Category Archives: Geopolitics

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 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.

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 –, 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,, 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

InSecurityWatch: War, drones, hacks, Hong Kong

And more. . .

First up, a new party enters the game, via the Associated Press:

Turkey approves military operations in Iraq, Syria

Turkey’s parliament approved a motion Thursday that gives the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State group.

Parliament voted 298-98 in favor of the motion which sets the legal framework for any Turkish military involvement, and for the potential use of Turkish bases by foreign troops.

Meanwhile, the militants pressed their offensive against a beleaguered Kurdish town along the Syria-Turkey border. The assault, which has forced about 160,000 people to flee across the frontier in recent days, left Kurdish militiamen scrambling Thursday to repel Islamic State extremists pushing into the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab.

Turkey, a NATO member with a large and modern military, has yet to define what role it intends to play in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

Obama breaches his own standard of bellicosity, via the Associated Press:

Civilian casualty standard eased in Iraq, Syria

President Barack Obama announced in May 2013 that no lethal strike against a terrorist would be authorized without “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”

But amid unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties, the White House said this week that U.S. bombing in Iraq and Syria is not being held to the near-certainty standard. And the Pentagon, hamstrung by limitations in intelligence gathering, has been unable to determine in many cases whether the casualty reports are true.

“We do take extreme caution and care in the conduct of these missions,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said. “But there’s risk in any military operation. There’s a special kind of risk when you do air operations.”

Strange bedfellows from Newsweek:

Has the ISIS Crisis Pushed the CIA into Bed with Hezbollah?

A few months ago, a former top CIA operative applied for a Lebanese visa to do some work in Beirut for an oil company. While he was waiting for approval, a package arrived at his client’s office. Inside was a full dossier on his CIA career. “It included things on where I had served, well back into 1990s,” said Charles Faddis, who ran the CIA’s covert action program in Kurdistan during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, among other top assignments. “It had details on my travels to Israel and Lebanon—years ago.”

Faddis took it as a blunt message from Hezbollah, the Iran-backed partner in Lebanon’s coalition government that is equal parts political party, social service agency, occupying army and terrorist group. “It was their way of saying, ‘We don’t want this guy here, but we want business with you to go forward,’” Faddis told Newsweek. It also was a way of underscoring—as if any emphasis was needed—that to do business in Lebanon, you have to go through the “Party of God.” And today that business includes the U.S. drive to recruit regional partners to wage war on the Islamic State, the group more commonly known as ISIS.

Washington wants Lebanon to stop ISIS at its borders. So does Hezbollah, whose entry into the Lebanese government last February did not get it removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist groups.

Collateral damage from RT America:

ISIS turns to selling ancient artifacts to fund terror campaign

Program notes:

The Islamic State is looting historical sites in Iraq and Syria, selling ancient artifacts on the black market to fund its operations, according to a warning from UNESCO. Similar to the events that occurred when Saddam Hussein was forced from power and looters stole priceless pieces of art and culture, archaeologists and Iraqi officials are now seeking help from the rest of the world in stopping the destruction of one of the world’s oldest cultures. RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has more details on what is being called a “cultural cleansing” of Iraq.

From, an interesting development:

EU tells France to allow unions in the military

The European rights court on Thursday ruled that a blanket ban on trade unions within the French armed forces was a violation of the rights of military staff.

The court ruled that while there could be limits to military personnel exercising freedom of association, “a blanket ban on forming or joining a trade union encroached on the very essence of this freedom”.

Michel Bavoil, vice-president of the Association for the Protection of Rights of Military Personnel, hailed the decision as “great victory that is extremely favourable for soldiers”, in comments to French television.

Rebuffing concealment by The Most Transparent Administration in History™ from The Intercept:

Judge Rebukes Government, Keeps Gitmo Force-Feeding Hearing Open

A federal judge has knocked down the government’s attempt to hold a secret hearing in a case challenging the military’s practice of force-feeding Guantanamo detainees who are on hunger strike.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler called the government’s desire to close the proceedings “deeply troubling,” and chastised the Department of Justice for appearing to “deliberately” make the request “on short notice.”

