Category Archives: Geopolitics

InSecurityWatch: Class, war, hacks, & zones


Onward, first with the single greatest global security threat from Al Jazeera America:

Global inequality is a rising concern for elites

  • The worldwide wealth gap is the World Economic Forum’s trend to watch for 2015

Income inequality is now the number one global concern, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) — an assessment supported by research suggesting even economic elites now fret over the impact on society of the growing wealth divide.

In an annual WEF report released last week, United Nations adviser Amina Mohamed warns that income inequality can have pervasive social and political consequences. The deepening gap between rich and poor, she writes, “reduces the sustainability of economic growth [and] weakens social cohesion and security.”

That perceived threat to social stability may be why income inequality has steadily climbed the WEF’s list of priorities with each new edition of it annual economic assessment. In its 2011 report, the WEF listed inequality as “the most underestimated” global trend. By last year’s edition, it had climbed to second place.

Al-Monitor covers hands across the divide:

Iraqi Shiites join Sunnis to fight Islamic State

Shiite authorities have assumed a prominent role in calming the situation and preventing their followers from having violent reactions that may have dire consequences. Iraq’s prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, along with his spokesmen, has repeatedly said, “Sunnis are ourselves, not only our brothers.” Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Hussein Ismail al-Sadr regularly receives Sunni tribesmen and clerics from different parts of Iraq, an important step in the prevention of sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

IS did not only target Shiites to drag them into attacking Sunnis, but also suppressed moderate Sunnis to rid the internal front from moderate perspectives and from those who coexist with Shiites. The group deals severely with Sunni tribes that preserve or seek to preserve good ties with Shiites. The Oct. 20 execution of several members of the Bou Nemr tribe in Anbar province is a prominent example. The group has killed 238 men from the tribe and a mass grave of 250 tribesmen was recently found.

These actions have resulted in adverse reactions that were not the group’s objective. The Sunnis sought help from the Shiites to get rid of the group. In an interview with Al-Hurra on Oct. 29, Bou Nemr leader and parliament member Ghazi al-Gaood called on Shiite leaders, particularly Muqtada al-Sadr and the head of the Badr Organization, Hadi Al-Amiri, to oppose the destruction of his tribe by this group. He said they were facing a genocide at the hands of a barbaric group that had no religious, moral or humane principles, and therefore they welcomed any force that could assist them, even if this meant resorting to help from Israel.

Ignorance, intentional or otherwise, via the Guardian:

Libyan former CIA detainees say US torture inquiry never interviewed them

US government preparing to defend its record on torture before UN panel, but fresh accusation reopens controversy over 2012 decision by prosecutor not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse

As the US government prepares to defend its record on torture before a United Nations panel, five Libyan men once held without charge by the CIA say the main criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse never even interviewed them.

The Libyans’ accusation reopens controversy over the 2012 pre-election decision by the prosecutor in the case not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse – an episode the US State Department has held up as an example of its diligence in complying with international torture obligations.

On Wednesday, a United Nations committee in Geneva is scheduled to hear a US delegation outline recent measures Washington has taken to combat torture. It will be the first update the US has provided to the committee since 2006, when the CIA still operated its off-the-books “black site” prisons. Human rights campaigners who have seen the Obama administration repeatedly decline to deliver justice for US torture victims consider it a belated chance at ending what they consider to be impunity.

Among the committee’s requested submissions, issued in 2010, is a description of steps the US has taken to ensure torture claims against it are “promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated”. The committee specifically asked for a status update about the Justice Department’s since-concluded torture inquiry.

From the Intercept, inquiring minds want to know:

What Happened to the Humanitarians Who Wanted to Save Libyans With Bombs and Drones?

Almost without exception, war advocates justified NATO’s military action in Libya on the ground that it was driven not primarily by strategic or resource objectives but by altruism. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote: “Libya is a reminder that sometimes it is possible to use military tools to advance humanitarian causes.” Former Obama official Anne-Marie Slaughter argued that intervention was a matter of upholding “universal values,” which itself advanced America’s strategic goals. In justifying the war to Americans (more than a week after it started), President Obama decreed: “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”

But “turning a blind eye” to the ongoing – and now far worse – atrocities in Libya is exactly what the U.S., its war allies, and most of the humanitarian war advocates are now doing. Indeed, after the bombing stopped, war proponents maintained interest in the Libyan people just long enough to boast of their great prescience and to insist on their vindication. Slaughter took her grand victory lap in a Financial Times op-ed headlined “Why Libya sceptics were proved badly wrong,” Dismissing those who were telling her that “it is too early to tell” and that “in a year, or a decade, Libya could disintegrate into tribal conflict or Islamist insurgency, or split apart or lurch from one strongman to another,” she insisted that nothing could possibly be worse than letting Gaddafi remain in power. Thus: “Libya proves the west can make those choices wisely after all.”

Kristof similarly took his moment in the sun to celebrate his own rightness, visiting Tripoli in August and then announcing that Americans were regarded by grateful Libyans as heroes. While carefully larding up his column with all sorts of caveats about how things could still go terribly wrong, he nonetheless trumpeted that “this was a rare military intervention for humanitarian reasons, and it has succeeded” and that “on rare occasions military force can advance human rights. Libya has so far been a model of such an intervention.” When Gaddafi’s defeat was imminent, the White-House-supporting Think Progress blog exploited the resulting emotions (exactly as the GOP did when Saddam was captured) to taunt the Republicans: “Does John Boehner still believe U.S. military operations in Libya are illegal?” – as though killing Gaddafi somehow excused the waging of this war in the face of Congressional rejection of its authorization, let alone guaranteed a better outcome for Libyans.

Speaking of Libya. . .via BBC News:

Libya violence: Activists beheaded in Derna

Three young activists have been found beheaded in Derna, in eastern Libya.

The three, who had relayed information about the city through social media, had been kidnapped earlier this month.

Several Islamist groups are competing for control of the city, with some militants recently declaring allegiance to Islamic State.

Libya has been in a state of flux since Col Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with disparate tribes, militias and political factions fighting for power.

The Guardian covers a curious decision:

UK drops security claim blocking Pakistani’s lawsuit over ‘torture’

Government abandons argument that UK-US intelligence ties preclude letting Yunus Rahmatullah sue for damages

The UK government has abandoned its long-standing claim that relations with Washington would suffer if a Pakistani citizen who claims he was tortured by British and American troops was allowed to sue for damages in court.

Yunus Rahmatullah says he was tortured over a 10-year period after being captured by British special forces in Iraq and handed over to US troops in 2004. He was released by the US without charge in May.

The British government made the concession as a former American ambassador roundly dismissed the government’s case.

From the Express Tribune, an all-too-familiar story in Pakistan:

Drone strike kills six in North Waziristan

At least six suspected militants were killed, and three others were injured in a US drone attack in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Tuesday evening.

Initial reports suggest that the drone fired two missiles on a vehicle and a residential compound. As a result of the strikes, the vehicle and a portion of a house were destroyed.

The identities of the killed have not been ascertained as yet, but local tribesmen claim that the killed were local and foreign militants.

Pakistan routinely protests against US drone strikes, which have been targeting militants in the tribal areas since 2004, saying they violate its sovereignty and are counterproductive in the fight against terror.

But most analysts believe the resumption of the drone programme after it was suspended at the start of the year — reportedly to give Pakistan space for negotiations with the Taliban — is evidence of collusion between the two countries.

Skynet alert, via the New York Times:

Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill

Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.

As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.

Britain, Israel and Norway are already deploying missiles and drones that carry out attacks against enemy radar, tanks or ships without direct human control. After launch, so-called autonomous weapons rely on artificial intelligence and sensors to select targets and to initiate an attack.

Cold War 2.0, via TheLocal.no:

Russian super-jets seen flying near Norway

Photo evidence of a new Russian fighter jet caught flying just outside Finnmark in North Norway were released by Norwegian security forces on Tuesday.

The images were taken by Norwegian air defence personnel at the end of October, but capture the might of the new aircraft technology Russian has at its disposal and threat to security posed by the re-emerging superpower state.

The images showed two of the new Russian Su-34 fighter jets, never before been seen flying in and around North Europe. The series of pictures were taken on October 29th this year, outside the coast of Finnmark, reported VG.

And the old reliable honey trap, via intelNews:

UK report warns about sexual entrapment by foreign spies

A leaked report issued by military authorities in the United Kingdom cautions British officials to be aware of attempts by Chinese and Russian intelligence services to compromise them using sexual entrapment.

The London-based Sunday Times newspaper said it had acquired a copy of the document, entitled Manual of Security, authored by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence for use by senior officials. The manual warns that foreign intelligence services are known to employ sexual entrapment or romantic attachment as a means of compromising their targets.

The document singles out the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Chinese Ministry of State Security as two adversary agencies that are known to employ sexual entrapment on a regular basis.

From the Intercept, dirty deeds scrutinized:

EU Scrutinizes Spyware Exports To Sketchy Regimes

The European Union will start paying closer attention to sales of invasive surveillance software, which has previously flowed from European companies to countries with questionable human rights records.

Under new EU rules issued recently, certain kinds of monitoring software will require a license to export. Those license applications would provide more transparency about where the software is going, and could potentially allow governments to block unsavory sales.

As The Intercept has reported, companies like Milan-based Hacking Team or FinFisher, of Munich, sell to countries where authorities appear to have used the software to spy on dissidents and the press. Hacking Team implants have been discovered on the devices of Moroccan and Ethiopian journalists, while leaked FinFisher documents showed that activists and political opposition members in Bahrain had been targeted.

German hacking the official sort, via RT:

German intelligence to monitor overseas social networks

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency plans to spend hundreds of millions of euros on surveillance technology designed to monitor foreign social networks, local media reported, citing a confidential document.

The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) will spend €28 million, in 2015 alone, on its Strategic Technical Initiative (SIT), the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported.

According to a confidential report seen by the newspaper, the agency asked the Bundestag’s Budget Committee for a total of €300 million ($375 million) for the SIT program between 2015 and 2020.

The BND plans to set up an early warning system for cyber attacks, the report said.

