Police search Saudi consul’s home in Khashoggi case
By SUZAN FRASER, FAY ABUELGASIM and JON GAMBRELL
Wednesday, October 17
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish crime-scene investigators searched the home of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul on Wednesday in the disappearance of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, and a pro-government newspaper published a gruesome account of the journalist’s alleged slaying.
As Saudi Arabia’s green national flag flapped overhead, forensics teams entered the residence, only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the consulate where Khashoggi vanished Oct. 2 while trying to pick up paperwork to get married. It was the second-such extraordinary search of land considered under international law to be sovereign Saudi soil after investigators spent hours in the consulate earlier this week.
The account published in the Yeni Safak newspaper alleged that Saudi officials cut off Khashoggi’s fingers and then decapitated him at the consulate as his fiancée waited outside.
The searches and the leaks in Turkish media have ensured the world’s attention remains focused on what happened to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who went into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also put further strains on the relationship between the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, and its main security guarantor, the United States, as tensions with Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East remain high.
Flying back home after a visit to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained positive about an ongoing Saudi probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance, but he stressed that answers are needed.
“Sooner’s better than later for everyone,” Pompeo said.
The search of the consul’s residence came 15 days after Khashoggi’s disappearance — and after police apparently thought they would be able to conduct the search on Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saudi officials had halted the earlier search, claiming that Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi’s family was still there.
Crime-scene technicians wore white coveralls, gloves and shoe covers entering the residence. It wasn’t immediately clear what investigators hoped to find there, although surveillance footage showed diplomatic cars moving between the consulate and the residence nearly two hours after Khashoggi walked into the diplomatic post.
Turkey’s private DHA news agency, without citing a source, said police wanted to inspect a “water well” in the garden of the residence.
A high-level Turkish official previously told The Associated Press that police found “certain evidence” of Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
The report by the newspaper Yeni Safak cited what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi’s slaying. It described the recording as offering evidence that a Saudi team immediately accosted the 60-year-old journalist after he entered the consulate.
Al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: “Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble,” the newspaper reported.
One of the Saudis reportedly replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”
Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi’s case, adding to the pressure on the kingdom. President Donald Trump, who initially came out hard on the Saudis over the disappearance but since has backed off, said Wednesday that the U.S. wanted Turkey to turn over any audio or video recording it had of Khashoggi’s alleged killing “if it exists.”
Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the AP in recent days, including Wednesday. Al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday, Turkish state media reported.
Trump’s previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The U.S. president wants King Salman and OPEC to boost production to drive down high oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran in November.
Pompeo, wrapping up a trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to discuss the crisis over the missing journalist, made a point to stress areas where the kingdom and America cooperate.
“We have lots of important relationships — financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, … the efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran,” he said. “We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that when we approach decisions that the United States government will take when we learn all the facts associated with whatever may have taken place.”
However, Pompeo said there were clear lines that America would not stand to see crossed.
“If a country engages in activity that is unlawful it’s unacceptable,” he said. “No one is going to defend activity of that nature. We just need to simply say what happened.”
Prominent U.S. newspapers have reported, citing anonymous sources, that Saudi officials may soon acknowledge Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate but blame it on a botched intelligence operation. That could, like Trump’s softening comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi’s fate.
However, no major decisions in Saudi Arabia are made outside of the ultraconservative kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey, and Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed.
Opinion: Kim Jong-un and Mohammed bin Salman, Brothers in Horror
By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, meet North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un. These two have a lot in common. They’re both in their early 30s. Both have almost unbridled power in their own kingdoms and a way of getting rid of their enemies.
Oh, there may be a few differences. Kim calls his kingdom “communist” while Saudi Arabia is a “monarchy,” absolute. In practical terms, they wield about the same powers. They both are dynastic heirs to their fathers. Kim took over from Kim Jong-il after his death nearly seven years ago. Prince Mohammed’s father is still king, but the prince is the real ruler.
Such comparisons come to mind as the world responds in horror to the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, killed most cruelly inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone as a Saudi citizen to get a marriage license.
