Family Whom Housed Edward Snowden In Hong Kong Granted Asylum In Canada

(HRW) – Vanessa Rodel and her young daughter Keana are finally safe, some six years after they opened the door to a scared young man who was seeking shelter in Hong Kong. That man was Edward Snowden, introduced to the penniless refugee family by their shared lawyer, who needed his soon-to-be-famous client to disappear for a few days while they worked on the US National Security Agency whistleblower’s legal case.

Vanessa had wound up in Hong Kong after fleeing a violent and powerful sexual abuser in the Philippines. But her act of kindness, and her location in Hong Kong, unfortunately became known – to the world, and to her abuser – at some point after Oliver Stone released his movie on Snowden. Hong Kong then rejected her asylum claim, effectively giving the green light for her to be deported back to a place that offered no protection against her abuser. Fortunately, Canada accepted Vanessa and Keana, now 7, as sponsored refugees, ensuring she would not be returned to the Philippines.

But five more kindhearted people who also sheltered Snowden for a few days face the same danger that Vanessa and Keana just escaped.

Supun Kellapatha and his partner Nadeeka separately escaped death threats and politically motivated abuse in Sri Lanka, and met each other as they waited – in vain – for Hong Kong to grant them asylum. The couple now have two children, Dinath and Sethumdi, who are stateless. Ajith Debagama Kankanalamage escaped horrific and repeated torture by the Sri Lankan army, but his asylum request was also rejected by Hong Kong, which is ready to deport him to where his life is at risk. His family was threatened and harassed by police once his connection to Snowden, and location in Hong Kong, became known. Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department officers were spotted in Hong Kong searching for these five in late 2016, making the prospect of retaliation should they be repatriated all the more likely.

These five people, who live in daily fear, have sponsors ready and waiting in Canada. Their path to a secure life is clear. Vanessa and Keana have been saved by Ottawa’s decision to admit them. The authorities can save their friends from peril by allowing them entry to Canada.

This article was originally published by Human Rights Watch on March 26th 2019. It was republished, with permission, using a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 US License, in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of Human Rights Watch | Formatting edits & Tweets added/embedded by Rogue Media Labs

Russia Aims To Create Backup To The World-Wide-Web, Create Its Own National Internet Infrastructure

Back in November 2016 I remember writing a story covering the Russian Federations decision to abandon all Microsoft products for Government use throughout the future. The decision was made on the heels of the now infamous FBI v Apple encryption case earlier that year, which set legal precedent allowing the US Government to compromise any and all electronic devices produced by US-based companies – mandating software backdoor’s to undermine encryption rights. At the time, Dmitry Perskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, described making the switch away from Microsoft as “a matter of National security.” Explaining how “it is believed that Microsoft products could be used to hide secret bugs or back-doors in their systems” that could be used to spy on its users. Considering that nearly all Government systems in Russia ran on Microsoft products at the time, this made swapping them out a top priority for Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

Russia was also not the first country to arrive at this conclusion. Dating back to 2014, following the release of leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Microsoft products have been banned for Government use inside China just as well. Perhaps most importantly, at least for the purposes of this article, was Russia’s plan to go about replacing Microsoft products in the future by creating an entirely new system of computing based on Russian coding (software), hardware and product development. The goal was to essentially create an entirely new computer model sourced domestically, exclusively from Russian developers/programmers. This would ensure that no other country in the world would have access to their systems, or be able to replicate their design – creating truly unique systems specifically designed for the Russian Government.

I bring this up because earlier this week I came across a new bill being proposed in Russia, attempting to create an entirely new backup system to the global “World Wide Web.” In some ways, think of it much like creating a modern or 21st century version of Minitel, only exclusive to Russia.

Given the current state of both Cyber and Informational warfare being waged across the planet in 2018, Russian lawmakers fear that rival countries may one day soon attempt to cut off, limit or restrict Russia’s access to the World-Wide-Web. As a result, Russian lawmakers feel as though it is paramount to begin creating a back up or emergency plan of action should this ever occur.

With this in mind, as was reported by Russia Today on December 14th 2018, “Russian lawmakers have introduced legislation designed to reduce the country’s internet resources’ dependence on foreign infrastructure.” Explaining how “the main goal is to significantly decrease dependence of the Russian internet sector on foreign infrastructure by setting up national groundwork to keep Russia’s internet functional, even if servers abroad become unavailable for any reason.” Adding that, among other things, this will also entail “the creation of an entirely new system of national domain names.

We’re not creating our own internet. We’re just setting up a backup infrastructure. We’re duplicating it locally, so that our citizens would have access to the internet in case of any emergencyDuma deputy Andrey Lugovoy explained. To date the proposed initiative has been given full backing by Russia’s Ministry of Communications, though it remains unclear if/when the bill will eventually be passed into law. Moreover, according to Oleg Ivanov, deputy Minister of Communications, even if the bill was approved it would still “take several” years to build the necessary infrastructure to pull it off, and there is currently no “realistic time-frame” for how long this would take – merely indicating that this initiative is part of a much broader, long term vision for the country.

Lastly, the proposed bill calls for the entirety of Russia’s cyberspace to come under the centralized governance/command of Roscomnadzor – the countries top telecommunications watchdog. To make everything work, the legislation also proposes mandates on all Russian based Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), requiring them to set up equipment with the ability to detect and trace the source of any internet traffic as to better monitor and defend against cyber based attacks from abroad in the future.

Legislation Submitted to State Duma:

Full Text of Bill:

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