaz says it provided “support”] by the global campaign organisation Avaaz helped the international journalist Paul Conroy escape into Lebanon. He had been injured and trapped in Baba Amr, Homs for six days under continuous Syrian government shelling. The three other journalists Javier Espinosa, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels remain unaccounted for. Avaaz responded to requests from the journalists, their families and colleagues to attempt to evacuate them and worked with over 35 heroic Syrian activists each night who volunteered to help in the rescue. The activists have offered to support in the evacuation every night since Remi Ochlik and Marie Colvin were killed by Syrian government shellfire last Wednesday, during which time they rescued 40 seriously wounded people from the same place and brought in medical supplies. Tragically this operation led to a number of fatalities as the Syrian Army targeted those escaping, during their bombardment of the city on Sunday evening. 13 activists were killed in the operation. Three activists were killed by Syrian targeted shelling as they tried to assist the journalists through Baba Amr. While Paul Conroy successfully escaped the city, ten activists died bringing relief supplies into Baba Amr. On the day of their evacuation, over 7,000 people had been forced to flee their neighbourhoods in south Homs in fear of massacres. This operation was carried by Syrians with the help of Avaaz. No other agency was involved”.

The BBC said that “Campaign group Avaaz said it had co-ordinated an operation to free the wounded journalists and two trapped colleagues, and some of the activists involved had died in the process. Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel said the rescue group had been split in two by shelling after leaving Homs, and only Mr Conroy’s group had been able to move forward. Avaaz described the three other journalists – Ms Bouvier, Javier Espinosa, and William Daniels – as ‘unaccounted for’. Mr Conroy was apparently able to walk across the border into Lebanon during the night, but our correspondent adds that the more seriously wounded Ms Bouvier would have had to be carried on a stretcher”.

Javier Espinosa, Middle East Correspondent for El Mundo [Spain], reportedly survived uninjured the same attack killed Colvin + Ochlik, and wounded Bouvier + Conroy. One of his accounts of the situation in Baba Amr was published by The Guardian, here.

William Daniels, a French photographer who was on assignment for Panos photo agency, may or may not have been wounded.

Mr. Conroy’s wife, who had given hell to British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] officials for their seeming earlier inaction on rescuing her husband, said this evening that she was thrilled. A FCO spokesperson, speaking on “customary condition of anonymity in line with policy” said that “All the necessary work is being done on repatriating Marie Colvin’s body and ensuring Paul Conroy gets to safety. For security reasons we can’t give you any more detail of that at the moment”. This is reported by CBS News here.

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] issued a statement, posted here, from its New York Headquarters that “In all, eight journalists have been killed in Syria in the last four months, CPJ research shows. On Friday, a Syrian videographer Anas al-Tarsha was killed in Homs while filming a bombardment. A week earlier, another Syrian videographer, Rami al-Sayed, was killed in Baba Amr”.

CBS News also reported here that: “The Syrian opposition group Local Coordination Committees [LCC] and global activist group Avaaz said Conroy was the only foreign journalist to escape Syria. Rima Fleihan, an LCC spokeswoman, said the Sunday Times photographer was smuggled out by Syrian army defectors. The global activist group Avaaz, which said it organized the evacuation with local Syrian activists, said 35 Syrians volunteered to help get the journalists out and bring aid in. Of those, 13 were killed. Avaaz said three were killed in government shelling while trying to help Conroy through the neighborhood and 10 others were killed trying to bring in aid while Conroy was on his way out on Sunday evening … The LCC said other Western journalists are negotiating with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to be allowed to leave Syria without having their videos and photos confiscated by authorities. All the journalists killed and wounded in Homs were smuggled into Syria from Lebanon illegally”.

Really, who are these Avaaz activists?

    Liz Sly made an attempt to clarify in a report published in the Washington Post here, which recalled that about ten days ago, “New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack during a strenuous trek out of Syria across the mountainous Turkish border”.

