Category Archives: GWOT

InSecurityWatch: Terror, war, Mexico, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

First up, from the Associated Press:

2 dead in shooting attack at Canada’s Parliament

A gunman with a scarf over his face killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that rocked the building with the boom of gunfire and forced lawmakers to barricade themselves in meeting rooms. The gunman was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the rampage the second deadly terrorist attack on Canadian soil in three days. “This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere,” Harper said.

He added: “We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”

Canada was already on alert at the time of the shooting rampage because of a deadly hit-and-run assault Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an “ISIL-inspired terrorist.” ISIL is also known as Islamic State.

More from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.

Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized – the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau has a record in Quebec in the early 2000s for petty crimes such as possession of drugs, credit-card forgery and robbery. He was also charged with robbery in 2011 in Vancouver.

The soldier who was killed was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, according to his aunt. Cpl. Cirillo, who was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a regiment of Reserve Forces based in Hamilton, was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency, his aunt told The Globe and Mail.

On to the Mideast with Reuters:

Consumed by Islamic State, Iraq’s Anbar province a key battleground again

In recent weeks, the world has watched the battle to save Syria’s border town of Kobani from Islamic State. But the radical jihadists have for longer been engulfing another strategically more vital target – Iraq’s western Anbar province and its road to Baghdad.

The vast desert region – where Sunni tribes rose up in 2006 and 2007 to drive out al-Qaeda with the Americans – has throughout 2014 been parcelled up, city by military camp, before the Iraqi government and U.S. forces could act.

Now Anbar’s largest airbase Ain al-Asad, the Haditha Dam – a critical piece of infrastructure – and surrounding towns are encircled by Islamic State to the west from the Syrian border and to the east from militant-controlled sections of Ramadi.

Droning on with Old Blighty via the Guardian:

UK to fly military drones over Syria

  • Government says Reaper drones will be deployed soon to gather intelligence, but insists move is not a military intervention

Britain is to send military drones over Syria to gather intelligence in a move that will deepen its involvement in the campaign against Islamic State (Isis), Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has revealed.

Downing Street insisted that the flights did not amount to military intervention and said there was a clear legal case for drone surveillance in Syria under the principles of “national and collective defence”.

The Reaper drones have already been active in Iraq, after parliament gave its approval for Britain to take part in air strikes against Isis. However, this will be the first time they will have ventured into Syrian territory, where David Cameron has not sought approval for military action because of fears it would be blocked by Labour and some within the prime minister’s own party.

From the London Daily Mail, that old-time religion:

ISIS releases sickening video clip showing Syrian woman being stoned to death by group of men – including her own father

  • Shocking footage understood to have been filmed in Syrian city of Hama
  • Cleric seen ranting at woman and accusing her of committing adultery
  • Woman told to be ‘content and happy’ at stoning as it is ordered by God
  • She pleads for her life before asking if her father could ever forgive her
  • He responds telling her not to call him father, then orders murder to begin
  • A man was also stoned to death for adultery in a separate incident

From the Guardian, before the fall:

Life inside Kobani before Isis attacked

Program notes:

New video footage filmed inside Kobani shows what life was like for the Kurdish civilians living there just a few days before Islamic State, or Isis, attacked the city.

In footage obtained by the Guardian, local journalist Moustafa Ghaleb records candid interviews with friends and family, as coalition air-strikes buzz overhead and the Isis advance prompts people to evacuate to the Turkish border.

From SciDev.Net, demanding science:

ISIS besieges universities but allows scientists’ return

Scores of students and professors have left Iraqi universities as the militants of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) continue to advance in Iraq and Syria — but now the group appears to want the researchers to come back.

“We grant all teachers … whose place of work or residence is within the caliphate [an Islamic state], a maximum period of ten days from the date of this statement to return and resume their work. If they fail to do so, their moveable and immovable property will be confiscated,” reads a leaflet, reportedly distributed by ISIS on 3 October.

Having captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq, in late June ISIS stated it had created a caliphate stretching from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq. The group has reportedly replaced the name ‘Republic of Iraq’ on some universities and research institutions with ‘Islamic State — Knowledge Bureau’.

And from MintiPress News, hints of a hidden hand:

Erdogan: The Man Pulling The Strings In A Middle Eastern Puppet Show

Turkey certainly didn’t invent ISIS, but the Turkish government under former Prime Minister, current President Erdogan has been stoking Islamic radicalism to further its own political goals — namely, the fall of Assad and the return of something reminiscent of the Ottomans

As noted by Veli Sirin in a report for the Gatestone Institute, “Turkey under a stronger Erdogan presidency may become more Islamic, more neo-Ottoman, and more directed to the East rather than the West.”

“Neo-Ottoman” and “Islamic” seem very much the order of the day when referring to Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign agenda, which supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, which later merged with the Nusra Front and ISIS — especially vis-a-vis the rise of ISIS in the greater Levant.

According to many, Erdogan’s alleged shadow games with ISIS represent little more than the manifestations of a desire to see rise a new Ottoman Empire, the impetus of which will be fed by ISIS crusaders. Egypt’s foreign ministry issued a statement in September, slamming Erdogan for his promotion of terror in the region. The statement read, “The Turkish President, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through its support for groups and terrorist organizations … Whether political support or funding or accommodation in order to harm the interests of the peoples of the region to achieve personal ambitions for the Turkish president and revive illusions of the past.”

