Category Archives: Geopolitics

Chart of the day: Americans on national image


Specifically, their shifting judgments about the nation’s relative clout on the global stage. From a report by the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Importance

InSecurityWatch: Cops, hacks, spies drones, zones


We begin with demilitarization in a California college town from Sacramento’s KOVR-TV:

Davis City Council Tells Police To Have Plan For Getting Rid Of MRAP Military Vehicle In Next 60 Days

The Davis City Council has told the police department it must get rid of a military vehicle it received in the next 60 days.

The controversy over the mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle attracted a large crowd on Tuesday that was largely against it.

The council adopted the resolution to come up with a plan to get rid of the vehicle. A petition is circulating asking the council to press the police to either get rid of or destroy the vehicle.

From the Washington Post, imitation, flattery, and all that:

Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The victims of waterboarding are often strapped down on gurneys or benches while cold water is poured over a cloth covering their faces; they suffer the sensation of feeling they are drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a May 2005 Justice Department memo on the CIA’s use of the technique.

From Reuters, an intervention to protect the deep political agenda:

Exclusive: U.S. may use secrets act to stop suit against Iran sanctions group

The U.S. government is considering using a powerful national security law to halt a private lawsuit against a non-profit group, United Against A Nuclear Iran, according to a source familiar with the case.

Greek businessman and ship owner Victor Restis last year sued UANI for defamation after the New York-based group, whose advisors include former intelligence officials from the United States, Europe and Israel, accused him of violating sanctions on Iran by exporting oil from the country.

Earlier this year, U.S. government lawyers declared their interest in the lawsuit, warning that information related to UANI could jeopardize law enforcement activities.

Invasive Indian media demands, via the Guardian:

Indian journalists protest at publisher’s social media demands

  • Give us your Facebook and Twitter passwords, says Times of India company

The publisher of the Times of India wants its journalists to convert their personal social media accounts into company ones and, in order to do so, has asked them to reveal their Facebook and Twitter passwords.

Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL) — India’s largest media conglomerate – was forced to amend its original demands after protests from journalists.

It had told staff they must sign contracts agreeing that management could continue to post updates on their personal accounts even after they had left the company. It also prohibited staff from posting news links on their own accounts.

From The Daily Dot, give the man a job at Comcast:

Iranian Ayatollah condemns high-speed Internet as ‘un-Islamic’

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a senior Iranian cleric, believes that high-speed mobile Internet like 3G networks are “un-Islamic” and that they violate “human and moral norms,” Radio Liberty reports.

Shirazi further asserts that Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace should do more to prevent access to “negative features” of the Web like anti-Islamic movies or pornography.

“Authorities should not merely think about the financial earnings of this program, and consider it as a type of religious intellectualism and academic freedom,” Makarem Shirazi wrote on his website.

From the Independent, medium and message:

Graffiti dying out as people vent spleen on Twitter, says top cop

Graffiti and other forms of public vandalism are dying off as people turn to social media to vent their anger instead, the most senior police officer in Scotland has said.

Sir Stephen House, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, suggested that disaffected members of the public are increasingly using services such as Twitter and Facebook to make angry or abusive comments instead of spray-painting buildings, leading to a decline in recorded vandalism.

“Social media in some instances has replaced graffiti as a way of making your views heard. We have had to deal with offensive comments made on Twitter. My view is that 10 to 15 years ago, that would have been sprayed on the side of a building,” Sir Stephen told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority.

He cited figures which show that vandalism, fire-raising, malicious damage and related crimes have been falling dramatically in Scotland in recent years. Between April and June this year 13,453 such offences were committed, down nearly eight per cent on the same period in 2013. The figure has more than halved since 2009/10, when it was 28,146.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, clever, eh?:

Canadian couple detained in China were spies disguised as ‘ordinary citizens’: state media

A Canadian couple detained by Chinese authorities were spies disguised as “ordinary citizens,” according to new information published by China’s state media.

Kevin and Julia Garratt have been accused of stealing Chinese military and national defence research secrets. They were detained Aug. 4, but not formally arrested, and China has offered little information on what they are accused of doing. The Christian couple ran a coffee shop near the border with North Korea, worked to bring humanitarian aid into that secretive country and worked to train North Korean Christians inside China.

Their detention by China’s State Security Bureau has been seen by Canadian authorities as reprisal for the arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada suspected of masterminding the electronic theft of U.S. fighter jet secrets.

British Columbian dronal angst via CBC News:

Peeping drone ‘an invasion of privacy,’ B.C. homeowner says

  • Oak Bay woman says drone was buzzing her home, but police say no laws were broken

A Victoria-area resident says she spotted a drone buzzing around her property, but police say their hands are tied.

Laura Moffett says the man, who was flying the drone in a park across the street, was allegedly trying to peek inside her home in Oak Bay.

“It’s an invasion of privacy. We have a skylight above, and on the weekend I had my nieces and nephews around playing in the pool, and what if he had been doing it then and taking videos?” said Moffet.

But Oak Bay police Sgt. Chris Goudie says the actions weren’t criminal, and police won’t be recommending any charge.

More dronal business from the Atlantic:

Inside Google’s Secret Drone-Delivery Program

After two years of development, the Silicon Valley company reveals to The Atlantic that it has substantial research effort into building flying robots than can deliver products across a city in a minute or two.

A zipping comes across the sky.

A man named Neil Parfitt is standing in a field on a cattle ranch outside Warwick, Australia. A white vehicle appears above the trees, a tiny plane a bit bigger than a seagull. It glides towards Parfitt, pitches upwards to a vertical position, and hovers near him, a couple hundred feet in the air. From its belly, a package comes tumbling downward, connected by a thin line to the vehicle itself. Right before the delivery hits the ground, it slows, hitting the earth with a tap. The delivery slows, almost imperceptibly, just before it hits the ground, hardly kicking up any dust. A small rectangular module on the end of the line detaches the payload, and ascends back up the vehicle, locking into place beneath the nose. As the wing returns to flying posture and zips back to its launch point half a mile away, Parfitt walks over to the package, opens it up, and extracts some treats for his dogs.