    Sly’s Washington Post piece reported that “The botched rescue [n.b. – of injured and stranded journalists from Baba Amr] Tuesday also underscores the dangers facing the underground networks of activists and smugglers set up to evacuate people injured in government attacks to hospitals in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The same networks carry medical supplies such as blood bags and antibiotics into Syria for use in field hospitals and have been used by journalists to enter the country illegally. Similar but separate networks have also been utilized to smuggle weapons to the fledgling armed resistance movement known as the Free Syrian Army. But most of those active in the medical networks are civilian volunteers, seeking to help Syrians who have been injured during protests and who risk detention if they seek treatment at government hospitals, said Wissam Tarif, a Lebanon-based activist with Avaaz. ‘They are just ordinary guys who did not pick up weapons but decided to evacuate injured people’, he said. ‘Some of them have basic medical training, some can do tetanus shots and provide some medical assistance. Some of them are just guys who can carry heavy weights. They’ve been doing this for a year, and hundreds of them have been killed’. Altogether, 23 members of the network engaged in ferrying medical supplies and injured victims between Homs and Lebanon have been killed since last Wednesday’s attack on the journalists, said Tarif, who has close ties with the network. [Wait – is Sly separating this “network” from Avaaz, or are they identical, or at least overlap?] In the process, they have evacuated 40 injured civilians from Homs. Details of the the ambush and the identities of the dead Syrians were not disclosed to protect future evacuation operations, With the deaths of the activists and the evident discovery of the secret route they had been using by Syrian security forces, the network is now in jeopardy, activists said, leaving it unclear whether the remaining journalists can be evacuated. Efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to negotiate safe passage out of Bab Amr for the journalists have failed”…

Meanwhile the UN Human Rights Council convened in a special session in Geneva to discuss the situation in Syria. High-level delegations were expected to attend. The Syrian delegates walked out in protest early in the session after a UN official told the meeting that “atrocities were being committed in Syria”.

The BBC added that “French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has urged the 47 nations in the council to be prepared to submit a complaint against Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague”.

Who/What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz] and why did/do journalists trust them with their lives in Baba Amr

Who or What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz]?

And, why do veteran combat journalsts working for major news organizations trust Avaaz with their lives in getting into, and when inside, the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, Syria, which has been beseiged by the Syrian army on a mission to exterminate “Islamist terrorism”?

Ahvaaz [Avaaz]:
The name of an organization [a “global advocacy group”, The Telegraph coyly calls them] called Avaaz, has been mentioned as cooridinating closely with journalists covering the Syrian uprising, and in connection with their arrivals in besieged places like Baba Amr.

Their website is available in 14 or 15 languages at www.avaaz.org, here, they are on Twitter [@avaaz], and also Facebook — and they are interested in global matters — the oceans, the Amazon, the internet, and now Syria — identifying themselves as “a campaigning community” with 13 million members.

Their website says: “Avaaz—meaning ‘voice’ in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want … Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern–allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale. Avaaz’s online community can act like a megaphone to call attention to new issues; a lightning rod to channel broad public concern into a specific, targeted campaign; a fire truck to rush an effective response to a sudden, urgent emergency; and a stem cell that grows into whatever form of advocacy or work is best suited to meet an urgent need”…

UPDATE: Julian Borger reported here in The Guardian on Tuesday night [28 February] that Avaaz was founded in 2007.

Borger adds that Avaaz “emerged out of activist groups in the US and Australia, including ResPublica, GetUp! and MoveOn.org. Its founding president is Ricken Patel, a Canadian-British veteran of the International Crisis Group, a global thinktank, and MoveOn.org, a progressive American group. He runs a team of campaigners around the world, with offices in New York, Rio, Delhi, Madrid and Sydney”.

And, Borger added. Avaaz “has taken on a prominent and more physically risky role in the Arab spring, providing satellite phones and other communication equipment to pro-democracy groups in Libya, Egypt and Syria … Amid the bloodshed of Syria, the organisation’s commitment is less likely to be queried. The question its critics are raising now is whether a group that started out in the high-tech safety of the internet has found itself out of its depth in a brutal conflict in the real world”.

While the first time I recall hearing the name Ahvaaz was in connection with an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic regime installed in Tehran that the Iranian authorities strongly believe was coordinated with the American CIA + British secret services, they also seemed to have some kind of association with the MEK — or, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq = a supposedly “leftist’ movement that was part of the resistance to the Shah of Iran prior to the Iranian revolution, but was then persecuted, and took up arms against the Islamic Republic, when they found an ally in Saddam Hussein who offered them shelter and a base came which they are now evacuating for relocation as refugees around the world, under great pressure.

Ahvaaz, if I am not mistaken [will check] is the Persian version of the name of [CORR: the capital city of Khuzestan, the] Arabic-speaking province [Ahwaz] in south-western Iran, bordering Iraq, the Shatt al-Arab, and the north-western shore of Iran along the Persian Gulf.  It was in the Ahvaaz province that the first clashes in the terrible Iran-Iraq war [end 1979 to August 1989] took place, between the freshly-installed Islamic Republic and a Saddam Hussein backed by the U.S., by all Arab states [officially, at least] and by all the “civilized world”.