The Diplomat covers cyberspooks:

Cyber Espionage and US-China Relations

Program notes:

Cyber issues are increasingly at the forefront of the U.S.-China relationship. The Obama administration places great emphasis on stopping cyber attacks on U.S. commercial interests while China decries the cyber espionage revealed in the Edward Snowden leaks. Dr. James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins The Diplomat to talk about China’s (and America’s) cyber espionage activities, policy options for Washington, and what progress has been made so far.

From Nextgov, a win:

Federal Judge Says Public Has a Right to Know About FBI’s Facial Recognition Database

A federal judge has ruled that the FBI’s futuristic facial-recognition database is deserving of scrutiny from open-government advocates because of the size and scope of the surveillance technology.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said the bureau’s Next Generation Identification program represents a “significant public interest” due to concerns regarding its potential impact on privacy rights and should be subject to rigorous transparency oversight.

“There can be little dispute that the general public has a genuine, tangible interest in a system designed to store and manipulate significant quantities of its own biometric data, particularly given the great numbers of people from whom such data will be gathered,” Chutkan wrote in an opinion released late Wednesday.

After the jump, Flash vulnerabilities redux, a South Korean hacker’s confession, seeking goose sauce for the hacked gander, malware downloads for your iPhone, NGOs and rights activists targeted by malware, the ongoing corrupt police assets seizure regime, more protests in Mexico over those slaughtered students, killer cops in Brazil, a provocative Russian nuclear move in Iran, on to Hong Kong, first with a greenlight for cops to clear away Occupy protesters [who are preparing to surrender] and an Obama denial, China strengthens its economic alliance, mixed signals between Washington and Beijing, China wows with a new stealth fighter as it seeks a greater Afghan role, and Japan asks for a hotline with Beijing, plus the new LGBT/African American/Jewish friendly Klan. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Drones, war, hacks, spies


Plus the latest moves in the Asian Game of Zones. . .

We begin with a drone attack from BBC News:

UK drone carries out first strike in Iraq

The UK carried out its first drone attack on Islamic State militants in Iraq over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence has said.

An RAF Reaper drone was involved in coalition missions near Baiji, the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery.

The MoD said the drone “successfully attacked” militants who were laying improvised explosive devices.

And from BBC News again, and so it grows:

Islamic State: Egyptian militants pledge loyalty

A jihadist group which has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis announced the move on a Twitter account in Arabic, saying IS promised “a new dawn raising the banner of monotheism”.

IS has taken over large parts of conflict-racked Syria and Iraq, declaring a cross-border caliphate.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had previously denied allying itself with IS.

Leading us to note with interest this from the Associated Press:

US reviewing democracy work in hostile countries

The State Department said Monday it was reviewing some of its secretive democracy-promotion programs in hostile countries after The Associated Press reported that the nation’s global development agency may effectively end risky undercover work in those environments.

The proposed changes follow an AP investigation this year into work by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which established a Twitter-like service in Cuba and secretly sought to recruit a new generation of dissidents there while hiding ties to the U.S. government. The agency’s proposed changes could move some of that work under America’s diplomatic apparatus.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to elaborate on the plan Monday, saying it was “premature” because of ongoing deliberations. “We continue to believe we need to find creative ways to promote positive change in Cuba, but beyond that, we’re still assessing what any change or what any impact would be,” she said.

From the Washington Post, the inevitable:

The Pentagon wants an airborne aircraft carrier to launch drones

In the 2012 movie “The Avengers,” Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and the rest of the gang flew on a massive aircraft carrier that carried dozens of planes through the air and disappeared from plain view with the help of a cloaking device. The idea that the U.S. military could develop something similar is still seen as far-fetched, but this much is true: a Pentagon agency has just launched a new effort to develop an airship sure to draw comparisons.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is exploring whether it would be possible to turn an existing plane into a flying fortress capable of launching and recovering numerous drone aircraft. Doing so would extend the range of drones that gather intelligence and perform other missions while saving money and limiting the risks pilots take, DARPA officials said Sunday.

“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky,’” said Dan Patt a DARPA program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new [unmanned aerial system] designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”

From RT, Persian drones:

Iran test-flies 1st US drone replica

An Iranian copy of a US reconnaissance drone captured in 2011 has carried out its first flight, and the Revolutionary Guards have declared the test a success.

“We promised that a model of RQ-170 would fly in the second half of the year, and this has happened. A film of the flight will be released soon,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told the IRNA state news agency.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed content at the event, describing the day as “sweet and unforgettable” in a video published by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

RQ-170 Sentinel was seized three years ago after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan. Tehran says that it managed to reverse-engineer the drone and now can launch its own UAV production.

A video report from Iran’s PressTV:

IRGC says version of captured US spy drone operational

Program notes:

A senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps says Iran has made operational a version of the captured US RQ-170 spy drone.

The IRGC’s Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh made the announcement on Monday. He said that a video showing the flight test of the stealth drone will be distributed soon. The RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft was downed by the Iranian armed forces electronic warfare unit in 2011. Tehran had announced that it intended to carry out reverse engineering on the captured aircraft, which is similar in design to a US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber. The drone is one of America’s most advanced spy aircraft.

Drawing closer to Skynet with Aviation Week & Space Technology:

MDA Inches Closer To Launching ‘On Remote’

  • Airborne UAV infrared data are key in Aegis BMD test

The most recent Missile Defense Agency (MDA) trial last month for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system is moving the agency closer to proving that airborne infrared sensors can be used to cue a ballistic target intercept.

The agency’s ultimate goal is to integrate the disparate elements of a vast ballistic missile defense system—including satellites, airborne infrared data and ground- and ship-based radars—into a single system of sensors and shooters functioning seamlessly. A product of this architecture would be to “launch on remote” and eventually “engage on remote.”

By launching on remote, an interceptor would be fired at a target based on offboard data—in this case, without the USS John Paul Jones Aegis destroyer’s own SPY-1 S-band radar acquiring the target. Once airborne, the host system, the SPY-1, would acquire the target and aid the interceptor as it heads for a kill.

With engage-on-remote operations, the host system’s sensor never actually acquires the target. Instead, an intercept is achieved using all offboard data piped into the interceptor by way of the Pentagon’s Battle Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system.

From the Los Angeles Times the Magic National Security Kingdom™:

No-fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny

The sky over Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando is “national defense airspace.” Intentionally violating Mickey and Minnie’s airspace, the alerts warn, could result in interception, interrogation and federal prosecution.

These no-fly zones are known as temporary flight restrictions, like the ones that surround the president when he travels or those put in place above Ferguson, Mo., during protests over the summer. Wildfires, air shows and large sporting events regularly get temporary flight restrictions.

Yet there is nothing temporary about the restrictions over the Disney properties. Such limits do not exist over competing theme parks such as Universal Studios or Knott’s Berry Farm.

The Disney restrictions have been in place since 2003, thanks to a provision quietly slipped into a massive congressional spending bill weeks before the Iraq war. Defense and counter-terrorism officials did not appear to ask for the Disney protections, which were instead urged by at least one Disney lobbyist, according to an Orlando Sentinel investigation in 2003.

From the ACLU Blog of Rights, a common language:

British Spying Is Our Problem, Too

The chilling effect of surveillance may be spreading across the Atlantic.

We learned last week that GCHQ – the U.K. equivalent of the NSA – permits its employees to target the communications of journalists and lawyers. That revelation has serious implications for the work of both groups.

American surveillance is already impacting the work of U.S.-based journalists and lawyers. As the ACLU and Human Rights Watch documented in a recent report, the effects are not pretty. National security and intelligence journalists have been struggling to develop and maintain relationships with increasingly skittish sources, and lawyers are losing the freedom to communicate with clients, co-counsel, and witnesses without exposing confidential information to the government.

We depend on the press to keep us informed, helping ensure the government’s accountability to the governed. But when journalists are vulnerable to surveillance, that accountability suffers.

Attorneys are also indispensable, and their right to communicate privately with clients has long been recognized both in domestic and international law. When attorneys can’t communicate freely with clients, they can’t build trust or develop strategy. That weakens important due process rights and diminishes our confidence in the verdicts issued by our justice system.

German hackery from TheLocal.de:

BND to hire hackers to check shopping carts

Update: Germany’s foreign intelligence agency plans to spend millions to penetrate the secure connection technologies used by social networks, banks and online shops.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Monday that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) will spend €28 million in 2015 on its ‘Strategic Technical Initiative” (SIT).

A confidential report seen by the newspaper showed that spies have asked a parliamentary oversight committee for a total of €300 million for the SIT programme between 2015 and 2020. Over €6 million has already been spent in 2014 laying the groundwork.

They say that the aim of the programme is to penetrate foreign social networks and create an early warning system for cyber attacks.

Hackers go postal, via the New York Times:

Postal Service Discloses Major Data Theft

The Postal Service on Monday became the latest government agency to announce a major theft of data from its computer systems, telling its roughly 800,000 employees and retirees that an attack “potentially compromised” databases containing postal employees’ names, birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers.

The announcement came just weeks after the White House disclosed an intrusion into its unclassified computer systems, which resulted in a shutdown of some of its communications while the malicious software was being removed.

The working assumption at the White House was that its troubles were caused by Russian hackers; the Postal Service attack, by contrast, seemed to have the signature of Chinese hackers. But attributing attacks is difficult, and first indications are frequently inaccurate.

From the Guardian, the Oops Factor:

Efforts to protect US government data against hackers undermined by worker mistakes

  • Reports show that hacking and cybercrime swamp federal agencies as US struggles to keep pace with international groups of hackers

A $10bn-a-year effort to protect sensitive government data, from military secrets to social security numbers, is struggling to keep pace with an increasing number of cyberattacks and is unwittingly being undermined by federal employees and contractors.

Workers scattered across more than a dozen agencies, from the defense and education departments to the National Weather Service, are responsible for at least half of the federal cyberincidents reported each year since 2010, according to an Associated Press analysis of records.

They have clicked links in bogus phishing emails, opened malware-laden websites and been tricked by scammers into sharing information.

One was redirected to a hostile site after connecting to a video of tennis star Serena Williams. A few act intentionally, most famously former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who downloaded and leaked documents revealing the government’s collection of phone and email records.

