Category Archives: Geopolitics

InSecurityWatch: War, spooks, cops, drones, zones


We begin with war underway from the Observer:

Kobani: time running out for hundreds of besieged civilians

  • UN warns of possible massacre if town falls after Isis takes control of government buildings

Islamic State (Isis) fighters are closing in on the centre of besieged Kobani, where the Kurdish militia have sworn that they will fight to the death, and hundreds of desperate civilians are trapped in streets rank with the smell of rotting bodies.

The extremist group is trying to cut off the city’s border crossing into Turkey, its last link to the outside world, and penetrate the western enclave where the Kurdish People’s Protection fighters (YPG) are most firmly entrenched. Those units stopped at least five suicide car bombs sent to blast through their last layers of defence in the past two days, activists and politicians inside the city said. But Isis is throwing fighters and ammunition at the exposed road to the border, and if that falls it would be a devastating blow to the Kurdish units.

“If they cut off the border, then everyone inside is going to die,” said activist and journalist Mustafa Abdi, who lived in Kobani until a week ago and edits the website kobanikurd.com.

Canadian boots headed for Mideast ground, from CBC News:

ISIS mission: Canadian advance team leaves for Kuwait next week

About 120 members of the Canadian Armed Forces will depart from Trenton, Ont., next week to join the fight against ISIS in Iraq, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced on Saturday.

Nicholson said the team will be preparing for the arrival of CF-18 fighter jets and other aircraft in the coalition campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“The deployment of the Theatre Activation Team is a key step in arranging the initial preparations for the CAF units that will deploy in support of Operation IMPACT. Responsible for initiating the infrastructure support required in-theatre, this team plays an important role in support of our mission,” the minister said in a statement.

“The government continues to work with our allies to degrade the ISIL terrorist threat at home and abroad” he said.

More northern exposure from CBC News:

RCMP has intervened 28 times against people tied to foreign militant groups

  • Cases include people who have returned to Canada after working with groups abroad

CBC News has learned the RCMP has disrupted or intervened in 28 instances involving people who fall into its high-risk travel category. That includes people who have returned home after joining a government-designated terrorist group abroad and are intending to travel again, or people who are sympathizers in Canada and are about to travel abroad.

Intervention and disruption is a process the Mounties use as they gather evidence that may lead to future charges. It can include conducting interrogations, talking to family members, surveillance and even referring some cases to Passport Canada to have the suspect’s passport revoked.

The 28 cases CBC News has learned about all fall into the high-risk travel group and are being monitored closely by both the RCMP and CSIS.

CBC/Radio-Canada raises a question:

Did censoring a 9/11 report pave the way for ISIS?

A former U.S. senator and co-chair of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks says the rise of ISIS could have been stemmed if 28 pages from the inquiry’s report had not been classified.

As co-chair, Bob Graham was one of the authors of the report, 28 pages of which have remained classified since it was published in 2002. At the time U.S. President George W. Bush said releasing the information posed a threat to national security.

Some who have had read the excised pages say they relate to Saudia Arabia’s support for the 9/11 hijackers. Graham says that Saudi Arabia has a long history of ideological and financial support for Wahhabism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. ISIS ascribes to that interpretation.

“I believe that had the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 been disclosed by the release of the 28 pages and by the declassification of other information as to the Saudi role and support of the 9/11 hijackers that it would have made it much more difficult for Saudi Arabia to have continued that pattern of behaviour…and I think would have had a good chance of reigning in the activity that today Canada, the United States and other countries either are or are not considering going to war with,” said Graham in an interview with Brent Bambury host of Day 6 on CBC Radio.

Another leaker lurking, via the Guardian:

Second leaker in US intelligence, says Glenn Greenwald

  • Citizenfour, new film on spying whistleblower Edward Snowden, shows journalist Greenwald discussing other source

The investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald has found a second leaker inside the US intelligence agencies, according to a new documentary about Edward Snowden that premiered in New York on Friday night.

Towards the end of filmmaker Laura Poitras’s portrait of Snowden – titled Citizenfour, the label he used when he first contacted her – Greenwald is seen telling Snowden about a second source.

Snowden, at a meeting with Greenwald in Moscow, expresses surprise at the level of information apparently coming from this new source. Greenwald, fearing he will be overheard, writes the details on scraps of paper.

The specific information relates to the number of the people on the US government’s watchlist of people under surveillance as a potential threat or as a suspect. The figure is an astonishing 1.2 million.

Legal revelations, via The Hill:

Snowden: I’d ‘love’ to have a fair trial

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden tried to negotiate with government officials about being able to stand trial for alleged crimes, he said in an interview with the New Yorker on Saturday.

“I had told the government again and again in negotiations if they’re prepared to offer an open trial, a fair trial, in the same way that Dan Ellsberg got, and I’m allowed to make my case before a jury, I would love to do so,” he said over a video feed. “But they declined.”

Ellsberg, who released the controversial Pentagon Papers in 1971 that detailed U.S. decision-making in Vietnam, essentially faced the same set of charges levied against Snowden. Ellsberg wrote in a May op-ed that even though his opportunity to speak at his own trial was limited, it would be even worse for Snowden.

Unraveling the net wth JapanToday:

States and corporations grab for reins of the Internet

As the U.S. steps back from overseeing the group entrusted to essentially run the Internet, states and corporations are grabbing for the reins.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has gone from being behind the scenes tending to the task of managing website addresses to being center stage in a play for power on the Internet.

“Governments want to exert control over the sweeping trans-national power of the Internet that is effecting their policies, politics, social fabric and/or their economic conditions,” ICANN chief executive Fadi Chehade told AFP just days before the group gathers in Los Angeles beginning Sunday to tackle an array of hot issues.

Google this, from the Japan Times:

After court loss, Google rethinks search results linking man to criminal group

Google Inc. has informed the man who successfully sued the U.S. Internet giant that it is considering complying with a Japanese court order to remove some online search results found to infringe on his privacy rights, his lawyer said Friday.

Google told the plaintiff Friday it wants to know which results should be erased as it looks into whether to heed the Tokyo District Court’s decision Thursday ordering that some of them be removed.

The man wanted 237 results removed as typing his name into Google brings up many articles hinting he may have been involved in a crime in the past. On Thursday the court ordered that 122 search results be deleted.

On to cops and robbers, first with filthy lucre from the Washington Post:

Asset seizures fuel police spending

Police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.

The details are contained in thousands of annual reports submitted by local and state agencies to the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, an initiative that allows local and state police to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize. The Washington Post obtained 43,000 of the reports dating from 2008 through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents offer a sweeping look at how police departments and drug task forces across the country are benefiting from laws that allow them to take cash and property without proving a crime has occurred. The law was meant to decimate drug organizations, but The Post found that it has been used as a routine source of funding for law enforcement at every level.

Protesting with the Guardian:

Thousands march through St Louis to condemn police shootings of teens

  • Demonstrators call for arrest of officers and end to profiling
  • Police chief meets with marchers as fragile peace holds

Thousands of people marched through downtown St Louis on Saturday, to demand the arrest of the white police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson two months ago and to condemn racial profiling.

The organisers claimed the protest drew about 3,000 people – far fewer than they had predicted – from across the country as part of a “Weekend of Resistance” against police forces in many parts of the country that are seen to target people of colour in general and young African Americans in particular.

“We’re fighting for our lives,” a St Louis rapper, Tef Poe, told the crowd.

From the Guardian again, public and private:

Security firm involved in shooting of St Louis teen has history of lawsuits

  • Company that employed off-duty police officer who shot Vonderrit Myers Jr has paid out settlements over other incidents

The security company for which a St Louis police officer was working when he shot dead a black 18-year-old this week paid out tens of thousands of dollars to settle lawsuits over incidents involving other off-duty police officers working for it, according to the plaintiffs in those suits.

Vonderrit Myers Jr was killed on Wednesday evening by a 32-year-old city police officer who was working a shift as a security guard for GCI Security. St Louis police said that Myers shot three times at the officer, who has not been named, and that the officer fired repeatedly in response.

The shooting has drawn attention to the widespread practice of St Louis police officers working second jobs as private security guards. The officer who shot Myers was wearing his police uniform at the time, something permitted by the department. GCI alone was reported in 2012 to employ 168 police officers.

After the jump, more drone deaths in Pakistan and conflicting numbers, a deadlock in Hong Kong, blaming Uncle Sam, hints that is Macau may be next, shots traded across the Korean border, in Japan, Comfort Women have their say and a ruling party legislator retracts racist remarks. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, spies, hacks, drones, more


From the Associated Press, another current in the war of the moment:

Turkey, Kurd tensions worry US in fight for Kobani

Even as it prods Turkey to step up in the global fight against Islamic State militants, the United States is worried that Ankara might use military action to target Kurdish fighters who are the last line of defense against extremists trying to take over the Syrian border town of Kobani.

In a careful-what-you-wish-for scenario, U.S. officials acknowledge that drawing Ankara into the war could open a new line of attack against a Kurdish movement that has for decades sought greater autonomy inside Turkey.

At the same time, Americans officials fear Turkey could simply choose to remain out of the fray, and let two of its enemies — the Islamic State group and Kurdish guerrillas — fight for Kobani. That would give the militants an opportunity to do as much damage to the Kurdish fighters in Syria as possible.

A parallel development from BBC News:

Turkish action against IS in Syria ‘unrealistic’

Turkey’s foreign minister says it cannot be expected to lead a ground operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria on its own.

Mevlut Cavusoglu also called for the creation of a no-fly zone over its border with Syria after talks in Ankara with new Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Turkey is under intense pressure to do more to help Kurdish forces fighting IS in the strategic Syrian town of Kobane.

From Reuters, the focus of the storm:

Islamic State seizes large areas of Syrian town despite air strikes

Islamic State fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said on Thursday, as U.S.-led air strikes failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces looked on without intervening.

With Washington ruling out a ground operation in Syria, Turkey said it was unrealistic to expect it to mount a cross-border operation alone to relieve the mainly Kurdish town.