Ahvaaz came in big, internationally, in social media more recently at a late phase of the Tahrir Square protests — and though nobody knew who they were, exactly, many otherwise savvy people were enthusiastic to support, if not join, their calls for signing petitions, etc., in support of the Tahrir movement.

Like the MEK, Avaaz seems to be very media-savvy, and have expertise in modern technology.

But, Avaaz is functioning differently than the MEK at the height of its influence. Avaaz is concentrating on social media, and video postings on the internet, as well as their new role of helping “smuggle” journalists into battle zones in closed Syria via routes they have access to in neighboring countries [Lebanon, and possibly Turkey — the Israel government is surely aware of this, but keeping a judicious quiet].

The Avaaz website explains this under the heading, Breaking the Middle East Black-out:

    “Funded by donations from almost 30,000 Avaazers, an Avaaz team is working closely with the leadership of democracy movements in Syria, Yemen, Libya and more to get them high-tech phones and satellite internet modems, connect them to the world’s top media outlets, and provide communications advice. We’ve seen the power of this engagement — where our support to activists has created global media cycles with footage and eyewitness accounts that our team helps distribute to CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others. The courage of these activists is unbelievable — a skype message read ‘state security searching the house, my laptop battery dying, if not online tomorrow I’m dead or arrested’. He’s ok, and together we’re helping to get his and many other voices out to the world”

But, in Syria, things are not ok.

[Due to the dire situation, presumably, there is no particular information about Syria, at the moment, on the Avaaz website… UPDATE Yet, Avaaz states, here, that it “has been working with activists on the Syrian Spring since it started, setting up a network of over 400 Citizen Journalists across the country, smuggling in medicines and international journalists to report on the unfolding story and campaigning to ensure that sanctions and political pressure are applied on the Assad regime. The organisation is entirely funded by small donations from its members”.

UPDATE: An article published on The Guardian website last July, here, reports that “Since 2009, Avaaz has not taken donations from foundations or corporations, nor has it accepted payments of more than $5,000. Instead, it relies simply on the generosity of individual members, who have now raised over $20m. Much of this money goes towards specific campaigns. This year, $1.5m was raised to supply cameras to citizen journalists throughout the Arab world; as a result, much of the footage currently coming out of Syria was filmed on equipment provided by Avaaz”. The BBC picked up and rewrote this today, reporting rather lazily, here, that “Avaaz says it is independent and accountable because since 2009 it has been wholly member-funded”.]

Why should journalists trust Avaaz with their lives, as Marie Colvin did?

And, why are French photographers and filmmakers working so closely with Avaaz? [Are French photographers just more passionate and curious about the world? Or, do they have some kind of official backing?…]

If Avaaz is behind the recent quantum leap in improvement in the filming and video streaming of protests throughout Syria — particularly the dancing protests highlighted in our previous post — they deserve a lot of credit for their skills.

By comparison, the MEK, before it was labelled by the US as “terrorist organization”, a label which they have been fighting, used to function less as “local fixers” who can boost a foreign correspondent’s impact and reach, and more as an effective pressure group which was in regular contact with members of Congress and other governments, as well as everyone’s editors — and if a journalist didn’t seem enthusiastic about publishing their news, they would threaten to go to one’s editors. They implied that they could promote journalists’ careers — or of having them black-listed, and fired … Like other powerful and effective lobbies, the MEK traded in influence, and was feared.

More to follow later…

Dancing protests organized, coordinated + videocast simultaneously in various Syrian cities

Something new as recently characterized the Syrian protests-turned-uprising/insurrection, as the Syrian Army’s repression continues and worsens, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims (a) that he doesn’t know about the violence afflicting his own civilian population and (b) that the military action he is ordering is against a plot by some kind of “Islamic terrorists”.

Assad, from the start [not long before his father’s death] has been a figurehead put forth by a faceless group of powerful people from the ancien regime — a group even broader than the nomenklatura of the Syrian Baath party, but almost certainly including powerful business interests whose only true ideology is making money. It was all the more shocking that this son was named to succeed his father to head a country ruled by a single party [the Syrian Baathists] whose origin and founding grew from an opposition to monarchies which are based on family succession.