Upscale hostelry hostility from the Kaspersky Lab:

Kaspersky Lab sheds light on “Darkhotels”, where business executives fall prey to an elite spying crew

Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team experts researched the “Darkhotel” espionage campaign, which has lurked in the shadows for at least four years while stealing sensitive data from selected corporate executives travelling abroad. “Darkhotel” hits its targets while they are staying in luxury hotels. The crew never goes after the same target twice; they perform operations with surgical precision, getting all the valuable data they can from the first contact, deleting traces of their work and melting into the background to await the next high profile individual.  The most recent travelling targets include top executives from the US and Asia doing business and investing in the APAC region: CEOs, senior vice presidents, sales and marketing directors and top R&D staff have all been targeted. Who will be next? This threat actor is still active, Kaspersky Lab warns.

The Darkhotel actor maintains an effective intrusion set on hotel networks, providing ample access over the years, even to systems that were believed to be private and secure. They wait until, after check-in, the victim connects to the hotel Wi-Fi network, submitting his room number and surname at the login. The attackers see him in the compromised network and trick him into downloading and installing a backdoor that pretends to be an update for legitimate software – Google Toolbar, Adobe Flash or Windows Messenger. The unsuspecting executive downloads this hotel “welcome package”, only to infect his machine with a backdoor, Darkhotel’s spying software.

Once on a system, the backdoor has been and may be used to further download more advanced stealing tools: a digitally-signed advanced keylogger, the Trojan ‘Karba’ and an information-stealing module. These tools collect data about the system and the anti-malware software installed on it, steal all keystrokes, and hunt for cached passwords in Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer; Gmail Notifier, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! and Google login credentials; and other private information. Victims lose sensitive information – likely the intellectual property of the business entities they represent. After the operation, the attackers carefully delete their tools from the hotel network and go back into hiding.

After the jump, cops in Canada acting like cops below the border, Spanish schismatics, Germans shut down a Far Right protest, a CNN shutdown in Moscow, a U.N. investigation of lethal Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities, a ghost from the past returns, Iran makes a conciliatory nuclear more, a move towards an Aussie/Japanese military alliance, Abe and Xi, not sittin’ in a tree, a Beijing twist, and another olive branch form Tokyo, Japanese-Koreans protest inflammatory racism, and Japan launches a naval buildup. . .  Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, hacks, drones


And more. . .much more.

First, he’s just a cockeyed optimist, via the Guardian:

Obama confident US troop surge in Iraq will put coalition on offensive

  • President: new troops will focus on training local forces to fight Isis
  • Comments draw emerging parallel to past US military strategy in Iraq

The latest US troop surge in Iraq will allow an offensive campaign against Islamic militants, Barack Obama claimed on Sunday, as political talk shows featuring the president and his predecessor, George W Bush, underscored the growing echoes of the past in current American military strategy.

In his first public comments since doubling the number of US ground troops in Iraq to 3,000, Obama said the decision did not represent a failure of his administration’s early reliance on air strikes in Iraq and Syria. He said the deployment, announced on Friday night, “signals a new phase” in his campaign against the Islamic State – known as Isis or Isil.

“Rather than just try to halt Isil’s momentum, we are now in a position to start going on some offensive,” he told CBS.

“The air strikes have been very effective in degrading Isil’s abilities and slowing the advances they were making. Now we need some ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, to start pushing them back.”

The Guardian again, with uncertainty:

Fate of Isis leader remains unclear after US airstrike in Iraq

  • Monitoring of Isis communications following attack near Mosul reveals nothing to suggest Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed

Officials in Baghdad and Washington remained unclear on Sunday about the fate of the Islamic State (Isis) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after a key aide was killed in a US air strike near Mosul.

A senior Iraqi official confirmed to the Guardian that the aide, Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Sajar, was killed in the the attack late on Friday night, which hit a 10-car convoy southwest of the Isis stronghold.

Athaee was known to have been in almost constant contact with Baghdadi and officials deduced that his presence in the convoy likely meant that Baghdadi was with him.

However, monitoring of the group’s communications in the aftermath of the attack has revealed nothing to suggest that Baghdadi was killed. Officials have not ruled out that he may have been injured.

A revolutionary threat in Cairo from the Egypt Independent:

Salafi Front vows ‘Islamic Revolution’ on 28 November

A Salafi leader allied with the Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to stage an “Islamic Revolution” on Friday, 28 November, across the republic.

“That day will witness a second Kandahar in all provinces,” Khaled Saeed, chief coordinator of the Salafi Front, told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The Salafi Front, part of the Anti-Coup Alliance that supports the reinstatement of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy, was formed in 2011 after the 25 January revolution when it broke away from the more mainstream and pro-regime group Salafi Dawaa.

From the New York Times, corruption by any other name. . .:

Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize

The seminars offered police officers some useful tips on seizing property from suspected criminals. Don’t bother with jewelry (too hard to dispose of) and computers (“everybody’s got one already”), the experts counseled. Do go after flat screen TVs, cash and cars. Especially nice cars.

In one seminar, captured on video in September, Harry S. Connelly Jr., the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., called them “little goodies.” And then Mr. Connelly described how officers in his jurisdiction could not wait to seize one man’s “exotic vehicle” outside a local bar.

“A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new,” he explained. “Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.’ “

Mr. Connelly was talking about a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government, without ever securing a conviction or even filing a criminal charge, to seize property suspected of having ties to crime. The practice, expanded during the war on drugs in the 1980s, has become a staple of law enforcement agencies because it helps finance their work. It is difficult to tell how much has been seized by state and local law enforcement, but under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001. Much of that money is shared with local police forces.

From the Guardian, Cold War 2.0 intensification:

Close military encounters between Russia and the west ‘at cold war levels’

  • Report lists 40 cases of ‘brinkmanship’, including near-collision between Russian spy plane and passenger jet, in past eight months

Close military encounters between Russia and the west have jumped to cold war levels, with 40 dangerous or sensitive incidents recorded in the past eight months alone, according to a new report published on Monday.

The report, Dangerous Brinkmanship by the European Leadership Network, logs a series of “highly-disturbing” incidents since the Ukrainian crisis began earlier this year, including an alarming near-collision between a Russian reconnaissance plane and a passenger plane taking off from Denmark in March with 132 passengers on board.

What made the incident especially dangerous was that the Russian plane did not have on its transponders, the usual method of signalling its presence to other aircraft.

The report by the London-based thinktank comes after a warning from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev that the world is “on the brink of a new cold war”.

While Russia Today offers a reminder:

Winston Churchill wanted to nuke Kremlin ‘to win Cold War,’ FBI memo reveals

A secret memo from the FBI’s archives has revealed that Britain’s Winston Churchill once urged the US to drop an atomic bomb to “wipe out” the Kremlin. He reportedly thought it was the only remedy against the spread of communism to the west.

Churchill, Britain’s prime minister during World War II and again during the Cold War 1950s, made his views known to a visiting American politician in 1947, The Daily Mail reported in a preview of a new book, “When Lions Roar: The Churchills and The Kennedys” by investigative journalist Thomas Maier. The book containing the secret FBI memo is to be published next month.

Britain and the Soviet Union had been allies during WW2. However, according to the memo written by an FBI agent, Churchill asked a Right-wing Republican senator, Styles Bridges, to help persuade then-President Harry Truman to launch a nuclear attack which would make the former USSR easy to deal with.

And the Los Angeles Times considers the costs:

Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly

The nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile has shrunk by 85% since its Cold War peak half a century ago, but the Energy Department is spending nine times more on each weapon that remains. The nuclear arsenal will cost $8.3 billion this fiscal year, up 30% over the last decade.

The source of some of those costs: skyrocketing profits for contractors, increased security costs for vulnerable facilities and massive investments in projects that were later canceled or postponed.

“We are not getting enough for what we are spending, and we are spending more than what we need,” said Roger Logan, a senior nuclear scientist who retired in 2007 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The whole system has failed us.”

The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.

From the Guardian, business as usual in Old Blighty:

UK condemned over arms sales to repressive states

  • Former Tory defence secretary Sir John Stanley says government quietly relaxed controls on arms licences to ‘countries of concern’

The government used to reject arms export licences where there was concern they might be used for “internal repression”, but now a licence will be refused only if there is a “clear risk” that military equipment might be used in violation of international law.

Former Foreign Office minister Peter Hain, who established the strict criteria on arms sales, last night demanded that the government be transparent about the change and called for parliament to be allowed a vote. He said: “The present government has run a coach and horses through our arms export controls, circumventing the legislation we put in place by putting a particular spin on it. It has enabled them to sell arms to countries and for purposes that should not be allowed under the legislation.

“There is a clear policy in the legislation that arms should only be sold to countries for defensive purposes and not for internal suppression or external aggression. In the case of Gaza over the summer, that has clearly been flouted. Bahrain is another example.”

Data from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reveals that in the first six months of 2014 the UK granted licences worth £63.2m of arms sales to 18 of the 28 states on its official blacklist, countries about which the Foreign Office has the “most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”. Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka and Russia were among the countries that Britain approved military equipment for.

From the Los Angeles Times, great expectations:

Washington braces for results of Senate investigation of CIA practices

After six years and a $40-million investigation, the Democratic-led Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release conclusions this month from its controversial probe of CIA detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects overseas during the George W. Bush administration.

The partly redacted report is likely to renew the national debate over now-banned techniques that critics decried as torture and which supporters insist were necessary to stop further terrorist plots after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S. embassies in the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the Islamic world have been told to prepare for the possibility of violent protests and threats after the report’s release, according to officials briefed on the preparations and who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The New York Times gets spooky:

Getting Close to Terror, but Not to Stop It

  • Port Authority Officer Kept Sources With Ties to Iran Attacks

After a car bombing in southeastern Iran killed 11 Revolutionary Guard members in 2007, a C.I.A. officer noticed something surprising in the agency’s files: an intelligence report, filed ahead of the bombing, that had warned that something big was about to happen in Iran.

Though the report had provided few specifics, the C.I.A. officer realized it meant that the United States had known in advance that a Sunni terrorist group called Jundallah was planning an operation inside Shiite-dominated Iran, two former American officials familiar with the matter recalled. Just as surprising was the source of the report. It had originated in Newark, with a detective for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The Port Authority police are responsible for patrolling bridges and tunnels and issuing airport parking tickets. But the detective, a hard-charging and occasionally brusque former ironworker named Thomas McHale, was also a member of an F.B.I. counterterrorism task force. He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and developed informants inside Jundallah’s leadership, who then came under the joint supervision of the F.B.I. and C.I.A.