The case involves Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian man who has been held at Guantanamo since 2002, though he was cleared for transfer out of the island prison by the military in 2009. He began a hunger strike last year and claims that he has been subjected to painful and abusive force-feedings. He has asked the federal court to intervene and stop the military forcing him from his cell and restraining him during the feedings.

Beating the drums of the digital divisions, from Defense One:

House Intel Chief Wants To Increase Cyber Attacks Against Russia

The United States should be conducting more disruptive cyber attacks against nations like Russia, according to Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“I don’t think we are using all of our cyber-capability to disrupt” actors in Russia targeting U.S. interests, he said at The Washington Post’s cybersecurity summit on Thursday.

Rogers cited attacks out of Russia on the U.S. financial sector, specifically against JP Morgan Chase in August, as an example of nation states targeting U.S. companies and financial interests. The FBI is currently investigating whether or not the attacks were a response to the financial sanctions that the United States placed on Russia in March.

From The Intercept, and about damn time:

Authorities Think About Telling You If You’re Watchlisted from Warrantless Spying

The Obama Administration might have to start letting people know when they’ve been flagged for terrorist connections based on information picked up from secret NSA spying programs.

That could potentially affect the tens of thousands of individuals on the government’s no fly list, as well as those people and groups that the Treasury Department designates as foreign terrorists, The New York Times reported yesterday.

According to the Times, administration lawyers are debating whether the NSA’s warrantless programs are covered by a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires the government to disclose the use of electronic surveillance in any “proceeding” against someone.

Glassing with the panopticon, via TechWeekEurope:

Dubai Police Force Gets Google Glass To Help Fight Crime

  • Judge Dredd-esque look will give officers facial recognition software to identify criminals

Enforcing the law in Dubai is about to get a lot more high-tech following the news its police force will soon be equipped with Google Glass.

Police forces in the area will be given the wearable device, which costs £1,000 to buy in the UK, as part of a campaign to make them the “smartest in the world” by 2018. The devices will run specially customised facial recognition software which will allow officer to identify suspects or criminals at large.

The software would enable a connection between the wearer and a database of wanted people, with an alert being sent to the officer if a suspect’s face print is recognised.

iCloud hacks headed to court. . .maybe. From the London Telegraph:

Celebrity nude photo hacking victims threaten to sue Google for $100 million

Google accused by stars’ lawyer of ‘making millions from the victimisation of women’ and ‘perpetuating the despicable conduct of habitual pervert predators’ for not removing nude images

More than a dozen female celebrity victims of the nude photograph hacking scandal have threatened to sue Google for $100 million for the Internet giant’s alleged failure to remove the images from its search index and websites.

Marty Singer, a prominent Los Angeles entertainment lawyer, accused Google of “making millions from the victimisation of women” in a scathing letter written on the behalf of his unnamed clients to the company’s founders and chairman.

Private nude images of celebrities such as the actress Jennifer Lawrence, the model Kate Upton and the singer Rihanna were hacked by cyber-thieves and distributed online via the 4Chan website.

USBs targeted, via Wired threat level:

The Unpatchable Malware That Infects USBs Is Now on the Loose

It’s been just two months since researcher Karsten Nohl demonstrated an attack he called BadUSB to a standing-room-only crowd at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, showing that it’s possible to corrupt any USB device with insidious, undetectable malware. Given the severity of that security problem—and the lack of any easy patch—Nohl has held back on releasing the code he used to pull off the attack. But at least two of Nohl’s fellow researchers aren’t waiting any longer.

In a talk at the Derbycon hacker conference in Louisville, Kentucky last week, researchers Adam Caudill and Brandon Wilson showed that they’ve reverse engineered the same USB firmware as Nohl’s SR Labs, reproducing some of Nohl’s BadUSB tricks. And unlike Nohl, the hacker pair has also published the code for those attacks on Github, raising the stakes for USB makers to either fix the problem or leave hundreds of millions of users vulnerable.

“The belief we have is that all of this should be public. It shouldn’t be held back. So we’re releasing everything we’ve got,” Caudill told the Derbycon audience on Friday. “This was largely inspired by the fact that [SR Labs] didn’t release their material. If you’re going to prove that there’s a flaw, you need to release the material so people can defend against it.”