The Australian test flight and 30 others like it conducted in mid-August are the culmination of the first phase of Project Wing, a secret drone program that’s been running for two years at Google X, the company’s whoa-inducing, long-range research lab.

From Network World, the feds are on the case:

FBI, Secret Service studying ‘scope’ of reported bank cyberattacks

A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman said Wednesday the agency is working with the Secret Service to determine the “scope” of reported cyberattacks against several financial institutions.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Russian hackers struck JPMorgan Chase and another bank earlier this month. A subsequent report in the New York Times said the attacks hit JPMorgan Chase and four other U.S. financial institutions. The Times reported that “gigabytes” of information were stolen, including customer account information.

A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman did not confirm the attacks, saying that “companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day. We have multiple layers of defense to counteract any threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.”

From Al Jazeera English, cybercrime in Africa:

Cracking down on cybercrime in Ivory Coast

  • Ivory Coast tackles internet fraud scourge, but analysts say criminals continue to outsmart authorities.

The story is the same at almost every internet café in the main Ivorian city of six million inhabitants, with thousands of small and large computer halls for public use, which locals say have been seized by cybercriminals, who spend seven days a week in front of computer screens seeking fast cash.

“You can’t find any cybercafé in Abidjan without these rogues,” says Armand Zadi, founder of Internet pour l’Avenir, or Internet for the Future, an NGO that campaigns against abusive use of the internet in the West African country.

“They have abandoned schooling and believe they can succeed in life through internet scams because they see other young men in town who make money from it and later branch out into legitimate businesses. Our fear is growing that they could become role models for other youths,” he says.

From the Guardian, a secret in peril:

Zuma’s position weakens as he loses battle to keep ‘spy tapes’ under wraps

  • Secret recordings were key to dropping of corruption and fraud allegations against the South African president

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, suffered a court defeat on Thursday that could open the way for more than 700 corruption charges against him to be reinstated.

The decision, after a five-year legal battle, is a setback for Zuma, who is already besieged by criticism over taxpayer-funded upgrades of his private residence and concerns over his health.

South Africa’s supreme court of appeal dismissed Zuma’s bid to block the release of the so-called “spy tapes” containing conversations that were used as grounds to drop fraud and corruption allegations against him shortly before he became president in 2009. The tapes were said to reveal a political conspiracy against Zuma before a crucial African National Congress conference in 2007, where he defeated sitting president Thabo Mbeki in a bitter leadership struggle. They are said to show evidence of collusion between the former heads of an elite police unit and the national prosecuting authority to manipulate the prosecutorial process – though some are sceptical of the claim.

After the jump, the latest from Asia and the Game of Zones, including Aussie insecurity, an Aussie leak, border troubles and hints of an internal crackdown in Pakistan, hints of an Indo/Japanese nuclear deal, a Chinese beatdown and more Sino/American semantic volleys, Japan postures and gets a Chinese lecture, Chinese TV gets tough on Japanese history, a Japanese crackdown on dissent and an insular buildup, a consequences of a leak on Taiwan. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, zones


From the world of spies, lies, military posturing, hacks, corporate voyeurism, and the ever diminishing realm of the truly personal, we open with a headline from Homeland Security News Wire:

Most of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland. With the addition of nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, the database now includes more than 125,000 events dating back to 1970 and, according to START, it remains the most comprehensive unclassified database of terrorist attacks around the world.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, business as usual:

In Senate-CIA fight on interrogation report, another controversy

The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.

Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.

Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.

From the London Daily Mail, a story Lenny Bruce would’ve loved:

Former HHS cyber security chief convicted in CHILD PORN case after using screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ on underground website

  • Timothy DeFoggi was found guilty Tuesday on all seven child-porn criminal charges he faced in federal court
  • Justice Dept says he ‘accessed’ and ‘solicited child pornography … [and] expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children’
  • DeFoggi ‘even suggested meeting one member in person,’ according to the DOJ, ‘to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children’
  • The former cyber security pro was listed near the top of the HHS organization chart in a document describing budget requests for 2014
  • His screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ were mentioned repeatedly in court and are part of the public record

Ars Technica takes the techgeek approach:

Cybersecurity official uses Tor but still gets caught with child porn

  • Timothy DeFoggi wrongly thought he was covering his tracks.

The former acting cybersecurity director for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tim DeFoggi, was convicted yesterday on three child porn charges.

As reported by Wired, DeFoggi is the sixth suspect to be caught by the FBI’s Operation Torpedo, which used controversial methods of defeating the Tor anonymizing software in order to find child porn suspects.

One site frequented by DeFoggi was PedoBook, hosted by Aaron McGrath—a Nebraska man who was convicted earlier for his role in the operations. The websites were only accessible to users who installed Tor on their browsers. DeFoggi used names such as “fuckchrist” and “PTasseater” to register on the sites, where he could view more than 100 videos and more than 17,000 child porn images.

From Bloomberg News, they’ve got you covered:

Homeland Security Arms Local Cops With Super Spy Bug

Humvees and body armor, so jarring to see deployed in Ferguson, Mo., aren’t the only concern when it comes to the militarization of U.S. police forces.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that police in Tacoma, Wash., bought—and quietly used for six years—surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every mobile telephone call, text message, and data transfer up to a half-mile from the device.

Known as a Stingray and manufactured by Harris (HRS), a Pentagon contractor based in Melbourne, Fla., the device is small enough to be carried in a car. It tricks a mobile phone into thinking it’s a cell tower, drawing information, the paper said. Federal grants, including one from the Department of Homeland Security, were used to buy the equipment, according to public records the newspaper obtained.

Fusion raises an interesting question:

Fusion Investigates: How did America’s police departments lose loads of military-issued weapons?

Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon’s “1033 program” for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.

“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”

More troubling yet is the possibility that some of the missing weapons, which were given to local police departments as part of a decades’ old government program to equip cops for the wars on terrorism and drugs, are actually being sold on the black market, Lynch said.