From CBC News, antinostalgia:

Berlin Wall: East Germans lived in fear under Stasi surveillance

  • Network of intimidation saw a third of the population informing on neighbours and friends

The surveillance machine was enormous, including a spy network of intimidation that saw an estimated one in three people informing on neighbours, friends or loved ones.

“If you look outside of the prison, the large building … this was a factory of the Stasi,” said guide Cliewe Juritza, himself an inmate of the prison for a year after he was captured trying to reach West Germany in 1985, just four years before the wall came down.

“The production of the gadgets of espionage or observation. Altogether there were 91,000 [State Security] employees … and 2,500 were working here,” he said.

There were more than 100 interrogation rooms along the prison’s dim-lit halls, sinister by dint of their blandness: a desk, a table, a chair and a phone.

And from USA Today, blown away:

Defendants walk after FBI agent accused of snorting evidence

Program notes:

Charges against 13 defendants in a drug conspiracy case were dropped amid allegations that an FBI agent snorted some of the evidence. Some of them had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

After the jump it’s on to drones, with more French nuke plant drone sightings, Swiss military drones burglars, corporate-enabled hacking for the feds, Journalistic solidarity for beleaguered Egyptian colleagues, Israeli Arabs erupt over a police shooting, on to Hong Kong where Occupy protestors gets a warning from the top in Beijing, signs of limits to the growing Beijing/Moscow military alliance, a game-changing Chinese jet, a marginalized Obama confronts a growing gap with China, Obama’s silent treatment of Pyongyang, America’s new BFF, the surprisingly nostalgic beneficiary of those leaked celebrity nude selfies, and a reminder from history of the dangers of the panopticon state. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spies, laws, peepers, drones


And much, much more. . .

We begin with the genome-incorporating corporate panopticon from the Asahi Shimbun:

Yahoo offers DNA tests, expects growth in gene-based advertising

Advertisements tailored to individuals’ genetic makeup have moved closer to reality with the start of a DNA testing service by Yahoo Japan Corp.

The service, which began Nov. 7, analyzes 290 genetic aspects of saliva samples–from the risk of such illnesses as lung cancer and stroke to physical traits, including a tendency toward obesity and alcohol-tolerance levels.

The service costs 49,800 yen ($430), including tax. Users can also receive advice from doctors and nutritionists, for an additional charge.

In June, the company revised its regulations on the protection of personal information to allow for the use of DNA analysis results in advertising.

From the Boston Globe, an inescapable conclusion:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

  • The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

Glennon’s critique sounds like an outsider’s take, even a radical one. In fact, he is the quintessential insider: He was legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a consultant to various congressional committees, as well as to the State Department. “National Security and Double Government” comes favorably blurbed by former members of the Defense Department, State Department, White House, and even the CIA. And he’s not a conspiracy theorist: Rather, he sees the problem as one of “smart, hard-working, public-spirited people acting in good faith who are responding to systemic incentives”—without any meaningful oversight to rein them in.

Reuters covers signs of overstretch:

As Obama visits Asia, old alliances face new strains in face of China’s influence

In November 2011, with the Arab Spring uprisings in full tilt and Europe rocked by a debt crisis, President Barack Obama flew to Asia to promote a shift of America’s military, diplomatic and business assets to the region. His then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared in the same year that the 21st century would be “America’s Pacific century”.

Fast-forward to today: as Obama flies to Asia on Sunday, Washington’s “pivot” to the region is becoming more visible. It includes deployment of American Marines in Darwin, Australia, stepped up U.S. naval visits to the Philippines and many more joint drills with that nation’s armed forces, as well as the lifting of a ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam.

But just as Washington seeks to expand American interests in Asia as a counterpoint to China’s growing influence, some U.S. partners have shown less willingness to challenge Beijing. That may mean China will have a freer hand to assert its authority in the resource-rich South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap those of Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries.

The drubbing Obama’s Democrats took in this week’s mid-term elections, defeats that were blamed by many on his leadership, will hardly strengthen his position in discussions with China or with allies in the region. Obama will have less room for maneuver on foreign policy now he has a Republican-controlled Senate to deal with, and the political focus in Washington is already starting to turn to the 2016 presidential election.

More of the same, also via Reuters:

Unclear if China ready to sign IT agreement: WTO chief

China is part of “intensive” talks on a global trade pact regarding information technology products, the World Trade Organization’s chief said on Saturday, but it is unclear if a deal will be made at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders underway in Beijing.

The United States and other countries have been hopeful that China would sign on to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which requires signatories to eliminate duties on some IT products, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that ends on Tuesday.

Washington has blamed China, the world’s biggest exporter of IT products, for derailing talks on an update to the 16 year old WTO pact on technology trade by asking for too many exemptions.

On to the war of the moment/clash of cultures/blowback via the New York Times:

U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Target ISIS Leaders

An airstrike by a United States-led coalition hit a gathering of leaders of the Islamic State jihadist group in northwestern Iraq on Saturday, and Iraqi officials said they believed that a number of top militants had been killed.

Two Iraqi officials said that at least one strike had targeted a meeting near the town of Qaim, which is in Anbar Province, just across the border from the Syrian town of Bukamal. The area is in the desert heartland of the territory the group has seized for its self-declared caliphate.

Both officials said that the strikes had killed many militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, including two of its regional governors. Rumors also swirled that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been at the meeting and was either wounded or killed. The officials said they had no confirmed information about Mr. Baghdadi’s presence at the meeting.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, strange bedfellows:

Sunni tribes join Shiite militias in battle for Iraqi town, a rare show of sectarian unity

Sunni Muslim tribesmen, Shiite militia fighters and Iraqi security forces set out Saturday to recapture a key city in Anbar province and stop Islamic State atrocities against a local tribe in an extraordinary coalition that could stir sectarian tensions or potentially serve as a model for future cooperation against the militants.

The operation to liberate Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad, could reshape the situation in Anbar in a way that would impact the mission of U.S. troops who are being deployed to the province from among the additional 1,500 U.S. military advisers the Pentagon said it is sending to Iraq at the end of the year.

“This is a dramatic change,” said Hisham al Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi defense analyst. “We have the Sunni Arab tribes fighting hand in hand with the Shiites.”

And from BBC News, another inescapable conclusion:

Ex-USSR leader Gorbachev: World on brink of new Cold War

The world is on the brink of a new Cold War, and trust should be restored by dialogue with Russia, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said.

At an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday, Mr Gorbachev said the West had “succumbed to triumphalism”.

He expressed alarm about recent Middle Eastern and European conflicts.

Along the same lines, via the New York Times:

As Russia Draws Closer to China, U.S. Faces a New Challenge

Mr. Obama is returning to Asia as Russia pulls closer to China, presenting a profound challenge to the United States and Europe. Estranged from the West over Ukraine, Mr. Putin will also be in Beijing this week as he seeks economic and political support, trying to upend the international order by fashioning a coalition to resist what both countries view as American arrogance.

Whether that is more for show than for real has set off a vigorous debate in Washington, where some government officials and international specialists dismiss the prospect of a more meaningful alliance between Russia and China because of the fundamental differences between the countries. But others said the Obama administration should take the threat seriously as Moscow pursues energy, financing and military deals with Beijing.

“We are more and more interested in the region that is next to us in Asia,” said Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. “They are good partners to us.” He added that a recent natural gas deal between Moscow and Beijing was a taste of the future. “It’s just the beginning,” he said, “and you will see more and more projects between us and China.”

The ante, via the Los Angeles Times:

Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly

The nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile has shrunk by 85% since its Cold War peak half a century ago, but the Energy Department is spending nine times more on each weapon that remains. The nuclear arsenal will cost $8.3 billion this fiscal year, up 30% over the last decade.

The source of some of those costs: skyrocketing profits for contractors, increased security costs for vulnerable facilities and massive investments in projects that were later canceled or postponed.

“We are not getting enough for what we are spending, and we are spending more than what we need,” said Roger Logan, a senior nuclear scientist who retired in 2007 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The whole system has failed us.”

The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.

On to drones, first with a partnership from MercoPress:

Anglo-French defence co-operation contract to develop unmanned combat air systems

  • A set of defence co-operation contracts, worth £120 million, for the early phase of a joint development of Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) between the UK and French governments have been awarded in Paris. A UCAS capability would, by the 2030′s, be able to undertake sustained surveillance, mark targets, gather intelligence, deter adversaries and carry out strikes in hostile territory.

The contracts will underpin a two-year Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Feasibility Phase program and will involve six industry partners exploring concepts and options for the potential collaborative acquisition of a UCAS in the future.

The contracts award was jointly announced by Bernard Gray, the Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Defence Materiel and his counterpart, Laurent Collet-Billon, head of the French Directorate General of Armaments.

Mr Gray said that the development of Unmanned Combat Air Systems is of vital importance to the UK and France, “which have the most capable and experienced armed forces in Europe and well-established defence industrial bases”.

On a parallel track with Want China Times:

US must act soon to counter China droning on

Because the United States only allows its unmanned aerial vehicles to be exported to the United Kingdom, American experts fear that China will eventually dominate the global drone market, Washington’s National Interest magazine reports.

The Zhuihai Air Show held in Southern China every two years has attracted the attention of aviation experts from around the world. Beijing invested huge amounts of resources to improve the nation’s drone technology. With those drones displayed in Zhuhai, China seems to be ready to challenge the status quo of global arms control as it begins to catch up to its competition in the overseas market of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Following a report which indicated that China is cooperating with the Algerian military in developing unmanned aerial vehicles, Saudi Arabia announced that it purchased an undisclosed number of Wing Loong drones from China on May.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the very curious:

Judge orders Obama to explain rejection of Chinese bid to buy Oregon wind farms on national security grounds

President Barack Obama and a secretive government committee that vets foreign purchases of American companies must explain to a Chinese-owned firm why they rejected its bid to buy Oregon wind farms, under a new order by a federal judge.

The unprecedented ruling by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. judge for the District of Columbia who was nominated by Obama, also requires him to justify withholding any information from the Chinese on grounds of executive privilege, a legal principle that presidents going back to George Washington have claimed.

Jackson’s order was issued under a July mandate from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled then that Obama had violated the constitutional due process rights of Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. in his September 2012 directive voiding its purchase of an Oregon wind-farm conglomerate.