The world also was shocked by Kim ordering the murders of a couple of his relatives. First, there was the execution nearly five years ago of Kim’s uncle, who had worked his way almost to the top while married to Kim’s aunt, the younger sister of Kim Jong-il. Then there was the assassination of Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong-nam, snuffed out last year in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport by two young women set up by North Korean agents to smear his face with a VX nerve agent.
Those killings, though, did not attract the same attention as that of Khashoggi, who had been writing a column for the Washington Post as a critic of the Saudi regime. While Kim threatens his foes, notably the United States, with nuclear destruction, much of the world, notably the United States and Canada, relies on Saudi Arabia as an exporter of oil. Oh, and U.S. arms manufacturers count on the Saudis for billions of dollars in sales every year.
The comparisons go on. President Trump a few days ago praised Kim Jong-un for the “chemistry” and “energy” that he sensed in their relationship. Earlier, he said the bond was so close that he and Kim “fell in love” — an embarrassing term that he later played down as “a figure of speech.”
Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have long since bonded with Prince Mohammed. They see him not only as an enormously rich leader whom they need to court for economic reasons but also as a partner in the greater drama for regional power and influence.
Incredibly, Saudi Arabia, home of Islam’s holiest of holy centers, Mecca, to which millions of the faithful flock every year, also has decent ties with the Jewish state of Israel, the largest beneficiary of American military aid. Kushner dreams of Saudi Arabia influencing a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians while also standing as a bulwark against Iran, constantly teetering on the brink of war with the United States.
That reasoning is fantasy that will never work if only because Saudi Arabia, for all its wealth, is already embroiled in vicious conflict in Yemen. It’s highly unlikely the Saudis would want to go to war with Iran while the crown prince represses his own people, including members of the extended royal family.
Interestingly, there is another parallel here with North Korea. Trump is eager to treat Kim Jong-un in much the same style in which he has befriended the Saudi king and crown prince. He’s likely to meet Kim for their second summit in the fairly near future, having been conned into thinking he can still talk Kim into giving up his nuclear program.
We may be pretty sure, assuming they do meet, that they’ll come out with something like a “peace declaration” formally ending the Korean War, long advocated by Kim and endorsed by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in in pursuit of reconciliation. Naturally, Trump will hail whatever deal he reaches as an amazing accomplishment.
The parallels go on. Trump recently dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, where he and Kim spent more than three hours chatting and lunching. Kim, to be sure, showed no signs of giving up his nukes, much less considering anything to do with the “human rights” of his long-suffering people, but Pompeo came home full of happy talk while sanctions remained in place.
Next, Pompeo was off to Riyadh, meeting the Saudi king and crown prince, no doubt remonstrating them for their sins, reminding them of how bad the Khashoggi murder made them look even as they distanced themselves from anything to do with such a heinous crime. These explanations aren’t so much different from the hot air emanating from Pyongyang about the killing of Kim Jong-nam and numerous other acts of terror.
We can be pretty sure, though, that Trump will want to remain on close terms with Saudi royalty, just as he yearns to do with Kim. If there’s any “chemistry,” the word Trump likes to use, it’s in his chemical adherence to dictators whom he should be repudiating.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Generation Z voters could make waves in 2018 midterm elections
October 19, 2018
National School Walkout to honor Parkland victims. Reuters/Rick Wilking
Author: Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University
Disclosure statement: Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg as part of CIRCLE at Tufts University, receives funding from the Democracy Fund, she is affiliated with Democracy Works, Generation Citizen and Nonprofit Vote, Nellie Mae Foundation, the American Bar Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences where she serves as a member of a commission, speaker bureau, advisory board, or the board of directors.
Partners: Tufts University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Unlike the much-studied millennials, we don’t know much about Generation Z, who now make up most of the 18- to 24-year-old voting bloc.
These young people started first grade after 9/11, were born with the internet, grew up with smartphones and social media and practiced active-shooter drills in their classrooms.
In 2018, they have taken an active role in political activism on issues like gun control, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. For example, Parkland high school students started the movement against gun violence and named voting as a way to support the movement.
Yet, many people are skeptical about Generation Z’s commitment to voting. For instance, The Economist explained, in a piece titled “Why Young People Don’t Vote,” that “young people today do not feel they have much of a stake in society.”
Will Generation Z affect the midterm elections?