H/T to Cryptogon.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, theatrical posturing:

Texas National Guard Deploys on Mexican Border

The first units of the National Guard contingent Texas Gov. Rick Perry is deploying to the Mexican border amid a surge in the arrivals of unaccompanied minors from Central America are in position, authorities said Tuesday.

“The Texas National Guard currently has troops all along the border between Texas and Mexico in support of Operation Strong Safety,” Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, public affairs officer at Texas Military Forces, told Efe.

Most of the roughly 63,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have arrived in the United States since last October entered the country via the 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) boundary between Texas and Mexico.

From the Associated Press, Sisyphus on the Mississippi:

In wake of Ferguson, police try to build trust

In the aftermath of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, some police departments are renewing efforts to reach out to black communities to build trust — holding public meetings, fielding questions and letting people voice the anger they feel toward officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown considers it a preventative step.

“I’d much rather they shout at me at a town hall meeting at a church and get to know me afterward than not have a relationship,” Brown said. After a police shooting has already happened, “it’s too late to try to establish relationships.”

From the Los Angeles Times, a Ferguson moment on Wilshire Boulevard:

Beverly Hills police regret holding black producer before Emmys

Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was “extremely unfortunate” that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party.

Producer Charles Belk “matched the clothing and physical characteristics” of a suspected bank robber when he was pulled over by officers on Friday evening after he left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours.

“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,” Belk said. “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”

LA Observed has the blowback:

Producer’s ‘detention’ by BHPD creates big backlash

Over the weekend I noticed that producer Charles Belk had posted a lengthy, angry account on Facebook about being detained by Beverly Hills police, handcuffed on the curb and denied access to a phone or a lawyer for six hours after he was stopped while walking to feed his parking meter on La Cienega Boulevard. He is black. The police say he was identified as bank robbery suspect. Belt’s post has been shared and liked more than 34,000 times on Facebook and he has been interviewed about the incident by, among others, NBC News. This incident clearly has legs beyond the BHPD’s explanation that he fit the description and they regret his inconvenience. Belk’s Facebook post has triggered what can only be called a massive outpouring of comments from people who feel they have similarly been detained by police essentially for being black. The media coverage? International.

From the Independent, a possible solution to the above?:

Cannabis-smoking couples are ‘less likely to engage in domestic violence’

Married couples who frequently smoke cannabis together are less likely to engage in domestic violence than those who consume the drug less regularly, a new study has suggested.

Researchers from Yale University, University of Buffalo and Rutgers followed 634 married couples for nine years.

They found that those who used cannabis together three times or more each month reported the lowest number domestic violence incidents (intimate partner violence) over the first nine years of marriage.

From the Associated Press, reviving the Cold War:

Finland, Sweden increase ties to NATO

Finland and Sweden plan to work more closely with NATO by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as NATO prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the Host Nation Support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security.” It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation.

While the London Telegraph gets defensive:

Police build ‘ring of steel’ for Wales Nato summit

  • More than 12 miles of steel fencing and more than 9,000 police will guard the UK’s biggest ever gathering of world leaders

Police are putting the finishing touches to a “ring of steel” of more than 12 miles of security fencing to protect world leaders heading to south Wales for next week’s Nato summit.

The two-day summit in Newport is the UK’s biggest ever gathering of international leaders as the military alliance decides how to deal with crises in Ukraine and Iraq.

Nine foot high steel fencing is being put around key parts of the Celtic Manor Resort where the summit is being held and at venues in Cardiff city centre. Police are also setting up checkpoints and entry gates to screen people as they enter the cordon.

The operations is one of the biggest ever police deployments. More than 9,000 police officers will be drafted in to protect 180 VIPs including 60 heads of state and senior ministers.

Meanwhile plans are underway to give all those coppers plenty of work. From the People’s Assembly:

BLOG Nato

From the Guardian, why needs the Magna Carta?:

Met chief calls for new anti-terror powers and backs ‘presumption of guilt’

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe also calls for return of ‘something like’ control orders, which tighten authority over terror suspects

Britain’s most senior police chief has called for wide-ranging new powers to tackle homegrown terrorism, including a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits Syria without prior notice should be treated as a terror suspect.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, chief constable of the Metropolitan police, also called for a return of control orders and said Britons who wage jihad in Syria or Iraq should be stripped of their passports.

Most significantly, however, Hogan-Howe became the first serving police chief to back Boris Johnson’s proposal for the presumption of innocence to be overturned for Britons who travel to warzones.

El País cites another source of insecurity:

Spain on alert over new biker gangs

  • Groups hail mostly from Germany and the Netherlands and have long records of criminal activity

Law enforcement agencies are warning about a new type of criminal in Spain: members of biker gangs, most of whom are coming in from central Europe.

An Interior Ministry report states that “this is the right time to increase preventive police activity and research, considering their incipient state in our country.”

The report mentions gangs such as Hell’s Angels, Satudarah MC, No Surrender MC and Bandidos MC, all of whom are well established in Germany and the Netherlands, among other countries.

All of them also have a long record of criminal activity, ranging from arms and drug trafficking, to money laundering, burglary, extortion and violent robbery.

Bloomberg raises hackery suspicions:

FBI Examining Whether Russia Is Tied to JPMorgan Hacking

Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are also linked to the attack, one of the people said.

From TheLocal.no, Norse petro-hackery:

300 oil companies hacked in Norway

Around 300 oil and energy in Norway companies has been affected by one of the biggest computer hacking attacks ever to happen in the country, a government source said on Wednesday.

National Security Authority Norway (Nasjonal Sikkerhetsmyndighet – NSM) revealed 50 companies in the oil sector were hacked and 250 more are now being warned by the government agency. NSM is Norway’s prevention unit for serious hack attacks.

The attack was the largest of its kind against Norwegian interests to take place, reported Dagens Næringsliv on Wednesday.

From News On Japan, a terminal alert:

Japan airports’ Wi-Fi allows snooping

Users of free wireless Internet connections at Japan’s Narita, Kansai and Kobe airports are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping of their e-mail and web browsing, a study by an information and communications specialist showed Tuesday.