Bachar’s appointment, without any particular political credentials, to succeed his father is the single strongest indication that he was and is just a convenient figurehead for a shadowy group of faceless people with powerful interests that are more financial than political, and who succeeded in enriching themselves in recent years at the expense of the Syrian people.

A mini tragedy within this much larger tragedy is that it will be the relatively clueless Bashar and his attractive wife [subject of a fawning feature in Vogue magazine in recent years] who will now be the one to take the fall for the violent suppression of the Syrian people, while Bashar [credibly, in view of the fact that he is a figurehead] says he believes the actions of the shadow regime he is heading are against “Islamist terrorists” and in the interest of his people. For, he could not be aware of the extent of his people’s suffering, over decades, and continue to remain in office, unless he believes he is somehow standing to save them… which is by now purely delusional.

Here are two videos that show the situation in Baba Amr/Homs — which are remarkable not only for their quality, but also because of this public dancing as part of demonstrations, which I have never seen in Palestine, or in even in Tahrir Square, but which seems to boost remarkably crowd energy and solidarity, and which are fascinating to watch on video. They are remarkably well-organized, and show the willingness of a large number of people to participate and willingly cooperate with instructions, in a very convincing display of popular will. They are remarkably effective.

The name of an organization [“global advocacy group”, says The Telegraph] called Ahvaaz, has been mentioned as cooridinating closely with journalists covering the Syrian uprising, and in connection with their arrivals in besieged places like Baba Amr. While the first time I heard the name Ahvaaz was in connection with an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic regime installed in Tehran that the Iranian authorities strongly believe was coordinated with the American CIA + British secret services… The name turned up again from time to time, and then surprisingly last year, in support of the Tahrir Square protests… Now, Ahvaaz is the group that is coordinating journalists’ entry — apparently in coordination with the Free Syria Army — into a country that severely restricts journalists’ entry + movement, and even into Homs, a city that has been smashed by Syrian Army attacks in recent months, and even into the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, which has been targetted by the Syrian Army for the past three weeks, very intensively since last Sunday… This is interesting, and deserves a closer look

UPDATE: On Friday, Al-Jazeera Arabic began showing in the morning a new day of these exuberant and electrifying dancing protests, first livestreaming on the internet from Baba Amr, Homs and from Deir az-Zor, further to the east [Al-Jazeera went to a split screen to show the two similar protests simultaneously]. Then, Idlib was added, north of Homs. Then, Deraa was added, to the south of Syria. All the dancing protests were remarkably similar, and all were livestreamed in a coordinated manner. The dancing protests show people standing side by side in orderly straight lines with equal spacing between lines, then bowing all together from the waist and standing up, several times. Sometimes [as in the memorial to Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, below], the people also sway side-to-side. It looks like a Sufi ritual — and is almost certainly inspired by Sufi performances, which Syria is known for.

{1} The Horror in Homs, Channel 4 TV [Britain] – “The snipers, who have no fear of God, shot him”, a woman mourning her grandson says in this video – featuring footage shot by a French photographer and cameraman, Mani, “who has been to Homs several times, lived through and filmed the beginning of the assault, the effect s on the population, and the response of the Free Syrian Army to the massacre, on the first day, of over 140 people. While the world has become used to grainy shaky and gruesome footage and images from Homs fed through whatever internet connection is available, Mani’s crystal clear and incredible footage gives perhaps the clearest and most frightening account of what Homs has been like for the past three weeks”. This is posted here:

And, {2} A tribute, last night, to Marie Colvin, to the French photographer Remi Ochlik killed with her, and to a Syrian “citizen journalist” internet activist who was killed the day before, is posted here and also on the NYTimes website here.

Targetted killing of journalists Bab Amr possible [even probable] through their own Satellite phones – UPDATED

Marie Colvin said in November 2010:
“War reporting has changed greatly in just the last few years. Now we go to war with a satellite phone, laptop, video camera and a flak jacket. I point my satellite phone to south southwest in Afghanistan, press a button and I have filed”.

When she made that remark, she was speaking at St. Bride’s Church in London in November 2010, at a memorial service for journalists who have died in the line of duty. She said that, earlier: “I first went to war with a typewriter, and learned to tap out a telex tape. It could take days to get from the front to a telephone or telex machine”. The full text of Marie Colvin’s speech was eepublished the day of her death in The Guardian, here.

What she did not think of, and may not have known, at the time she spoke those words, was that when she used her satellite phone to file her material a year and a half later, from beseiged Baba Arm in the Syrian city of Homs, her coordinates were captured and used for targetting by military artillery.