Breaching the bank with Business Insider:

JP Morgan Reveals Gigantic Data Breach Possibly Affecting 76 Million Households

JPMorgan just revealed that 76 million households and 7 million small businesses may have had their private data compromised in a recent cyberattack.

“User contact information — name, address, phone number and email address — and internal JPMorgan Chase information relating to such users have been compromised,” the company said in a new SEC filing.

“However, there is no evidence that account information for such affected customers — account numbers, passwords, user IDs, dates of birth or Social Security numbers — was compromised during this attack.”

Fighting the memory hole, via the Guardian:

School board vote on US history sets up showdown with students

  • Colorado school prepares for massive turnout during conservative school board’s vote over ‘patriotic’ curriculum changes

Students and teachers fighting a plan to promote patriotism and downplay civil disobedience in some suburban Denver US history courses are expected to pack a school board meeting Thursday where the controversial changes could face a vote.

Turnout is expected to be so high that the teachers union plans to stream video from the meeting room – which holds a couple hundred people – on a big screen in the parking lot outside. Students said they’ll protest with teachers before the school board meeting. A walkout planned at a school Thursday morning didn’t take place after the principal sent a letter to parents asking them to discourage their children from participating.

The principal at Golden High School, Brian Conroy, said he is “proud” that students have made their opinions known, but a walkout now would be counterproductive and unnecessary because students have already gotten the board’s attention.

A drone downing from PetaPixel:

Man Arrested and Charged After Allegedly Shooting Down a Camera Drone with a Shotgun

A New Jersey resident was arrested last Friday after allegedly firing a shotgun at and successfully hitting a drone that was taking photographs of a nearby home undergoing some renovations.

According to the local NBC station, the owner of the drone said he was flying it around the home capturing photographs when he heard several gunshots and immediately lost control of the drone.

Upon retrieving his disabled drone, the owner recognized a number of holes in the vehicle that resembled the pellets you’d see after a shotgun blast, and so he called the police and showed them where he thought the blast came from.

And a drone-enabled drunk capture from Motherboard:

Police Used a Drone to Chase Down and Arrest Four DUI Suspects in a Cornfield

Last Friday, near a cornfield in North Dakota, four underage men were pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving. The four men hopped out of their car and bolted into the cornfield. Grand Forks police didn’t follow them: Instead, they put a drone in the sky.

“One of them was walking through the cornfield. It took about three minutes to find him,” Alan Frazier, Deputy Sheriff in charge of the Grand Forks Police Department’s unmanned aerial vehicle system unit told me. “The other was found on a second flight, after maybe 25 minutes.”

The two other suspects were apprehended at another time—they had the unlucky distinction of becoming the first Americans ever tracked down and arrested with the help of a police quadcopter.

After the jump, off to Asia and an arms deal proposal to an old enemy, on to Hong Kong and an Occupy disruption, hints of a coming crackdown, Anonymous threatens a hackdown, evading the online censors but others may be looking in, a defiant boss refuses to quit but is daughter blows his cover, blowback fears, a warning to Washington from Beijing and a word from Washington, hints of major Chinese maritime declaration, Game of Zones tourism, American/Japanese military strategy delayed, Tokyo gives the nod to American Okinawa base relocation, Comfort Women revisionism declined, and a Korean missile upgrade in the offing. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Drones, bombs, cops, hacks

Plus lots of Hong Kong headlines after the jump. . .

First, via The Verge, a real source of insecurity:

The US is holding on to nuclear weapons to defend the Earth against rogue asteroids

As noticed by The Wall Street Journal, a 67-page Government Accountability Office report on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said that some US nuclear warhead components that were scheduled to be disassembled by next year are in fact being kept whole to be used to defend the Earth against a potential asteroid impact. The report specifically states that some warheads “are being retained in an indeterminate state pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids.”