Such risks can be prevented by encrypting Wi-Fi connections, but the three airports refrain from doing so in favour of user convenience, as password entry would be required for encrypted Internet connections.

Free Wi-Fi connections are available at about 900,000 locations nationwide including public facilities and convenience stores, but many of them are not encrypted, according to Masakatsu Morii, a professor at a graduate school of engineering at Kobe University.

SecurityWeek gets proactive:

Singapore Boosts Cyber Security After Hacking Incidents

Singapore on Tuesday announced new measures to strengthen cyber security to prevent a recurrence of attacks on government websites including those of its president and prime minister.

Information minister Yaacob Ibrahim said the government is upgrading its Cyber-Watch Centre, allowing it to track malicious activities and respond swiftly when there are security breaches. The upgrades are expected to be completed by January 2015.

“Large-scale cyber security breaches have made headlines and raised public concerns,” Yaacob said in a speech to a conference of experts in Singapore, referring to attacks against US retailer Target and other international incidents. “Governments, businesses, manufacturers and consumers must guard against data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware attack against their networks,” he said.

From Network World, ad-umbration:

New malvertising campaign hit visitors of several high-profile sites

Some visitors to several high-profile websites last week were redirected to browser exploits that installed malware on their computers because of malicious advertisements on those sites.

The attack affected visitors to Java.com, Deviantart.com, TMZ.com, Photobucket.com, IBTimes.com, eBay.ie, Kapaza.be and TVgids.nl between Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, according to researchers from Dutch security firm Fox-IT.

“These websites have not been compromised themselves, but are the victim of malvertising,” the researchers said Wednesday in a blog post. “This means an advertisement provider, providing its services to a small part of a website, serves malicious advertisement aimed at infecting visitors with malware.”

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including cyberwar, simultaneous blasts of rhetorical artillery are accompanied by feelers to set out the rules to a game they’ve been [dangerously] improvising, Abe again invokes vanquished imperialists while China evokes their mortal foes, Tokyo diplomatic posturing, a Pakistani challenge, beefed up Aussie security and a healed intel rift, Hanoi/Beijing fence-mending, Seoul/Tokyo talks, a Pyongyang riposte, a Chinese crackdown, and a telling suppression of free speech in the good ol’ U.S.A. . . Continue reading

The American Frankenstein faces its monster


For years the American government’s black ops boys and girls stirred up religious fundamentalists to rise up against strong central governments, invoking populist justifications.

Needless to say, students of history will recognize parallels with other extremists bent on purification through extermination of “impure” or parasitic elements.

And now the blowback, plus a lot more dark arts games are unfolding, with the ironic twists becoming ever more blatant.

First, this from intelNews:

US sharing intelligence with Syrian government, say sources

The United States is secretly sharing intelligence about the Islamic State with the government of Syria, according to sources.

On Monday, American officials told the Associated Press that US President Barack Obama had authorized reconnaissance flights over Syrian airspace with the aim of gathering intelligence on the Islamic State —known previously as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

Pentagon officials said the reconnaissance flights are intended to collect “additional intelligence” on the Islamic State’s troop movements in Syria. Their ultimate goal is reportedly to assist the president and his advisors as they contemplate whether the US should launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets on Syrian soil.

From The Intercept, the latest from Glenn Greenwald:

The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria

It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” –  Tony Blair, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Nicholas Kristof and Samantha Power – issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

U.S. military action against the Assad regime was thwarted only by overwhelming American public opinion which opposed it and by a resounding rejection by the UK Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to assume the usual subservient British role in support of American wars.

Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.

The Progressive notes another irony:

ISIS’s Brand of Islam Similar to U.S. Ally’s

While the Obama Administration is figuring out the best way to combat the extremism of groups like ISIS, it continues to maintain close ties with the Middle Eastern regime that promotes the same brand of Islam.

“The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.

In an online column, AbuKhalil elaborates on his view.

“Mainstream Islam frowns upon the views, excesses, practices and interpretations of ISIS,” he writes. “But Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

Finally, from The Real News Network, a Jessica Desvarieux interview with veteran Middle East beat journalist Patrick Cockburn, who has reported for both the Financial Times and, currently, the Guardian. His latest book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

From The Real News Network:

The Islamic State, Assad, and the Contradictions Faced by the US in Syria

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Patrick, there are so many contradictions in this story. Let’s try to work out some of these contradictions. First explain the U.S.’s objectives in Syria. And how did it come to be that they are now fighting the very same forces that they once supported?

COCKBURN: Yes. It’s something of a diplomatic disaster. The U.S. supported the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad to weaken and replace him over the last three years. But over the last year and a half, the main opposition has been jihadis, al-Qaeda type organizations, and over the last six months it’s been the Islamic State, ISIS, which the U.S. is fighting in or were helping the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government fight in Iraq. So in one country they’re supporting the government against ISIS, in Iraq, and in Syria they’re doing exactly the opposite, they’re opposing the government, which is fighting ISIS. And I don’t think this contradiction can go on very long. I think soon they’ll have to decide whose side they’re on.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, and that’s a good question, because there are consequences depending on which side they choose, because if they look to topple Assad, that benefits ISIS. If they look to attack ISIS, that helps Assad. So it seems like quite a mess. What would you suggest they do?

COCKBURN: Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the great threat to both these countries is ISIS, which is a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam. They killed last week a single tribe that opposed them. They killed 700 members. Another 1,500 have disappeared. So these are big-scale massacres. So I think they should oppose ISIS. But they need to do it effectively, which means that they have a parallel policy with the Syrian government, which they’ve been trying to overthrow. I don’t think they’re going to have a U-turn in that policy, because it would be to humiliating. But covertly I think that they’re shifting their ground. They need to prevent Assad’s government falling to ISIS.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spies, drones, zones


Today’s compendium of matters of spies, borders, corportate snoopery, hacking, and such like begins with a reminder that sometimes it’s not Big Brother you’ve got to worry about. Sometimes it’s Big Daddy. From Rumble Viral:

Catching a daughter doing selfies on video

Program note:

Rod Beckham noticed a lot of movement in his rear view mirror and realized his daughter was in the midst of an epic photo shoot of her own creation. After watching and laughing for a minute or so, he realized he needed to capture this for posterity. It will definitely put a smile on your face!