Even more damaging was the April publication of Seymour Hersh’s work, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” in which the veteran journalist argues Turkey would have orchestrated the Ghouta sarin gas attack in order to drag the United States into a war.

The Christian Science Monitor points to the unseen obvious:

America’s Saudi problem in its anti-IS coalition

  • Saudi Arabia sentenced dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death. That’s trouble for a strategy that rests on ending sectarianism in Iraq

Following two years in jail, most of that time in solitary confinement, Saudi Arabia sentenced dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death [15 October] for leading demonstrations and “inciting sectarian strife.” Mr. Nimr’s predicament – and that of at least 5 other Shiite activists Saudi Arabia has sentenced to death this year – illustrates a problem for the US strategy for taking on the so-called Islamic State in Iraq.

The Obama administration believes that a non-sectarian government in Iraq is the key answer to the country’s problems. There’s little doubt that the Shiite dominated politics that emerged after the US invaded Iraq in 2003 has fueled support for IS among the country’s Sunni Arabs.

But with country’s like Saudi Arabia in the coalition the US is trying to build against IS, you have one of the greatest forces for sectarianism in the region. Nimr has long been an influential figure among Saudi Arabia’s repressed Shiite minority, who are concentrated in the country’s oil-rich east.

While the Washington Post covers a problem for the press:

New Afghan government investigates newspaper for ‘blasphemous article’

Top staffers at an Afghan newspaper are being investigated for blasphemy after the publication of an article that questioned whether Muslims should embrace the possibility that more than one God exists.

The investigation, apparently being led by intelligence and cultural affairs officials, came at the request of Afghanistan’s new president and chief executive officer.

Afghan officials stressed Wednesday that no arrests have been made.

More domestic blowback from the Associated Press:

FBI: Denver girls may have tried to join jihadis

The FBI said Tuesday that it’s investigating the possibility that three girls from the Denver area tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State extremists.

An FBI spokeswoman says agents helped bring the girls back to Denver after stopping them in Germany. Spokeswoman Suzie Payne says they’re safe and have been reunited with their families.

She didn’t identify the girls or provided other details.

The announcement comes one month after 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada, Colorado, pleaded guilty to charges that she conspired to help militants in Syria.

And in Germany, via CNN:

From Jewish football to jihad: German ISIS suspect faces jail

At first Alon Meyer thought it was a bad joke.

When Kreshnik Berisha, the first suspected member of ISIS to stand trial in Germany, was arrested upon his arrival back in Frankfurt in December after spending six months in Syria, youth team football coach Meyer was left shell-shocked.

The coach thought for a while and then it slowly sank in — this was the same boy who had once stood by his side and taken the field in the shirt of Makkabi Frankfurt, Germany’s largest Jewish sports club.

Meyer’s phone began to buzz with journalists trying to ask him whether he remembered Berisha, a 20-year-old born in Frankfurt to Kosovan parents.

And to toss another ingredient into the stew, this from BBC News:

Iraq Blackwater: US jury convicts four of 2007 killings

A US federal jury has found four Blackwater security guards guilty of killing 14 Iraqis in a square in Baghdad in 2007.

One former guard was found guilty of murder with three others guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

A further 17 Iraqis were injured as the private contractors opened fire to clear the way for a US convoy.

The shootings sparked international outrage and a debate over the role of defence contractors in warfare.

From intelNews, interesting:

Iran announces arrest of alleged spies at Bushehr nuclear plant

Senior Iranian government officials have announced the arrest of a group of alleged spies in Iran’s southwestern province of Bushehr, home to the country’s only nuclear energy plant. Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alawi told the semi-official Fars News Agency on Tuesday that the spies had been “identified and sent to justice”.

Located along Iran’s coastal Persian Gulf region, the Bushehr nuclear power plant has a long history. Its construction initially began in the mid-1970s by German engineers. But work on the plant was halted in 1979, immediately following the Islamic Revolution. Iraqi forces repeatedly bombarded the site during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. But the government began to rebuild it in the 1990s with the help of Russian technicians.

In September of 2011, the Bushehr nuclear power plant was inaugurated in a widely publicized ceremony that was attended by several Russian officials, including Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko. The completion of the facility made it the first civilian nuclear power plant anywhere in the Middle East

A spooky anti-Snowden valedictory from the Guardian:

Outgoing GCHQ boss defends agency activities after Snowden revelations

  • Sir Iain Lobban uses valedictory address to praise extraordinary job of staff with ‘mission of liberty, not erosion of it’

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing director of Britain’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ, has used his valedictory address to deliver a full-throated defence of its activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

In a speech referencing cryptographer Alan Turing and wartime codebreaking efforts, Lobban praised GCHQ staff as “ordinary people doing an extraordinary job”, and said his agency’s mission was “the protection of liberty, not the erosion of it”.

The usually secretive agency has been under unprecedented scrutiny since June 2013 when the Guardian and other news organisations revealed how it and its US counterpart, the NSA, were scooping up vast quantities of internet and phone traffic.

More from the London Telegraph:

GCHQ chief: Internet has become refuge for plotters

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing head of GCHQ, says that the idea the internet doesn’t need policing is a flawed ‘Utopian dream’ as he argues the security services need ‘strong capabilities’ to stop those who want to harm Britain

The Internet has become a refuge for the “worst aspects of human nature” and the security services are making huge sacrifices to protect the public from “plotters, proliferators and paedophiles”, the outgoing head of GCHQ has warned.

