Monthly Archives: June 2013

MIT and Wilson Center receive NSF grant to develop “synthetic biology” agenda

phys.org | Jun 10, 2013

The MIT Center for International Studies and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars are collaborating on a $233,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help realize potential benefits and to address potential ecological effects of synthetic biology.

The grant is supported jointly by three units within NSF, the Division of Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Division of Environmental Biology, and the Engineering Directorate. The grant will fund development of an interdisciplinary research agenda to improve understanding of potential ecological effects of commercial uses of synthetic biology.

Worse Than GMO?: Urgent Action Needed!

The “New Bioeconomy”: Synthetic Biology’s Implications for the Environment, Health and Justice

The research agenda will be developed through consultations among synthetic biologists, evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists. It will be based on workshops that focus on near- and medium-term applications of synthetic biology, with scenarios based on the intentional and unintentional release of engineered organisms.

This project will be conducted jointly by the Program on Emerging Technologies of the MIT Center for International Studies and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Wilson Center. It will build on four previous workshops that brought together a wide range of scientists, regulators, NGOs, companies, and other stakeholders to discuss possible ecological risks associated with synthetic biology products and to identify sources of uncertainty over risks. These workshops were funded jointly by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. The project is expected to be completed in one year. A small board of advisors has been created to guide the design and execution of the workshops.

Provided by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

India developing robotic soldiers

terminator

samaylive.com | Jun 9, 2013

With futuristic warfare in mind, India is working to develop robotic soldiers as part of efforts to boost unmanned fighting capabilities, joining a select group of countries in this endeavour.

Under the project being undertaken by DRDO, robots would be developed with very high level of intelligence to enable them to differentiate between a threat and a friend.

These can then be deployed in difficult warfare zones, like the Line of Control (LoC), a step that would help avert the loss of human lives.

“We are going to work for robotic soldiers. We are going to look for very high level of intelligence in it than what we are talking today… It is a new programme and a number of labs are already working in a big way on robotics,” DRDO chief Avinash Chander told news agency in an interview.

The newly-appointed DRDO chief listed the project for development of robotic soldiers as one of his “priority thrust areas” saying that “unmanned warfare in land and air is the future of warfare. Initially the robotic soldier may be assisting the man.”

He said in the initial phase of the project, the robotic soldier would be required to be told by the human soldier to identify an enemy or a combatant but “slowly in due course of time, the robotic soldier would be at the front end and the human soldier would be assisting him.”

India developing robotic soldiers to replace humans in warfare:

Chander said the need for a robotic soldier is felt to save precious human lives and already robots are used in areas where humans do no want to venture such as defusing bombs or getting inside a high-radiation territory.

“Robotic soldier is one step further. It will have multiple technologies in terms of communication with team members, ability to recognise an enemy,” Chander said.

“Today, you have neural networks, whenever the soldier tells him (robotic soldier) that this is a human solider, he will derive his own logic as to what is the difference between him and others (civilians). That learning process will keep building up,” he said.

Asked if it would be capable of being deployed in areas such as the Line of Control, Chander said, “In due course of time but not before a decade in any way.”

He said many new technologies have to be developed such as “miniature communication, materials, cognitive technologies, self-learning processes and interaction with human.”

Chander said “already five to six countries are actively working. They have not yet developed it fully but they are in fairly advanced stages. This is one of my priority areas.”

Rumblings Of Secession: Northern Colorado Counties Mull Forming 51st State After Governor Passes Unpopular Laws

Seal_of_Colorado.svg

ibtimes.com | Jun 8, 2013

By Maya Shwayder

If all goes well for the denizens of Weld County, Colo., come November, there will be an item on their ballots asking them to vote on a new brewing issue: seceding with eight other Northern counties from the state of Colorado and forming America’s 51st state, Northern Colorado.

Apparently, they’re not bluffing. On Tuesday, Weld County’s commissioners raised the issue quite seriously at a bi-annual meeting of the state’s county commissioners. Sean Conway, one of Weld’s five commissioners, said the idea had first been raised about two to three months ago by a group of concerned citizens.