MercoPress goes undercover:

Former US soccer leader Blazer spied on FIFA as an FBI informant

  • Chuck Blazer, once the most powerful man in US soccer, was an FBI informant used to spy on Fifa, the New York Daily News reports. Blazer, who is now suffering from cancer, secretly recorded conversations with officials he arranged to meet at his London hotel during the 2012 Olympics, the report said.

Union-busting at Scotland Yard, via the Guardian:

Police ‘covered up’ links with union blacklisting

  • Leaked minutes show senior officer met group targeting union activists

Scotland Yard has been accused of seeking to cover up its involvement in the blacklisting of more than 3,200 construction workers following the emergence of minutes of a meeting between a senior officer in its anti-extremism unit and the organisation running the list.

The leaked document proves that as late as 2008 a detective chief inspector in the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu) briefed members of the Consulting Association, the secretive organisation that ran the blacklist keeping people out of work for decades. The association, which had a database of 3,213 names on which it held information, was raided and closed in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office, but not before it destroyed the professional and personal lives of thousands of workers, according to those on the list.

A committee of MPs holding an inquiry into its activities heard evidence that at least two of those blacklisted committed suicide as a result. In 2012 the Information Commissioner’s Office told an employment tribunal that it believed information held in the files was from the police or security services.

From the London Daily Mail, peek-a-boo!:

Is this creepy website live-streaming YOUR living room? 73,000 webcams now viewable to anyone because their owners haven’t set a password

  • Website insecam.com running footage from more than 73,000 cameras
  • A total of 11,000 cameras in the United States are able to be viewed
  • There are 2,422 cameras in the UK which are also providing a live feed
  • Cameras which have not had their factory passwords changed are accessible
  • Users can view businesses, factories, building sites and private homes
  • The site states: ‘you can see into bedrooms of all countries of the world’
  • Easy to stop – just change the password on the camera

A creepy website has collected streaming footage from more than 73,000 cameras around the globe that are connected to the internet, because the owners haven’t changed their default passwords, making them accessible to virtually anyone.

Insecam claims to feature feeds from IP cameras all over the world with more than 11,000 in the U.S. and 2,400 in the UK alone.

Some of the shots are harmless with fly-on-the-wall views of stores, offices and parking lots, but there are also far more personal areas covered by the cameras, with living rooms and bedrooms featured prominently.

From Want China Times, the mal-adroit:

Apple blocks malware targeting Chinese iPhone user

Apple said they have blocked the malware hidden in apps of third-party app stores in China which aim to access information from Chinese iPhone users, Tencent’s online tech news outlet reports.

The malware, dubbed WireLurker, was brought to light by a Silicon Valley-based cyber security company Palo Alto Networks in a report published on Nov. 6. When users downloaded the apps from the third-party app stores in China and installed the apps on their Mac computers, the malware hidden in the apps stole user information from any iOS device, including the iPhone and the iPad, when it was connected to the computer with a USB.

iPhones are relatively safe from malware given the strong firewall protection Apple uses for the phones. Apps that aren’t developed by Apple have to be authorized first and users can only download from Apple’s app store. WireLurker is the first malware capable of invading privacy on iPhones and other iOS devices and it poses a big threat to Chinese Apple users, the tech outlet said.

And from Channel 4 News in Britain, selling you out:

eBay for credit card fraudsters: Thousands of details up for sale

Program notes:

How safe is your money? We’ve discovered that the credit card details of thousands of Britons are being offered for sale on the internet.

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Sweden and Austria, Israel lobby tanks British Labor Party funding, a Chavez ally charged with cartel links, Brazil prepares for war to defend the Amazon, an Israeli Arab general strike over a police shooting, military press censorship proposed in Egypt, protesters seize a Libyan oil port, new anti-gay laws in Uganda, a rare admission by India’s army in deaths of teens, arrested Americans feed by Pyongyang, discouraging words for Hong Kong Occupy activists, Abe confirms a summit in Beijing, Chinese media proclaim a win while China moves forward on a regional economic zone, and echoes from a battle a century past haunt the Beijing/Tokyo axis. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, fear, hacks, & Mexico


And the new peace feelers in the Asian Game of Zones. . .

First up, from News Corp Australia, the inevitable:

Four men arrested for allegedly plotting a terror attack to kill Queen Elizabeth

A SUSPECTED plot to kill the Queen at a Royal British Legion event ahead of Remembrance Day at the Royal Albert Hall has been foiled by police.

British tabloid The Sun reports four Islamic terror suspects are thought to have been planning a knife attack on Her Majesty, 88.

It is thought the alleged assassination plot on the Queen emerged during routine surveillance.

The Queen and British Prime Minister David Cameron were both informed of the police operation and potential threat, the Sun reports.

Heavily-armed counter terrorist police swooped on four addresses across west London and High Wycombe in the Thames Valley overnight and arrested the four men aged 19 to 27 years.

On to the war with the Washington Post:

U.S. airstrikes target al-Qaeda faction in Syria

U.S. warplanes launched airstrikes in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border early Thursday, targeting a group other than the Islamic State for only the second time since the air campaign in the country began and threatening to draw Washington deeper into Syria’s multilayered conflicts.

The U.S. Central Command said five strikes were conducted specifically against the al-Qaeda-linked Khorasan group using manned aircraft and drones. There were unconfirmed reports that a French bombmaker with the group was among those killed.

Khorasan is the term used by U.S. intelligence to refer to an al-Qaeda cell said to be embedded within Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian militant group that is fighting both President Bashar al-Assad and U.S.-backed moderate opposition forces of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA.

More boots on the ground, via Reuters:

Obama to send more troops to Iraq as campaign expands

President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more U.S. troops for Iraq, roughly doubling the number already there to advise and retrain Iraqi forces battling Islamic State militants, U.S. officials said on Friday.

The United States has about 1,400 troops in Iraq, slightly below a previous limit of 1,600.

The Pentagon said it planned to establish several sites across the country to train nine Iraqi army brigades and three brigades of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. They will be set up in northern, western and southern Iraq.

More from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Some new U.S. troops in Iraq will be sent to Anbar, where Islamic State is in control

At the White House, officials said that while the troops would be entering the most besieged Iraqi provinces, they remained in a non-combat role.

But that may be a difficult promise to keep. The base where they are to conduct the training in Anbar has been attacked multiple time by the Islamic State.

The al Asad Airbase is the headquarters of the Iraqi Army’s 7th Infantry Division, which, according to an Oct. 29 report by the Insititute for the Study of War, “was heavily depleted by desertions and had its leadership gutted” by an Islamic State ambush December 2013 that killed the division commander and 17 members of his senior staff.

When Iraqi security units recently retreated from Hit in the face of an Islamic State assault, they are believed to have pulled back to al Asad, the institute, a Washington, D.C. based research center, said.

From TheLocal.de, oil’s not so well:

German spies say Isis oil isn’t money gusher

A German intelligence report suggests estimates of the oil wealth of terror group the Islamic State (Isis) are wildly overstated.

Previously published estimates have suggested that Isis, which controls large swathes of northern Syria and Iraq, could earn up to €3 billion a year from oil fields it controls.

But a report from Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country’s foreign intelligence service, argues that “speculation of such high levels of income is hugely overblown.”

They say that the real figure may be less than $100 million a year.

And a move [emulating a tactic used by the Nazis] sure to add fuel to Mideast flames from BBC News:

Israel to destroy homes of Palestinian Jerusalem attackers

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered that the homes of Palestinians who have carried out attacks in Jerusalem be demolished. The decision, taken on Thursday, follows weeks of unrest in the city.

Four people have now died in two separate attacks on pedestrians in Jerusalem in the past two weeks. The latest incident occurred on Wednesday when a Palestinian rammed his van into people waiting at a tram station, then attacked police.

One person was killed at the scene and another died from his injuries on Friday morning.

More troubles with another regime changed, via the Guardian:

Libya supreme court rules anti-Islamist parliament unlawful

  • June’s general elections ruled unconstitutional by court in Tripoli, which says resulting parliament should be dissolved

In a blow to anti-Islamist factions, Libya’s highest court has ruled that general elections held in June were unconstitutional and that the parliament and government which resulted from that vote should be dissolved.

The development deepened the rift in the politically divided Libya, which has been mired in months-long clashes and turmoil that have left the country with two rival parliaments and governments, killed hundreds and displaced whole populations of war-torn cities and towns.

The supreme constitutional court issued its ruling on Thursday from the capital of Tripoli, which is controlled by Islamist-allied militias from the powerful western coastal city of Misrata. The militias, which took Tripoli in August, have revived a parliament that ran the country before the elections. They also forced the recently elected parliament, dominated by anti-Islamists, to convene in the far eastern city of Tobruk.

Suspicions in Foggy Bottom, via the Associated Press:

AP source: Ex-diplomat in counterintelligence case

Two U.S. officials say a federal investigation involving a former U.S. diplomat and expert on Pakistan is related to counterintelligence.

One of the officials said Friday that law enforcement agents searched the home of Robin Raphel as part of an investigation into the possession of classified materials. The official declined to comment further.

The investigation was first reported by The Washington Post.

A spokesman for Raphel, Andrew Rice, says that Raphel had not been told what the investigation was about and was “confident this will be resolved.”

Gee, are we surprised! From the Guardian:

Law enforcement lost public’s trust after NSA leaks, says UK police chief

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan police commissioner, says law enforcement must strike balance between security and privacy in wake of Snowden revelations

Law enforcement agencies lost the public’s trust after disclosures on government surveillance by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and must ensure that they strike the right balance between privacy and security, the UK’s most senior police officer said on Thursday.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan police in London, told a conference of senior American police chiefs that authorities must take care “post-Snowden” to use the most intrusive surveillance tools available to them “only where necessary”, or “risk losing them altogether”.

“We need to ensure that where law enforcement accesses private communications there is a process of authorisation, oversight and governance that gets the balance right between the individual’s right to privacy and their right to be protected from serious crime,” said Hogan-Howe, whose force that takes the lead on police counter-terrorism efforts in the UK.

Hack attacks forecast, via SecurityWeek:

Australia’s Spy Agency Warns of G20 Cyberattacks

An Australian intelligence agency is warning that cyber-criminals will target the upcoming G20 summit in Brisbane, saying they could include state-sanctioned hackers, trade spies or activists.