In his valedictory speech Sir Iain Lobban said that his staff are “ordinary people doing an extraordinary job” who have been “insulted time and again” by allegations that they carry out mass surveillance.

But he warned that the “Utopian dream” that the Internet should remain a “totally ungoverned space” is “flawed” and said that Britain needs “strong intelligence and cyber capabilities” to identify those who “would do us harm”.

Severance from Reuters:

Exclusive: Ex-spy chief’s private firm ends deal with U.S. official

Former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander has ended a deal with a senior U.S. intelligence official allowing the official to work part-time for his firm, an arrangement current and former officials said risked a conflict of interest.

Reuters reported on Friday that the U.S. National Security Agency had launched an internal review of the arrangement between NSA Chief Technical Officer Patrick Dowd and IronNet Cybersecurity Inc, which is led by Alexander, his former boss.

On Tuesday, Alexander said: “While we understand we did everything right, I think there’s still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company,” that it was best for him to terminate the deal.

U.S. intelligence officials past and present said the agreement risked a conflict of interest between sensitive government work and private business, and could be seen as giving favoritism to Alexander’s venture, even if the deal was approved by NSA lawyers and executives.

Vice News makes a telling point:

We Can’t Properly Debate Drone Casualties Without Knowing The Names of Those Killed

The most important question to ask of the Global War on Terror should be the most simple to answer. Instead, it is a perennial shadow cast over US counter-terror operations since 9/11.

We still don’t know, and still must ask: Who exactly is the enemy?

In 2001, the Authorization of Military Force Act told us that the enemy was whoever perpetrated the September 11 attacks and their affiliates. In 2013, President Barack Obama stated that this meant “al Qaeda, the Taliban, and its associated forces.” But associated forces was not defined. Administration officials told the New York Times that Obama’s method for counting combatants “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone.” A Justice Department memo released this summer told us that US citizens, too, could be legitimate targets. Then, the Islamic State, a terror group actively disaffiliated with al Qaeda and the Taliban, were included as “the enemy.”

“The enemy,” then, is whomever gets targeted as the enemy. The validity and legality of these targets is debated post hoc, often after they are dead. A chilling illustration of this comes in the form of a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based organization that tracks US drone usage and the victims of drone strikes. The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project makes clear quite how little we know about the casualties of these strikes, which stretch the notion of “targeted” beyond recognition.

The Washington Post gets testy:

Panetta clashed with CIA over memoir, tested agency review process

Former CIA director Leon E. Panetta clashed with the agency over the contents of his recently published memoir and allowed his publisher to begin editing and making copies of the book before he had received final approval from the CIA, according to former U.S. officials and others familiar with the project.

Panetta’s decision appears to have put him in violation of the secrecy agreement that all CIA employees are required to sign, and came amid a showdown with agency reviewers that could have derailed the release of the book this month, people involved in the matter said.

The memoir, which is almost unfailingly complimentary toward the spy service where he served as director from 2009 to 2011, was ultimately approved by the CIA’s Publications Review Board before it reached store shelves.

But preempting that panel — even temporarily — carried legal risks for both Panetta and his publisher. Other former CIA employees have been sued for breach of contract and forced to surrender proceeds from sales of books that ran afoul of CIA rules.

And from the Guardian, a resource chiller:

Russia prepares for ice-cold war with show of military force in the Arctic

  • Vladimir Putin sends troops and jets to oil- and gas-rich region also coveted by Canada, United States, Norway and Denmark

Yaya is a very small Arctic island, barely one metre above sea level and covering only 500 square metres. Russian pilots discovered it at the beginning of October. With the Admiral Vladimirsky research ship having confirmed its presence in the Laptev Sea, Yaya will soon be added to the map of the Arctic Ocean and will become part of Russian territory, the RIA Novosti state news agency announced. In its determination to defend its interests in this icy waste, Russia is no longer content to leave its mark, as it did in 2007 when it planted a Russian flag, in a titanium capsule, 4,200 metres below the north pole. Now it is engaging in large-scale militarisation of the Arctic, a vast area coveted by itself and its four neighbours: Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark.

RIA Novosti says that former Soviet bases are being reactivated in response to renewed Nato interest in the region. According to the Russian authorities, the airstrip on Novaya Zemlya can now accommodate fighters and part of the North Fleet is establishing quarters there. A new military group will be formed in the far north consisting of two brigades, totalling 6,000 soldiers, deployed in the Murmansk area and then the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region. Radar and ground guidance systems are also planned for Franz Josef Land (part of Novaya Zemlya), Wrangel Island and at Cape Schmidt. The federal security service plans to increase the number of border guards on Russia’s northern perimeter.

During the recent Vostok 2014 full-scale military exercises – the biggest since the end of the Soviet Union – Russian troops carried out combat missions in the Arctic, using the Pantsir-S and Iskander-M weapon systems. Such moves may bring back the atmosphere of the cold war, when the region was the focus of US and Nato attention, as they were convinced that it would be a launchpad for nuclear strikes.