“It started very informally,” Conway said. “There was a group of citizens who were and still are very frustrated with being ignored and politically disenfranchised by the political leadership in the state capitol.”

When the group of voters first approached Conway and his fellow commissioners about seceding, Conway thought they were “a little out there.” But once he looked into it, he said secession began to look like a possibility.

There are many issues, including Second Amendment rights and Colorado gun control laws — and oil and natural gas regulation and fracking — motivating this group to want to secede. But the biggest issue — what the group of voters consider the ultimate betrayal on the part of their governor — is Senate Bill 252.

The bill requires Colorado’s counties to use renewable energy for 25 percent of their energy consumption by 2020. Opponents of the bill, which was signed into law by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recently, say it places unequal financial burden on rural counties.

Conway said that opposition to the bill was strong in Weld County, which sent some officials down to Denver to meet with Hickenlooper. “He kept saying he wouldn’t let this happen,” Conway said. “They [the voters] feel he’s violated their trust.”

Trent Bushner, a Yuma County Commissioner and farmer, said Bill 252 will cost him an extra $15,000 to $20,000 a year on his utility bill. “The eastern counties, as a rule, are Republican strongholds,” Bushner said. “Yuma is about 70-30, Republican to Democrat. We are a very agriculture-related county, very conservative. The problem we have is that the state legislature is not that way.”

The process of creating a new state, like any major political upheaval, is not an easy one, but Conway pointed out that it’s been done five times before in the history of the U.S.: The states of Vermont, Maine, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia were created by using legal process secession. If the citizens in the counties in question pass the November referendum, the issue will go to the Colorado State Senate. If it passes in the State senate, it will go to Congress, which would have the final say.

Conway said he was optimistic, and when the news first broke about secession, State House Speaker Mark Farrandino told the Coloradoan that “if the voters of those counties vote that way, one thing about democracy that you have to respect is the vote of the people.”

A spokesman for Farrandino emphasized that “the votes that will count, if it gets this far, will be the vote of the state legislature and the US Congress in Washington.”

Conway said he’d heard from other counties across the state, including some traditionally Democratic ones, and he said that many of them want to lend their support. However, although Bushner said he’s been fielding calls from a steady stream of constituents who support secession, he said that Yuma, at least, “has not taken formal action.”

“This was something that we floated a few months ago over a beer,” he said. “But we feel it is a viable option.”

For Bushner, trying to form a new state isn’t exactly his main goal; instead, he wants to make the state’s urban and suburban politicians pay attention to the state’s farmers. “Quite honestly, this is an idea that wouldn’t ever have traction, but we’ll shoot a shot across the bow, telling them they’re not representing the whole state,” Bushner said. “If we thought it had snowball’s chance in hell, we’d do it anyway. I still think it has a lot of merit.”

Conway said that at the meeting where secession was raised on Tuesday, there were between eight and 13 counties that discussed the matter. For now, the serious contenders for secession are Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma and Kit Carson counties, which are mostly located in the northeast corner of the state.

Gene Bauerle, county commissioner in Sedgwick County, was closemouthed about Tuesday’s discussion, but he acknowledged that Sedgwick was “looking into it.”

“The main thing is that our voices aren’t heard,” Bauerle said. “There are some things happening within the state that’s stymying economic development in the area. The situation has been festering for quite a while.”

Bauerle also said most of the commissioners in the discussion on Tuesday were united in their determination to see the plan go forward.

A spokesman for Washington County said he had been approached to support the movement but hasn’t met with anyone to discuss his county’s involvement.

Randy Schafer, County Administrator for Phillips county, another secession candidate, said he felt the legislative issues happening in Denver didn’t “reflect the values in our part of the state.”

“They’re not listening to our concerns,” he said. “But it’s not a joke, it’s serious. Colorado’s changed a lot … we feel that the state as a whole is no longer reflecting the values of the rural agricultural economy.

“It is serious, but we have a lot of hoops to jump through to make it happen,” he admitted.

The Governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

World leaders in ‘secret society Bilderberg meeting’

653309-bilderberg
A person uses a copy of the Daily Mail newspaper to shield their identity from the demonstrators and the media as they arrive at The Grove hotel, which is hosting the annual Bilderberg conference.

AP | Jun 7, 2013

IT’S a busy weekend at the luxury Grove Hotel, favoured haunt of British soccer players and their glitz-loving spouses.

More than 100 of the world’s most powerful people are at the former manor house near London for a secretive annual gathering that has attained legendary status in the eyes of anti-capitalist protesters and conspiracy theorists.

The guest list for the Bilderberg meeting includes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. British Prime Minister David Cameron is due to drop by Friday.

The Bilderberg Group was set up in 1954 to support military and economic co-operation between Europe and North America during the Cold War.

Named for the site of its first meeting – the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland – the forum for prominent politicians, thinkers and business leaders has been held annually at a series of secluded venues in Europe and North America.

What happens at Bilderberg, stays at Bilderberg. There is no media access and the public is kept away by a large security operation. The group says that “there is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”

But in a move toward slightly more openness, the group now has a website, which lists attendees and key topics for discussion, including the economy, US foreign policy, “cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats” and “major trends in medical research.”

Invitees include British Treasury chief George Osborne, Goldman Sachs chairman Peter Sutherland and Thomas Enders, CEO of aerospace company EADS.

Publication of these details has done little to ease the concerns of protesters, who sense a shadowy global elite at work in the secretive meeting.

“When 130 of the leaders from all across the West get together, and many of these are billionaires, they are people who are immensely wealthy and immensely powerful,” said Michael Meacher, a lawmaker from Britain’s Labour Party.

“And when they all get together, it’s not just to have a chat about the latest problem, it is to concert plans for the future of capitalism in the West. That is on a very different scale.”

Others go even further, putting Bilderberg at the heart of a global web of conspiracy. The protesters in Watford include US talk-radio host and September 11 “truther” Alex Jones, and former professional soccer player David Icke, who believes the world is run by a race of reptiles in human form.

Demonstrators plan to hold a “Bilderberg fringe” festival outside the hotel until the conference ends on Sunday.

A Bilderberg spokesman – reached by email since no phone number is listed – said there is nothing sinister about the gathering.

“We disclose the date, the location, the participants and the key topics of the conference,” Xander Heijnen said. “Many groups of people meet without announcing it publicly at all, without disclosing who is taking part and without giving any key topics.

“The meetings broaden the participants’ range of viewpoints, help them to gain insights and exchange views,” he said. “It seems illogical to argue that a meeting of individuals designed to give and obtain fresh insights, somehow ‘undermines democracy.'”

That message has not swayed protesters like Judd Charlton, a ventriloquist from London who showed up on Thursday to jeer at cars with blacked-out windows entering the hotel compound.

“We are basically here to bring down the parasites who are drug dealers and bank collapsers who seem to want to destroy this world,” he said.

NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others

Prism

A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program.

• Top-secret Prism program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook

• Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007

Guardian | Jun 6, 2013    

by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of Prism.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

Prism

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Your privacy is our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.

Prism

 

The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

PRISM slide crop


The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.

The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.

“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”

The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.

The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.

In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.

The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.

In the document, the NSA hails the Prism program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.

It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the Prism program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.

The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.

The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.

Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.

“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.

“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”

Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.

When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 Prism-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.

In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.

“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.

“This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”

A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.

“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.”

PRISM scandal: tech giants flatly deny allowing NSA direct access to servers

Prism
Silicon Valley executives insist they did not know of secret PRISM program that grants access to emails and search history

guardian.co.uk | Jun 6, 2013

by Dominic Rushe and James Ball in New York

prism smallExecutives at several of the tech firms said they had never heard of PRISM until they were contacted by the Guardian

Two different versions of the PRISM scandal were emerging on Thursday with Silicon Valley executives denying all knowledge of the top secret program that gives the National Security Agency direct access to the internet giants’ servers.