The threat of a direct asteroid impact has gotten more attention in recent months after a huge meteor exploded over Russia in February 2013, injuring hundreds with its debris. Last year, NASA said that the Earth was sitting in the path of over 1,400 asteroids that could cause potentially significant damage, but said that none seemed likely to hit the planet — at least for the next 100 years or so. And even those asteroids coming “close” to the Earth are millions of miles away, but that isn’t stopping the US from being prepared. Whether or not these nuclear weapons are kept to battle asteroids remains to be seen, but it’s at least something the government is keeping in its back pocket in case of an Armageddon scenario.

Now on the war in the Mideast, first flying blind with the Associated Press:

Airstrikes launched amid intelligence gaps

The Pentagon is grappling with significant intelligence gaps as it bombs Iraq and Syria, and it is operating under less restrictive targeting rules than those President Barack Obama imposed on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The U.S. military says its airstrikes have been discriminating and effective in disrupting an al-Qaida cell called the Khorasan Group and in halting the momentum of Islamic State militants. But independent analysts say the Islamic State group remains on the offensive in areas of Iraq and Syria, where it still controls large sections. And according to witnesses, U.S. airstrikes have at times hit empty buildings that were long ago vacated by Islamic State fighters.

Human rights groups also say coalition airstrikes in both countries have killed as many as two dozen civilians. U.S. officials say they can’t rule out civilian deaths but haven’t confirmed any.

From, from stoner to slayer?:

Pot-smoking Frenchman is Isis ‘executioner’

The man accused by the US State department of carrying out executions for the Islamist extremist group Isis was a “fun-loving” Frenchman who enjoyed smoking weed and going out clubbing, according to this report.

As a teen, Salim Benghalem smoked weed and went out clubbing. Now, the Frenchman is an Islamic State jihadist wanted by Washington which accuses him of carrying out execution-style killings for the extremist group.

The US State Department last week singled him out as one of 10 wanted “foreign terrorist fighters”, describing him as “a Syria-based French extremist and ISIL member” – using an alternative name for IS – as well as an executioner.

But this description has left friends and relatives of the 34-year-old, who grew up in Cachan near Paris, baffled.

And another interesting development from the Associated Press:

Iran to help Lebanon army fight extremists

Iran will supply the Lebanese army with military equipment to be used in fighting Muslim extremist groups, a visiting senior Iranian official said on Tuesday.

The announcement marks the first time that Iran has said it would give Lebanon military assistance. Tehran has offered help in the past but such offers did not materialize because of sharp divisions among Lebanese political groups over Iran.

Iran is the main backer of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, which has a force more powerful than the Lebanese national army. The group has thousands of rockets and missiles — many of them from Iran.

Enduring Snowden blowback, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

NSA eavesdropping is still roiling relations with Germany

Juergen Hardt’s position in the German government, coordinator of trans-Atlantic cooperation, once was considered a major honor – the official liaison to the United States, arguably Germany’s closest ally.

But since the revelation that the United States’ National Security Agency eavesdropped for years on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, U.S.-German relations have been a twisting, stomach-churning roller coaster ride so wild that many Germans wonder whether it’s possible to get off. The pro-America crowd, meanwhile, can only warn that despite the nausea, it’s not safe to leave a ride in motion.

“We have gone through challenging times in the bilateral relationship in the past,” Hardt said in an interview. “As in every relationship, there have been ups and downs. Right now, we are going through challenging times when it comes to public perception.”

And from BBC News, an almost blast from the past:

Henry Kissinger ‘considered Cuba air strikes’ in 1976

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drew up plans to “smash Cuba” with air strikes nearly 40 years ago, government papers obtained by researchers show.

He was angered by Cuba’s 1976 military intervention in Angola and was considering retaliation if Cuban forces were deployed elsewhere in Africa.

The information comes from documents declassified at the request of the National Security Archive. They show that Mr Kissinger was eager for the US to stand up to Cuba.

The documents from the Gerald R Ford Presidential Library show that US officials devised plans to attack ports and military installations in Cuba in addition to measures ordered by Mr Kissinger to deploy Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay to “clobber” the Cubans.

Hitting the panic button with the Guardian:

Eric Holder raises concerns over privacy advances by tech companies

  • US attorney general suggests an increase in privacy protections may thwart attempts to crack down on child exploitation

US attorney general Eric Holder said on Tuesday he was worried that attempts by technology companies to increase privacy protections were thwarting attempts to crack down on child exploitation.