The U.S. military said Kurdish forces appeared to be holding out in the town, which lies within sight of Turkish territory, following fresh airstrikes in the area against a militant training camp and fighters.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State, still widely known by its former acronym of ISIS, had pushed forward on Thursday.

The Associated Press covers the newest player:

Australia launches first airstrike in Iraq

Defense officials say an Australian jet fighter has made the country’s first airstrike against an Islamic State target in Iraq since the Australian government committed its air force to combat missions last week.

An Australian Defense Force statement said on Thursday: “Two bombs were dropped from an F/A-18F Super Hornet on to an ISIL facility” overnight.

It added that: “All aircraft exited the target area safely and returned to base.”

And from intelNews, a spooky discovery:

Secret Russian spy base in Syria seized by Western-backed rebels

Rebel forces aligned to Syria’s Western-backed opposition have announced the seizure of a joint Syrian-Russian spy base, which observers say reveals the extent of Russia’s intelligence cooperation with Syria. The base is located at the base of the Tel Al-Hara Mountain, in southern Syria’s Golan Heights region, just south of the border crossing with Israel in the now largely destroyed Syrian city of Quneitra.

The Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it took over the spy base on Sunday, following several weeks of fighting against rival groups, including Syrian government soldiers and members of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The FSA said the base, referred to as “Center C” by Russian intelligence, had been under Russian command until it was abandoned at a time and for reasons that remain unknown.

The Mainichi covers Japanese war tourism:

Ex-SDF member took part in battle for Syrian rebel group in 2013

A former member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) has revealed that he previously joined an Islamic militant group in Syria as a fighter and took part in combat there in 2013.

Yoshifumi Uzawa, a 26-year-old resident of Tokyo’s Ota Ward, said he returned to Japan about two months after joining the rebel group, having suffered heavy injuries, including gunshot wounds to his legs, when he came under attack from an armored vehicle.

Uzawa joined the SDF after graduating from junior high school. When he subsequently succeeded in his own business selling organic vegetables door-to-door, he decided to go to Syria. “I was satisfied with my life, but I wanted to take one more step forward. I don’t have any political or ideological beliefs. I thought I would be able to see something if I became a fighter having a brush with death,” he said.

Domestic InSecurity from the New York Times:

Protests in St. Louis After Police Officer Kills Black Teenager

An off-duty police officer shot and killed a black teenager in St. Louis on Wednesday night, setting off a demonstration just days ahead of long-scheduled protests in Missouri about the use of lethal force by the authorities.

The St. Louis police chief, D. Samuel Dotson III, said at a news conference that the teenager had fired at least three shots toward the officer, a six-year veteran who was working in the city’s Shaw neighborhood for a private security firm.

Chief Dotson said that the officer had fired 17 rounds, but that he did not know how many times the teenager had been hit.

The teenager was identified as Vonderrit D. Myers Jr. by Peter M. Cohen, a lawyer who said had been representing Mr. Myers on charges that included unlawful possession of a weapon.

More from CBC News:

Man killed by off-duty St. Louis officer was unarmed, mother says

  • Police say man had gun, fired three shots at officer

A state senator and other black leaders in St. Louis are calling for the Justice Department to investigate the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by an off-duty police officer.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says the 18-year-old, identified by his mother as Vonderrit D. Myers, shot at the officer Wednesday night. Dotson says the officer returned fire. He didn’t identify the 32-year-old officer.

The shooting led to an angry protest.

Syreeta Myers told The Associated Press by phone Thursday that her son wasn’t armed, as police contend.

At a news conference on Thursday, Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed questioned why the officer approached Vonderrit Myers in the first place. She called it a clear case of racial profiling.

From the Washington Post, the latest Ferguson revelation:

Ferguson police continued crackdown on protesters after federal, state interventions

Despite federal and state attempts to intervene during the two months since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed, the Ferguson Police Department continued — and even accelerated — efforts to suppress peaceful protests using arbitrary and inconsistently applied arrest policies, according to Justice Department officials who are investigating the department and county police officials who have since taken over for the city.

A Washington Post review of county and state arrest records, and interviews with Justice Department officials, Ferguson and St. Louis County police chiefs, dozens of protesters and several civil rights officials reveal that:

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested since August for violating unwritten rules and committing minor offenses, such as failure to disperse or unlawful assembly, and for violating a noise ordinance. Many have been taken to jail without being told what charges they may face and are often released without any paperwork. For weeks, officers employed a “five-second rule” under which any protester who stopped walking was subject to arrest — a policy ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge this week.

On to the spooky realm with Network World:

Judges spar with attorneys on national security data requests

Federal judges challenged attorneys on Wednesday to clarify the rationale and constitutionality of government data requests, in a line of questioning that may ultimately introduce greater transparency into what is now a tightly cloaked process.

The hearing, held in a federal appeals court in San Francisco, focused on National Security Letters, or NSLs, a type of data request commonly used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain information from companies, ostensibly for the purposes of investigating national security matters. The government issues these data requests to telecommunications and Internet providers such as Google and Verizon without any review by a court, and the letters almost always have a gag order attached to prohibit the recipients from saying much about them.

Wednesday’s hearing followed a ruling last year by the U.S. District Court for Northern California, in which the judge struck down the gag orders as being unconstitutional. The plaintiff in that case, the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, represented an unnamed service provider that argued the NSL it received restricted its free speech rights and was served without adequate oversight. The government appealed the ruling, arguing that the standards around NSLs are in fact constitutional.

The Intercept covers priming:

How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers

Kids across America no longer have to wait until college to plan on being a part of the National Security Agency. In fact, they could start preparing for their NSA careers as early as age 13.

The NSA has begun sponsoring cybersecurity camps for middle and high school students, agency recruiter Steven LaFountain told CNBC’s Eamon Javers in a recent interview. Six prototype camps launched this past summer, and the NSA hopes to eventually have a presence in schools in all 50 states.

The camps, LaFountain told CNBC, teach “low-level programming… where most cybersecurity vulnerabilities are” and sponsor activities like a “wireless scavenger hunt” in which 10th graders were dispatched to hunt down “rogue access points.” The general idea is to eliminate “threats out there on the Internet”

“The students are really, really into it,” LaFountain added.

TechWeekEurope covers embarrassment by hackery in Old Blighty:

UCL Students Receive Thousands Of Spam Emails In ‘Bellogate’

  • Student added to mailing lists of PornHub and UKIP as email addresses are compromises in Bellogate

Students at University College London (UCL) were subject to thousands of unsolicited emails after spammers gained access to an all-student mailing list.

UCL was forced to shut down the mailing list at 9:30 this morning following complaints from students who say they were signed up to mailing lists from the likes of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), One Direction fan groups, and PornHub.

Some students have exacerbated the situation by replying to emails or clicking ‘unsubscribe’ to others

Selfish selfies thwarted by Tehran, via the Guardian:

Iran blocks Instagram account of ‘rich kids’ showing off wealth in Tehran

  • The richkidsoftehran group flaunts lifestyle of young Iranian elite, featuring sports cars, luxury goods and expensive homes

Iran has blocked access to an Instagram page devoted to the lifestyle of Tehran’s young elite that stirred indignation and spawned a rival site on how the majority live.

Richkidsoftehran, created in September on the photo-sharing service, attracted almost 100,000 followers, with its contributors saying they wanted to show a different image of Iran from the stereotypes in the west.

Its photo gallery was filled with Ferraris, Maseratis, luxury watches, expensive homes in upmarket northern Tehran – “all the accessories a Persian boy needs”. It also showed parties and women in western dress, despite the ban on alcohol in Iran, where women are obliged to wear headscarves.

Beijing takes exception, via Reuters:

China angered after FBI head says Chinese hacking costs billions

Speaking on CBS’ 60 Minutes program on Sunday, FBI Director James Comey said Chinese hackers were targeting big U.S. companies, and that some of them probably did not even know they had been hacked.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about Comey’s remarks at a daily news briefing, said China banned hacking and “firmly strikes” against such criminal activity.

“We express strong dissatisfaction with the United States’ unjustified fabrication of facts in an attempt to smear China’s name and demand that the U.S.-side cease this type of action,” Hong said.

“We also demand that the U.S. side cease its large-scale systematic internet attacks on other countries. The United States tries to divert attention by crying wolf. This won’t succeed.”

And from the Guardian, censorship of another sort:

China bans actors with a history of drug use from film or TV roles

  • A state crackdown leading to several arrests is aimed at removing actors who ‘corrupt the social atmosphere’

Chinese stars with a history of drug use or involvement with prostitution will be banned from appearing on film or television in the latest fallout from Beijing’s ongoing moral crackdown, reports Foreign Policy magazine.

Officials from the state administration of press, publication, radio, film, and television (SARFT) are said to have ordered cinemas and TV networks to halt all screenings of movies featuring stars with “morally dubious” pasts. The move follows the 17 September arrest of Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee, for allegedly smoking marijuana at his apartment. The actor Huang Haibo and director Wang Quan’an were arrested in May and September respectively on suspicion of having sex with prostitutes.

Citing a piece on the Chinese website Netease, Foreign Policy reports that more than 40 performing arts organisations in Beijing have also agreed not to employ actors with an alleged history of drug use. SARFT said it has introduced the new regulations because actors “corrupted the social atmosphere” through their behaviour and created a “detrimental influence on the development of many young people”.

Network World covers a worm infestation:

Android SMS worm Selfmite returns, more aggressive than ever

A new version of an Android worm called Selfmite has the potential to ramp up huge SMS charges for victims in its attempt to spread to as many devices as possible.

The first version of Selfmite was discovered in June, but its distribution was quickly disrupted by security researchers. The worm—a rare type of malware in the Android ecosystem—spread by sending text messages with links to a malicious APK (Android Package) to the first 20 entries in the address book of every victim.

