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Tunisia: Proposed bill could give security forces carte blanche to use unnecessary lethal force

A bill on the agenda for discussion in Tunisia s parliament today could bolster impunity for security forces by granting them immunity from prosecution for unnecessary use of lethal force as well as potentially criminalizing criticism of police conduct, said Amnesty International today. The proposed law, known as the Repression of attacks against armed forces bill, would authorize security forces to use lethal force to protect property even when it is not strictly necessary to protect life, contrary to international standards . It would exempt security forces from criminal liability in such cases if the force used is deemed necessary and proportionate . The bill was first proposed by the government to parliament in April 2015 and was reintroduced at the demand of police unions. This bill is a dangerous step towards institutionalizing impunity in Tunisia s security sector

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s North Africa Research Director

This bill is a dangerous step towards institutionalizing impunity in Tunisia s security sector .

The fact that parliament is even considering this bill is a sign of the lack of political will on the part of the government to ensure accountability for abuses by the security services . The bill also flouts the country s own constitution which guarantees the right to life, freedom of expression and access to information, said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s North Africa Research Director.

Tunisian security forces have been targeted in the past but giving them freer rein to use lethal force and immunity from prosecution is not the way to address this challenge . The Tunisian parliamentshould reject this bill and focus on measures to end the impunity enjoyed by the security forces. Tunisian security forces have been targeted by armed groups in a series of attacks since 2015 . Tunisia s parliamentary committee on General Legislation is due to hold a hearing today with the Minister of Interior whose ministry drafted the bill . Later in the day, the committee will also meet with the security forces unions which have been advocating1 for the adoption of the bill.

The bill allows security forces to respond with lethal force to an attack on property that does not threaten lives or risk causing serious injury . Article 18 of the bill would exempt members of the security forces from criminal liability for injuring or killing anyone , including as a result of using lethal force to protect against attacks on homes, objects or vehicles, if the force used is deemed necessary and proportionate to the danger . This is contrary to the state s obligation to respect and protect the right to life. Using lethal force solely to protect property would not be necessary and proportionate . The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms restrict the use of lethal force by law enforcement to situations where it is strictly necessary to protect life . These standards require that an independent authority assess whether the use of lethal force leading to a death or serious injury was necessary and proportionate.

In February 2017, Amnesty International published a report2 highlighting how violations committed by security forces in the context of the state of emergency, including torture and arbitrary arrests, are threatening the country s path to reform . No security officers have been convicted for these violations so far. In Tunisia, abuses committed in the name of security almost always go unpunished

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s North Africa Research Director

In Tunisia, abuses committed in the name of security almost always go unpunished . This has created an atmosphere of pervasive impunity, where security forces feel that they are above the law and need not fear prosecution, said Heba Morayef.

Granting security forces legal immunity from prosecution through this bill will only embolden perpetrators of human rights violations.

In June, members of Tunisia s infamous El Gorjeni anti-terrorism brigade complained3 to the parliamentary security and defence committee about the number of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment directed towards them, describing such allegations as a form of harassment . The bill also includes vague provisions that could criminalize legitimate criticism of the security forces including for human rights abuses . Article 12 of the bill criminalizes the denigration of police and other security forces with the aim of harming public order , making it punishable with a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars. Articles 5 and 6 of the bill provide for up to 10 years in prison and a 50,000 dinar fine for those who disclose or publish national security secrets .

This is defined as any information, data and documents related to national security , an overly broad definition which could be used to imprison those revealing information about human rights violations . No protection from prosecution is provided for whistleblowers or journalists. These provisions are inconsistent with Tunisia s obligation to uphold freedom of expression and the public s right to access information under international law and according to the country s constitution.

During a review of its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council in May, Tunisia received at least 10 recommendations4 relating to strengthening accountability for human rights violations by security forces .

By accepting these recommendations Tunisia has committed to take concrete steps to fight impunity.

It is deeply disappointing to see that this bill, which fundamentally threatens the human rights gains Tunisia has made since 2011, back on the table, said Heba Morayef.

Tunisia must abide by its commitments to uphold its human rights obligations by ensuring greater oversight of the security sector and taking concrete steps to address impunity once and for all.

References

  1. ^ advocating (www.france24.com)
  2. ^ report (www.amnesty.org)
  3. ^ complained (www.mosaiquefm.net)
  4. ^ recommendations (www.amnesty.org)

Trump says discussed forming cyber security unit with Putin

U.S . President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Sunday that he discussed forming a cyber security unit to guard against election hacking with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tweeting after his first meeting with Putin on Saturday, Trump said now was the time to work constructively with Moscow, pointing to a ceasefire deal in southwest Syria that came into effect on Sunday.

“Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe,” he said following their talks at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Trump said he had raised allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S . presidential election with Putin.

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election . He vehemently denied it . I’ve already given my opinion…..”

He added: “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives . Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida immediately criticized the move on Twitter, saying Putin was not a trusted partner.

Partnering with Putin on a “Cyber Security Unit” is akin to partnering with (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad on a “Chemical Weapons Unit,” he wrote.

Investigations by a special counsel, Robert Mueller, and several U.S . congressional committees are looking into whether Russia interfered in the election and colluded with Trump’s campaign .

Those probes are focussed almost exclusively on Moscow s actions, lawmakers and intelligence officials say, and no evidence has surfaced publicly implicating other countries.

Moscow has denied any interference, and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.