Speaking at the biannual Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online in Washington, Holder warned that encryption and other privacy technologies are being used by sexual predators to create “more opportunities to entice trusting minors to share explicit images of themselves.”

“Recent technological advances have the potential to greatly embolden online criminals, providing new methods for abusers to avoid detection,” he said. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau The Most Transparent Administration in History™, a major escalation in the War on Leaks:

No lie: Obama administration issues new polygraph policy

The Obama administration has issued a new polygraph policy for tens of thousands of federal employees who take lie detectors for security clearances or to obtain “sensitive” jobs.

The policy issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper comes after his office ordered agencies conducting the tests to ask applicants or employees if they had leaked classified information to the media. The new policy, obtained by McClatchy under the Freedom of Information Act, reiterates the requirement.

Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said that section is “striking because it elevates leaking of classified information to the same level as espionage and sabotage.”

The Washington Post covers a major security fail:

Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta

A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the consequences:

Secret Service director resigns

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that he has accepted the resignation of Secret Service director Julia Pierson, who stepped down amid rising discontent in Congress over her leadership.

Johnson said Pierson offered her resignation, adding, “I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.”

Obama called Pierson and thanked her for her service, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. He noted Pierson on Tuesday had taken responsibility for the latest mishap to befall the agency, when an armed man vaulted over the fence at the White House and gained entry.

Cocking a snook at Washington, via the Guardian:

The Guardian wins an Emmy for coverage of NSA revelations

  • Interactive NSA Decoded explained implications of the Edward Snowden leaks on mass surveillance by intelligence agencies

The Guardian US has won an Emmy for its groundbreaking coverage of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance by US intelligence agencies.

The Guardian’s multimedia interactive feature NSA Decoded was announced as the winner in the new approaches: current news category at the news and documentary Emmy awards in New York on Tuesday night.

The comprehensive interactive walks the audience through the facts and implications of the NSA’s mass surveillance program, revealed by the Guardian last year in coverage based on leaks by Snowden.

On to drones, first with the Guardian:

‘We see ourselves as the vanguard’: the police force using drones to fight crime

Grand Forks police department in North Dakota believes unmanned drones are a vital part of its toolkit of law enforcement – but are UAVs a threat to individual privacy?

The video begins with a suspect in a red car screeching to a halt outside an abandoned farmhouse with two police vehicles, sirens blazing, in hot pursuit. The suspect makes off on foot, waving a large handgun in front of him.

Then something unusual happens. Out of the back of a police car, officers grab a gadget about the size of a suitcase, assemble it within seconds and then launch it buzzing into the air. It hovers directly over the suspect, streaming images of the man from a high-definition camera down to a mobile computer screen. “I have a visual of the suspect,” an officer says into his radio device. “Positive ID of a gun in his right hand – proceed with caution.”

The film is an elaborate piece of theatre, replete with hard-rock soundtrack, designed to show off the law enforcement potential of the Qube, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The gadget – which has four rotor blades, is three feet long and weighs 5.5lbs – is at the forefront of the use of drone technology by police forces in the US

And the film itself from AeroVironment Inc.:

Qube™ Public Safety UAS

Program notes:

Qube is a rugged and reliable small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) targeting the needs of first responders. The packaged system fits easily in the trunk of a car, and can be assembled and ready for flight in less than five minutes to provide a rapidly deployable eye in the sky, transmitting live video directly to the operator at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.

Drones for a private sector fraud squad from News Corp Australia:

British company Air and Space Evidence will use satellites and drones to detect insurance fraud

TWO British academics have opened the world’s first space detective agency, using drones and satellites to uncover insurance fraud, search for freshly dug graves or to monitor how foreign aid money is spent.

Founder Ray Purdy, a lawyer who specialised in satellite law at the University College of London, has teamed up with geographer colleague Professor Ray Harris in a private firm that will use before and after aerial imagery in criminal and civil cases.

As an example of the work that Air and Space Evidence is undertaking, Mr Purdy pointed to a case following Hurricane Katrina, where a couple claimed their New Orleans home was severely damaged by wind and water.