After the jump, Swedish sub anxieties and a declaration of force and purse strings opening, secret dealings in Germany, Germany arms deal secrecy, unfriending the Feebs, hacking Flash, an epidemic of cybercrime in Old Blighty, posting an award for those missing Mexican students amidst a massive manhunt and a mayor named as the instigator of the disappearances and a human rights chief’s ouster demanded, a Chilean Dirty War murder suspect busted, provocative bluster Down Under, a Malaysian jibe at Canberra, then on to Hong Kong and a frustrating meeting followed by charges and a threat plus a provocative protest, Beijing stakes an insular claim, Japan/South Korean feelers and posturing, agreements and dissent over American military bases on Japanese soil, Continue reading

Chart of the day: The real winners in Afghanistan


From a new report from the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan: After a Decade of Reconstruction and over $7 Billion in Counternarcotics Efforts, Poppy Cultivation Levels are at an All-Time High [PDF]:

BLOG OpiDope

InSecurityWatch: War, terror blowback, & more


We begin with the Independent:

Isis in Kobani: US loses patience with Turkey and resupplies Kurdish fighters by plane – then Ankara allows reinforcements through

Turkey is to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and US aircraft have dropped military supplies to its defenders to prevent its capture by the Islamic State.

The US resupply effort marks a radical change in American policy towards direct cooperation with Kurdish fighters on the ground, whom Turkey has denounced as terrorists. During the month-long siege of Kobani, just south of the Turkish border, the Turkish army has hitherto prevented arms, ammunition and reinforcements reaching the town.

American C-130 cargo planes dropped some 21 tons of weapons including anti-tank guns and medical supplies. Stepped-up US air strikes on Isis positions, using intelligence supplied by the Kurds, has helped repel the Islamic militants.

Complications from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Kurdish hope for autonomy drives politics across four nations’ boundaries

With its decision to drop ammunition and weapons to the defenders of the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border, the Obama administration has inserted the United States into one of the most complex territorial and ethnic disputes to roil the Middle East. Unlike the better known split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or the battle to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the battle over Kobani pits a relatively obscure political group against the extremists of the Islamic State.

Deadly blowback in Canada from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

 Two soldiers struck in Quebec hit-and-run

Two Canadian soldiers were injured in a hit-and-run incident that was quickly characterized as a “possible terror attack” by the federal government.

However, police are still investigating whether the soldiers were deliberately targeted.

One of the soldiers is in critical condition in hospital and authorities are “fearing for his life,” according to the Quebec provincial police. The other victim suffered more minor injuries.

The driver of the car was shot by local police in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., after his car rolled during a police pursuit. The suspect is in the incident is dead, according to the Sûreté du Québec. The 25-year-old male came from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and was “known to police,” according to Sergeant Michel Brunet, an SQ spokesman. He explained that the individual was named in various police databases, although he refused to provide more details at a news conference.

More from CBC News:

Martin Rouleau, Quebec driver shot by police, ‘radicalized’: RCMP

  • Hit and run that injured 2 soldiers raised in House of Commons as ‘possible terror attack’

A 25-year-old man who injured two soldiers in a hit and run and was later fatally shot by police in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., was known to federal authorities as someone who had been “radicalized,” according to the RCMP and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Martin Rouleau, a resident of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, about 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal, was known to provincial and federal law enforcement agencies, the RCMP said.

“This individual was known to federal authorities, including our integrated national security investigations team in Montreal, who along with other authorities were concerned that he had become radicalized,” the RCMP said in a statement Monday evening.

Radio-Canada reported that Rouleau’s Facebook page identifies him as Ahmad LeConverti (Ahmad the Converted). Neighbours told the CBC’s French-language service that he converted to Islam about a year ago.

More blowback, with a bust from TheLocal.de:

Four arrested in raids against Isis

Police raided 15 homes across Germany over the weekend and arrested four suspected supporters of the Islamic State (Isis). They are alleged to have smuggled a teenager and thousands of winter military clothes to the terrorist group’s frontlines.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung Saturday’s raids had originally been scheduled for the end of October, but was moved up when at least one of the Isis suspects began to suspect a police operation against them was being planned.

And preparations across the Pacific with Jiji Press:

FBI Agents Join Tokyo Police Counterterrorism Drill

Tokyo police were joined by two special inspectors of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday for a drill in Tokyo to prepare for possible terror attacks in the Japanese capital.

In the drill ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, the FBI inspectors, who are undergoing training at Japan’s National Police Agency, played suspicious characters.

It is unusual for FBI agents visiting Japan to join a drill open to the media. The drill by the Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department is apparently aimed at demonstrating Japan-US collaboration in the field of counterterrorism. The bureau is strengthening antiterrorism measures prior to the Tokyo Olympics.

The Guardian brings us Cold War 2.0:

Nuclear weapons deal with US renewed in secret, UK confirms

  • UK tables amendments to Mutual Defence Agreement
  • Proper scrutiny and Commons debate needed

The British government has just published amendments updating a treaty that goes to the heart of the UK’s special relationship with the US.

They relate to the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) first signed in 1958, which, according to the government, enables the UK and the US “nuclear warhead communities to collaborate on all aspects of nuclear deterrence including nuclear warhead design and manufacture”.

One amendment refers to potential threats from “state or non-state actors”. But the amendments are for the most part arcane and their significance cannot be understood in the absence of information which is kept secret.

The MDA does not have to be debated or voted on in parliament, as I have remarked before. Though the agreement is incorporated in US law, it has no legal status in Britain.

And from the London Telegraph, most interesting:

Cars of future ‘will detect heart attacks’ in drivers

  • In response to the ageing population, Ford cars will anticipate a driver’s heart attack, bring the vehicle to a safe halt and alert doctors

Cars will soon be fitted with seats that trigger a “safe” emergency stop if a driver suffers a heart attack.