(Reporting by David Stamp, Valerie Volcovici and Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

US military leak exposes ‘holy grail’ of security clearance files

US Military Leak Exposes 'holy Grail' Of Security Clearance Files NEW YORK — A unsecured backup drive has exposed thousands of US Air Force documents, including highly sensitive personnel files on senior and high-ranking officers. Security researchers found that the gigabytes of files were accessible to anyone because the internet-connected backup drive was not password protected.

The files, reviewed by ZDNet, contained a range of personal information, such as names and addresses, ranks, and Social Security numbers of more than 4,000 officers . Another file lists the security clearance levels of hundreds of other officers, some of whom possess “top secret” clearance, and access to sensitive compartmented information and codeword-level clearance1. Phone numbers and contact information of staff and their spouses, as well as other sensitive and private personal information, were found in several other spreadsheets.

The drive is understood to belong to a lieutenant colonel, whose name we are not publishing . ZDNet reached out to the officer by email but did not hear back.

The data was secured last week after a notification2 by MacKeeper security researcher Bob Diachenko. Among the most damaging documents on the drive included the completed applications for renewed national security clearances for two US four-star generals, both of whom recently had top US military and NATO positions.

US Military Leak Exposes 'holy Grail' Of Security Clearance Files US Military Leak Exposes 'holy Grail' Of Security Clearance Files

Both of these so-called SF86 applications3 contain highly sensitive and detailed information, including financial and mental health history, past convictions, relationships with foreign nationals, and other personal information. These completed questionnaires are used to determine a candidate’s eligibility to receive classified material. Several national security experts and former government officials we spoke to for this story described this information as the “holy grail” for foreign adversaries and spies, and said that it should not be made public.

For that reason, we are not publishing the names of the generals, who have since retired from service. Nevertheless, numerous attempts to contact the generals over the past week went unreturned. “Some of the questions ask for information that can be very personal, as well as embarrassing,” said Mark Zaid, a national security attorney, in an email .

The form allows prospective applicants to national security positions to disclose arrests, drug and alcohol issues, or mental health concerns, among other things, said Zaid. Completed SF86 forms aren’t classified but are closely guarded . These were the same kinds of documents that were stolen in a massive theft of sensitive files4 at the Office of Personnel Management, affecting more than 22 million government and military employees.

“Even if the SF86 answers are innocuous, because of the personal information within the form there is always the risk of identity theft or financial fraud that could harm the individual and potentially compromise them,” said Zaid.

One spreadsheet contained a list of officers under investigation by the military, including allegations of abuses of power and substantiated claims of wrongdoing, such as wrongfully disclosing classified information. A former government official, who reviewed a portion of the documents but did not want to be named, said that the document, in the wrong hands, provided a “blueprint” for blackmail. Even officers who have left in recent years may still be vulnerable to coercion if they are still trusted with historical state secrets.

“Foreign powers might use that information to target those individuals for espionage or to otherwise monitor their activity in the hopes of gaining insight into US national security posture,” said Susan Hennessey, a Brookings fellow and a former attorney at the National Security Agency. Government officials use the form as a screening mechanism, said Hennessey, but it also offers applicants the chance to inform the government of past indiscretions or concerns that eliminate the possibility of blackmail in the future, she added. “These are people whose lives can depend on sensitive information being safeguarded, so the notion they would fail to put country over self in that kind of circumstance is far-fetched and supported by relatively few historical examples,” she said. “Still, it is the obligation of the government to keep this kind of information safe, both in order to protect the privacy of those who serve and their families and to protect them against being placed in difficult situations unnecessarily,” said Hennessey.

Though many of the files were considered “confidential” or “sensitive,” a deeper keyword-based search of the files did not reveal any material marked as classified. A completed passport application for one of the generals was also found in the same folder, as well as scans of his own and his wife’s passports and driving licenses. Other data included financial disclosures, bank account and routing information, and some limited medical information.

Another document purported to show the lieutenant colonel’s username and password5 for a sensitive internal Dept . of Defense system, used to check staff security clearances. Another document listed the clearance levels6 of one of the generals.

And, a smaller spreadsheet contained a list of Social Security numbers, passport numbers, and other contact information on high-profile figures and celebrities, including Channing Tatum.

The records were collected in relation to a six-day tour to Afghanistan by Tatum in 2015 . An email to Tatum’s publicist went unreturned. The drive also contained several gigabytes of Outlook email files, covering years worth of emails . Another document purported to be a backup. Nevertheless, this would be the second breach of military data in recent months. Potomac, a Dept . of Defense subcontractor, was the source of a large data exposure7 of military personnel files of physical and mental health support staff . Many of the victims involved in the data leak are part of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which includes those both formerly employed by US military branches, such as the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and those presumably still on active deployment. It’s not known how long the backup drive was active .

Given that the device was public and searchable, it’s not known if anyone other than the security researchers accessed the files.

The Office of Personnel Management, which processes security clearance applications, referred comment to the Pentagon.

A Pentagon spokesperson would not comment in an email Monday.

References

  1. ^ codeword-level clearance (www.documentcloud.org)
  2. ^ after a notification (goo.gl)
  3. ^ so-called SF86 applications (www.cbsnews.com)
  4. ^ a massive theft of sensitive files (www.zdnet.com)
  5. ^ lieutenant colonel’s username and password (www.documentcloud.org)
  6. ^ the clearance levels (www.documentcloud.org)
  7. ^ a large data exposure (www.zdnet.com)