Tag Archives: executives

French Spyware Executives Are Indicted for Aiding Torture

French Spyware Executives Are Indicted for Aiding Torture

Earlier this week, French authorities indicted four former executives of the surveillance firm Nexa Technologies, formerly called Amesys, for complicity in torture and war crimes. Between 2007 and 2014, the firm allegedly supplied surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt.

A coalition including the Interational Federation for Human Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and other human rights groups claim the repressive governments of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi used the tools to identify dissidents and activists, read their private emails and messages, and, in some cases, kidnap, torture, or kill them.

Nexa’s executives are accused of selling internet surveillance equipment that intercepted the emails, texts, and Facebook messages of journalists and dissidents. Executives allegedly sold the tech to Gadhafi’s Libyan government in 2007 and Egypt in 2014. The indicted individuals include the former head of Amesys, Philippe Vannier, former president Stéphane Salies, and two current Nexa executives: president Olivier Bohbot and managing director Renaud Roques. Efforts to reach the men through Nexa were unsuccessful.

The investigating judges of the crimes against humanity and war crimes unit of the Paris Judicial Court will review the evidence to determine whether the four executives will be tried in criminal court.

Such indictments are exceedingly rare. National security experts say international markets for exporting surveillance tools are largely unregulated. The makers of such equipment often push back against restrictions, even those intended to safeguard against misuse. A 2017 effort from European journalists estimated there were over 230 surveillance companies headquartered within the EU.

“By and large, there’s little that the authorities are required to do to curb this toxic market,” says Marietje Schaake, the international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and a former member of the European Parliament. While in parliament, Schaake supported new restrictions on exports of cybersurveillance tech from Europe to countries with a history of human rights violations.

Introduced by EU lawmakers in 2016 and passed last year, these new rules require firms to obtain licenses to export certain “dual use” technologies, such as software capable of surveillance, hacking, or extracting data. Governments reviewing license applications must assess the likelihood the tools will be used to infringe on human rights.

The indictment of the French executives stems from sales that predate the new EU regulations, but Schaake hopes they send a message that it’s possible to enforce controls on cyber surveillance equipment. She says it’s much easier to regulate sales before the products are in other countries. Often, it’s Western countries that are most resistant to this idea.

“Companies frame these tools as being used for countering terrorism,” Schaake says. “The ones who are truly responsible for torturing or kidnapping are the states doing that, but the companies are providing crucial tools to enable it.”

Concerns about the sales to Libya and Egypt date to 2011’s “Arab spring,” when journalists and privacy groups raised alarms that US and European companies furnished surveillance gear to oppressive regimes.

In both the US and EU, export controls have evolved in a piecemeal fashion, with security firms saying overbroad restrictions can penalize research, counterterrorism, or other legitimate uses of the software and human rights groups emphasizing their potential in abetting authoritarianism.

Last October the US updated its own rules controlling export of potentially dangerous software. The Department of Commerce says it will now take human rights considerations into account when approving or denying licenses for companies to make international sales. As in the EU, the change comes after several failed bids for an overhaul. But what that means, practically, is still up in the air.

“You have to think about it in terms of the growing attention that human rights are receiving in both European and US circles and the greater attention that’s being put on human rights abuses in China and other places,” says Garrett Hinck, a national security researcher at Columbia University.

Author: Sidney Fussell
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Executives Call for Deep Emission Cuts to Combat Climate Change

Executives Call for Deep Emission Cuts to Combat Climate Change

WASHINGTON — More than 300 businesses, including Google, McDonalds and Walmart, are pushing the Biden administration to nearly double the United States’ target for cuts to planet-warming emissions ahead of an April 22 global summit on climate change.

In a letter to President Biden, expected to be released Tuesday morning, chief executive officers from some of the nation’s largest companies will call on the administration to set a new Paris Agreement goal of slashing the nation’s carbon dioxide, methane and other planet-warming emissions at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

That is roughly what most major environmental groups want, and the corporate executives called the target “ambitious and attainable.”

Former President Donald J. Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, eradicating emissions reduction targets set by the Obama administration that many environmentalists had seen as too weak. President Obama had pledged to cut national emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

With Mr. Biden promising to tackle climate change intensely, climate change activists are watching to see how much more ambitious his targets will be than those set when he was vice president. Mr. Biden, who returned the United States to the Paris Agreement on Inauguration Day, has said the United States will announce fresh targets for the Paris Agreement on or before a virtual summit of world leaders he is hosting around Earth Day next week.

According to two administration officials familiar with the deliberations, the target is expected to be a range that will include a 50 percent reduction in emissions.