Aerial photos showed the house had survived Katrina intact.

On to the world of cybercrime with Network World:

FBI opens malware tool to public as part of radical crowdsourcing plan

  • Public Malware Investigator portal nears launch

The FBI is close to allowing anonymous outsiders to use its Malware Investigator tool for the first time through a dedicated crowdsourcing portal, an official reportedly confirmed at last week’s Virus Bulletin conference.

News of the initiative emerged earlier this year, at which point the plan was to give state investigators and enterprises – the FBI’s ‘community of interest’ – the ability to submit malware samples for rapid assessment.

From descriptions offered at the time, Malware Investigator was designed to work like a more sophisticated version of Google’s VirusTotal malware portal that can be used by anyone to check files and URLs against antivirus and web scanners. The plan involved offering one website for law enforcement, launched in August, and a second for mixed third-parties.

TechWeekEurope covers a private sector partnership:

Interpol Opens Cybercrime Base, Partners With Kaspersky, Trend Micro

  • New Singapore facility will help Interpol tackle cybercrime

Interpol has forged partnership deals with two leading security vendors, as it opens up a new “nerve centre” to combat the threat of cybercrime.

The international police body said that the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) building in Singapore will provide it with a state of the art facility to help lead the fight against online crime.
Nerve Centre

The state-of-the-art IGCI will provide Interpol with include a digital forensic laboratory “for the identification of crimes and criminals, innovative training, operational support and partnerships.”

The new facility will reinforce Interpol’s existing cybercrime units at Interpol’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon and its Regional Bureau in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After the jump, Mexican cops fired at students and 43 are missing, an Obama/Modhi Sino snub, Doubts about the Aussie anti-ISIS campaign, another Aussie military move questioned, a stern warning from Beijing to the protesters, an admission from Hong Kong’s top pol and his admission that there’s no end in sight to the Occupy Central action, Washington ups the pressure, Beijing names a point man, a blow to the tourist trade, Anal probes are for the birds in Beijing [really], Obama mulls a new Pacific strategy, an enforcement date set for Japan’s new state secrets act, a revanchist Japanese mayor tackles an anti-Korean hate group, and a remilitarized Japanese agenda for its American alliance. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, malware, hacks, China

And a whole lot more.

First up, hyperbolic ramp-up; from the London Telegraph:

Theresa May: Isil will become nuclear threat if we don’t stop them

  • Home Secretary Theresa May warns Isil could acquire “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could acquire nuclear weapons if they are allowed to consolidate their hold in Iraq and Syria, Theresa May has warned.

Isil could get hold of “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state,” the Home Secretary said, in a wide-ranging speech to the Conservative party conference.

The Home Secretary dramatically highlighted the threat to Britain from the terrorist group, which is operating “within a few hours flying time of our country”.

From BBC News, British bombs away:

RAF jets strike first IS targets in Iraq

RAF jets have attacked a “heavy weapon position” and an armed pick-up truck in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has said.

In the first attacks since Parliament approved military action on Friday, two “precision strikes” were launched and both were “successful”, the MoD said.

The attacks, by two Tornado jets, were part of an international effort against militant group Islamic State (IS).

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, bloviation north of the border:

Canadian military intervention in Iraq is ‘noble,’ Harper says

Stephen Harper is calling Canadian military intervention in Iraq a “noble” cause as his government prepares for an expected air combat mission in the region, saying this country must respond to a direct threat from the Islamic State extremists.

“These are necessary actions, they are noble actions,” Mr. Harper said during Question Period on Tuesday. “When we think that something is necessary and noble, we don’t sit back and say that only other people should do it. The Canadian way is that you do your part.”

He promised a decision on whether and how to extend the mission in the coming days.

Reuters goes against the grain:

Special Report: Islamic State uses grain to tighten grip in Iraq

The group now controls a large chunk of Iraq’s wheat supplies. The United Nations estimates land under IS control accounts for as much as 40 percent of Iraq’s annual production of wheat, one of the country’s most important food staples alongside barley and rice. The militants seem intent not just on grabbing more land but also on managing resources and governing in their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Wheat is one tool at their disposal. The group has begun using the grain to fill its pockets, to deprive opponents – especially members of the Christian and Yazidi minorities – of vital food supplies, and to win over fellow Sunni Muslims as it tightens its grip on captured territory. In Iraq’s northern breadbasket, much as it did in neighboring Syria, IS has kept state employees and wheat silo operators in place to help run its empire.