On to the serious, starting with a call from BuzzFeed:

National Progressives Want A “Federal Czar” To Oversee Local Police Forces

“The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not bode well for police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country.”

A coalition of unions, members of Congress, progressive groups and others wrote a joint letter to President Barack Obama calling for drastic changes to local police forces around the country after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The letter, which was distributed via an ad in the Washington Post, calls for a demilitarization of police forces, an effort to increase diversity, and the establishment of a “federal czar” to promote “the professionalization of local law enforcement.”

“The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not bode well for police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country,” the letter said.

From Techdirt, sumptuary laws in a world of blue knights:

As Police Get More Militarized, Bill In Congress Would Make Owning Body Armor Punishable By Up To 10 Years In Prison

  • from the only-the-police-can-be-militarized dept

We’ve been writing an awful lot lately about the militarization of police, but apparently some in Congress want to make sure that the American public can’t protect themselves from a militarized police. Rep. Mike Honda (currently facing a reasonably strong challenger for election this fall) has introduced a bizarre bill that would make it a crime for civilians to buy or own body armor. The bill HR 5344 is unlikely to go anywhere, but violating the bill, if it did become law, would be punishable with up to ten years in prison. Yes, TEN years. For merely owning body armor.

Honda claims that the bill is designed to stop “armored assailants” whom he claims are “a trend” in recent years. Perhaps there wouldn’t be so much armor floating around out there if we weren’t distributing it to so many civilian police forces… Not surprisingly, the very same police who have been getting much of this armor are very much in favor of making sure no one else gets it:

Honda said it has been endorsed by law enforcement organizations including the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, according to Honda.

The Guardian deals a blow to a call for a Medievalism, British style:

Cameron dismisses Johnson’s ‘presumption of guilt’ terror plan

  • PM rejects ‘kneejerk response’ after London mayor’s suggestion that people travelling to war zones should be presumed guilty

Downing Street has dismissed a call by Boris Johnson for the government to introduce a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits a war zone without providing notice will be guilty of a terrorist offence.

The prime minister’s spokeswoman said David Cameron had no interest in”kneejerk” responses to the threat posed by Islamic State (Isis) fighters. She confirmed that Britain’s intelligence agencies had not been pressing for the London mayor’s idea.

Downing Street said the prime minister was focused on a “patient and resolute” response to what he described last week as the “generational challenge” posed by Isis in Iraq and Syria.

From Reuters, here’s looking at you, kid:

Camera-makers shares jump on interest in surveillance tech

A surge in interest in makers of security cameras drove shares of such companies higher on Tuesday, with heavy volume in particular seen in Digital Ally, which makes wearable cameras.

Digital Ally, which produces cameras compact enough to be pinned to shirts, belts or eyeglasses, has reported heightened demand for its product since Aug. 9, when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, triggering weeks of protests.

Interest in surveillance technology also drove investors to put money in Image Sensing Systems, a company that produces software and cameras for law enforcement agencies and traffic monitors. The stock spiked more than 40 percent.

From the Guardian, Cold War 2.0:

Nato plans east European bases to counter Russian threat

  • Nato chief announces move in response to Ukraine crisis and says alliance is dealing with a new Russian military approach

Nato is to deploy its forces permanently at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time, in response to the Ukraine crisis and in an attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from causing trouble in the former Soviet Baltic republics, according to its chief.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, said that next week’s Nato summit in Cardiff would overcome divisions within the alliance and agree to new deployments on Russia’s borders – a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.

He also outlined moves to boost Ukraine’s security, “modernise” its armed forces, and help the country counter the threat from Russia.

Droning on? Or more provocatively? From the Associated Press:

AP sources: US surveillance planes fly over Syria

The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.

Drone it is. But this time, by other folks. From Vocativ:

New Video Shows ISIS Using Drones to Plan Battles

The beheading video that ISIS released last week was a vivid illustration of not only the group’s ruthlessness but also its growing media sophistication. The video, with its slick production values, spread rapidly on Twitter and YouTube.

ISIS, which now controls large stretches of Syria and Iraq, uses an elaborate web of social media accounts to recruit new members, mock the West in unusual ways and showcase its military and tech know-how.

In the latest example of this, a new video appeared this past weekend in an official ISIS forum showing ISIS forces preparing to conquer a key military base in Raqqa in northern Syria. The video includes aerial footage (at around the 1.55 mark) apparently taken by an ISIS drone, and viewers hear militants planning out the attack. One talks about “a truck opening the way so that a second suicide bomber can hit the headquarters.” The video also shows graphic images of ISIS executing Syrian soldiers.

Engadget covers cyberstalking:

Political TV ads will soon know who you are

Like it or not, another US election is almost upon us — and this time around, the incessant political advertising may cut a little too close to home. Both Democrats and Republicans are using a new TV ad targeting system from DirecTV and Dish that takes advantage of voter records to put personalized campaign ads on your DVR. If you tend to swing between both parties, you may get different commercials than lifelong supporters. You may also get reminders to vote early if you frequently cast absentee ballots. And unlike conventional targeting methods, which run ads on shows they believe certain demographics will watch, these promos will automatically appear on any show you record as long as there’s a free slot.

Yes, there’s a chance these pitches will get very annoying; there’s enough data that they could chastise you when you haven’t donated or volunteered. However, the sheer expense of producing customized ads makes it unlikely that candidates will get that specific. The DVR technology may actually spare you some grief, in fact, since politicians won’t waste your time if you’re set in your ways. There is a risk that this approach will further polarize voters by limiting their exposure to different views. With that said, many political TV spots aren’t exactly honest to start with — this may just reduce the amount of propaganda you have to put up with during commercial breaks.