Organizers of the business letter said they hoped such a message coming from the private sector — including electric utilities like Exelon and Pacific Gas & Electric, as well as dozens of companies based in Republican districts — would resonate strongly with Congress. Other signators include Target, Verizon and Philip Morris, the tobacco giant once considered a firm ally of the Republican Party.

The effort also underscores the delicate path corporate leaders are treading in the post-Trump era. Their decisions to break with Republicans on issues like voting rights and racial justice have rankled their traditional allies in the G.O.P. Pressing the Biden administration to aggressively combat climate change could further alienate Republicans, who have long fought emissions regulations as “job killers” that would make American business less competitive.

“I think this signals a major shift in the corporate community’s understanding of the urgency of climate change as a systemic financial risk,” said Anne Kelly, vice president for government affairs at the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, which organized the letter.

Republican lawmakers have given no indication they are likely to be swayed, but they framed their opposition as a defense of consumers, not businesses.

“The Paris climate agreement will result in increased energy costs for Americans while Russia and China increase greenhouse gas emissions,” Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement. He predicted whatever target Mr. Biden announces will be “punishing.”

Patrick Flynn, vice president of sustainability for Salesforce, which signed on to the letter, said he hopes businesses will lobby Congress to support the Biden administration’s target.

“We know it will create millions of jobs, we know it’s a good thing for the economy, and we know if we do it right we can do it in a way that leaves no one behind,” he said.

Ralph Izzo, president and chairman of the Public Service Enterprise Group, a New Jersey-based energy company, said he is supporting the 50 percent target because he has seen the consequences of climate change in his state.

“It’s critical that we take significant action against the threat,” he said.

The corporate response is all the more remarkable because Mr. Biden’s plan for curbing climate change would be paid for in large part by raising corporate tax rates, a move sure to raise objections among at least some of the climate-conscious corporations. He also has called for a clean electricity standard and promised new regulations on the utility sector, automobile makers and oil and gas industries.

Mr. Flynn said his company has supported tax increases in the past and called Mr. Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal “a good investment” for the long term. Other companies that signed on to the letter sidestepped questions about the tax plan.

Ms. Kelley said she believes companies can “decouple” the commitments the United States needs to make to curb climate change with differences they may have with the administration around how to pay for it. “I think they see that as a separate set of negotiations,” she said.

Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 nations set their own voluntary targets for cutting emissions by 2025, including major developing nations like China and India. The rules of the accord do not punish countries for failing to meet the goals, but do require countries to set them.

The United States is currently less than halfway to its original goal.

Concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to rise. According to a recent measurement taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, concentrations recently topped 420 parts per million for the first time since levels have been recorded.

Lisa Friedman
This article originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

100 business executives discuss how to combat new voting rules: report

A group of more than 100 business community leaders joined a Zoom call on Saturday to explore what steps they could take to push back against legislation being considered in state legislatures across the country that would tighten voting laws, The Washington Post reported[1].

Leaders from Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss and Boston Consulting Group were present on the Zoom call, the Post reported. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank was also reportedly included in the conversation.

Two of the avenues discussed were stopping donations to politicians who support the legislation and postponing investments in states that approve the measures, four people who were on the call told the Post, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor.

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The goal of the call was to bring together companies that have issued their own statements following the signing of Georgia’s voting bill, the Post reported, citing Sonnenfeld.

The participants didn’t settle on any final steps.

The meeting was first reported by The Wall Street Journal[2].

The meeting comes as backlash grows against Georgia’s recently passed voting law and the GOP battles with companies that have expressed opposition.

Since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp100 business executives discuss how to combat new voting rules: reportBrian Kemp Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color Ready or not, the era of corporate political responsibility is upon us Solving the ‘primary problem’ will repair our government and elections MORE[4][5][6][7][8][3] (R) signed the bill, companies including Coca-Cola[9] and Delta[10] have have spoken out against the legislation.

Earlier this month, Major League Baseball announced[11] that it was pulling the league’s All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the legislation. The July game will now be played in Denver[12], MLB announced this week.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell100 business executives discuss how to combat new voting rules: reportAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: ‘We didn’t mince words’ Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business Biden resists calls to give hard-hit states more vaccines than others MORE[14][15][16][17][18][13] (R) said last week[19] that it was “quite stupid to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue.” 

On Wednesday, he backed off his comments[20], saying at a press conference in Kentucky “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.”

Lawmakers in Texas advanced legislation[21] on April 1 that would implement new voting restrictions in the state, including limits on polling place hours and reducing options for voters to cast ballots.

[email protected] (Mychael Schnell)