Ford, the giant American manufacturer, said its seats will be fitted with sensitive electrodes that monitor the driver’s heart beat, through clothing, looking for irregularities.

The technology will work with a camera that tracks head movements and sensors on the steering wheel. If there are signs of a possible heart attack, a computer will take over steering and braking, guiding the car safely to a halt.

The Guardian covers the digital memory hole:

Google removes results linking to stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence nude

  • Links to sites hosting the hacked photos have started to be removed by Google after copyright takedown requests filed by Lawrence’s lawyers

Google has removed two links to a site hosting stolen nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence after requests by the actor’s lawyers.

The takedown requests were filed under the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA), with her lawyers Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp stating that the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright.

The DMCA, which governs the use of copyrighted material and is usually used in reference to pirated TV shows, films and music, requires sites to “expeditiously” remove unlawful images from their servers.

From the Guardian again, spies and lies Down Under:

Australian government metadata requests far higher than disclosed

  1. Requests for Australians’ phone, web browsing and location data exceeded half a million last year, ACMA figures reveal

The total number of government requests for Australians’ phone, location and web data is far higher than government agencies are disclosing, with more than 500,000 separate requests for information made last year.

The latest annual report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has revealed that there was 582,727 requests for phone, web browsing and location data – commonly known as “metadata” – that can reveal detailed information about a person’s personal lives and associations.

This figure is at odds with the more widely cited number of 300,000 a year, which is disclosed in the annual telecommunications interception reports made by the attorney general’s departments.

After the jump, the latest on those missing Mexican college students and town takeovers by federales, vanishing Australian civil liberties, the punitive panopticon Down Under, India launches a ballistic challenge to China, Thai scholar faces criminal charges for “insulting” a long-dead monarch, on to China and a Hong Kong crackdown, an off limits notice to scholars of the Maoist past, and a terrorist strike in Western China, on to Japan and a pax American, and racist insults challenged. . . Continue reading

An Ebolaphobic’s nightmare: The ISIS factor


From RT America, something to keep you sweating at night [and then wondering if you've caught something]:

FBI is wrong: Pentagon says ISIS could use Ebola

Program notes:

FBI Director James Comey recently said at a press conference that ISIS can’t use Ebola as a WMD, but he clearly didn’t check with the Pentagon’s lead chemical weapons specialist, Andrew Weber. Because he recently said that, in fact, YES, there of course is a possibility that ISIS could weaponize Ebola. Now, since Ebola isn’t airborne, the likelihood of Ebola being used on a mass scale remains small. But with more cases popping up in the US, at this point, it’s time for people to take Ebola a little more seriously. The Resident discusses.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spooks, hacks, Hong Kong


First, via the Independent, the usual suspects, faring well:

With US-led air strikes on Isis intensifying, it’s a good time to be a shareholder in the merchants of death

  • Last month American warships fired $65.8m worth of Tomahawk missiles within just 24 hours of each other

So who is winning the war? Isis? Us? The Kurds (remember them?) The Syrians? The Iraqis? Do we even remember the war? Not at all. We must tell the truth. So let us now praise famous weapons and the manufacturers that begat them.

Share prices are soaring in America for those who produce the coalition bombs and missiles and drones and aircraft participating in this latest war which – for all who are involved (except for the recipients of the bombs and missiles and those they are fighting) – is Hollywood from start to finish.

Shares in Lockheed Martin – maker of the “All for One and One for All” Hellfire missiles – are up 9.3 per cent in the past three months. Raytheon – which has a big Israeli arm – has gone up 3.8 per cent. Northrop Grumman shares swooped up the same 3.8 per cent. And General Dynamics shares have risen 4.3 per cent. Lockheed Martin – which really does steal Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers quotation on its publicity material – makes the rockets carried by the Reaper drones, famous for destroying wedding parties over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by Iraqi aircraft.

And don’t be downhearted. The profits go on soaring. When the Americans decided to extend their bombing into Syria in September – to attack President Assad’s enemies scarcely a year after they first proposed to bomb President Assad himself – Raytheon was awarded a $251m (£156m) contract to supply the US navy with more Tomahawk cruise missiles. Agence France-Presse, which does the job that Reuters used to do when it was a real news agency, informed us that on 23 September, American warships fired 47 Tomahawk missiles. Each one costs about $1.4m. And if we spent as promiscuously on Ebola cures, believe me, there would be no more Ebola.

From United Press International, a very important source of insecurity right here in the U.S.A.:

Stop and frisk causes anxiety in young men, study claims

  • Stop and frisk has been a common practice in New York for well over a decade

A new study suggests the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk practice may be leading to elevated levels of anxiety among young men in the city, especially young black men.

The policy allows police to stop pedestrians and search them for drugs or weapons.

“Although 80% of respondents reported being stopped 10 times or fewer, more than 5% of respondents reported being stopped more than 25 times, and 1% of respondents reported more than 100 stops,” says the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday.

The study found that people who are stopped frequently report high levels of stress and anxiety when roaming the city, while those who are not stopped frequently do not feel those emotions. The study found black respondents were both more likely to feel those emotions and more likely to have been stopped regularly. The study involved 1,200 men ages 18 to 26, and it was conducted over a six month period.

On to the spooky world, first with BuzzFeed News:

Exclusive: Key NSA Official Has Another Business At Her Home

Powerful National Security Agency official registered “electronics” business at her home before her husband set up intelligence business there, BuzzFeed News finds. Her company owns a plane and a condo.