The use of her satellite phone may have killed her. Electronics experts say [see below] that if journalists must use their satellite phones in battlefield conditions, they should keep a distance from the phone: “If you have to get the signal out – do so safely and move your ass”.

In the few minutes after the news broke — in the morning, February 22nd — of the killing by shelling of Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik in Baba Amr, Homs [and the wounding of at least three other journalists working in the same “Media Center”] the horrible possibility dawned that they had been tracked and targetted after using their satellite phones and other equipment to upload their news reports and photos.

Satellite phones and computers are apparently not allowed into Syria.

Neither, for the most part, are journalists.

But Marie Colvin and her colleagues managed to get in from Lebanon with the help of smugglers working with the Free Syria Army [FSA] which is trapped, with some 28,000 Syrian civilians, in the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, where they have been subjected to sharply increased shelling, this week, by the Syrian Army which claims to be fighting “Islamic terrorists”…

Syrian Army snipers are said to be stationed at the perimeter of the Baba Amr area, and shoot all those trying to leave, or enter. [But, the smuggler’s apparently have one route that is being used…]

The Syrian Army might not have the latest technical capability to track Satphone signals and “triangulate” targetteting based on this … But again, they might. Or, they might have friends and allies and mercenaries who are skilled in this, and who would also have the latest technology with which to do it…

The Telegraph [London] reported here that Colvin, Ochlik and their colleagues were “fired on as they tried to flee a makeshift press centre that had suffered a direct hit from a shell. Witnesses said they were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade as they emerged from the ruins of the press centre, which was next door to a hospital. Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, said they had been ‘pursued as they tried to flee the bombardment’ … Reporters working in Homs, which has been under siege since Feb 4, had become concerned in recent days that Syrian forces had ‘locked on’ to their satellite phone signals and attacked the buildings from which they were coming”.

The Globe and Mail of Canada wrote that: “The press centre was apparently the only place in the city with a ‘live feed’ for broadcasters and satellite phones emitting a near-constant signal. Syrian government forces could triangulate the location of the satellite transmission. Intelligence agencies around the world track phone and satellite signals to target enemies. Syrian activists said they took specific measures to avoid being detected when using satellite phones, such as limiting the duration of their calls, and changing locations”. This is published here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, here that “There are a few different ways by which satellite phones can be tracked. The first—and easiest for a government actor—would be to simply ask or pressure a company to hand over user data … Satellite phones can also be tracked by technical means and there is ample technology already on the market for doing so … Authorities can find the position of a satellite phone using manual triangulation, but in order to track a phone in this manner, the individual would need to be relatively close by. Nowadays, however, most satellite phones utilize GPS, making them even easier to track using products widely available on the market such as those mentioned above. Some of these products allow not only for GPS tracking, but also for interception of voice and text communications and other information … Colvin has put a human face on a problem that has plagued citizens of the Middle East for years now: surveillance equipment being used by despotic governments to track down journalists and activists, like provided to them by Western technology companies. Now it’s possible this equipment directly led the murder of an American journalist”.

David Burgess wrote on his blog, The OpenBTS Chronicles, here, that the danger for a journalist to use a satellite phone in a combat zone is “about the fact that you are transmitting a distinctive radio signal”:
“Regardless of encryption, authentication, etc., the mere existence of one of these radio signals sends a message to an observing military force: There’s someone over there with fancy comms and it’s not us. That can be a very dangerous message”.

The SaferMobiles website subsequently published an article entitled: “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid of Satellite phones in Insecure Locations”, posted here which advises that:
“Nothing will prevent location discovery with a satellite phone, other than not using the device”, and “IF you must use one, keep your conversations as short as possible. Keep in mind that keeping a conversation short is only relevant if you change your location immediately following a call”.

Here is an international Twitter exchange between technically-proficient tweeters who say not only is it possible — they also warn, it is probable. “Keep a distance before using a Satphone”, one warns MSFnce-Fra [Medecins Sans Frontiers-France]. He also tweeted that extreme precision in targetting is not needed: “just a 100 meters precision is enough to wipe the place”.

Another person in the exchange warned: “If you have to get the signal out – do so safely and move your ass”.

He added: “No matter what – unless you *know* otherwise, your Satellite phone almost certainly discloses your exact GPS location in an insecure manner”.

And, he recommended [without any evident commercial motive] using this product, a GSMK Cryptophone, with the link he provided here.