The London Daily Mail gets all metaphorical:

Always use protection! £6 USB ‘condom’ stops hackers from giving you viruses and keeps your private data secure

  • The USB device was created by New York-based security experts int3.cc
  • It aims to protect against public charging stations that can download data
  • The USB condom is a small chip that has both male and female ports
  • These connect between a device and the unknown USB port, effectively severing any data connection but linking up the power cables
  • Millions of people worldwide are engaging in high-risk tech.
  • Now a ‘USB condom’ has been designed by security experts in an effort to keep sensitive data secure.
  • The device allows users to plug their phones or tablets into unfamiliar USB ports without risking being infected with a virus.

From MIT Technology Review, pimping exhibitionism:

How Much Is Your Privacy Worth?

  • Despite the outcry over government and corporate snooping, some people allow themselves be monitored for money or rewards.

People can use your sensitive personal information to discriminate against you.

Anyone paying attention knows that his or her Web searches, Facebook feeds, and other online activity isn’t always safe—be it from the prying eyes of the NSA or those of the companies providing a social networking service.

While a substantial chunk of the populace finds all this tracking creepy and invasive, though, there’s a demographic that collectively shrugs at the notion of being mined for data.

Some startups hope to exploit this by buying access to your Web browsing and banking data (see “Sell Your Personal Data for $8 a Month”). Luth Research, a San Diego company, is now offering companies an unprecedented window into the private digital domains of tens of thousands of people who have agreed to let much of what they do on a smartphone, tablet, or PC be tracked for a $100 a month.

From Motherboard, Ayn Rand is smiling:

Net Neutrality Is ‘Marxist,’ According to This Koch-Backed Astroturf Group

A mysterious conservative group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has been bombarding inboxes with emails filled with disinformation and fearmongering in an attempt to start a “grassroots” campaign to kill net neutrality—at one point suggesting that “Marxists” think that preserving net neutrality is a good idea.

The emails, which come with subject lines like “Stop Obama’s federal Internet takeover,” come from American Commitment, an organization that is nonprofit in name only and has been called out time and time again by journalists and transparency organizations for obscuring where it gets its funding.

In an email I received, American Commitment president Phil Kerpen suggests that reclassifying the internet as a public utility is the “first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether” and says that the FCC is plotting a “federal Internet takeover,” a move that “sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia.”

From Network World, so there’s more than one born every second?:

Hackers prey on Russian patriotism to grow the Kelihos botnet

The cybercriminal gang behind the Kelihos botnet is tricking users into installing malware on their computers by appealing to pro-Russian sentiments stoked by recent international sanctions against the country.

Researchers from security firms Websense and Bitdefender have independently observed a new spam campaign that encourages Russian-speakers to volunteer their computers for use in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the websites of governments that imposed sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“We, a group of hackers from the Russian Federation, are worried about the unreasonable sanctions that Western states imposed against our country,” the spam emails read, according to a translation by Bitdefender researchers. “We have coded our answer and below you will find the link to our program. Run the application on your computer, and it will secretly begin to attack government agencies of the states that have adopted those sanctions.”

Motherboard covers the cyberextortionate:

Hackers Will Leak Syrian Stock Exchange Database Unless Assad Tackles ISIS

A group of hackers took down the website of Syria’s only stock exchange this afternoon and are threatening to leak the exchange’s database unless president Bashar al-Assad takes military action against the Islamic State.

The group, called Project Viridium, says that over the last several weeks, it has infected several Islamic State operatives’ computers and have provided the Assad government with information about their whereabouts.

Earlier today, the group tweeted that it had successfully taken down the Damascus Securities Exchange. At the time of this writing, the exchange’s website is still inaccessible, due to what appears to be a fairly common DoS (Denial of Service) attack.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including Indo/Pakistani shelling, internal Pakistani tension, a case of diplomatic hypocrisy against accompanied by a Chinese peace feeler, Sino/Indonesian insular petro tension, an Aussie apology and spooky doings, another aerial line-crossing, supersonic submarines, Chinese military/security realignments, Beijing’s eyes in space, Japanese militarism questions, and much more. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Race, spooks, hacks, Asian heat


Today’s coverage of the things that make governments and citizens insecure [often not the same things in the same ways] begins with a real cause for national insecurity in the U.S. Via MintPress News:

US Has “Much Left to Do” On Racism: Segregation Worse Now Than In 70s

One UN committee member is shocked that “in spite of several decades of affirmative action in the United States to improve the mixing up of colors and races in schools … segregation [is] nowadays much worse than it was in the 1970s.”

An official summary of last week’s discussions between the U.N. experts and civil society groups recorded one committee member’s shock “to realize than in spite of several decades of affirmative action in the United States to improve the mixing up of colors and races in schools … segregation was nowadays much worse than it was in the 1970s.”

Another expert noted that “some 39 million African Americans [are] particularly affected by structural racial discrimination in the United States … part of the broader heritage of slavery,” according to the summary.

Indeed, rights advocates here say that one of the most significant impacts of the race convention has been around the broader understanding of the structural issues of racism that persist in the U.S. — those ways in which institutionalized discrimination becomes considered normal.

Techdirt covers the sadly predictable:

Obama Review Of Military Gear Handed To Law Enforcement; Thinks Real Problem Is ‘Training And Guidance’

  • from the emptiest-of-gestures dept

President Obama, most likely prompted by the invasion of Ferguson by armed forces, has called for a review of military equipment provided to local police departments by the same government he presides over. Presumably, this isn’t the sort of “review” he has in mind.

Not that local law enforcement agencies couldn’t throw an impressive Victory Day parade. The 1033 program, which sends military vehicles, weapons and equipment downstream to law enforcement agencies for pennies on the dollar, has shifted $4.3 billion from the Dept. of Defense to hundreds of police departments across the United States since 1997. Here’s what the President is actually interested in seeing.

“Among other things, the president has asked for a review of whether these programs are appropriate,” said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the internal assessment. The review also will assess “whether state and local law enforcement are provided with the necessary training and guidance; and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding.”

In other words, don’t expect much to change, and not any time soon (if at all).