As world leaders prepare to visit the Queensland state capital for the high-powered November 15-16 meeting, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has reportedly been briefing industry about the threat.

“Targeting of high-profile events such as the G20 by state-sponsored or other foreign adversaries, cyber-criminals and issue-motivated groups is a real and persistent threat,” the directorate said in its G20 cyber-security advice.

G20 Cyber AttacksIt said malicious emails appearing to relate to summits held in 2012 and 2013 had been sent to Australian government agencies in a bid to compromise computer networks and seek information.

Expansion forestalled Down Under, via the Guardian:

Metadata reporting obligations stay as Malcolm Turnbull backs status quo

  • Government agencies will not be given easier access to Australians’ phone and web data

The government has backed down on a push to remove reporting obligations for access to Australians’ phone and web data just weeks after proposing a bill to abolish mandatory reporting by telecommunications companies.

Currently telcos are obliged to report to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) on the number of times they were asked by government agencies for users’ metadata. Guardian Australia reported that the government moved to abolish that obligation on “repeal day” last month in a legislative red tape reduction exercise.

But a spokesman for the communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said keeping the obligations had been on the cards for weeks, despite it being part of repeal day.

Pressing the issue with the Associated Press:

FBI says it impersonated AP reporter in 2007 case

The FBI’s creation of a fake news story and impersonation of an Associated Press reporter during a criminal investigation undermine media credibility, blur the lines between law enforcement and the press and raise questions about whether the agency followed its own guidelines, free press advocates say.

In a letter to The New York Times on Thursday, FBI Director James Comey said an agent “portrayed himself as an employee of The Associated Press” in 2007 to help catch a 15-year-old suspect accused of making bomb threats at a high school near Olympia, Washington. It was publicized last week that the FBI forged an AP story during its investigation, but Comey’s letter revealed the agency went further and had an agent pretend to be a reporter for the wire service.

Comey said the agent posing as an AP reporter asked the suspect to review a fake AP article about threats and cyberattacks directed at the school, “to be sure that the anonymous suspect was portrayed fairly.”

From the Guardian, the press pressed:

Jon Venables leak: journalist found guilty of paying prison officer

  • Former News of the World journalist colluded with prison officer over sale of stories about killer of James Bulger

A former News of the World journalist has been found guilty of paying a prison officer for details about the life behind bars of Jon Venables, one of the killers of James Bulger.

The journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiring with the prison officer, Scott Chapman, and his then wife, Lynn Gaffney, to commit misconduct in public office.

A fourth defendant, Daily Star Sunday journalist Tom Savage, was cleared of the same charge by the Old Bailey jury.

The verdicts were returned on Wednesday but could only be reported on Friday after the judge, Charles Wide QC, lifted interim reporting restrictions.

Another casualty from BBC News:

Ian Edmondson jailed over News of the World hacking plot

Former News of the World news editor Ian Edmondson has been jailed for eight months for his role in phone hacking.

Edmondson, 45, admitted his part in the plot to hack phones last month, becoming the eighth person from the now-closed Sunday tabloid newspaper to be convicted. The Old Bailey heard he lost his home, became depressed and was now dependent on alcohol because of the case.

Among those hacked were sports stars, celebrities, royalty and politicians.

Edmondson, a senior editorial figure at the News of the World between 2005 and 2010, admitted conspiring with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to listen to victims’ voicemail messages.

Means control in Moscow from the Washington Post:

Russian advertising ban on paid cable and satellite channels threatens independents

An advertising ban on Russian cable and satellite TV stations could decimate regional television broadcasting from the suburbs of the capital to the far reaches of Siberia, leaving the country almost entirely dependent on state media for news and information.

The law, which will prohibit commercial advertisements on paid cable and satellite channels starting next year, is one of many measures Russian authorities have adopted in recent months to tighten control over the flow of information, reduce foreign money in Russian media and force journalists to hew closer to a pro-Kremlin line.

But the advertising ban threatens to deliver the most devastating blow to homegrown independent outlets where Russians get most of their news: television.

After the jump, Home Depot hackery exacerbation, phishing with notAmazon, Dark Netizens nabbed, the Memory Hole widens in Japan, Chinese drone aspirations, on to Mexico and the murdered college students plus a military concession in a mass murder, controversy over an Aussie sub deal, Burmese state security trafficking Muslims, allegations of North Korean forced serfdom, Bejing warns Hong Kong Occupy activists, a call for release of jailed activists, and a warning from Hong Kong Police, Japanese/American military pact delayed, hints of a potential Beijing/Tokyo thaw and a shared pledge as Washington approves, Tokyo uightens security, and the Comfort Women issue flares anew. . .  Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, blowback, spies, drones


And, yes, drone porn.

Generals take umbrage, from the Guardian:

Pentagon denies US strategy to defeat Isis is unravelling

  • Syrian resistance groups criticise Obama administration’s ‘Iraq-first’ strategy as a de facto alliance with Bashar al-Assad while Isis consolidates influence in Anbar province

The Pentagon has denied that the US strategy against Islamic State (Isis) is in disarray after a series of setbacks as the war known as Operation Inherent Resolve stretches into its fourth month.

“I don’t believe that we view current events as a major setback to the goals that we’ve set with respect to training and equipping the moderate opposition” in Syria, said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.

Kirby’s remarks came days after an al-Qaida-aligned faction routed one of the Syrian resistance groups on which the US has been depending to anchor an anti-Isis proxy force. The Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, appears now to be allying with Isis, an indication that the Islamist extremist group’s fortunes are rising.

“Obviously, these kinds of developments are certainly not helpful to the security situation writ large, but we don’t view it as a major setback or a major blow to our ultimate objectives,” Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

The Maple Leaf over Mesopotamia from CBC News:

Canada’s ISIS bomb attack destroyed heavy engineering equipment

  • Top general says Canadian fighter jets helped destroy equipment used to control part of Euphrates River

Canadian fighter jets helped to destroy heavy engineering equipment that was being used to divert the Euphrates River to flood areas nearby while denying water to Iraqi civilians further away, Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Vance said Tuesday.

Vance, the head of Canadian military operations, said Canadian aircraft have flown 27 operations in the fight against ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIL), with the fighter jets flying 18 of those.

In one case, the Canadian Aurora surveillance aircraft participated in “the destruction of a key ISIL base,” Vance said.

Austrian anxiety from TheLocal.at:

Teachers told how to spot ‘jihadist threat’

The headteachers of around 150 schools in Vienna are being instructed in how to spot potential “jihadist threats” today, after a 14-year-old boy who planned to blow up a busy train station was arrested in Lower Austria last week.

Ednan Aslan, from the Department of Islamic Religious Education at the University of Vienna and the Vienna State Protection chief Erich Zwettler are giving a lecture at Vienna’s College of Education.

Organiser Heinz Ivkovits said that Aslan will talk about the difference between “peaceful Islam and a radicalized form which is focused on violence” and explain what exactly is meant by jihad.

Zwettler will talk about what signs to look out for if students have returned from visiting places like Syria and what teachers should do if they think they have identified a “jihadist threat”.

And another threat, via TheLocal.at:

Bomb threat targets Shiite mosque in Vienna

On Monday evening, a bomb threat was called in from a public pay phone targeting a Shiite mosque in Mollardgasse in Vienna’s 6th district.

The Islamic Centre of the Imam Ali mosque was evacuated and police conducted a search, but nothing was found.

The call was traced to a pay phone, according to a police report that was shared with the Austrian Press Agency (APA).

Shiites in Austria are currently celebrating the Ashura festival, which is currently reaching its peak.  Sharing the location of the mosque is a private school associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Refugee insecurity from TheLocal.ch:

Euro court bars Swiss from deporting refugees

The European Court of Human Rights barred Switzerland on Tuesday from sending a family of Afghan migrants back to Italy, ruling their well-being could
Deporting the Tarakhel family, which includes six children, without first getting assurances from Italy they would be taken care of and kept together is a violation of Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, the court ruled.

The decision is final and can serve as a precedent for other migrants in a similar situation.

The court noted that the UN refugee agency had previously raised concerns over Italy’s procedures for caring for refugees.

A spooky legal drama from the Intercept:

Nutty Plaintiff Nearly Derails Case Against NSA Bulk Collection

Three D.C. Appellate Court judges today vigorously questioned both sides during oral arguments over a lower court’s injunction against the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records.

Legally, the central issue appears to be whether a 1979 Supreme Court ruling allowing a short warrantless peek of one suspect’s phone records provided the precedent the NSA needed to sweep up more extensive phone records of everyone, everywhere, for years on end — the goal of a program exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The lower court judge ruled that the program clearly violated the Constitution.

But the lead plaintiff in this case is Larry Klayman, a bombastic and litigious conspiracy theorist who happened to file one of the first post-Snowden lawsuits.

And when the three-judge panel began peppering him to substantiate his claims of standing and harm, Klayman was unable to make a cogent argument. He accused the government of consistently lying and of getting “into people’s underwear.” And he cast himself personally as the victim of government surveillance and dirty tricks, saying his phone made calls he never placed and that a client’s computer had been broken into.

Significant whistleblower litigation from the New York Times:

Supreme Court Weighs Air Marshal’s Firing in Whistle-Blower Case

A majority of the justices seemed ready to side with a fired air marshal on Tuesday in a Supreme Court argument over whether he was covered by a federal law protecting whistle-blowers.

In 2003, the air marshal, Robert J. MacLean, received a secret briefing about a terrorist threat affecting long-distance flights. Two days later, he was told by text message from the Transportation Security Administration that to save money, the agency was canceling assignments requiring an overnight stay.

He complained to his superiors, saying the move would imperil public safety. When they failed to act, he contacted a reporter for MSNBC. The resulting news coverage promptly led to a reversal of the travel policy.

A hacker in irons from the Verge:

Pirate Bay co-founder arrested in Thailand

Pirate Bay founder Fredrik Neij was apprehended by immigration police while crossing the border between Laos and Thailand today, more than five years after initial conviction for sharing copyrighted material. After being convicted by Swedish courts, Neij fled the country, and is believed to have spent the bulk of the intervening time in southeast Asia. He was finally apprehended when police spotted him wearing the same graphic t-shirt as in his official police photo. Neij has been sent to Bangkok while he awaits extradition back to Sweden.

