Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Syrian Hackers Deface the Website of Brown County, Ohio

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Syria-News today reported that Syrian Hackers defaced the website of Brown County, Ohio. Below you’ll find a screen grab of the page that was still defaced at the time of writing this post. The hackers went by the names The Pro, SaQeR SyRia, and boy-25 and identified themselves as being from the Occupied Golan Heights.

Screen capture of Brown County website, accessed 10:00 am EST, Feb 16, 2011

The hackers did not list any demands apart from apparently bringing attention to the Golan Heights which Israel invaded in 1967 and annexed later completely ignoring International Law and UN resolutions. Unfortunately Brown County was punished for a crime it didn’t commit. Hacking is in no way acceptable. Surely you can’t hope to solve major regional geopolitical problems by hacking websites of an innocent county in north-eastern US. The hack seems to have happened some time ago, at least it’s been long enough for Google spiders to index it:

Screen capture of Brown County Ohio Google search, accessed 10:30 am EST, Feb 16, 2011

Syrian reactions to the news were divided between cheering the hackers on and berating them. Below are some translations of comments left on the afore-mentioned Syria-news article:

Susu: You’re a master, keep on hacking other Israeli and American websites!

Rami: What an achievement! People show off scientific discoveries and inventions and you go about hacking American websites? I don’t know what to say… you’re leaving us with no friends

blah: Bravo! make them hate us more!

Huda: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is a stupid operation that is surely to backfire. What’s the use? Is it just to show off? Does inserting the Quran help Islam or harms it? [...] I believe this is an operation to link Syria to Islamist terrorism.

Mahmoud: DUMB TERRORIST! Do you know what you’re doing? Do you realize that you’re acting like Al Qaeda? Do you know that you’re linking Syria to Al Qaeda  when you abuse the Quran and use it in your operation? Oh my God how will we make you understand?

Hacking governmental website has become a common occurrence in Syria recently. Youth have repeatedly hacked the websites of ministries and universities as they view it their only way to get their demands across to the government. The demands varied between asking for a better education, protesting unemployment, and frequent power outages. Sometimes, their only target was to point out security flaws in these websites suggesting that the government should invest some more in protecting its online presence.


#NetFreedom in Syria, Between Sanctions and Censorship

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Free Syrian Internet - Image by Flickr user azraiman

A delegation of US tech companies and policymakers are visiting Syria today and holding a meeting with President Bashar Al Assad and high-ranking officials. The tech delegation (#techdel on Twitter, and “techdel” hereafter) came after coordination on high diplomatic levels and as a part of the Obama administration’s policy of engaging with Syria, according to William Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

A tweet by Alec Ross, the techdel’s leader, summed up the United States’ attitude towards the visit:

This trip to #Syria will test Syria’s willingness to engage more responsibly on issues of #netfreedom

Of course Net freedom is craved by Syrian users; Censorship is strict and many popular websites are blocked by the Syrian government (Facebook and YouTube to name a couple), and perceived cyber-dissidents have many a time received prison sentences ranging between 3-5 years in most cases. What the techdel seems oblivious to is how much the U.S. sanctions on Syria are complicit in further limiting internet freedoms for Syrian users. Jared Cohen, Member of Secretary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff and a member of the delegation, tweeted:

Big gap between older & younger Syrians on challenges to business. Youth blame lack of education, not sanctions

Just to show how misguided that statement is, I’ll draw up a few comparisons between Syrian governmental censorship and U.S. imposed IT sanctions: Read the rest of this entry »


Call 911! There’s an Arab on the Train!

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A couple of years ago, an American friend of mine asked me: “Would you want to live in the U.S. ?” I replied in the negative: “Why would I want to live in country where I’m treated as terrorist until proven otherwise?” She said that my expectations were inaccurate; that I would blend in, and go unnoticed in an international city like New York.

Being the skeptic that I am, I had to see for myself before I could make a final judgment.

I arrived in Boston on June 20th, 2009, knowing that I would have to go through “Secondary Screening” at the airport. The waiting room had a weird mix of people:  a Lebanese kid (he looked 16); a Russian young man with missing papers that was trying to weasel his way in; a bunch of disgruntled Spaniards, including a plane crew, that were irked by the fact that they would have to go through the humiliation of secondary screening. My experience was not so bad, I waited for a little over three hours before my turn came up and I was asked a couple of trivial questions about my parents before being allowed out. That was anticlimactic. It was an inconvenience, but it was still easier for a Syrian national to be granted entry to the U.S. than to some Arab countries.