Here are some excerpts from this interesting exchange on Twitter [the top ones are the more recent]:

David Burgess ? @dburgess00
@Katrinskaya @safermobile @jilliancyork my $0.02: openbts.blogspot.com/2012/02/some-c…
[ http://openbts.blogspot.com/2012/02/some-comments-on-satellite-phones.html ]

Elasti Girl ? @Katrinskaya
Were journos in #Syria targeted by their sat phones? @safermobile explains how that’s possible: bit.ly/xQumFh cc @jilliancyork
[ https://safermobile.org/be-afraid-be-very-afraid-of-satellite-phones-in-insecure-locations/]

Jillian C. York ? @jilliancyork
Satphones, Syria, and Surveillance by @jilliancyork and @WLLegal for @EFF – goo.gl/oxbT9 (+1 to @ioerror)

Okhin @okhin
@MSF_france dites à vos agents de se mettre à l’écart avant d’utiliser un téléphone sat. Ils sont utilisés pour guider l’artillerie. [= “Tell your people/staff to stay a distance away before using a satellite phone. They are used to guide artillery” ]

Okhin @okhin
@asteris not sure there’s a need for tech help. I think it’s basic military transmission tactics to triangulate a signal.

Okhin @okhin
@asteris @Katrinskaya @csoghoian I think Assad does not need extreme precision, just a 100 meters precision is enough to wipe the place

Asteris Masouras @asteris
@okhin triangulating broadcasts is one thing, locking on to a specific signal & directing precision fire to it another

Okhin @okhin
@asteris arstechnica.com/business/news/… for the eavesdroppping part at least. I guess triangulating a satphone does not require to crack it.
2:27 PM – 23 Feb 12 via web • Details

Asteris Masouras @asteris
We need a serious investigation in the satphone targeting issue, at any rate, along w full registry of companies producing such tech #Homs

David Burgess @dburgess00
@Katrinskaya @ioerror Thuraya absolutely knows your location. Do you trust Thuraya’s employee screening procedures with your life?

Aaron Huslage @huslage
@ioerror they can still be sniffed over the air. How does Tor help with deniability in the case of a point-to-point link?

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
If you are using a Satellite phone for *data* in Syria or elsewhere – use Tor! Your communications are trivial to intercept.

Elasti Girl @Katrinskaya
@ioerror Privacy IS vital security often and in many places. Never understood the weird way in which we separate privacy and security.
Retweeted by Jacob Appelbaum

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
@matt_mcc @huslage Of course not. Different threats. If you have to get the signal out – do so safely and move your ass.

Matt McClellan @matt_mcc
@ioerror @huslage don’t need content for targeting
from Ellicott City, MD

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
No matter what – unless you *know* otherwise, your Satellite phone almost certainly discloses your exact GPS location in an insecure manner.

hi @BannedFromOz
@Voulnet supposedly the user would have to purposely lower the security settings thru a series of steps in order for an attack to happen.

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
If you are using a Satellite phone for voice calls – stop unless you’re using cryptophone: cryptophone.de/en/products/sa… = GSMK Cryptophone [http://www.cryptophone.de/en/products/satellite/cp-t3/]. The information on the product page linked says: “The CryptoPhone T3 Thuraya satellite option is the perfect solution for secure communications in areas without GSM coverage or if you do not wish to depend on local network infrastructure”.

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
If you are using a Satellite phone for *data* in Syria or elsewhere – use Tor! Your communications are trivial to intercept.

Christopher Soghoian @csoghoian
I wonder which surveillance vendor sold Syrian gov the gear it used to “lock-in” to sat phones of murdered journalists. telegraph.co.uk/news/9099325/M… Retweeted by Jacob Appelbaum
[ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9099325/Marie-Colvin-Syria-regime-accused-of-murder-in-besieged-Homs.html ]


This last tweet links to an updated article published here by the British daily paper, The Telegraph, which mentions the possibility that tracking of Satellite/Satphone/Satellite computer signals may indeed have been used to deliberately target the journalists working in the FSA “Media Center” yesterday, which we cited in our previous post, yesterday.

The Telegraph also reported that “Hours before she died, Colvin had given interviews to several broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4 and CNN in which she described the bloodshed as ‘absolutely sickening’. She also accused Mr Assad’s forces of ‘murder’ and said it was ‘a complete and utter lie that they are only
targeting terrorists…the Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians’. Sources in Damascus confirmed that Syrians, including Mr Assad, would have been able to watch Colvin’s broadcasts – a fact that could have sealed her fate”…