Once the world’s most popular file-sharing site, the Pirate Bay founders have been subject to intense legal pressures since 2009, when Swedish courts handed down the first convictions. In May, co-founder Peter Sunde was arrested in Sweden for his role in running the site, and a third co-founder, Gottfrid Svartholm, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Monday, for hacking the American tech company CSC in 2012. Svartholm maintains his innocence, claiming a third party used his computer as a virtual link to perform the attacks.

As in Oakland, so in France, via the World Socialist Web Site:

France’s Socialist Party cracks down on protests against police murder of Rémi Fraisse

The Socialist Party (PS) government is launching a violent crackdown on protests that have spread across France against the police murder of Rémi Fraisse, a 21-year-old ecological activist, at a protest against the building of a dam at Sivens in the Tarn area of southern France on October 26.

Fraisse, a peaceful protester, was killed on the sidelines of clashes in the early morning between police and members of the reactionary Black Bloc anarchist group, which is heavily penetrated by police provocateurs and regularly stages battles with police. While Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve immediately accused protesters of “exploiting” Fraisse’s death, autopsy results showed that Fraisse was killed by fragments of a concussion grenade fired by riot police.

At one point, according to a friend who was with Fraisse before he was killed, “I saw him get up all of a sudden and say ‘Come on, let’s go.’ He began to run ahead. He had nothing to protect himself with, and he had not realized what he was facing. The cops fired a volley of shots, I threw myself to the side to take cover. When I turned around, Rémi was not there anymore.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun charts a globally warmed route of passage:

IMO backs rules for Northern Sea Route

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will actively promote the drawing up of rules regarding the Northern Sea Route, which significantly more vessels are expected to navigate in the future, according to an IMO source.

Currently, Russia imposes its own rules on respective countries’ ships traveling the sea route. By establishing international standards, the IMO hopes to make the Northern Sea Route an international sea route that all vessels who meet the standards can freely navigate.

The IMO is a special U.N. agency responsible for developing international rules on issues such as the safety and security of shipping, the prevention of maritime pollution from ships and the handling accidents at sea. Established in 1958, the body has 170 member countries.

IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu, 61, revealed the plan in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun at the IMO’s headquarters in London in October.

The accompanying graphic:

BLOG Sea

From KSWB-TV in San Diego, Oh, the horror! The horror!:

Mexican jumping beans prompt bomb scare

A U.S. Postal worker delivering mail in Carlsbad reported a “ticking” package to authorities and it turned out to be something entirely unexpected, police said Sunday.

Several homes were evacuated and residents were warned to stay away as investigators blocked off the 3600 block of Glen Avenue around 3:20 p.m. Saturday to investigate the ticking package, Carlsbad police Lt. Greg Koran said.

When the package was opened, the feared bomb turned out to be nothing more than Mexican “jumping beans,” police said.

It took the  San Diego Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Unit three hours to determine the package was safe. No one was injured and no property was damaged.

After the jump, what we all knew was coming [ahem]: Drone porn. Really, drone porn. NSFW, with the qualification that specific moving parts aren’t discernable in the fleeting aerial images. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Hacks, war, spooks, zones


Belated by exhaustion [16-hour blogging days taking a toll], but here tis. . .

First, from the Intercept, oh joy:

Hackers Could Decide Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots

When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers.

Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.”

That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”

On to the war of the day, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canadian warplanes launch air strikes against Islamic State militants

Canada has made its mark on the battlefield in Iraq with CF-18 warplanes dropping their first bombs in this country’s combat mission there.

Canadian fighter jets attacked Islamic State militant targets near the city of Fallujah on Sunday, Ottawa said.

It’s not clear how much damage the CF-18s caused. The military says it requires two days, until Tuesday, before it can tell Canadians what was achieved.

More from CBC News:

Canada’s forces face daunting mission against ISIS in Iraq

  • If mission remains an air war, it will neither be quick, nor easy to destroy ISIS

Canada has pitched its tent with the US-led coalition against ISIS, the radical Sunni Muslim militant group which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, terrorizing—and often executing—those in its way. Its aim is to topple the governments of both of those countries to create one huge Islamic state that is stricter in its interpretation of the Koran than either Afghanistan’s Taliban or Saudi Arabia next door. The coalition’s aim is to destroy it.

That will neither be quick, nor easy. It may not even be possible.

The coalition itself is awkward. It mostly consists of the United States, with some Arab countries offering token help against ISIS in Syria, and some western countries—Canada, Britain, Australia, France and others—helping in Iraq.

Canada shares its Kuwait base with U.S. forces, but the American military Central Command doesn’t seem to have noticed that Canadian planes have arrived. As recently as Sunday, news releases listing coalition activities and members left out any reference to Canada.

From the Guardian, more blowback:

Muslim leader shot outside Sydney prayer hall by alleged Isis supporters

  • Rasoul Al Mousawi to undergo surgery after he was shot in the face outside an Islamic centre in Greenacre just hours after threats allegedly made

A Shia Muslim community leader will undergo surgery after being shot in the face with pellets outside a Sydney religious hall, which witnesses say was targeted by supporters of Islamic State hours earlier.

Rasoul Al Mousawi, 47, was standing outside the building in Greenacre in Sydney south-west around 1.15am on Monday morning when a number of pellets were fired.

Police said Al Mousawi sustained wounds to his head and shoulder and is expected to undergo surgery, but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, a serious setback:

Slaughter of Anbar tribesmen shows weakness in U.S. plan to beat Islamic State

Exhausted, hungry and low on ammunition, al Goud and hundreds of his tribesmen ceased firing on Oct. 22 in return for a pledge from the Islamic State that civilians wouldn’t be harmed. They then set out on a 15-hour overnight drive through the desert, leaving behind families and associates and nursing another in a long list of Sunni tribal grievances that are hindering reconciliation with the Shiite-led government and threatening to derail President Barack Obama’s plan to crush the Islamic State.

“They did nothing for us,” al Goud said in an interview last week in a rented house in Baghdad. “It’s all killing and disaster.”

A week later, the Islamic State executed more than 40 Albu Nimr captives on a Hit street and drove thousands of Albu Nimr civilians into the desert, where hundreds have been slaughtered – more than 400 by Monday. Tribal leaders’ calls for help from the Iraqi army and for U.S. airstrikes again went unanswered.

But good news for a very few from RT:

Head Hunters: ISIS offers top oil jobs for ‘ideologically suitable’ engineers

Program notes:

ISIS jihadists have a job offer for a professional to manage the seized refineries. Reports have emerged that Islamic State is scouring North Africa for a suitable candidate to oversee production. In return, the jihadists are offering over 200-thousand dollars a year. But for that, the right candidate will have to be a skilled industry professional – devoted to Islamic State’s ideology.

And not so good news for other, also from RT:

ISIS introduces ‘price scheme’ for selling enslaved women and girls

Islamic State has set fixed prices to sell Yazidi and Christian women who have been abducted by members of the militant group, Iraqi media have reported. The barbaric tariffs range from around $40 for older women to $170 for children.

The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, says they will execute anyone who violates the controls, which have been implemented. $43 is the price for a Yazidi or Christian women who is aged between 40 and 50. For those aged between 20 and 30, the price is $86. The sickening trend continues, with girls falling into the 10 to 20 age group being sold for $129 and children up to the age of nine, commanding the highest prices of $172 or 200,000 dinars.

The document states that there has not been so much interest in purchasing slaves recently. “The market to sell women and spoils of war has been experiencing a significant decrease, which has adversely affected ISIS revenue and financing of the Mujahideen,” said the document, which was obtained by the website IraqiNews.com.

The document also says that no individual is allowed to buy more than three slaves. However there are no exceptions for foreigners, such as those from Turkey, Syria and the Gulf States.

While the Independent examines origins:

Camp Bucca: The US prison that became the birthplace of Isis

In March 2009, in a wind-swept sliver of Iraq, a sense of uncertainty befell the southern town of Garma, home to one of the Iraq War’s most notorious prisons. The sprawling detention center called Camp Bucca, which had detained some of the Iraq War’s most radical jihadists along the Kuwait border, had just freed hundreds of inhabitants. Families rejoiced, anxiously awaiting their sons, brothers and fathers who had been lost to Bucca for years. But a local official fretted.

“These men weren’t planting flowers in a garden,” police chief Saad Abbas Mahmoud told The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid, estimating 90 percent of the freed prisoners would soon resume fighting. “They weren’t strolling down the street. This problem is both big and dangerous. And regrettably, the Iraqi government and the authorities don’t know how big the problem has become.”

Mahmoud’s assessment of Camp Bucca, which funneled 100,000 detainees through its barracks and closed months later, would prove prescient. The camp now represents an opening chapter in the history of Islamic State — many of its leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were incarcerated and likely met there. According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration — and was formative in the development today’s most potent jihadist force.

Screens going up from BuzzFeed:

U.S. To Tighten Screening Of Europeans And Australians Amid Concerns Of Islamist Militants

Additional security measures will be imposed for millions of travelers from countries that do not require U.S. visas due to the rising threat of Islamic militants with Western passports.

The Department of Homeland Security will introduce heightened screening measures for travelers from Europe, Australia, and other countries exempt from U.S. visas on Monday due to growing number of Islamist militants in Syria with Western passports, the Washington Post reported.

According to the new rule, travelers who do not need visas to enter the U.S. will need to provide detailed information to authorities before boarding a flight to the country. Usually such travelers undergo lighter security.

And from RT, add fuel to fire:

Afghan police sell arms to Taliban ‘to feed families’ as wages go unpaid for months – report

The Afghan police service has been forced to sell its arms to the Taliban, as officers have not received wages for months. Some have even joined the insurgents, local Khaama Press newspaper reported.

The local police in Ghazni, Logar, and Maidan Wardak provinces say they have not been paid for three months and do not have money to feed their families.

“We have turned to begging for bread,” Mohmad Ajan, who had fought the Taliban insurgents for the last two years in Maidan Wardak, told Khaama Press. He added that the policemen face “hunger, thirst and the cold.”

Many officers reportedly say they have no other choice but to sell their personal arms and ammunition. The buyers are usually local people – but sometimes they are Taliban militants. It has also been reported that some of the policemen have joined the militants.

While the Los Angeles Times sounds a familiar theme:

U.S. Muslim leaders say FBI pressuring people to become informants

Muslim leaders nationwide say the FBI is pressuring some Islamic community members and religious leaders to spy on fellow Muslims as part of a government effort to combat extremist recruiting in the U.S.