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, where we do research, has been watching young people’s civic and political behaviors for nearly 20 years. This fall, my colleagues and I are conducting two large-scale national surveys of 2,087 Americans ages 18 to 24 to document and understand what Gen Zs are thinking, feeling and doing when it comes to politics.
So far, the data point to a surge in political engagement, intention to vote and outreach between friends to encourage voting. Gen Zers may be voting for the first time, but they are certainly not new to politics.
All signs point to youth wave
Young voters have a reputation of not showing up to the polls, especially in midterm elections. This trend goes back 40 years.
There are a few ways we can find out how likely it is that people in Generation Z will turn out to vote.
First, we can just ask. In our survey, 34 percent of youth said they are “extremely likely” to vote in November. While a survey can’t predict exact turnout numbers, data from previous surveys we’ve done using this approach have been close to actual turnout numbers. Other evidence supports this measure of intent to vote: Voter registration among young people is up in key battleground states and overall.
Research also shows that activism and intent to vote are strongly correlated. So, in our survey we also asked young people about activism, such as participating in protests, union strikes, sit-ins and walk-outs.
The proportion of young people who join protests and marches tripled since the fall of 2016, from 5 percent to 15 percent. Participation is especially high among young people who are registered as Democrats.
Finally, we found that young people are paying attention to politics more than they were in 2016. In 2016, about 26 percent of young people said they were paying at least some attention to the November elections. This fall, the proportion of youth who report that they are paying attention to the midterm races rose to 46 percent.
It’s clear that more young people are actively engaged in politics this year than 2016.
Cynicism and worry aren’t obstacles
To learn more about what might be motivating Generation Z to vote, we asked our survey participants to rate their level of agreement with three statements.
“I worry that older generations haven’t thought about young people’s future.”
“I’m more cynical about politics than I was 2 years ago.”
“The outcomes of the 2018 elections will make a significant impact to everyday issues involving the government in my community, such as schools and police.”
In this year’s survey, we found that young people who feel cynical are far more likely to say they will vote. Other research has found that cynicism about politics can suppress or drive electoral engagement depending on the contexts.
Among young people who said “yes” to all three of those questions, more than half – 52 percent – said they are extremely likely to vote. Among young people who said “no” to all three of those questions, only 22 percent were extremely likely to vote.
Our poll results suggest political involvement in this generation is far above the levels we usually see among youth, especially in midterm election cycles.
In fact, almost 3 out of 4 youth – 72 percent – said they believe that dramatic change could occur in this country if people banded together. Gen Z is certainly aware of the challenges ahead but they are hopeful and actively involving themselves and friends in politics. Beyond almost any doubt, youth are involved and feel ready to make a dramatic change in the American political landscape.
Blockchains won’t fix internet voting security – and could make it worse
October 18, 2018
Ari Juels, Professor of Computer Science, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, Cornell Tech, and Co-Director, Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3), Cornell University
Ittay Eyal, Associate Director, Initiative For Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3); Assistant Prof. of Electrical Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Oded Naor, Member of the Initiative For Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3); Visiting researcher at Cornell-Tech; Graduate student in Electrical Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Ari Juels receives funding from the National Science Foundation, Army Research Lab, and the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3), whose industry partners are listed at https://www.initc3.org/partners.html. He advises several blockchain-related companies, none of which is involved in voting.
Ittay Eyal and Oded Naor do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Looking to modernize voting practices, speed waiting times at the polls, increase voter turnout and generally make voting more convenient, many government officials – and some companies hawking voting systems – are looking to an emerging technology called a “blockchain.” That’s what’s behind a West Virginia program in which some voters serving abroad in the military will be able to cast their votes from their mobile devices. Similar voting schemes have been tried elsewhere in various places around the world.
As researchers in the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts, we believe in the transformative potential of blockchain systems in a number of industries. Best known as the technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchains can do much more than allow anonymous strangers to send each other money without fear of fraud or tampering. They have created new ways for people to invest in technology ventures that have attracted billions of dollars, and may someday store records that make educational credentials, land ownership and food origins more transparent and harder to forge.