On a quiet street in Ellicott City, Maryland, a blue-grey two-story clapboard house, set back from the road, is shaded by two sycamores and a towering maple. It’s the unassuming home of one of the National Security Agency’s most powerful officials, Teresa H. Shea.

In September, BuzzFeed News disclosed a potential conflict of interest involving Shea, the director of Signals Intelligence. Called SIGINT in espionage jargon, it refers to all electronic eavesdropping and interception, including the controversial domestic surveillance program that collects information about Americans’ phone use.

As BuzzFeed News reported, there’s a private SIGINT consulting and contracting business based at Shea’s home in that quiet neighborhood. Shea’s husband, a business executive in the small but profitable SIGINT industry, is the resident agent for the firm, Telic Networks.

In addition, James Shea also works for a major SIGINT contracting firm, DRS Signal Solutions Inc., which appears to do SIGINT business with the NSA.

Now there’s a new wrinkle, which the NSA has also declined to discuss: Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot.

More from the Wire:

The NSA’s Moonlighting Problem

  • A former NSA head has recruited one of his underlings for his lucrative cybersecurity firm—but that underling still works for the agency

In Washington, the revolving door between government service and more lucrative ventures is common, if not expected. However, having one foot in each has raised questions for the National Security Agency, which has launched an internal review of one senior official who was recruited by former NSA director Keith Alexander to work for his new—and very lucrative—cybersecurity private venture.

Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s Chief Technological Officer, is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week for Alexander’s firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, Inc., according to Reuters, which broke the story on the deal. Although the arrangement was apparently approved by NSA managers and does not appear to break any laws on its face, it does raise questions about ethics and the dividing line between business and one of the most secretive agencies in government.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters, “This matter is under internal review. While NSA does not comment on specific employees, NSA takes seriously ethics laws and regulations at all levels of the organization.”

But one of the chief antagonists is in trouble, via The Hill:

Top NSA critic could lose seat

Critics of the government’s spy agencies are worried that Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race could end the public career of one of their best allies in Congress.

Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-Colo.) possible defeat would leave a void in the Senate and on the powerful Intelligence Committee, civil liberties and anti-secrecy advocates fear.
“I do think it would be a significant loss for the movement,” said Laura Murphy, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office.

“What Udall has is the institutional memory, and the relationships in the civil liberties community, in the Democratic Party and in the tech industry so that we don’t have to start over again with someone new,” she added, while noting that her concern would be the same if Republican civil liberties advocates were also at risk of losing their seats.

From RT, a reminder that you don’t have to be paranoid to feel they’re out to get you:

Assange fears Ecuador embassy in London bugged

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder have filed eavesdropping claims to the Swedish court, as Julian Assange, who has been stuck in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over two years, fears he is being bugged.

In a submission presented to the Swedish Court of Appeal on Friday, Assange’s lawyers claim that he “is most likely under auditory surveillance,” the Daily Mail reports.

The defense also urged the Swedish side to hand over text messages, sent by one of Assange’s accusers, which they believe could serve as evidence that there was no ground for the arrest warrant. Assange says they reveal the woman’s ambiguity over his arrest and even her opposition to the case, based on sexual assault allegations.

The lawyers also believe that to “break the deadlock,” the 43-year-old Australian should be questioned at the embassy in Knightsbridge, where he is staying, rather than go to Sweden, which he believes could lead to his extradition to the US.

Next up, from TheLocal.se, the Swedish enigma continues:

Mystery deepens over reported Russian sub

Mystery deepened on Sunday over a Swedish military operation triggered by “foreign underwater activity” off the coast of Stockholm, amid an unconfirmed report of a hunt for a damaged Russian submarine.

Late on Saturday, Swedish armed forces stepped up an operation — involving more than 200 men, stealth ships, minesweepers and helicopters — in an area about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the Swedish capital.

The operation was initiated on Friday after the armed forces said they had been informed of a “man made object” in the water.

Officials denied they were “submarine hunting,” calling the mobilization — one of the biggest, barring purely training exercises, since the Cold War — an “intelligence operation”.

More from United Press International:

Sweden puts troops on alert after detecting possible foreign threat

  • Swedish media reported transmissions on an emergency frequency coming from waters of the Stockholm Archipelago to a reciever in Kaliningrad, Russia

Erik Lagersten, spokesman for the Swedish Armed Forces, could not confirm or deny speculations about the threat, including whether it was a missing foreign submarine.

“We are now trying to verify the information we received yesterday, which in our assessment comes from trustworthy sources, and see whether it has any substance or not,” Jesper Tengroth, press officer for the Swedish military, told Swedish media on Saturday.

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that the National Defence Radio Establishment detected emergency radio transmissions coming from the area to a reciever in Kaliningrad, Russia.

The Intercept debunks:

The FBI Director’s Evidence Against Encryption Is Pathetic

FBI Director James Comey gave a speech Thursday about how cell-phone encryption could lead law enforcement to a “very dark place” where it “misses out” on crucial evidence to nail criminals. To make his case, he cited four real-life examples — examples that would be laughable if they weren’t so tragic.

In the three cases The Intercept was able to examine, cell-phone evidence had nothing to do with the identification or capture of the culprits, and encryption would not remotely have been a factor.

In the most dramatic case that Comey invoked — the death of a 2-year-old Los Angeles girl — not only was cellphone data a non-issue, but records show the girl’s death could actually have been avoided had government agencies involved in overseeing her and her parents acted on the extensive record they already had before them.