The new version, found recently and dubbed Selfmite.b, has a similar, but much more aggressive spreading system, according to researchers from security firm AdaptiveMobile. It sends text messages with rogue links to all contacts in a victim’s address book, and does this in a loop.

After the jump, more graves found in missing Mexican students mystery as protests mount, another conviction in Argentina’s Dirty War, more U.S. drone death in Pakistan and two more Pakistani journalists killed, Fourth Estate murders in Pakistan, and an increasingly bloody cross-border engagement with India, Hong Knong cancels talks with protesters and how demonstrators avoid social media shutdowns, plus a new call to action, a Chinese cybermilitary defensive move, major Chinese missile plays, speculation about a curious absence, and a push to pujt Pyongyang before a war crimes tribunal. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, Hacks, drones, & zones


First, from the Washington Post, bombs away:

Intensified U.S. airstrikes keep Kobane from falling to Islamic State militants

The U.S.-led coalition stepped up airstrikes around the Syrian border town of Kobane on Tuesday after Turkey appealed for help, enabling Kurdish fighters to reverse the advance of Islamic State militants for the first time since the extremists launched their assault about three weeks ago.

The strikes followed the request by Turkey for intensified U.S. efforts to prevent the predominantly Kurdish town, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, from falling to the Islamic State, Turkish officials said. Turkey has lined up tanks and troops within view of the Syrian Kurdish fighters defending Kobane but has not sought to intervene — for a tangle of reasons bound up with its complicated relationship with Kurds and its doubts about the goals of the international coalition fighting the extremists.

Turkey insisted, however, that it does not want the town to fall, and a senior official said Ankara asked the United States on Monday to escalate strikes.

Sky News qualifies:

US Military Says Airstrikes Alone May Not Stop IS

  • Islamic State fighters could take control of more towns and villages despite an increase in coalition airstrikes, officials warn

Airstrikes alone may not be able to stop the advance of Islamic State fighters in Syria, US officials have warned.

Barack Obama met military commanders to discuss the campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq amid fears troops would be needed on the ground.

“Our strikes continue, alongside our partners. It remains a difficult mission,” the US President said. “As I’ve indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight.”

Al Jazeera English adds another complication:

Turkish-Kurdish relations threatened by ISIL

  • The stakes are high for Turkey if ISIL took over Kobane, say Turkish analysts

According to analysts, Turkey does not believe that ISIL poses such a major threat.

“ISIL is not Turkey’s concern,” said Soli Ozel, a Turkish political analyst and journalist. “It’s more interested in dealing with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Bashar al-Assad regime. Turkey considers this as an opportunity to accomplish its goal in the region: deal with its two major enemies, and ISIL is not one of them.”

Kobane is a strategically located town, covering a large swathe of land stretching from the Turkish border to Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Syrian Kurdistan (aka Rojava) on the Euphrates river in Syria.

If Kobane falls entirely under ISIL control, it will not just mark another territorial gain for the group but the acquisition of a key border crossing. ISIL has already taken the industrial regions including Maqtala al-Jadida and Kani Arabane in eastern Kobani after violent clashes with Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters. In Syria, ISIL has control over most cities along the Euphrates River, including Deir el-Zor, Raqqa and al-Aqim in Syria.

From Homeland Security News Wire, hmmmmm:

Four arrested in London in plot to behead people on city streets

Officers from the Metropolitan Police counterterrorism unit early yesterday arrested four young men in London over a suspected terrorist plot to grab people on the streets of London and behead them. One of the four arrested was said to have links to Syria and Islamic State (ISIS). Security analysts have said that ISIS would likely seek to retaliate against the United Kingdom in response to British fighter planes joining the U.S. and Arab states in bombing raids on ISIS targets in Iraq.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police counterterrorism unit early yesterday arrested four young men in London over a suspected terrorist plot to grab people on the streets of London and behead them. One of the four arrested was said to have links to Syria and Islamic State (ISIS).

Counter-terrorism officials said one of the four had access to weapons and, accordingly, the officers who raided his address were heavily armed. This one suspect was subdued by a Taser gun.

From the Associated Press, more bombs on their way:

Canadian Parliament authorizes air strikes in Iraq

  • Following a request from the U.S., Canada’s Parliament has voted to authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party introduced the motion last week and it was debated this week. Harper has a majority of seats in Parliament so the vote was all but assured. The motion passed Tuesday 157-134.

The motion authorizes air strikes in Iraq for up to six months and explicitly states that no ground troops be used in combat operations.

While the Canadian Press covers Northern anxieties:

RCMP investigating dozens of suspected extremists who returned to Canada

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says the RCMP is investigating dozens of Canadians who have returned from fighting extremist wars overseas.

A recent federal report said the federal government knew of more than 130 individuals with Canadian connections who were abroad and suspected of supporting terror-related activities.

Blaney also told the Commons public safety committee Wednesday that the government will bring forward new measures to help monitor suspected terrorists, but he offered no details.

And the Washington Post looks South:

Tom Cotton: Terrorists collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate Arkansas

There’s been a ton of chatter to the effect that Republicans are on offense against Democrats on immigration and national security alike. Yet to convert these issues into political gain, some Republicans apparently believe they need to go to extraordinary lengths to conflate terrorism and illegal immigration into one giant, terrifying, hydra-headed threat to the country.

Exhibit A: GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, who is running for Senate in Arkansas. The Congressman told a tele-town-hall meeting that the Islamic State is actively working with Mexican drug cartels who are looking to expand into the terrorism business — and that the groups, working in tandem, could infiltrate the country and attack people in Arkansas.

While the McClatchy Washington Bureau chills out:

No Islamic State fighters coming from Mexico, Homeland Security says

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to shoot down reports that terrorist fighters are operating in Mexico and that some already have been caught attempting to cross the United States’ southern border.

Homeland Security officials said Wednesday that there was no truth to reports that fighters affiliated with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have been apprehended on the border.

“The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground,” Marsha Catron, DHS press secretary, said in a statement.

From RT, bringing the war home to Europe:

Pro-ISIS radicals with machetes, knives attack Kurds in Germany

Peaceful protests against IS in Syria and Iraq organized by Kurdish nationals in several German cities ended with serious clashes with pro-jihadist Muslims in Hamburg and Celle. Police had to request reinforcements to restore order.

Police in Hamburg, a port city of 1.8 million people, used water cannons, batons and pepper spray late Tuesday to disperse crowds of warring Kurds and pro-jihadist Muslims, armed with knives and brass-knuckles, following a protest against Islamic State militants who are attacking the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border.

In most of the cities, protests went off peacefully and were virtually trouble-free, but in Celle police failed to prevent clashes.

The first brawl between about 100 Kurds and Muslims on each side took place Monday, but police in Celle, a town of 71,000, with the help of colleagues from Hannover, Oldenburg and Wolfsburg, prevented serious clashes between the two groups.

On Tuesday, however, the two sides, armed with stones and bottles, attempted to break through police lines to attack each other.

intelNews covers a mystery:

Iran silent about deadly blast that ‘lit up sky’ near Tehran

The government of Iran is refusing to comment on a reported blast at a secretive military facility that some sources say “lit up the sky” last week. The blast is said to have taken place on Sunday night at the Parchin military complex, located approximately 20 miles southeast of Iranian capital Tehran.

The semi-official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Monday that the explosion had been caused by a “fire [that] broke out in an explosive materials production unit” east of Tehran, and that two people had died. Interestingly, however, the news agency did not specify the precise location of the blast, nor did it identify the “explosive materials production unit” in question. There was also no mention of the cause of the fire that allegedly resulted in the blast.

A few hours later, the Iranian-language news site SahamNews, which is politically linked to the Iranian opposition, claimed that the blast happened at Parchin and that it was a “massive explosion” that “lit up the evening sky” and caused windows to shatter as far as 9 miles away from the complex. It is worth noting that the blast was reported just hours after Israeli officials accused Iran of conducting nuclear implosion tests at a host of nuclear facilities, including Parchin.

From CBC News, covering up to the north:

Federal scientists muzzled by media policies, report suggests

  • Defence scores highest for openness, while Natural Resources Canada among lowest

Canadian government scientists face far more restrictions on talking to the media than their U.S. counterparts, a new analysis has found.

The study of media policies from 16 federal departments was released today by Evidence for Democracy, a non-profit group that advocates for evidence-based public policy. The group organized rallies across the country in support of federal scientists in 2013.

The analysis, led by Karen Magnuson-Ford, a researcher at Simon Fraser University who has a master’s degree in biology, found that all but one department performed worse than the average for U.S. government departments in similar analyses in 2008 and 2013.

Onto the world of spooks and hacks, first with The Hill:

Google chief on NSA: ‘We’re going to end up breaking the Internet’

The integrity of the Internet could be at risk if Congress does not act to rein in the National Security Agency, Google head Eric Schmidt warned on Wednesday.

Speaking alongside other tech executives and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at a Silicon Valley event, Schmidt said the revelations about U.S. surveillance could prompt countries to wall off their networks.
“The simplest outcome: We’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” Schmidt said, “because what’s going to happen is governments will do bad laws of one kind or another, and eventually what’s going to happen is: ‘We’re going to have our own Internet in our own country, and we’re going to do it our way.’ “

“It is fundamentally about breaking the Internet,” echoed Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch. “The Internet is a medium without borders, and the notion that you would have to place data and data centers and the data itself [in a particular location] … is fundamentally at odds with the way the Internet is architectured.”

The Guardian covers the reality of Gitmo:

Guantánamo use of olive oil in force feedings ‘astonishing’, doctor tells court

  • Testimony on second day of court challenge to force feedings focuses on long-term health effects on detainees after procedure

The methods used by the US military to feed inmates in Guantánamo Bay against their will presents a long-term risk to their health, a federal court heard on Tuesday.

Steven Miles, a doctor and professor of medical ethics at the University of Minnesota, told a courtroom that lubricating the feeding tubes at Guantánamo, used on hunger-striking detainees, can cause a form of chronic inflammatory pneumonia, and questioned whether the force feeding was medically necessary.