The campaign has intensified in recent weeks, with mosques in California, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and other states reporting unannounced visits by FBI agents, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

In a nationwide alert, the group urged mosque and community leaders to seek the advice of an attorney if they are approached by the FBI for questioning. They worried that the civil rights of numerous imams were being violated as the religious leaders were asked to meet with FBI agents, who then pressed them to inform on members of their congregations.

On to Cold War 2.0 from News Corp Australia:

Russian military flights sending message they are ‘great power’: NATO leader

RUSSIA’S recent military flights into European airspace are meant to demonstrate to the West that the country is a “great power,” NATO’s supreme allied commander said on Monday.

Although there has been an increase in Russian air activity over Europe during the past year, last week marked the first time Moscow had sent in larger formations of warplanes, General Philip Breedlove told reporters.

“My opinion is they’re messaging us. They’re messaging us that they are a great power,” Breedlove said.

Moscow wanted to show it can exert influence on the alliance’s calculations, he said.

The London Telegraph looks at the other cyberwar:

Britain’s spy chief says US tech firms aid terrorism

New GCHQ director Richard Hannigan accuses some Silicon Valley companies of becoming ‘the command and control networks of choice’ for terrorists

Technology giants such as Facebook and Twitter have become “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists and criminals but are “in denial” about the scale of the problem, the new head of GCHQ has said.

Robert Hannigan said that Isil terrorists in Syria and Iraq have “embraced the web” and are using it to intimidate people and inspire “would-be jihadis” from all over the World to join them.

He urged the companies to work more closely with the security services, arguing that it is time for them to confront “some uncomfortable truths” and that privacy is not an “absolute right”.

He suggested that unless US technology companies co-operate, new laws will be needed to ensure that intelligence agencies are able to track and pursue terrorists.

The Independent takes a different tack:

GCHQ head demands internet firms open up to intelligence services, claiming privacy is not an absolute right

The new head of Britian’s GCHQ intelligence agency has demanded that internet firms open themselves up to intelligence services, and has claimed that privacy is not an absolute right.

Accusing internet companies of being “in denial” of the role they play in terrorism, Robert Hannigan said they had become the “command-and-control networks of choice” for a new generation of criminals and extremists, such as the militant group Isis which has swept across Iraq and Syria and is well known for its use of online propaganda.

Citing the group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS), Hannigan said it did not show the beheadings of hostages including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning in recent videos as proof of extremists’ increasing expertise in online propaganda.

“By self-censoring they can stay just the right side of the rules of social media sites, capitalising on western freedom of expression,” he said.

More from the Guardian:

Former NSA lawyer: the cyberwar is between tech firms and the US government

  • Stewart Baker said that Apple and Google could be restricting their business in markets like China and Russia by encrypting user data

The battle over encryption of consumer internet users’ data has pitched US technology companies against the US government itself, former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Web Summit in Dublin, Baker claimed that moves by Google and Apple and others to encrypt user data was more hostile to western intelligence gathering than to surveillance by China or Russia.

“The state department has funded some of these tools, such as Tor, which has been used in Arab Spring revolutions or to get past the Chinese firewall, but these crypto wars are mainly being fought between the American government and American companies,” he said, in conversation with Guardian special projects editor James Ball.

And a rebuff from the Independent:

Tech giants reject GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan’s call for deal with government

  • Organisation representing major technology companies including Apple criticise comments by the new director of government listening post

A technology industry group which represents Silicon Valley giants including Apple, Microsoft and Google has insisted there will be no “new deal” with the Government to tackle web extremism.

Robert Hannigan – the new director of GCHQ, the government listening post – had earlier called for a pact between “democratic governments and technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens”.

But the head of a leading industry group tech UK representing 860 companies employing more than half a million people in Britain rejected the idea and said any new moves should instead be based on a “clear and transparent legal framework”.

Julian David, chief executive officer of techUK, also said Mr Hannigan was “wrong” to claim IT companies were in denial about misuse of social media and other technology by Isil terrorists and other extremists.

From the Guardian, most peculiar, in light of the above:

Apple users raise privacy concerns after hard-drive files uploaded to servers

  • Line between devices and cloud services fades as online storage allows users to switch without losing data

After security researcher Jeffrey Paul upgraded the operating system on his MacBook Pro last week, he discovered that several of his personal files had found a new home – on the cloud. The computer had saved the files, which Paul thought resided only on his own encrypted hard drive, to a remote server that Apple controls.

“This is unacceptable,” thundered Paul, an American based in Berlin, on his personal blog a few days later. “Apple has taken local files on my computer not stored in iCloud and silently and without my permission uploaded them to their servers – across all applications, Apple and otherwise.”

He was not alone in either his frustration or surprise. Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green tweeted his dismay after realising that some private notes had found their way to iCloud. Bruce Schneier, another prominent cryptography expert, wrote a blog post calling the automatic saving function “both dangerous and poorly documented” by Apple.

The criticism was all the more notable because its target, Apple, had just enjoyed weeks of applause within the computer security community for releasing a bold new form of smartphone encryption capable of thwarting government searches – even when police have warrants. Yet here was an awkward flip side: police still can gain access to files stored on cloud services, and Apple seemed determined to migrate more and more data to them.

And from the Washington Post, more corporate cyberstalking:

Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with ‘supercookies’

Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed “supercookies” — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.

The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the “private” or “incognito” modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance.

Verizon and AT&T say they have taken steps to alert their customers to the tracking and to protect customer privacy as the companies develop programs intended to help advertisers hone their pitches based on individual Internet behavior. But as word has spread about the supercookies in recent days, privacy advocates have reacted with alarm, saying the tracking could expose user Internet behavior to a wide range of outsiders — including intelligence services — and may also violate federal telecommunications and wiretapping laws.

And another techie turmoil from the Guardian:

Six types of killer use Facebook to commit crimes, says study

  • Criminologists identify murderer profiles who use networking site but emphasise technology itself is inherently safe

Researchers at Birmingham City University have identified six types of killer who use Facebook to commit crimes, in the first-ever study on how the social networking site can affect criminal behaviour.

Dr Elizabeth Yardley and Prof David Wilson, from the university’s centre of applied criminology, analysed cases of murder in which the site had been reported as a significant factor. They found 48 examples from across the world, including that of Wayne Forrester, an HGV driver, who killed his wife Emma in 2008 after reading her Facebook posts in which she claimed that they had separated and she wanted to meet other men.

They identified the types of killer as: reactor, informer, antagonist, fantasist, predator and imposter.

intelNews covers a work-around:

Brazil builds direct Internet cable to Europe to avoid US spying

The government of Brazil is to construct a transatlantic cable across the Atlantic Ocean in order to avoid having its Internet traffic to and from Europe intercepted by American intelligence agencies. According to reports, the fiber-optic cable will stretch for 3,500 miles from the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza to the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

It will cost the Brazilian government in excess of US$185 million, but it will allow the country’s existing Internet traffic to and from Europe to travel without going through cables owned by American service providers. According to Brazilian officials, the construction of the cable is among several steps announced by the Brazilian government aimed at disassociating its communications infrastructure from American companies.

The move follows revelations made last year by American defector Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency specifically targeted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications as part of its intelligence-collection efforts targeting Brazil.

The South China Morning Post covers another:

China to launch hack-proof quantum communication network in 2016

China will complete and put into service the world’s longest quantum communication network stretching 2,000km from Beijing to Shanghai by 2016, say scientists leading the project.

The quantum network is considered “unhackable” and will provide the most secure encryption technology to users.

By 2030, the Chinese network would be extended worldwide, Xinhua reported.

China is the first major power to come up with a detailed schedule to put the technology into extensive, large-scale use. The South China Morning Post earlier reported that Beijing would launch the world’s first quantum communication satellite in 2016.

From TechWeekEurope, help wanted:

Why The UK Desperately Needs 200,000 IT Security Specialists

  • Businesses must take urgent measures to protect themselves from growing cyber crime threat, cyber security recruiter warns

The UK’s lack of available talent with the right cyber security skills presents a very real danger to British businesses, according to a London-based cyber security specialist recruiter.

Responding to recent reports by EY and the office of the Minister for Universities and Science, Cornucopia IT Resourcing, warned that the unless the deficit in the number of available cyber security professionals is addressed, British businesses will remain the target of cyber attacks.
Security breach

Accordingly, 93% of large companies and 87% of SMEs have suffered at least one security breach in the last 12 months, at an average cost of £450k-850k and £35k-65k respectively, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

This has fuelled a demand for cyber security experts which the industry is struggling to meet.

While this headline from RT makes us wonder how the NSA, GCHQ, et al might use the tech involved:

Anti-depression app: Smartphones to analyze mental health through speech

If you are one of more than 350 million people globally who suffer from depression, then scientists are working for a new smartphone app for you that will detect when you’re having a tough time through speech analysis.

Researchers from the University of Maryland are seeking to develop an app based on their scientific finding that claim that as patients’ feelings of depression worsen, certain vocal features change in their voice.

Acoustician Carol Espy-Wilson and her colleagues have discovered that patients’ vocal patterns change as feelings of depression worsen.

“Their emotions are all over the place during this time, and that’s when they’re really at risk for depression. We have to reach out and figure out a way to help kids in that stage,” she said in a press release.

After the jump, American nuclear tests, more Air Force firings of nuclear commanders, nude-selfie-stealing Cal copper clapped in irons, a latter-day Berlin Wall protest, Mexican mayor suspected in college student protests busted with his wife as parents stand tall, a look at the unique college at the eye of the storm, and another Mexican police commander is slain, disproportionate punishment in Israel, religious slayings in Pakistan, on to China and a Japanese gambit rebuffed, a laser anti-drone defense locked and loaded, and major diplomatic moves toward Pakistan and Indonesia, a chemical warfare munitions destroying facility readied, and the latest from Hong Kong, on to Japan and jet-fueled anxiety, naval anxieties at Chinese naval encroachment plus lesser worries from Chinese poachers, the Philippines lust for closer military ties with Tokyo, and a famous author confront his country’s hysterical historical hypocrisies, Kim wants tourists [just not ones from Ebolaland], and the bloody plight of the Fourth Estate. . . Continue reading