In another case, of a Lousiana sex offender who enticed and then killed a 12-year-old boy, the big break had nothing to do with a phone: The murderer left behind his keys and a trail of muddy footprints, and was stopped nearby after his car ran out of gas.

And in the case of a Sacramento hit-and-run that killed a man and his girlfriend’s four dogs, the driver was arrested in a traffic stop because his car was smashed up, and immediately confessed to involvement in the incident.

The Guardian covers an accusation:

United States accused of misleading British minister over treatment of Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo Bay

  • Charity claims British resident cleared for release is being beaten by guards before force-feeding

The US government has been accused of misleading a British minister over the brutal treatment endured by the last British resident being held inside Guantánamo Bay.

Testimony from detainees has described increasingly violent “forcible cell extraction” (FCE) tactics, in which an inmate is forced out of his cell by armed guards, usually before being taken to the force-feeding chair.

Earlier this month a federal judge, Gladys Kessler, heard how methods used by the US military to feed inmates against their will present long-term health risks and that lubricating their feeding tubes with olive oil can cause chronic inflammatory pneumonia.

However, attempts by the British government to establish if Shaker Aamer, whose family are in south London, has been mistreated appear to have been dismissed. The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, revealed in a letter dated 7 October: “We made inquiries with US government officials, who assured us that the report of an incident, relayed to you by another detainee, is not accurate.”

From PCWorld, gone phishin’:

Dropbox used for convincing phishing attack

Dropbox’s file storage service was used for a tricky phishing attack, although the service was quick to shut down it down, according to Symantec.

The security vendor said it detected a batch of phishing emails advising recipients that they’ve been sent a large file and included a link to Dropbox-hosted page.

“The email claims the document can be viewed by clicking on the link included in the message,” wrote Nick Johnston of Symantec in a blog post. “However, the link opens a fake Dropbox login page, hosted on Dropbox itself.”

By hosting the fake login page on Dropbox, the scammers gain some benefits over hosting it on a random, strange-looking domain name. The phishing page is contained within Dropbox’s user content domain, similar to shared photos or files, Johnston wrote

And the Guardian covers an admission:

Whisper chief executive answers privacy revelations: ‘We’re not infallible’

  • Michael Heyward releases statement on Guardian reports
  • Does not dispute accuracy of reporting
  • Says: ‘Reasonable people can disagree about online anonymity’

The chief executive of the “anonymous” social media app Whisper broke his silence late on Saturday, saying he welcomed the debate sparked by Guardian US revelations about his company’s tracking of users and declaring “we realise that we’re not infallible”.

Michael Heyward’s statement was his first public response to a series of articles published in the Guardian which revealed how Whisper monitors the whereabouts of users of an app he has in the past described as “the safest place on the internet”.

Whisper hosts 2.6 million messages a day posted through its app, which promises users a place to “anonymously share your thoughts and secrets” and has billed itself as a platform for whistleblowers.

After the jump, the latest on the search for those missing Mexican college students, an on-the-air killing of a Mexican activist, a crime activist slain, and a maverick cop murdered, the two Koreas exchange fire, on to Hong Kong and a protester condemnation, a mediator talks fairness, fear of a violent minority, and claims of foreign influence, Beijing/Washington cybertalks stalled, a shifting submarine balance, a Chinese wound is poked and a military response follows, a major provocation by China, plus a major threat for China’s mistresses. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, trolls, spies, Hong Kong


We begin with the war of the moment, via Reuters:

U.S.-led coalition jets strike Kobani, Islamic State shells hit Turkey

U.S.-led coalition jets pounded suspected Islamic State targets at least six times in the besieged Syrian town of Kobani on Saturday after the fiercest shelling in days by the insurgents shook the town’s center and hit border areas within Turkey.

Shelling continued after the strikes hit the center of Kobani. Several mortars fell inside Turkey near the border gate, called Mursitpinar, according to witnesses.

Islamic State militants have battled Kurdish fighters for a month to take control of Kobani and consolidate a 60 mile (95 km) stretch of land they control along the Turkish border, but stepped-up air strikes in recent days have helped Kurds fend off the advance.

And the latest to join the fray, from the London Telegraph:

‘You can’t stay sitting on your couch’, says member of Dutch motorcycle gang joining fight against Islamic State militants

  • Members of “No Surrender” are joining Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on the front line city of Zumar, Iraq

Members of the Dutch motorcycle gang “No Surrender” have joined the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the Northern region of Iraq in their fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Dutch gang member Ron, who did not give his last name, is fighting with the Peshmerga forces on the frontline in the city of Zumar, close to the Syrian border.

When asked by a local television news reporter why he joined the Kurdish forces, he said he couldn’t watch the Islamic State’s violent acts against the Yazidi religious minority, any longer from his home in the Netherlands.

The London Daily Mail covers indiscretion [Osama knew better]:

ISIS tells its jihadis to stop betraying their location when they tweet: Fighters’ obsession with social media is letting spies track where they are

  • Jihadi fighters told to stop tweeting names, locations and identifiable photos
  • Isis leaders also want them to remove metadata from their tweets
  • Information from digital files can be valuable to intelligence agencies
  • Arabic language manual handed out to fighters gives detailed instructions

Schneier on Security gets spooky:

NSA Classification ECI = Exceptionally Controlled Information

ECI is a classification above Top Secret. It’s for things that are so sensitive they’re basically not written down, like the names of companies whose cryptography has been deliberately weakened by the NSA, or the names of agents who have infiltrated foreign IT companies.