The condition, resulting from olive oil reaching the lungs due to misplaced insertions, would be hard to detect by physicians for released or transferred detainees, as it might look on x-rays like tuberculosis or lung cancer, Miles testified, calling the olive oil lubrication “astonishing to me”.

“There’s simply no debate about this. All the medical literature I’ve found said the [lubrication] had to be water-soluble. One doesn’t have to make very many salads to know olive oil is not water soluble,” Miles said.

And Threatpost covers hacking at the money spot:

Tyupkin Malware Infects ATMs Worldwide

Criminals in Eastern Europe have evolved their attacks against automated teller machines, moving beyond solely targeting consumers with card skimmers that steal debit card numbers, to attacks against banks using malware that allows someone to remove money directly from an ATM without the need for a counterfeit or stolen card.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab, in conjunction with Interpol, today said they have detected the Tyupkin malware on more than 50 machines; only ATMs from a particular manufacturer running a 32-bit version of Windows are impacted.

Most of the Tyupkin submissions to Virus Total are from Russia (20) with a limited number of samples (4) reported from the United States.

From Network World, hooking up:

Windows XP flaws help Russian ‘Qbot’ gang build 500,000 PC botnet

The Russian gang behind the obscure Qbot botnet have quietly built an impressive empire of 500,000 infected PCs by exploiting unpatched flaws in mainly US-based Windows XP and Windows 7 computers, researchers at security firm Proofpoint have discovered.

A year or two ago, what the Qbot (aka Qakbot) campaign has achieved in the roughly half dozen years the actors behind it have been operating would have been seen as a major concern. Recently, standards have gone up a notch.

These days Russian hackers are grabbing headlines for altogether more serious incursions such as the recently revealed attack on US bank JPMorgan Chase, and botnets sound like yesterday’s problem.

And then there’s spying of another sort, a Windows on your soul, perhaps. From TechWorm:

Microsoft’s Windows 10 has permission to watch your every move

As more and more users are jumping the queue to download the Windows 10 through the Windows Insider Program, almost all of them have forgotten to check the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions users accept while downloading the Windows 10.  If you study the privacy policy you will be startled at the amount of freedom you are giving Microsoft to spy on you.

“Microsoft collects information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks. Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage.”

The above stuff may or may not be used against any user and forms the standard of any privacy policy by any Applications maker but study a bit further and you may get more and more surprised.  In a way by accepting the Windows 10 Technical Preview installation you are giving Microsoft unhindered access to your behavioural habits

“We may collect information about your device and applications and use it for purposes such as determining or improving compatibility” and “use voice input features like speech-to-text, we may collect voice information and use it for purposes such as improving speech processing.”

More of the same from DeepLinks:

Adobe Spyware Reveals (Again) the Price of DRM: Your Privacy and Security

The publishing world may finally be facing its “rootkit scandal.” Two independent reports claim that Adobe’s e-book software, “Digital Editions,” logs every document readers add to their local “library,” tracks what happens with those files, and then sends those logs back to the mother-ship, over the Internet, in the clear. In other words, Adobe is not only tracking your reading habits, it’s making it really, really easy for others to do so as well.

And it’s all being done in the name of copyright enforcement. After all, the great “promise” of Digital Editions is that it can help publishers “securely distribute” and manage access to books.  Libraries, for example, encourage their patrons to use the software, because it helps them comply with the restrictions publishers impose on electronic lending.

How big is the problem? Not completely clear, but it could be pretty big. First, it appears Adobe is tracking more than many readers may realize, including information about self-published and purchased books. If the independent reports are correct, Adobe may be scanning your entire electronic library. Borrowing a copy of Moby Dick from your public library shouldn’t be a license to scan your cookbook collection.

After the jump, more on those student murders in Mexico including eyewitness accounts, pressure on government, and Uncle Sam’s own ties to the killers, death squad target Colombia reporters, Raging artillery and an exodus on the Indo/Pakistani border and a ceasefire demand from New Delhi, a protest fizzle in Hong Kong, Japanese/American military plans move forward and China reacts, while an Abe aide hints government will nullify the Comfort Women apology, another official act of historical revisionism, and the foreign press reacts to a government refusal to disavow racists, a Stalinist admission from Pyongyang, and Seoul arrests a Japanese reporter for lèse majesté. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War spies, hacks, drones, zones


From the New York Times, a city on the brink:

Syria Border Town, Kobani, Falling to ISIS, Leader of Turkey Says

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Tuesday that the Syrian border town of Kobani, under siege from Islamic State fighters, was about to fall to the militants despite United States-led airstrikes on the group.

Asserting that aerial attacks alone may not be enough to stop the fighters’ advance, Mr. Erdogan called for more support for insurgents in Syria who are battling the Islamic State, and reiterated Turkey’s earlier call for a no-fly zone and a buffer zone along the border. Yet he stopped short of committing Turkey to any ground operation, something he has long said would require an international agreement and a no-fly zone.

His comments highlighted a key sticking point between Turkey and Washington: President Obama wants Turkey to take stronger action against the Islamic State, while Mr. Erdogan wants the American effort to focus more on ousting Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has long supported the armed opposition to Mr. Assad.

One reaction, via Reuters:

French discussing Kobani action with Turks: minister

France said on Tuesday it was vital to act in order to stop Islamic State’s advance on the northern Syria border town of Kobani, and was discussing with Turkey what could be done.

“A lot is at stake in Kobani and everything must be done so that the Daesh terrorists are stopped and pushed back,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the French parliament.

“A tragedy is unfolding, and we must all react.”

And another reaction, via BBC News:

Kurds protest against Turkey as IS advances on Kobane

Kurds across Turkey have vented their anger at the government’s lack of military support for the defenders of the Syrian border town of Kobane being attacked by Islamic State militants.

Police used tear gas and water cannon as unrest spread to at least six cities. At least three protesters died.

Turkish troops and tanks have lined the border but have not crossed into Syria. Fresh US-led air strikes have tried to repel IS, but Turkey’s president warned Kobane was “about to fall”.

Kurdish protests weren’t limited to Turkey, as RT reports:

Kurds storm EU parliament, stage rallies across Europe demanding crackdown on ISIS

Program notes:

Dozens of Kurdish protesters have stormed into the European Parliament building in Brussels, demanding swift military action against militants from the Islamic State group to save the majority-Kurd Syrian town of Kobani from annihilation.

Another reaction, via the Guardian:

Battle between Isis and Syrian Kurds for Kobani sparks unrest in Turkey

  • President Erdog(an says ground operation necessary to defeat militants as thousands protest over government’s inaction

Fighting between Kurdish forces and Islamic State (Isis) militants for the Syrian border town of Kobani fuelled rising tensions inside Turkey on Tuesday as thousands of protesters took to the streets to voice anger and frustration about the inaction of the Ankara government.

In a graphic illustration of the domestic and regional impact of the deepening crisis, demonstrations turned violent and Turkish police used teargas and water cannon. Curfews were imposed on several towns in the province of Mardin.

Following a warning from the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdog(an, that Kobani was “about to fall”, one man was reported to have been killed by a bullet to the head in Varto in the eastern province of Mus when police allegedly fired live ammunition.

And from the Associated Press, a latest domestic terror alarm:

FBI: Militants may be working on plan to strike US

An al-Qaida cell in Syria that was targeted in American military airstrikes last month could still be working on a plan to attack the United States or its allies and is “looking to do it very, very soon,” the head of the FBI says. “Given our visibility we know they’re serious people, bent on destruction,” FBI Director James Comey said.

The Khorasan Group, a small but battle-hardened band of al-Qaida veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, was the target of U.S. strikes near Aleppo, Syria.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Comey said the militants were “working and, you know, may still be working on an effort to attack the United States or our allies, and looking to do it very, very soon.”

Another one across the Atlantic, via BBC News:

Arrests ‘may have foiled terror attack planning in UK’

Four men have been arrested in London as part of an investigation into Islamist-related terrorism, Scotland Yard has said.

Whitehall officials told the BBC the arrests “may have foiled the early stages” of a plan to attack the UK. The four men, aged 20 and 21, were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said it was a “quite serious case”.

And the latest from Japan via Kyodo News:

Man allegedly trying to join Islamic State planned trip Tues.: sources

A 26-year-old Japanese university student who police suspect planned to go abroad to join the Islamic State militant group as a “fighter” made a travel plan to leave Japan for Syria on Tuesday after giving up a trip in mid-August, investigative sources said.

The student, who is on a leave of absence from Hokkaido University and lives in Tokyo, was questioned Monday on a voluntary basis by the Metropolitan Police Department’s public security bureau, which also conducted a raid on several locations in Tokyo.

He is suspected of violating a Penal Code provision that stipulates punishment by imprisonment between three months and up to five years for a person preparing or plotting to wage war against a foreign state in a personal capacity.

From the Guardian, a revelation and a complication:

Syria discloses four secret chemical weapons facilities, UN says

  • News raises concerns Islamic State could get hold of remaining stockpiles a year after UN joint mission set out to destroy them

Syria has declared four chemical weapons facilities it had not previously disclosed, a special representative of the United Nations secretary general told the security council on Tuesday. The news heightened concerns that the Syrian government has not been fully open about its chemical weapons program.

Diplomats said Sigrid Kaag told them during closed consultations that three of the facilities are for research and development and one is for production, and that no new chemical agents have been associated with the four sites.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, tweeted: “Must keep pressure on regime so it doesn’t hide CW capability.”

And from the Express Tribune, more U.S. drone kills in Pakistan:

US drone strikes in North Waziristan kill at least eight suspected militants

Missiles from US drones hit a gathering of militants and a suspected training camp in North Waziristan in two separate attacks on Tuesday, killing at least 8 people, intelligence officials said.

Attacks by US drones have intensified in recent months after a pause in the first half of this year. Tuesday’s attacks mark the third and fourth drone strike in three days.