Blockchains might sound like an ideal remedy for the trust problems caused by internet voting. Data can only be added to a blockchain – not deleted or changed – because multiple copies are stored on computers owned by different people or organizations and perhaps spread across different countries. Strict controls can be placed on a blockchain’s contents, preventing unauthorized data from being added. And blockchains are designed to be transparent – with their contents often readable by anyone’s computing device anywhere in the world.
Yet as scholars who have studied traditional and blockchain-based voting, we believe that while blockchains may help with some specific issues, they can’t fix the basic problems with internet voting. In fact, they could make things worse.
Computers can break, or be broken
For years, experts on election security have warned that the internet is too dangerous for such socially crucial and time-sensitive functions as voting. Renowned cryptographer Ronald Rivest, for instance, has remarked that “Best practices for internet voting are like best practices for drunk driving” – there’s no safe way to do either one.
The stakes are enormous. Democracy requires widespread public trust – not just that a declared winner actually received the largest number of votes, but in the integrity of the system as a whole. People need to trust that the votes they cast are the ones that are counted, that their neighbors’ votes are totaled accurately and not the result of bribery or coercion and that local tallies are communicated safely to state election officials.
Even advanced computing devices today cannot provide such assurances. Most hardware and software are rife with hidden security flaws, and are not regularly updated. Devices are vulnerable, and so are networks. Internet outages – even caused by trivialities like gamers trying to get a leg up on their competitors – could prevent people from voting. Intentional, targeted attacks against internet traffic could cause major disruptions to democratic institutions on a national scale.
The stability and integrity of democratic society itself are too important to be relegated to flawed computer systems.
Adversaries are looking for opportunities
Hackers – backed by foreign governments or not – are always looking for new targets and fresh ways to sow social discord. They’ll find – and fully exploit – any technical weaknesses available to them. Without a paper trail, the very possibility that someone could have secretly changed votes will further erode public trust in democratic elections.
Blockchains depend on computing devices
A key method by which blockchain voting could worsen election integrity is by claiming to increase trustworthiness without actually doing so.
It’s easy to imagine a voting system in which only authorized voters could cast ballots, with those ballots indelibly recorded on a blockchain. The blockchain would act as a single authoritative election record that could not be erased or tampered with. For all intents and purposes, the record would be hack-proof.
However, tallying votes on a blockchain doesn’t magically make a voter’s phone or computer secure. A vote may be securely recorded, but that means nothing if the vote was cast incorrectly to begin with. If your phone is infected with malware that switches your vote from Candidate R to Candidate D, it doesn’t matter how secure the rest of the voting system is – the election has still been hacked. In some cases, blockchains may be able to help voters detect that sort of tampering – but only if the hack-detection software itself hasn’t been hacked.
In addition, some companies’ business practices undermine the potential to trust their blockchain systems. The manufacturer of the system West Virginia will use in November – like many companies manufacturing physical voting machines – is refusing to embrace the transparency that is central to the security industry, the blockchain community, and democracy itself. They are not providing public access to the cryptographic protocols at the heart of their systems, leaving the public instead to rely on the manufacturer’s promises of security. There’s no way for an independent auditor to be truly certain that the systems are free of subtle bugs or security flaws – or even massive holes that would be obvious to experts.
Vote buying becomes newly possible
Another way blockchain voting could worsen existing voting problems is by increasing the likelihood of vote buying. Sometimes a glass of beer is all that’s needed to bribe a voter. Vote buying is happily rare in large-scale U.S. elections, in part because the secret ballot makes verifying a bought vote very difficult and because there are serious criminal penalties.
Internet voting could completely negate both of these protections. Putting votes on blockchains eliminates the secrecy of the voting booth. Encryption doesn’t help: Software can prove mathematically to a vote buyer that a voter’s device encrypted the name of a particular candidate. In addition, foreigners who might try to influence people’s votes are very hard to prosecute.
Some voting companies contend that their systems publicly identify voters only by random numerical identifiers, so they aren’t subject to vote-buying or intimidation. But in many of these systems, voting identities can be linked to accounts in cryptocurrency systems – where a voter could receive a bribe, potentially without revealing who was paid, how much or by whom.
Officials and companies who promote online voting are creating a false sense of security – and putting the integrity of the election process at risk. In seeking to use blockchains as a protective element, they may in fact be introducing new threats into the crucial mechanics of democracy.