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, a response to cross-border flatulism:

No Evidence of Jihadists in Mexico, Foreign Minister Says

There is no evidence to support the comments by Texas Gov. Rick Perry that jihadists could enter the United States via the southern border, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said.

“It is very unfortunate that some people make foreign policy on the basis of beliefs, suppositions and completely unfounded and absurd analyses,” Meade said in a press conference on Saturday.

Perry said in an address last week that there was a “very real possibility” that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, terrorists may have entered the United States by crossing the southern border.

The Intercept covers a spooky search engine:

The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

RT talks Turkey:

Not-so NATO-ally? Germany spying on Turkey for ‘38 years’

German foreign intelligence agency has been tapping Turkey for almost four decades, reports Focus amid the ongoing spy scandal between Berlin and Ankara. Some German officials defend the practice, saying that not all NATO allies can be treated as friends.

The German Federal Intelligence Service, BND, has been eavesdropping on Turkey since 1976 following the Social Democrat Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s government approval, Focus magazine wrote on Saturday.

Passions over previous spying allegations revealed in the media are still running high, but a new report may add fuel to the fire triggering further tensions between the two long-time North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

And International Business Times covers a rare case of candor:

Qatar And Terrorism: For Better Or For Worse, A Strong Connection

  • German Development Minister Gerd Mueller blasted Qatar on Wednesday.

“You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops?” Mueller said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF. “The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically?”

The U.S. has also wrestled with Qatar’s connections to Sunni Muslim terrorist organizations. The State Department described Qatar as “largely passive” in cooperating with efforts to cut terrorist funding in an internal cable dated Dec. 30, 2009. The cable concluded that al-Qaeda, the Taliban “and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale. Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.”

More recently, the U.S. signed a $11 billion arms and defense deal with Qatar for Apache helicopters, missile defense systems and more in July. The U.S. also keeps an Army base and an Air Force base in Qatar.

From the New York Times, the tragedy resumes:

Egypt and U.A.E. Said to Secretly Bomb Militias in Libya

Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts.

The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo.

The strikes in Tripoli are another destabilizing salvo in a power struggle defined by old-style Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order. Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt last year, the new government and its backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region — in the news media, in politics and diplomacy, and by arming local proxies — to roll back what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

From Reuters, more blowback:

Rival second Libyan assembly chooses own PM as chaos spreads

The Libyan parliament that was replaced in an election in June reconvened on Monday and chose an Islamist-backed deputy as the new prime minister, leaving the chaotic country with two rival leaders and assemblies, each backed by armed factions.

An election in June had been aimed at rebuilding state institutions in an attempt to quell three years of spreading violence since the ouster of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

But the old General National Congress (GNC), where Islamists had a strong voice, has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of its successor assembly, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by liberals and federalists.

From the Washington Post, Big Brother R Us:

For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.

The Register covers the ludicrous:

Intelligence blunder: You wanna be Australia’s spyboss? No problem, just walk right in

  • Access control? Yeah, we’ve heard of it

The Australian Security Intelligence Service, ASIS, has seemingly demonstrated a peculiar weakness in its access control systems.

A fluke administrative stuff-up allowed its Director-General – its most senior and therefore most sensitive role – to turn up and function for five days while he wasn’t actually employed by the organization.

As outlined by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, D-G Nick Warner’s contract ended, effectively sacking him, and the cack-handed public service’s computer systems didn’t notice.

From the Independent, a cyber assault:

Sony hit by cyber attack that closes PlayStation Network as plane carrying top executive is diverted following bomb threat

Federal investigators in the United States were attempting on Monday to get to the bottom of a fresh cyber-based assault against the Sony Corporation on Sunday that saw a brief a shut-down of its PlayStation Network and the emergency diversion of a commercial airliner that was carrying one of its top executives.

The company said its network had been fully restored and that no customer information had been compromised in what it said had been a “large-scale” attack, which normally involves an intruder using multiple computers to overwhelm the system forcing it to shut down. Meanwhile, John Smedley, its Online Entertainment President, was safe after what appeared to be a false bomb threat against his plane.

Sony suffered a similar event in 2011 when hackers stole credit card information from about 77 million of its customers crippling the network for two months.

From Deeplinks, a call for Comcastigation:

Comcast Data Breach Leaks Thousands of Unlisted Phone Numbers, Threatening Customers’ Privacy

Four years ago, users of Comcast’s phone service who had paid for their personal information to be unlisted noticed that something was amiss. Complaints started appearing from these individuals who found their names, addresses, and telephone numbers in phone directories both online and off.

Later, it was revealed that this breach of confidential information affected more than 74,000 individuals and households in California—over half of Comcast’s users in California with unlisted numbers. While the breach hit California the hardest, it also occurred with Comcast customers in other states. These numbers were treated just like ordinary listed phone numbers, licensed by Comcast to “publishers,” directory assistance providers, and apparently passed on to other databases and published for everyone to see.

This is but one example of how a mistake in an industry built upon the acquisition and selling of personal information can hurt people.  And this is why California law requires phone companies to protect their customers’ unlisted or non-published phone numbers.1 The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened up an investigation [pdf] to determine whether and to what extent Comcast may have broken the law in allowing this release of non-published numbers. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien has submitted testimony [pdf] as an expert witness for the California PUC in this case.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including Sino/American semantic escalation and fears of provocation, a renewed nuclear arms race, two maritime message [one submersible], a Chinese film festival canceled, more Chinese crackdowns and indignation, more Japanese dissent, and more reluctance to acquiesce to Abe’s militarization push. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Hacks, wars, spies, zones


We open with a major embarrassment, via the Guardian:

Records of up to 25,000 Homeland Security staff hacked in cyber-attack

  • Anonymous official says number could be even greater as department warns employees to check bank accounts

The internal records of as many as 25,000 employees of America’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were exposed during a recent computer hack at a federal contractor that handles security clearances, an agency official said on Friday.

The official, speaking anonymously, said the number of victims could be greater. The incident is under active federal criminal investigation.

The department was informing employees whose files were exposed in the hacking against contractor USIS and warning them to monitor their financial accounts.