In the first attack, three missiles from the unmanned aircraft hit a suspected training camp in the Shawal area of North Waziristan just after midday, two intelligence officials told Reuters. Six suspected militants were reported killed and nine injured, they said.

In the second attack, missiles hit a gathering of militants on a mountain in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan, killing two people and wounding at least four on Tuesday evening, said intelligence officials.

The Intercept covers a reaming from Rahm:

Panetta Says Rahm Emanuel Cussed Him Out for Cooperating With Torture Inquiry

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta, in his new book, describes being summoned to a White House meeting and cussed out by President Obama’s chief of staff after he agreed to give the Senate intelligence committee access to documents chronicling the agency’s use of torture during the Bush administration.

“The president wants to know who the fuck authorized this release to the committees,” Rahm Emanuel, who served as Obama’s chief of staff and enforcer in 2009 and 2010, is quoted as saying while slamming the table for emphasis.

Panetta’s book, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, is a blunt account of his time as Obama’s CIA director and, later, Secretary of Defense.

He describes being micromanaged and second-guessed by White House aides who seemed focused on political appearance over substance. White House pushback on the Senate torture inquiry, which came despite Obama’s pledge to run the most transparent administration ever, is in that way typical – as is Emanuel’s profane tirade. (Emanuel, as I’ve written before, saw even the most deeply moral and legal decisions in purely political terms.)

The National Journal covers spooky litigation:

The FBI’s Secret Surveillance Program Is About to Go on Trial

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a case this week that could have seismic implications for how the government spies on Americans.

A federal appeals court this week will review whether the government can secretly conduct electronic surveillance on Americans without first obtaining a warrant.

The case, to be brought before a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Wednesday, could have sweeping digital-privacy implications, and it represents one of the most direct challenges to the legal authority for government spying in the post-Snowden era. Many observers expect the case to ultimately reach the Supreme Court.

At issue is whether the FBI can use so-called national security letters, or NSLs, to compel companies to hand over communications data or financial records of certain users for the purposes of a national security investigation. These letters permit the FBI to collect telephone and Internet data of suspects without court approval and they often place a gag order on companies, which prevents them from disclosing the government order.

The Guardian another spooky suit:

Twitter lawsuit seeks right to inform users of US government surveillance

  • Company cites first amendment right to free speech
  • ACLU says Twitter ‘doing the right thing’

Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the US government in which it asks to be allowed to publish information about government surveillance of users, the company announced today.

In the suit, filed in the US district court of Northern California, Twitter requests “relief from prohibitions on its speech in violation of the first amendment”.

In a blog post, Ben Lee, Twitter’s vice-president, legal, said: “Our ability to speak has been restricted by laws that prohibit and even criminalise a service provider like us.”

Currently, he said, Twitter is restricted by law from disclosing the number of requests it receives for user data through either National Security Letters (NSLs) or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders – “even if that number is zero”.

On to the hacking front, first with the Guardian:

Jennifer Lawrence denounces nude photo hack as a ‘sex crime’

  • Actor says websites are responsible and that the theft and online publication of photos are ‘a sexual violation’

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence has called the theft and publication of nude photos of her a “sex crime” in the actor’s first public comments since dozens of nude celebrity photos werestolen by hackers.

“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” Lawrence told Vanity Fair contributing editor Sam Kashner in an interview to promote new movie Serena. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting.”

“The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these websites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”

The Verge covers spooky evasion:

Surveillance drives South Koreans to encrypted messaging apps

  • Millions of users have fled the country’s largest chat program after new crackdown on speech

Two weeks ago, Kakao Talk users in South Korea users got an unpleasant surprise. After months of enduring public criticism, President Park Geun-Hye announced a crackdown on any messages deemed as insulting to her or generally rumor-mongering — including private messages sent through Kakao Talk, a Korean messaging app akin to WhatsApp or iMessage. Prosecutors began actively monitoring the service for violations, promising punishment for anyone spreading inappropriate content.

In response to the crackdown, South Koreans have voted with their feet, heading en masse to encrypted chat programs hosted outside the country, particularly an app called Telegram known for its encryption features. Based in Germany, Telegram reports roughly 1.5 million new South Korean users have signed up in the past seven days, giving the app more than 50 million users worldwide. Telegram’s Markus Ra says it’s not the only country where government controls have made Telegram an attractive option. “People frequently come to Telegram looking for extra security — some of them from countries with censorship issues,” Ra says. “What really makes us happy is that the users stay when the privacy scandals have died away.”

Telegram offers an option for “secret chats” that use end-to-end encryption, which means that the company facilitates key exchange but doesn’t hold the keys itself and can’t decrypt any of the messages. Created by Russian-born entrepreneur Pavel Durov, the app’s offshore location makes legal compulsion much more difficult for South Korean prosecutors. Telegram’s South Korean user base is still just a fraction of Kakao’s 35 million users — the vast majority of cell-phone owners in South Korea — but the rapid growth shows how much privacy features can pay off in the face of high-profile censorship.

From the Associated Press, there’s an ap for that:

US investigators expand kid predator-catching app

An iPhone app designed to enlist the public’s help to catch fugitive and unknown suspected child predators led law enforcement officials to a suspect less than 36 hours after it became available. A year later, they are hoping to greatly expand their reach by making the app available in Android and Spanish versions, officials announced Tuesday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations introduced the “Operation Predator” app for Apple products in Sept. 2013.

“This app is one piece of our commitment to ensuring child predators have absolutely nowhere to hide,” Acting ICE Director Thomas Winkowski said in a statement about the expansion.

From the Los Angeles Times, a victory in Ferguson:

Police in Ferguson can’t forbid protesters to stand still, judge rules

Officers in Ferguson, Mo., violated the Constitution by requiring peaceful protesters to keep moving rather than stand still during demonstrations that followed the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed man, a federal judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry issued a preliminary injunction ordering Ferguson authorities not to adopt such a policy again. Perry emphasized that police are free to place reasonable restrictions on protests and “to use the full range of lawful means” to control and disperse crowds and to protect people from violence and vandalism.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by Mustafa Abdullah, an ACLU worker, against St. Louis County and the superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

And from intelNews, curious:

Estonia arrests Russian ex-KGB intelligence officers

Authorities in Estonia have announced the arrest of two Russian citizens, said to be former employees of the Soviet-era KGB, who allegedly crossed into Estonian territory without a permit.

The men have been identified as Alexandr Ladur, 54, and Mikhail Suhoshin, 64, and are reportedly retired intelligence officers. Estonian border police said the two men were apprehended while sailing on the river Narva, which flows from Lake Peipsi into the Baltic Sea and forms part of the border between Estonia and Russia.

The two Russian citizens are being held on charges of illegally entering Estonian territory and resisting arrest.

After the jump, the latest on the Mexican student murders and the arrest of suspects in a congressional slaying, Morocco going to pot, Cold War 2.0 heats up both in the under and beneath the waves, an Indo/Pakistani border dispute turns violent, on to Hong Kong with fading protests as businesses grow restive and both sides agree to Friday talks, the two Koreas trade shots at sea, Japan seeks U.S. help in the Game of Drones against China, Japan pushes a submarine deal Down Under, Washington aims a jab at Japan over Comfort Women revisionism, and Taiwan launches its own submarine program. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, spooks, hacks, Hong Kong


First up, parsing the words of war with the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

‘Boots in the air’: U.S. helicopters return to combat in Iraq for first time

The United States sent attack helicopters into combat against Islamic State targets west of Baghdad on Sunday, the first time low-flying Army aircraft have been committed to fighting in an engagement that the Obama administration has promised would not include “boots on the ground.”

The U.S. Central Command, in a statement about U.S. activities against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, provided few specifics about the helicopters. But they were likely AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which were deployed to Baghdad International Airport in June to provide protection for U.S. military and diplomatic facilities.

Until Sunday, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have been limited to fast-moving Air Force and Navy fighter aircraft and drones. But the use of the relatively slow-flying helicopters represents an escalation of American military involvement and is a sign that the security situation in Iraq’s Anbar province is deteriorating. Last week, the Islamic State militants overran numerous Iraqi bases and towns and were becoming a widespread presence in Abu Ghraib, the last major town outside of Baghdad’s western suburbs.

Al Jazeera America covers an advance:

ISIL raises flag near Syrian-Kurdish town of Kobani as fight continues

  • Defenders of Kobani deny that ISIL has overrun the strategically important town, but say they’re running low on supplies

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters raised their black flag on a building on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Monday after an assault of almost three weeks, though the town’s desperate Kurdish defenders said the assailants had not reached the city center.

An ISIL flag was visible from across the Turkish border atop a building close to the scene of some of the most intense clashes in recent days.

“ISIL have only planted a flag on one building on the eastern side of town,” said Ismail Eskin, a journalist in the town. “That is not inside the city, it’s on the eastern side. They are not inside the city. Intense clashes are continuing.”

And the latest from BBC News:

Kobane: Civilians flee IS street-to-street fighting

Islamic State (IS) militants have entered the key Syria-Turkey border town of Kobane and taken control of three districts after street-to-street fighting with Syrian Kurd defenders.

IS fighters entered the eastern districts on Monday, raising their black flag on buildings and hills.

Local officials said about 2,000 civilians fled to the Turkish border.

Taking Kobane, besieged for three weeks, would give IS control of a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.

From the New York Times, would-be warriors:

Japanese Men Were Planning to Fight for ISIS, Police Say

The Tokyo police said Monday that they were investigating several Japanese men suspected of planning to go to Syria to fight for the jihadist group Islamic State. The police provided few details of the men, whom they described as university students in their 20s who were not actively attending classes.

They said one of the men, identified as a 26-year-old student at a university in Hokkaido, was recruited by the Islamic State via the Internet. The authorities said the men were the first Japanese suspected of wanting to join the Islamic State.

In Japan, engaging in war acts against a foreign government is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

The McClatchy Foreign Staff names a target:

Sources: U.S. air strikes in Syria targeted French agent who defected to al Qaida

A former French intelligence officer who defected to al Qaida was among the targets of the first wave of U.S. air strikes in Syria last month, according to people familiar with the defector’s movements and identity.