The eavesdropping program is detailed in the form of PowerPoint slides in a leaked NSA document, seen and authenticated by the Guardian, which states that it is based on “legally-compelled collection” but operates with the “assistance of communications providers in the US.”

Each of the 41 slides in the document displays prominently the corporate logos of the tech companies claimed to be taking part in PRISM.

However, senior executives from the internet companies expressed surprise and shock and insisted that no direct access to servers had been offered to any government agency.

The top-secret NSA briefing presentation set out details of the PRISM program, which it said granted access to records such as emails, chat conversations, voice calls, documents and more. The presentation the listed dates when document collection began for each company, and said PRISM enabled “direct access from the servers of these US service providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple“.

Senior officials with knowledge of the situation within the tech giants admitted to being confused by the NSA revelations, and said if such data collection was taking place, it was without companies’ knowledge.

An Apple spokesman said: “We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order,” he said.

Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, said it did not provide government organisation with direct access to Facebook servers. “When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinise any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”

A Google spokesman also said it did not provide officials with access to its servers. “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘backdoor’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.”

Microsoft said it only turned over data when served with a court order: “We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.”

A Yahoo spokesman said: “Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.

Within the tech companies, and talking on off the record, executives said they had never even heard of PRISM until contacted by the Guardian. Executives said that they were regularly contacted by law officials and responded to all subpoenas but they denied ever having heard of a scheme like PRISM, an information programme internal the documents state has been running since 2007.

Executives said they were “confused” by the claims in the NSA document. “We operate under what we are required to do by law,” said one. “We receive requests for information all the time. Say about a potential terrorist threat or after the Boston bombing. But we have systems in place for that.” The executive claimed, as did others, that the most senior figures in their organisation had never heard of PRISM or any scheme like it.

The chief executive of transparency NGO Index on Censorship, Kirsty Hughes, remarked on Twitter that the contradiction seemed to leave two options: “Back door or front?” she posted.

Bilderberg 2013: Secret Summit for World Domination…Live

Bilderberg 2013
(Clockwise from left) Christine Lagarde, a protester from the 2012 meeting in Virginia, Henry Kissinger, George Osborne and David Petraeus Photo: AP/Reuters

telegraph.co.uk | Jun 6. 2013

By Josie Ensor, and Matthew Holehouse

Bilderberg: The Secret Summit for World Domination

Four-day conference at Watford’s The Grove hotel begins
Millions spent on security as protesters demonstrate outside
Lord Healey: ‘the most useful of all the meetings I attend’

Latest

16.53 Well, as to be expected from the world’s most secretive conference, we have learnt nothing from today. The closest we managed to get was half-a-mile from the Watford hotel where the rich and powerful are gathered. We’ll therefore be wrapping it up here, but we leave you with this thought from Lord Healey:

“Lots of the stuff written about Bilderberg is a load of crap. Some people described it as a secret Communist organisation. Others said it was a secret American organisation. But it was balls.”

16.44 A great video from Alex Jones’s Youtube page of him being “provoked” by a BBC presenter.

15.45 Martin Taylor, a former secretary general of the Bilderbergs and businessman, who has been going on and off for the last 20 years, and is attending this year, spoke to the Telegraph’s Tom Rowley about the history of the conference.

“Bilderberg grew up in the early Fifties out of a feeling that if European leaders in all fields had been closer to their American counterparts before the Second World War, some trouble might have been avoided.

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Sean Hannity: I’ve Never Heard of the Bilderberg Group

“That was at a time when people didn’t cross the Atlantic very often. It was a kind of Cold War council. People got together once a year, sometimes twice, but it was usually once. The numbers originally were about 60 or 70, it is now about 120. You got people from Europe and the US. It has now been rather enlarged.”

15.37 Security is tight, people are being checked in a field, hundreds of yards away from the hotel:

15.32 Speaking to the Telegraph earlier this week, Lord Healey of Riddleden, who attended the first Bilderberg meeting in 1954 and sat on the steering committee for 40 years, said:

“Lots of the stuff written about it is a load of crap. Those who weren’t invited were very jealous. Some people described it as a secret Communist organisation. Others said it was a secret American organisation. But it was balls.”