Such tactics are one reason IS poses a more complex threat than al Qaeda, the Islamist group from which it grew. For most of its existence, al Qaeda has focused on hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings. But Islamic State sees itself as both army and government.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a drone’s-eye view:

Once targeted, Global Hawk drone now hidden weapon in U.S. airstrikes

The squabbling between the Pentagon and Capitol Hill over whether to kill the biggest of the military’s drones – the Global Hawk – is finished for the moment, with the remotely piloted surveillance aircraft and its builder emerging as the victors.

Now there’s every indication that the rise of the Islamic State has offered the pilotless wonder a chance to show its stuff.

If only its intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance activities, conducted from as high as 11 miles off the ground and on flights of up to 32 hours, weren’t classified. Pentagon officials are tight-lipped about the drone’s role in recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

And next door, via the Guardian:

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

  • Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

CBC News covers spooky rhetoric:

Homegrown terrorism remains biggest threat, Jeh Johnson says

  • U.S. Homeland Security secretary arrived Monday for 2-day visit, keynote speech

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says homegrown terrorism by previously unknown individuals is the threat that worries him the most.

Johnson, in remarks to a business audience in Ottawa today, pointed to last year’s Boston Marathon bombings as an example of terrorist threats that are difficult to predict.

In his midday speech to the Canadian American Business Council, he also spoke about measures by the U.S. government to improve the flow of good across the border while maintaining security.

Canada counts security state costs, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Security could drive Pan Am costs higher, minister warns

The rising cost of next year’s Pan American Games may balloon even more because of security costs, the Ontario cabinet minister in charge of the file said Tuesday.

“How can I guarantee the cost of the Games when I don’t know what the threat level is going to be?” Culture Minister Michael Coteau told a legislative committee. “I will not put a price tag on the safety of Ontarians.”

The current total for the event is $2.57-billion, of which $239-million is set aside for security. The cost of security has already grown twice from its initial estimate of $113-million. The Games will be held next summer in Toronto, Hamilton and several surrounding suburbs.

Old Blighty takes an Orwellian turn, via the Associated Press:

UK government plans curbs on nonviolent extremism

Britain’s interior minister has proposed new powers to bar people with extremist views from appearing on television or publishing on social media even if they are not breaking any laws.

Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference of the governing Conservatives that if re-elected next year the party will introduce powers to disrupt people who “spread poisonous hatred” even within the law.

May said Tuesday that only a minority of extremists are violent, but there is “a thread that binds” nonviolent extremism to terrorism.

May says tougher powers are needed to stop young people becoming radicalized. She says at least 500 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq, mainly to fight with militant groups.

The Associated Press embarrasses:

Germany unable to meet NATO readiness target

Germany’s military is unable to meet its medium-term readiness target should NATO call on its members to mobilize against an attack, officials said Monday.

The revelation follows days of embarrassing reports about equipment failures that included German army instructors being stranded in Bulgaria en route to Iraq when their plane broke down, and delays in sending weapons to arm Kurdish fighters because of another transport problem.

In the latest incident, the military said one of two aging C-160 aircraft flying German aid to Ebola-affected West Africa has also been grounded on the island of Gran Canaria since the weekend, awaiting repairs.

Asked about a Der Spiegel report that Germany at this juncture wouldn’t be able to offer the appropriate number of military aircraft within 180 days of an attack on the NATO alliance, Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff confirmed that was the case.

New Europe drones on:

France, Germany to offer drones to monitor ceasefire in Ukraine

France and Germany offered to deploy drones as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s efforts to monitor Ukraine’s ceasefire, a government official said on Monday.

At a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Romain Nadal announced “France and Germany have proposed to provide drones aimed at monitoring the ceasefire’s implementation as requested by the OSCE.”