Two European intelligence officials described the former French officer as the highest ranking defector ever to go over to the terrorist group and called his defection one of the most dangerous developments in the West’s long confrontation with al Qaida.

The identity of the officer is a closely guarded secret. Two people, independently of one another, provided the same name, which McClatchy is withholding pending further confirmation. All of the sources agreed that a former French officer was one of the people targeted when the United States struck eight locations occupied by the Nusra Front, al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate. The former officer apparently survived the assault, which included strikes by 47 cruise missiles.

And the consequent denial from Punch Nigeria:

France denies report on al Qaeda defector agent

A French defense ministry source denied on Monday a US media report that a French intelligence officer had defected to al Qaeda’s branch in Syria and was being targeted for elimination by US air strikes, Reuters reports.

McClatchy DC, a Washington DC-based news web site, reported citing several European intelligence sources that the former French officer was the highest ranking defector to go over to al Qaeda and that coalition powers had failed to kill him in several air strikes.

“After checks this morning, we can assert that the information concerning supposed links between the jihadist cited by the press and French intelligence services is totally erroneous,” the French defense source said.

While the Christian Science Monitor covers desperation:

Syrian Kurds give women grenades in last-ditch defense against Islamic State

Islamic State forces are trying to oust the Kurdish defenders of Kobane, a Syrian town on the border with Turkey. News agencies have posted photographs showing the militants apparently raising their flag in the town, which Turkey had vowed to defend.

Fighting around Kobane is turning increasingly desperate, as the forces of the self-declared Islamic State threaten to overrun the Syrian border town’s Kurdish defenders.

Syrian Kurdish official Idris Nahsen told Agence France-Presse that IS forces are within a kilometer of the town to the south, but their latest attempt to advance had been repulsed by Kurdish forces. Although airstrikes by US-led coalition forces had helped slow the IS advance on Saturday, Mr. Nahsen said airstrikes alone would not be enough to break the siege on Kobane.

NBC News reports that the situation is becoming desperate in Kobane, where civilians of all ages are being recruited to help with the town’s defense.

While TheLocal.de covers assistance:

German soldiers begin training peshmerga

On the ground with Kurdish troops being trained in the use of new weapons by German soldiers in northern Iraq.

On a dusty firing range outside the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil, peshmerga fighter Ardalan Aziz Hamad hefts his new German-made assault rifle and is clearly impressed.

“This is a good rifle,” Hamad says, under the watchful eye of instructors from the German army (Bundeswehr). “Its weight is good; it’s not too heavy.”

Hamad and 19 others are the first to be trained to handle new weapons provided by Berlin for the fightback against jihadists from the Islamic State (Isis) group, who have overrun much of northern Iraq.

From the Independent, parental anger:

Alan Henning: Murdered hostage’s brother condemns Government over ‘gagging’ of family

The brother of the murdered aid worker Alan Henning said his family were “gagged by the Government and the Foreign Office” and has called for David Cameron to put British troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq.

The British government believes the publicity of UK hostages raises their propaganda value and puts them in further danger. But Reg Henning refuted that stance and condemned the Government for preventing the family from speaking out about his brother’s capture.

“If we made more noise perhaps people down in London might have stood up and taken notice,” he said. “We’ve seen the campaign that Alan’s generated now, all the ribbons round Eccles and everything. If this was done six months ago it could have done more good.”

On to Pakistan with the Express Tribune:

US drone strike kills 8 in North Waziristan

At least eight people were killed and four got injured in a drone strike in North Waziristan late on Monday, Express News reported.

The unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at a house and a car in the Bari Mail area of Shawal in North Waziristan, killing eight people and injuring four others.

It was the fourth drone strike in last two weeks in the tribal belt. At least five people were killed and two injured in a similar attack in North Waziristan Agency on Sunday.

And from RT, Cold War 2.0 armaments:

Russia’s deployed nuclear capacity overtakes US for first time since 2000

Russia has 1,643 nuclear missiles ready to launch – one more than the US – according to an official State Department report. Both countries have been upgrading their active nuclear arsenals since the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict.

The US report is based on official figures exchanged between the two countries as part of the New START disarmament treaty, and includes missiles deployed before September 1. The numbers show a significant increase from March, when data showed that Washington had a capacity of 1,585 payloads, and Moscow 1,512.

The current figures are in violation of the New START treaty, signed in 2010 by Barack Obama and then-President Dmitry Medvedev, during the short-lived reset in relations between the two states, which prescribe a limit of 1,550 deployed warheads.

SecurityWeek reveals online vulnerabilities:

Project SHINE Reveals Magnitude of Internet-connected Critical Control Systems

In a two-year study of information about critical control systems directly connected to the Internet, researchers found mining equipment, a surprising number of wind farms, a crematorium, water utilities, and several substations.

“The team had no idea of the scope, or magnitude, as to how extensive this issue was,” wrote Robert Radvanosky, owner and principal of Infracritical, one of the main researchers behind the project.

Project SHINE (so named after SHodan INtelligence Extraction) harvested data available about SCADA and industrial control system devices which appear to be directly connected to the Internet from April 2012 to January of this year. Custom search engine SHODAN contains a wealth of information, including the IP address of the device, geographic location (including latitude and longitude coordinates), owner, service port header information, firmware details, and available protocols. All the information was obtained from publicly available sources, which means the information is available for anyone motivated enough to look for it.

And the Independent covers allegations of digital criminality:

FBI’s James Comey accuses China of hacking into every major American company

FBI director James Comey has accused China of engaging in widespread corporate hacking in an attempt to steal trade secrets from America’s biggest companies.

Speaking on CBS, Mr Comey said Chinese hackers have repeatedly and deliberately targeted US firms in cyber-attacks that have cost American companies billions of dollars.

“There are two kinds of big companies in the United States,” he added. “There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese, and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.”

From SecurityWeek, old school info theft:

AT&T Admits Insider Illegally Accessed Customer Data

AT&T is advising customers that a rogue employee illegally accessed their personal information.

In a breach notification letter sent to customers and the Vermont attorney general, AT&T explained the breach occurred in August. The employee responsible is no longer with the company.

According to the letter, the employee was able to view and may have accessed customer information ranging from social security numbers to driver’s license numbers. In addition, while accessing user accounts, the employee would have been able to view their Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) without authorization. CPNI data is associated with services customers purchase from AT&T.

It is not clear how many customers were affected by the breach or if consumers in other states may have been involved.

Network World covers another hack attack:

Yahoo says attackers looking for Shellshock found a different bug

Yahoo said Monday it has fixed a bug that was mistaken for the Shellshock flaw, but no user data was affected.

Three of the company’s servers with APIs (application programming interfaces) that provide live streaming for its Sports service “had malicious code executed on them this weekend by attackers looking for vulnerable Shellshock servers,” wrote Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s chief information security officer.

Stamos wrote on the Hacker News website that the servers had been patched after the Shellshock vulnerability was disclosed.

Another snooping try gets a smackdown, via the Intercept:

New York Quickly Nixes Cellphone Tracking Devices in Phone Booths

New York City quickly announced it would get rid of devices that could turn phone booths into cellphone trackers after the program was revealed this morning.

A Buzzfeed investigation published today found that the city allowed 500 radio transmitters, called “beacons,” to be installed in pay phone booths, apparently thickly concentrated in lower and mid-Manhattan. A few hours later, the Mayor’s office said they would have them removed.

Though they could be woven into a location-aware advertising network, the beacons are there for maintenance notifications only and are not yet being used for commercial purposes, according to Titan, the firm that runs the advertising displays for thousands of city phone booths. There was no public announcement when the devices were installed.

From the Guardian, he knows where the bodies are buried:

Pentagon program delivered Humvee, rifle and kayak to Arkansas coroner

  • Controversial 1033 program puts military-grade gear in hands of state regulators as myriad as parks and gaming agencies

Doug Wortham used a Defense Department giveaway program for law enforcement to stock his office with an assault rifle, a handgun and a Humvee – even through the people in his custody are in no condition to put up a fight.

They’re dead.

Wortham is the Sharp County, Arkansas, coroner. He says the Humvee helps him navigate the rugged terrain of the Ozarks foothills, but he struggled to explain why he needs the surplus military weapons he acquired more than two years ago.

“I just wanted to protect myself,” he said.

A top spook named, via intelNews:

Britain’s MI6 appoints new director amidst mounting global crises

Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6) has announced the appointment of a new director at a period that some see as the most critical for the agency since the end of the Cold War.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a brief statement on Saturday that Alex Younger will be replacing Sir John Sawers, who earlier this year announced he would be stepping down from the post. Prior to his appointment, Younger, 51, held the position of chief of global operations, which is considered the number two position at MI6. The Foreign Office statement described Younger as a “career SIS officer” who has worked for the agency since 1991, when he joined from the Scots Guards regiment of the British Army.

He holds an economics degree and has served with MI6 in the Middle East, Europe, and Afghanistan, where he represented the agency as its most senior officer in the country following the US-led military of 2001.

From the Guardian, a top cop laments:

UK snooping powers are too weak, says crime agency boss

  • Exclusive: National Crime Agency’s director general says he needs to persuade public to reduce digital freedoms

Britons must accept a greater loss of digital freedoms in return for greater safety from serious criminals and terrorists in the internet age, according to the country’s top law enforcement officer.

Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said in an interview with the Guardian that it would be necessary to win public consent for new powers to monitor data about emails and phone calls.

Warning that the biggest threats to public safety are migrating to the internet and that crime fighters are scrambling to keep up, the NCA boss said he accepted he had not done a good enough job explaining to the public why the greater powers were necessary.