Next up, via Independent, using wars abroad to crack down in Old Blighty:

Theresa May to introduce anti-jihadist powers to tackle ‘deadly extremist ideology’

Home Secretary Theresa May is planning to introduce new anti-jihadist powers as she warns that the “struggle against a deadly extremist ideology” is likely to last for decades.

She is considering extending banning orders to groups with extreme ideology but which are not engaged in terrorist activities, and she wants new powers to target extremists who try to radicalise young men and women.

The Home Secretary revealed that she has prevented “more than 150 people”, including “hate preachers”, from entering the UK because their behaviour is considered unacceptable.

Quartz goes hunting:

Kickstarter-funded journalists found an ISIL training camp using Google Earth and Bing Maps

A group of crowd-funded citizen journalists seem to have located a training camp for the militant group ISIL using only online mapping services and some old-fashioned detective work. Bellingcat, which raised almost £51,000 ($85,000) to do its own unique form of journalism, was founded by Eliot Higgins, who became famous (and was profiled by the New Yorker) for proving Syria was using chemical weapons from his bedroom in Leicester, England using only images and videos available online. His team includes a mix of bloggers, research analysts, and traditional reporters.

Bellingcat has explained in detail how it found the exact location of a training camp. First, using stills from videos showing the graduation of an ISIL class earlier this year, the team identified a large river and several bridges in the background, which it identified as the Tigris in Mosul, Iraq, the city that ISIL took in June and have been wreaking havoc in since. The group used Google Earth to make the identification.

And the New York Times raises doubts:

U.S. Officials and Experts at Odds on Threat Posed by ISIS

Earlier this year, President Obama likened the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to a junior varsity basketball squad, a group that posed little of the threat once presented by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

But on Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called ISIS an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.”

With the rapid advance of ISIS across northern Iraq, and the release this week of a video showing one of the group’s operatives beheading an American journalist, the language Obama administration officials are using to describe the danger the terrorist group poses to the United States has become steadily more pointed. But some American officials and terrorism experts said that the ominous words overstated the group’s ability to attack the United States and its interests abroad, and that ISIS could be undone by its own brutality and nihilism.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, you can’t tell tbhe players without a program:

Iraq’s Shia militias that once fought US, confront extremists, sow fear among Sunnis

Iraq’s Sunni political blocs have already withdrawn from talks about forming a new government, calling the massacre a “natural result” of the military’s decision to allow unaccountable militias to operate alongside of official forces.

Members of Iraq’s Sunni minority long have complained that the country’s security forces unfairly targeted them, but their fears have heightened since Iraq’s most-revered Shiite cleric in June gave a call to arms for men to defend their country against the Islamic State militants sweeping toward Baghdad.

Ayatollah Ali al Sistani’s fatwa came at a moment of crisis, with the country shocked by the Islamic State’s victories across Iraq and the collapse of three Iraqi army divisions.

His call motivated more than 40,000 men to join Iraq’s official government security forces, according to the Ministry of Defense. Untold thousands more are operating alongside the army and police in well-armed militias – the same ones who targeted U.S. forces during the American occupation of Iraq with deadly precision.

From the Guardian, anxiety to the north:

Canadian intelligence chief concerned by citizens joining militant groups

  • Michel Coulombe highlights al-Qaida, Isis, al-Shabaab links
  • Says: ‘Well over 100 Canadians’ have joined militant groups

Canadians who go abroad to join militant groups such as Islamic State (Isis) pose a threat on their return home and could use their foreign contacts to set up networks in Canada, the country’s intelligence director said on Saturday.

Michel Coulombe, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, wrote in a Globe and Mail article that “well over 100 Canadians”, both men and women, have left the country to join groups such as al-Qaida and al-Shabaab.

“The most obvious national security threat is the one posed by extremists who return,” Coulombe said. “How many are coming back to Canada more radicalised than when they departed? Will their status as veterans of a foreign conflict better enable them to recruit other Canadians?

And from the Associated Press, hopes for easing a domestic anxiety:

What if Michael Brown’s last moments had been recorded?

The fatal police shooting of the unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, is prompting calls for more officers to wear so-called body cameras, simple, lapel-mounted gadgets that capture video footage of law enforcement’s interactions with the public. Proponents say the devices add a new level of accountability to police work.

“This is a technology that has a very real potential to serve as a check and balance on police power,” says Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The case supporters make is simple: Cops and criminal suspects alike are less likely to misbehave if they know they’re being recorded. And there’s some evidence supporting it. In a recent Cambridge University study, the police department in Rialto, California — a city of about 100,000— saw an 89 percent decline in the number of complaints against officers in a yearlong trial using the cameras.

And real cause for anxiety South of the Border via Al Jazeera English:

Mexico says 22,322 people now ‘disappeared’

  • Government increases its count of those who have gone missing since start of war with powerful drug gangs in 2006.

The Mexican government has increased its calculation of the number of people who have disappeared since the start of the country’s drug war in 2006 and now lists 22,322 as missing, officials said.

It had said in May that 8,000 people were missing.

Assistant Attorney General, Mariana Benitez, said 12,532 people went missing during the 2006-12 administration of President Felipe Calderon, who declared war on drug traffickers. An additional 9,790 have disappeared since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office on December 1, 2012.

And from Agence Frnce-Presse, Mexico’s latest response to the growing crisis, a new paramilitary police [and no, that isn’t the fascist salture; they’re holding raptors, thought to what end. . .]:

Mexico launches new police force to fight drug gangs

Program note:

Mexico launches a new 5,000-member national police force tasked with protecting key sectors of the economy from drug gangs and other organized crime.

After the jump, the latest from the Asia Game of Zones, including shots fired on the Indian/Pakistani border, a massive data breach in Korea, Chinese domestic Internet surveillance, Japan claims a Chinese Army digital invasion, more semantic outrage over a Sino/American aerial close encounter, Chinese strategy, Japanese military budget boosting [including space plans], dissent within the Land of the Rising Sun, and a robotic warning. . . Continue reading