Lord Healey, who served as chancellor to Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, added: “I found it the most useful of all the meetings I attended regularly. The Bilderberg was the best because the level of the people attending regularly was so much higher.”

15.15 American news channel CNBC is reporting that police have anti-terrorism traffic regulations and a no-fly zone in place, so worried are they that Henry Kissinger and his pals with be the subject of attacks.

14.43 More on Alex Jones, who has been the centre of many controversies. He has previously accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology.

The outspoken Texan locked horns with Piers Morgan earlier this year after arguing on his show that taking away people’s guns would lead to government tyranny.

He has told an ever-growing group of conspirists gathered today that the Bilderberg Group wants to exterminate 80 per cent of the world population and replace them with robots who will be their slaves.

14.11 That’s nice, a Bilderberg welcoming committee:

14.01 Our reporter, Matthew Holehouse, who is as close to the hotel as press are allowed to get, has said a well-known pastor-like US conspiracy theoriest has arrived on the scene. Alex Jones told the crowd of Americans gathered that he is there to “expose the puppet-masters for what they are to the world”.

He said he wanted the attendees to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. We’re not entirely convinced The Hague would find in his favour.

“It is very, very sinister,” warns Jones.

“Not everybody who goes to Bilderberg, from my research, is a scoundrel or a villain. But there are definitely villains who are there who are basically trying to organise government and business.”


Alex Jones and the scrum

14.00 Bilderberg, which formed in 1954, is making an attempt to change its reputation as one of the most clandestine and controversial meetings in the world; it is the first time the guest list and its limited agenda have been publicly released and journalists are allowed near the grounds.

13.00 David Icke, the world’s most famous conspiracy theorist, is set to come on Saturday – the third day of the conference and we hear he’s expected to bring a big crowd. He has written on his blog about the “proof” that the annual meetings dictate government policy.

12.36 Our reporter Matthew Holehouse is half a mile away from the hotel in a pen with other 50 other reporters. He says it is they are surrounded by a high steel fence that looks like the edge of a prison.

About 40 cars have gone in so far. Every time someone drives in with their luxury car, the crowds shout and heckle.

There are lots of elderly Americans, people wandering around with cameras and a man dressed up as a CCTV camera.

12.23 The cloak of secrecy surrounding the meetings, which ban journalists from attending, has fuelled conspiracy theories that so-called Bilderbergers are planning global domination and world unification.

People have been banned for booking into the hotel this week and reporters are being kept in a pen a long distance away from the entrance to the hotel.

12.14 Michael Meacher, Labour’s former Environment Minister, told our reporter Matthew Holehouse that the institution is shadowy and the public needs to know what is going on.

Michael Meacher addresses reporter in a field in Watford

When asked if it was a shadow government, Meacher replied, “You’re putting it into rather colourful language. I wouldn’t go that far but a gathering like this has that aura about it. It is a shadow organisation that the rest of us do not have access to.

“Most of them are multi-millionaires and billionaires. The idea they have a charity is a distortion.

“The people here are the leaders of the biggest banks, multi-nationals, EU commissioners, and a smattering of politicians from Europe and America. If you wanted to find a group which represented the western governance structure you would come up with a list like this.They are meeting here in secrecy with no transparency or accountability.

12.07 Delegates for the private conference of top politicians and businesspeople from around the world have started to arrive at the hotel in cars with blacked-out windows. Doesn’t look much like they’re up for a stop and chat.

We have a handy agenda and guest list. Some of the country’s politicians have managed to clear four days out of their busy schedules for the event, including:

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Kenneth Clarke, Cabinet Minister
John Kerr, Independent Member, House of Lords

Ed Balls is a confirmed guest of the Bilderberg Group

12:04 Good afternoon and welcome to our liveblog. We will be covering the mysterious goings-on of the annual Bilderberg Group meeting which starts today and is being held in the UK for the first time … in a hotel in Watford.