After the jump, the latest on those Mexican graves believed to hold the bodies of missing college student protesters, a presidential promise, police named as suspects, and a larger picture of violence in a troubled state, shots fired at a Mexican reporter and his family, on to Asia and tensions mount between Russian and Japanese aircraft, Japan makes a provocative Comfort Women move, and the prime minister dismisses state secrets law critics, on to China with a claim of stealthy success and the latest from Hong Kong, including flagging enthusiasm, a partial withdrawal, growing indications of talks to come, and Christian activists in the forefront. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, hacks, murder, Hong Kong


Lots of ground to cover, so we begin with a question: Is there no a-Biden him? From the Guardian:

UAE wants ‘formal clarification’ of Biden remarks about extremist support

  • VP to Harvard audience: ‘Our biggest problem is our allies’
  • Turkey demanded and received apology Saturday

The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday it wants “a formal clarification” of vice-president Joe Biden’s recent comments that America’s allies in the Middle East sent weapons and cash to extremists fighting in Syria.

Biden said “our biggest problem is our allies” who are engaged in a proxy Sunni-Shiite war against Syrian President Bashar Assad. He specifically named Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were [Jabhat] al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world,” he said.

The UAE’s official news agency carried a statement from minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash, calling Biden’s comments “far from the truth”. The UAE foreign ministry said it was astonished by the remarks.

From the Guardian, a Kurdish lament:

Air strikes against Isis are not working, say Syrian Kurds

  • Isis fighters have pushed to the edge of Kobani, undeterred by western strikes, says city official

Air strikes against Isis targets in northern Syria have failed to stop the militants from advancing towards the centre of the city of Kobani, Kurds have said, in the latest indication that aerial power alone may not defeat the jihadists.

Fighting between the Islamist militants and Syrian Kurds continued unabated despite another volley of coalition air strikes in and around the Kobani enclave, Idris Nassan, Kobani’s “foreign affairs minister”, told the Guardian.

“There are fierce clashes between Isis and YPG [People’s Defence Corps] fighters, at the moment mainly to the south-east of the city. Isis now stands at two kilometres from the city centre,” Nassan said by phone. “I can hear the bombs and shells here.”

The Hill has a Republican solution:

McCarthy: Don’t rule out US ground troops in fight against ISIS

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Sunday U.S. troops should be considered in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “I don’t think we should ever sit back and tell our enemies what we will and will not do,” McCarthy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“If we need special forces there, if that’s what the generals say, then we need to do it. If we engage in a conflict that we know this is a threat to America, we should make it so one-sided that it gets over very quickly. So, we should have everything on the table to make sure we win this.”

McCarthy also said the rise of ISIS was not an intelligence failure. “This was a lack-of-action failure on the administration. You know, Fallujah and Ramadi fell 10 months ago,” he said.

On to Pakistan, and more of that ol’ Vietnam War era WHAM strategy [Winning Hearts and Minds] via the Guardian:

Suspected US drone strike kills five militants in north-west Pakistan

  • First US drone strike in Pakistan this month
  • At least three also wounded in South Waziristan attack

A suspected US drone strike killed five militants in Pakistan’s tribal north-west on Sunday, including a senior ethnic Uzbek commander, intelligence sources said.

The attack took place in the tribal South Waziristan region and was the first US drone strike in Pakistan since late September.

Air strikes by unmanned US aircraft, which are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, have become increasingly rare, particularly outside the North Waziristan region where the Pakistani army is fighting to flush out Islamist militants.

The Japan Times covers drones afloat:

U.S. Navy to deploy armed, robotic swarm of patrol boats

The U.S. Navy says it will soon use armed, robotic patrol boats with no sailors on board to escort and defend warships moving through sensitive sea lanes.

The technology, adapted from NASA’s rovers on Mars, will transform how the navy operates and is sure to raise fresh questions and concerns about the widening role of robots in warfare.

The Office of Naval Research on Sunday released the results of what it called an unprecedented demonstration in August involving 13 robotic patrol craft escorting a ship along the James River in Virginia.

Canadian spooks spooked by tar sands foes, via the Toronto Star:

CSIS seeks to limit scope of energy activists’ complaint probe

Canadian spy agency is pushing back against a civil liberties group’s complaint for being “overly broad” regarding concerns of national energy policy.

Canadian spies are trying to narrow the scope of an inquiry into whether they overstepped the law while eyeing environmental activists.

A lawyer for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says the terms spelled out in a civil liberties group’s complaint are “overly broad” and must be “better defined.”

At issue is how far the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the watchdog over CSIS, can delve into the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s complaint about alleged spying on groups concerned about Canadian energy policy.

CSIS is trying to hide the reasons it monitored environmental groups, said Paul Champ, lawyer for the civil liberties association. “We need to know why these groups are being surveilled and those reasons need to be clearly put before the committee,” Champ said Monday.

Hack attack consultation slated, via the Japan Times:

Cybersecurity talks with four nations scheduled to be held by March

Japan plans to launch bilateral talks with France, Australia, Israel and Estonia in fiscal 2014 through next March to boost its ability to fight cybercrime ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a government source said Sunday.

The move to start dialogues with the four countries, which are known to possess advanced technology or experience in defending against cyberattacks, reflects Tokyo’s desire to address the threat of terrorism and ensure security in the run-up to the city’s hosting of the Summer Games, the source said.

Bolstering cooperation with the countries is also seen as a signal to China, where many cyberattacks are believed to originate, according to the source. Japan will expand cooperation with countries that “respect basic human rights and the rule of law in view of ensuring free distribution of information,” the source added.

Want China Times covers a would-be hero hacker:

I’m a good boy, claims China’s youngest hacker

A 13-year-old has gained media attention during this year’s China Internet Security Conference, held from Sept. 24 to 25. Referred to as “China’s youngest hacker,” Wang Zhengyang, a student from a junior high school affiliated with Tsinghua University in Beijing, said he prefers to be seen as an ethical computer hacker, or “white hat,” reported the Beijing News.

“I meant to help fix the websites,” Wang said, responding to earlier media claims that he had hacked into his school’s online system to avoid submitting homework and breached the backdoor system of an online store and altered the price of an item from 2,500 yuan (US$407) to 1 yuan (US$0.16) before checkout.

“You have to attack the websites first to find its weaknesses,” said Wang, who explained that the school website he hacked was not for his junior high class but for high school students at the same educational institution. As for the 2,500 yuan shopping spree, he said he did that after finding a security breach related to password authentication. He notified the online store of the security breach and did not make the purchase.

From the Observer, here’s looking at you, kid:

When the cookies crumbled, so did your web anonymity

  • A new generation of invisible tracker has replaced the traditional internet cookie – and it knows everything about you

The most pernicious is probably the Flash cookie maintained by the Adobe Flash plug-in. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation briefing on these, Flash cookies are stored outside the browser’s control and users cannot view or delete them. Nor are users notified when the cookies (which have no expiry date) are set. Flash cookies can track users in all the ways traditional old-style cookies do, but they can be stored or retrieved whenever a user accesses a page containing a Flash application – which is almost every page that most people access.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/09/new-cookie-technologies-harder-see-and-remove-wide

As the Economist recently reported in a major study, the scale of tracking is staggering, and it’s now done in real time. One advertising executive told the Economist that “his firm has the chance to bid for around 10m online advertising ‘impressions’ (ads seen by a user) every second”. Data brokerage (for that is what this industry calls itself) has evolved from being a table look-up business to something akin to high-frequency trading in the stock market. Even as you browse a web page, an invisible computerised auction is going on somewhere to decide what ads you should see.

If you want to get a sense of what drives this, install the Ghostery plug-in for your browser and then go and visit some of the sites you normally access. I’ve just looked up one at random – reed.co.uk, which describes itself as “the UK’s #1 job site”. It has 10 trackers at the landing-page level, but when you search for particular jobs in a particular location the number of trackers explodes. A search for “software architect” in Cambridge, for example, produces a page with 28 trackers.

Indeed, we installed Ghostery as we read the article and discovered that the Observer page which informed us about all those hidden trackers itself included a formidable 19 of them. . .

From PandoDaily, what’s up doc?:

Facebook wants to tear down the last bastion of our privacy by gathering health data

Facebook isn’t content with knowing everything about your digital life — now it wants to know about the meat husk your mind uses to interact with its service and its advertisements, too.

Reuters reports that the company plans to move into the healthcare space with disease-centric communities on its social network and preventative care applications for mobile devices, citing three people familiar with Facebook’s plans.

Gathering health information has become something of an obsession for the tech industry, with Apple and Google creating tools to help people track all of the wellness-related data they might care about (so long as none of it has to do with something that affects most women each month).

And RT covers anticipated death-by-hacking:

Europol warning: ‘Internet of Everything’ could lead to ‘online murder’ by end of 2014

The EU’s chief criminal intelligence agency warms that the threat of “online murder” is set to rise, with cyber criminals increasingly targeting victims with internet technology.

The European Police Office (Europol) said governments are ill-equipped to counter the menace of “injury and possible deaths” spurred by hacking attacks on critical safety equipment, the UK Independent reported Sunday.

Security experts called for a paradigm shift in forensic science which would react to the ‘Internet of Everything’ (IoE) – the dawning era of technological interconnectedness where increasingly more human activity is mediated through computer networks.

“The IoE represents a whole new attack vector that we believe criminals will already be looking for ways to exploit,” according to the Europol threat assessment.

After the jump, Mexican mass graves found after disappearances, Hong Kong protests dwindle after a handshake agreement, Singapore slings a critique over Western media Hong Kong coverage, Uncle Sam’s rearming Vietnam draws Chinese wrath, and Japan ups the Game of Zones ante. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, hacks, cops, Hong Kong


And more. . .

We begin with attacks and the inept, via the Guardian:

US jets attack Isis as Turkish leader rebukes Biden for remarks about foreign fighters

  • Kurdish-held town of Kobani besieged by Isis fighters
  • Western Iraqi town of Kubaisa falls
  • Pakistani Taliban declares support for Isis

US-led war planes attacked Islamic State (Isis) targets around the Syrian border town of Kobani overnight as the insurgents pressed their assault against its Kurdish defenders, a monitoring group and witnesses said.