Up until last week, my stay in the U.S. had been one smooth ride. I had been pleasantly surprised to have no incidents, no one with nasty prejudices. I had been treated as any other human being. Then came a trip to Washington D.C. where I opted to take the train because flying for a Syrian in the U.S. does not go without hassle. To my surprise the train  had no WiFi so I unfortunately chose to watch an episode of Al Jazeera documentary in Arabic called The Story of a Revolution ( حكاية ثورة Hikayat Thawra) on the Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression and occupation, and yes, the oppression of the various  Arab regimes that were trying to use Palestinian suffering for domestic political gains.

حكاية ثورة - Copyright Al Jazeera

Halfway through the episode I noticed a hawk-eyed middle aged man ogling my screen with a death stare. I did not pay much attention to him and I went back to my documentary. Minutes later I hear him  on the phone talking about me to what I assumed to be 911. He was on a rant about a terrorist watching a video in Arabic, at one point he said something about Jihad as well. He was soon yelling profanity making sure I could hear it though he wasn’t saying it directly to my face, things like: “What the fuck is this shit,” “I’m not putting up with this shit.” He soon proceeded to leave the cart, I assumed he was also going to report me to the train’s staff as well. I took advantage of his absence and called 911 myself and told them that there was a guy acting in a threatening manner because he saw me watching a documentary in Arabic on my laptop. They advised me not to confront him and just move to another cart for my own safety. Read the rest of this entry »


Hamas, Hezbollah: A Change of Tone

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Thanks to a Syrian tweet bot, I keep on top of everything that’s said about the country in the Twittersphere. And Today I came across a rather interesting AP article: Netanyahu: Israel open to peace talks with Syria. What caught my attention was not the doublespeak of an Israeli official about peace with Syria. Israelis have expressed no interested in returning the occupied Golan to Syria; To them, Syria has nothing to offer in return. Peace in their logic, is overrated. A simple search in prominent Israeli media shows how prevalent that opinion is.

I was especially interested in the particular use of words in the article. I quote:

It has been a quarter-century since Israel and Syria fought directly, but Syria backs anti-Israel forces like the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic organization Hamas. Israel’s sworn enemy Iran backs Hamas and Hezbollah.

In this article, Hamas and Hezbollah were not referred to as.. *gasp* “terrorist organizations.” Now I was not able to determine if this was an AP policy not to refer to them as such outside of a direct quote, or whether there’s more to the matter. I’m going to layout a few happenings, and let the readers come out with their own conspiracy theories.

Read the rest of this entry »


Newsweek Article Suggests Appointing Bush as U.S. Mideast Envoy

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United States of America President George W. B...

Image via Wikipedia

Gregory Levey suggested in the Newsweek today that President Obama should appoint George W. Bush as his Mideast envoy to gain the trust of Israelis in order achieve the American “wish list” with the Israeli Government. The “full-court press” wishes are the following:

They want Israel to stop expanding settlements; to stop building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; and for hawks in the government to chill out while the U.S. is negotiating with Iran.

So Mr. Levey suggests that the U.S. needs to acquire Israeli trust in order to stop the illegal settlements, illegal Judaization of Jerusalem, and to have Israeli permission to have talks with Iran. The absurdity of his suggestion is only matched by a fact he mentions to justify his outrageous suggestion:

In the history of U.S.-Israel relations, probably no president has earned adoration and unequivocal trust from Israel like Bush.

It strikes me that the U.S. President that was considered by the rest of the world as the worst (and most stupid) U.S president in history was the most popular among the Israelis. His achievements were: dragging the U.S. into two pointless wars and promoting anti-American sentiment in the world like never before, and right before his second term was over he practically destroyed the American economy to the extent they had to borrow astronomical sums of money from CHINA to keep the economy going. Of course he was rewarded by a flood of jokes on his expense by late night comedy shows and a sewage plant that was honorably named after him.

Yet of course:, Levey continues with another gem:

During the Bush years, Israelis were consistently among the few foreign populations that gave the American president high approval marks—often in far greater proportion than Americans themselves.

It appears, according to Levey, that the measure of a good American president is how much the Israelis love him, regardless of the catastrophes he brings onto the very people who elected him. After all, voters are dismissible once the elections are won. A better alternative would be that Bush becomes the  honorary Israeli president since he has unprecedented approval rates there and they’re practically fawning over him, although I’m sure the trend would be reversed if this were really to happen . This alternative suggestion, though absurd, is a much superior solution to the Middle East problems than Mr. Levey’s well-thought-well-written plan.