The drone deployment proposal was being discussed, he added without elaborating.

“The cease-fire is an important opportunity to find a lasting political solution to the conflict and which respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Nadal noted.

A cumulus, not the fog of war, via Aviation Week & Space Technology:

Pentagon’s ‘Combat Cloud’ Concept Taking Shape

  • Pentagon envisions “combat cloud” as force multiplier for shrinking fleet

The Pentagon has been bitten by the Steve Jobs bug.

The latest vision for data-sharing across ships, aircraft and satellites—a perpetually chased but unrealized plan—is now being dubbed the “combat cloud.” And a retired U.S. Air Force officer is leading a first-of-a-kind charge to bring stakeholders from each of the services, industry and academia together to shape the cloud and attain buy-in, despite the Pentagon’s spotty track record of gaining traction on similar efforts.

Today the Air Force’s very expensive, stealthy aircraft cannot talk to its -legacy systems, and without that crosstalk the effectiveness of those investments will be marginalized. While officers are scrambling to solve the so-called “fifth-to-fourth” problem, a larger dialogue has blossomed about the objective beyond simply connecting F-22s, B-2s and F-35s to the fleet. But will this dialogue produce an executable program to buy the technology that can make the vision—eventually, the cloud—real?

The goal, likely to take a decade or more to realize, is to form an overarching network of data, each platform a node contributing information to the cloud and downloading from it, even in the heat of battle. It would include fighters, intelligence aircraft, satellites, ships and helicopters.

German victim-blaming from the Guardian:

EU’s new digital commissioner calls celebrities in nude picture leak ‘stupid’

  • Germany’s Günther Oettinger says stars who put naked photos of themselves online could not count on his protection

Former EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, 61, is used to accusations that he is more digitally naïve than digitally native by now. But at a hearing in front of the European parliament, the EU’s next commissioner designate for digital economy and society raised some serious questions about his suitability.

During a three-hour grilling by MEPs in Brussels, Oettinger said it would not be his job to protect stars “stupid enough to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online” – seemingly unaware that the recent leak of celebrities’ nude photographs had come about as a result of a targeted hacking attack.

Oettinger said: “We can mitigate or even eliminate some risks. But like with any technology, you can’t exclude all risks.

Maledictions enabled, via Ars Technica:

Advertising firms struggle to kill malvertisements

  • One provider finds a vulnerable advertising tool that allowed attackers access

In late September, advertisements appearing on a host of popular news and entertainment sites began serving up malicious code, infecting some visitors’ computers with a backdoor program designed to gather information on their systems and install additional malicious code.

The attack affected visitors to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Hindustan Times, Internet music service, and India-focused movie portal Bollywood Hungama, among other popular sites. At the center of the malware campaign: the compromise of San Francisco-based Internet advertising network Zedo, an advertising provider for the sites, whose network was then used to distribute malicious ads.

For ten days, the company investigated multiple malware reports, retracing the attacker’s digital footsteps to identify the malicious files and shut the backdoor to its systems.

A major hack counterattack from the Guardian:

Four hackers charged with stealing $100m in US army and Xbox technology

  • Indictment unsealed on Tuesday reveals Department of Justice charged four people in international computer hacking ring

Four men have been charged with breaking into the computer systems of Microsoft, the US army and leading games manufacturers on Tuesday, as part of an alleged international hacking ring that netted more than $100m in intellectual property, the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The four are alleged to have stolen Xbox technology, Apache helicopter training software and pre-release copies of games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, according to an unsealed indictment. Two of the hackers pleaded guilty earlier on Tuesday, the DoJ said.

After the jump, protesting the educational memory hole, a cartel photobomb in Mexico and a protest for the disappeared, More Pakistani religious murders, forging Indo/American military alliance, FBI-initiated anti-terror raids Down Under, a large collection of items for the ongoing Occupy protests in Hong Kong [international reactions, censorship and other Beijing reactions, specultation, and more], an unofficial peace feeler from Tokyo to Beijing, China’s search for an Indian Ocean base, a major Chinese stealthy air expansion, a hate speech rebuke in Tokyo, and sniffing for bombs in sewers. . . Continue reading