On Saturday, fighting continued around Kobani while in Iraq, Isis fighters captured the town of Kubaisa, in the western Anbar province, two days after the fall of the nearby town of Hit. The fall of Kubaisa jeopardises the Ain al-Asad military base, which allows Iraqi forces to send troops and supplies to defend the Haditha dam further west.

Also on Saturday, the Pakistani Taliban declared allegiance to Islamic State and ordered militants across the region to help the group in its campaign to set up a global Islamic caliphate.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded an apology from the US vice-president, Joe Biden, and warned he would become “history for me” over comments in which Biden said the Turkish leader had admitted Turkey had made mistakes by allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria.

And the inevitable, via the Associated Press:

Biden apologizes to Turkey president in phone call

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden apologized Saturday to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was angry over comments in which Biden said Erdogan had admitted that Turkey had made mistakes by allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria.

Erdogan denied ever saying that and told reporters in Istanbul before Biden’s apology that he “will be history for me if he has indeed used such expressions.”

Biden spoke with Erdogan by phone on Saturday, the White House said.

“The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group.

From Deutsche Welle, when does engagement become marriage?:

Germany plans expanded engagement against ‘IS’ in Iraq

Germany is considering establishing a training center for Kurdish forces fighting the “Islamic State” in northern Iraq. However, the plans still don’t include joining an air campaign against the group.

Germany is planning to do more to help Kurdish and Iraqi troops fighting militants who have captured large amounts of territory in northern Iraq, the Defense Ministry announced on Saturday.

A ministry spokeswoman told the EPD news agency that plans were afoot to establish a military training center in Erbil, capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, for peshmerga soldiers involved in the conflict.

She said that the German government was also considering participating in a training facility for the Iraqi army, possibly in a neighboring country, in addition to dispatching additional military officers. The plans were announced on Friday at a briefing of parliament’s Defense Committee by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, the spokeswoman said.

From TheLocal.de,, and they’re, like, surprised?:

Berlin approves arms exports to Arab states

Germany has approved new deliveries of weapons to several Arab countries, including Qatar which had been accused of backing jihadists, according to a newspaper report Thursday.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on its website that weapons including tanks and machine guns are to be delivered to countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. Jordan, Oman and Kuwait would also receive German weaponry.

But critics rounded on the government’s decision, with Jan Van Aken, a deputy from the far-left party Die Linke, questioning the delivery to Qatar in particular.

Reuters covers pilgrimage agitprop:

At haj, Saudi Arabia clerics step up anti-Islamic State drive

Taking aim at Islamic State, Saudi Arabia has mounted a battle for hearts and minds at this year’s haj, warning pilgrims that the hardline group is “evil” and seeking to recruit their children to fight in Iraq and Syria.

As millions of pilgrims visited the holiest sites in Islam on the second day of the annual pilgrimage on Saturday, global leaders condemned the fourth beheading of a Westerner by Islamic State insurgents.

Saudi Arabia declared Islamic State a terrorist organization in March and sharply stepped up denunciations of the group after its fighters made rapid territorial gains in Iraq in June.

On to spooky things, first with the Guardian:

Failure to pass US surveillance reform bill could still curtail NSA powers

  • If the Senate doesn’t pass the USA Freedom Act after the midterm elections, a key section of the Patriot Act could expire

Two members of the US House of Representatives are warning that a failure to pass landmark surveillance reform will result in a far more drastic curtailment of US surveillance powers – one that will occur simply by the House doing nothing at all.

As the clock ticks down on the 113th Congress, time is running out for the USA Freedom Act, the first legislative attempt at reining in the National Security Agency during the 9/11 era. Unless the Senate passes the stalled bill in the brief session following November’s midterm elections, the NSA will keep all of its existing powers to collect US phone records in bulk, despite support for the bill from the White House, the House of Representatives and, formally, the NSA itself.

But supporters of the Freedom Act are warning that the intelligence agencies and their congressional allies will find the reform bill’s legislative death to be a cold comfort.

From RT, the Usual Suspects doing usual things:

Germany handed law-protected private data to NSA for years – report

Intelligence service BND failed to protect the private data of German citizens as it handed over internet data collected at a Frankfurt traffic hub to the US, German media report citing secret documents.

The documents cited by VDR and EDR television and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which broke the news together, were obtained from the federal government during an ongoing parliamentary investigation into US National Security Service spying on German soil.

Just like the NSA is forbidden by the law to spy on Americans, the BND is not allowed to spy on Germans. So when last year in was revealed that the two intelligence services had been collaborating to collect communication data at the De-Cix internet exchange node in Frankfurt, the BND had to produce explanations.

From the Department of the Panopticon, via Nextgov:

DHS No Longer Needs Permission Slips to Monitor Other Agencies’ Networks for Vulnerabilities

The Department of Homeland Security has spelled out its intentions to proactively monitor civilian agency networks for signs of threats, after agencies arguably dropped the ball this spring in detecting federal websites potentially harboring the Heartbleed superbug.

Annual rules for complying with the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act released Friday require agencies to agree to proactive scanning. The regulations also contain new requirements for notifying DHS when a cyber event occurs.

“The federal government’s response to the ‘Heartbleed’ security vulnerability highlighted the need to formalize this process, and ensure that federal agencies are proactively scanning networks for vulnerabilities,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said in an Oct. 3 memo to department heads. “This year’s guidance clarifies what is required of DHS and federal agencies in this area.”

Broadening the banking hacking front, via the New York Times:

Hackers’ Attack Cracked 10 Financial Firms in Major Assault

The huge cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase that touched more than 83 million households and businesses was one of the most serious computer intrusions into an American corporation. But it could have been much worse.

Questions over who the hackers are and the approach of their attack concern government and industry officials. Also troubling is that about nine other financial institutions — a number that has not been previously reported — were also infiltrated by the same group of overseas hackers, according to people briefed on the matter. The hackers are thought to be operating from Russia and appear to have at least loose connections with officials of the Russian government, the people briefed on the matter said.

It is unclear whether the other intrusions, at banks and brokerage firms, were as deep as the one that JPMorgan disclosed on Thursday. The identities of the other institutions could not be immediately learned.

A Mac infestation from Ars Technica:

Reddit-powered botnet infected thousands of Macs worldwide

  • Mac.BackDoor.iWorm used Minecraft server subreddit for command and control

The Russian antivirus vendor Dr. Web has reported the spread of a new botnet that exclusively targets Apple computers running Mac OS X. According to a survey of traffic conducted by researchers at Dr. Web, over 17,000 Macs worldwide are part of the Mac.BackDoor.iWorm botnet—and almost a quarter of them are in the US. One of the most curious aspects of the botnet is that it uses a search of Reddit posts to a Minecraft server list subreddit to retrieve IP addresses for its command and control (CnC) network. That subreddit now appears to have been expunged of CnC data, and the account that posted the data appears to be shut down.

The Dr. Web report doesn’t say how Mac.BackDoor.iWorm is being distributed to victims of the malware. But its “dropper” program installs the malware into the Library directory within the affected user’s account home folder, disguised as an Application Support directory for “JavaW.” The dropper then generates an OS X .plist file to automatically launch the bot whenever the system is started.

A controversial hand-off, from the Washington Post:

Ferguson police chief asks St. Louis County police to manage protests

Ferguson, Mo., police chief Thomas Jackson ceded responsibility for managing protests in the city to the larger St. Louis County police department on Friday.

A “lack of resources and manpower were the main driving force in Chief Jackson’s request,” according to a county press release. Sgt. Brian Schellman, spokesman for county police, added that Jackson made the request via a phone call to County Police Chief Jon Belmar.

Belmar almost immediately accepted the task, which will include authorizing arrests of protesters and handling their release. With 460 members, the county police department is nearly 10 times the size of the police department in this suburb of 21,000.

From the Charleston Gazette, a Klandestine disclosure:

Sources: Charleston cop suspended over videos

A Charleston police lieutenant on paid administrative leave is under investigation for making racially insensitive video recordings, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Lt. Shawn Williams, of the Charleston Police Department, was placed on leave last week pending an investigation by the Police Department’s professional standards division. The investigation was triggered after police obtained video recordings taken from Williams’ computer, according to those familiar with the investigation.

Two sources who have seen the recordings say the videos depict Williams’ young daughter dressed in what appear to be articles of a police uniform and dancing to an anthem of the Ku Klux Klan. The refrain of the song repeats the words, “Stand up and be counted, show the world that you’re a man. Stand up and be counted, go with the Ku Klux Klan.”

On the videos, a man alleged to be Williams can be heard asking the girl questions. Derogatory racial language can be heard, sources said. Sources said there were several similar videos on the computer.

And from Fusion, a tragic discovery:

Mass grave in Mexico found near area where students went missing

A mass grave has been discovered in the outskirts of the town of Iguala, where six students were killed and 43 went missing after a confrontation with police last weekend.

While authorities have yet to confirm the number of bodies in the grave — or if it is connected to the disappeared students — the news certainly appears grim.

The young people went missing on Sept. 25 after an outbreak of violence in Iguala. The incident began when a group of students from a nearby teachers college hijacked a bus in what they call an act of protest. Although the students were unarmed, police shot at the bus, killing three people. Later, masked gunman opened fire on two taxis and a bus carrying a soccer team on a nearby highway, bringing the death toll to six.

And a video background report from Fusion:

Mexican Students Hauled Away in Police Cars Before They Went Missing

Program notes:

In the United States, a missing college student can draw national media attention for weeks.

In Mexico, 44 students from the Ayotzinapa Teacher’s College have been missing since Sept. 25, after a group they were part of had a confrontation with police in the southern state of Guerrero.

After the jump, Sweden recognizes Palestine then draws fire, hostility trumps charitability in flooded Kashmir, then on to Hong Kong and an ultimatum to protesters followed by more protests and revelations of sexual assaults during attacks by gangster thugs, Chinese ships patrol contested waters, Japan announces plan to aid the U.S. in worldwide missions, and hands across the Korean border. . . Continue reading