As part of the Intercept story on the NSA’s using agents to infiltrate foreign companies and networks, it published a list of ECI compartments. It’s just a list of code names and three-letter abbreviations, along with the group inside the NSA that is responsible for them. The descriptions of what they all mean would never be in a computer file, so it’s only of value to those of us who like code names.

This designation is why there have been no documents in the Snowden archive listing specific company names. They’re all referred to by these ECI code names.

And the Guardian covers a call for a probe:

Privacy experts call for Whisper to be investigated over tracking of some users

  • Federal Trade Commission could examine issue of ‘anonymous’ app tracking users who have asked not to be followed

Privacy experts on Friday called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine social media app Whisper’s tracking of “anonymous users”.

The US consumer watchdog has broad powers to sanction companies it believes have breached their promises to consumers and has become increasingly interested in claims made by tech companies, sanctioning Facebook, Google and Snapchat in recent years.

On Thursday the Guardian revealed that Whisper, an app that promises to “anonymously share your thoughts and secrets”, is tracking its users including some who have asked not to be followed and storing their posts indefinitely while it trawls their messages to identify interesting stories to promote itself in the media.

“That’s exactly the kind of deceptive practice that the FTC should crack down on because consumers do rely on those representations,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which filed a complaint with the FTC last year asking it to investigate Snapchat.

Getting punitive with BBC News:

Internet trolls face up to two years in jail under new laws

Internet trolls could face up to two years in jail under new laws, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

He told the Mail on Sunday quadrupling the current maximum six-month term showed his determination to “take a stand against a baying cyber-mob”.

The plan has been announced days after TV presenter Chloe Madeley suffered online abuse, which Mr Grayling described as “crude and degrading”.

Magistrates could pass serious cases on to crown courts under the new measures.

And from the Independent a high-flyin’ spy?:

Top secret space plane: American X-37B aircraft lands after secret mission lasting almost two years

A top secret unmanned space plane, that has spent nearly two years circling the Earth on a classified mission, has landed at a US Air Force base on the Southern California coast.

The aircraft, which resembles a miniature version of the space shuttle, safely touched down at 9.24am on Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Theories have abounded as to the highly classified mission undertaken by the Orbital Test Vehicle or X-37B during its 674 days in orbit. Among them is the suggestion that the aircraft was used to spy on China’s new space laboratory.

Several experts have theorized it carried a payload of spy gear in its cargo bay. Other theories sound straight out of a James Bond film, including that the spacecraft would be able to capture the satellites of other nations.

And a low-flyer? From TheLocal.se:

Sweden hunts damaged Russian sub: report

A Russian distress call prompted Sweden’s hunt for “foreign underwater activity” in the Stockholm archipelago, newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reports.

Swedish signals intelligence officials first heard an emergency call on Thursday evening, the newspaper said. Fourteen hours later, at around midday on Friday, a foreign vessel was spotted in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sweden intercepted further communications after it began its military operation in the waters off Stockholm, as encrypted messages were relayed between transmitters in the Stockholm archipelago and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, SvD said.

The Swedish military said it could neither confirm nor deny the report.

And on to Hong Kong,m first with a breakthrough from Nikkei Asian Review:

Hong Kong government to meet protesters

The Hong Kong government announced Saturday it will meet with student protesters on Oct. 21.

It remains unclear, however, whether the two sides will be able to find common ground, as tensions have been mounting since the government forcibly cleared protesters from one of their bases.

In announcing the planned talks, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam said five representatives from each side will hold a discussion that will be broadcast live to the public. Lam said she will represent the government along with cabinet members in charge of political reforms.

The meeting will be held for two hours in the afternoon in the southern part of Hong Kong Island. It will be moderated by Lingnan University President Leonard Cheng.

Promptly followed by a blowup, via the Los Angeles Times:

Both sides in Hong Kong warn of crisis as clashes continue

After a flare-up of violence between Hong Kong police and pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday, government officials and protest leaders alike warned that the situation was heading toward a breaking point.

Demonstrators remained encamped around government headquarters in the Admiralty district and had reoccupied streets in the dense commercial Mong Kok area. Police had cleared the Mong Kok sit-in early Friday, but demonstrators returned later in the day and took back control of several key streets, clashing with officers throughout the night.

Speaking out after 26 people were arrested and dozens injured in Mong Kok early Saturday, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said police had been “extremely tolerant” and that protesters’ increasingly “illegal acts are undermining the rule of law.”

And the latest from Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post:

Violent clashes in Mong Kok cast doubt on government’s plans to break Occupy impasse

  • Riot police back in action as clearance of Mong Kok barriers riles crowd; government seeks a bridge from Beijing’s ruling to students’ demands

Violent clashes between demonstrators and riot police erupted in Mong Kok last night, casting doubt over what the government said were fresh moves to start talks with students in a bid to end a seemingly intractable impasse over electoral reform that has sparked almost three weeks of unprecedented street protests.

Just hours after police moved in to clear the Mong Kong Kok Occupy site, more than a thousand protesters poured back into the district, clashing with police. Fresh trouble broke out near the government headquarters in Lung Wo Road in Admiralty.

By the early hours of this morning, a section of Nathan Road in Mong Kok was occupied by protesters as police moved to stop them blocking the junction with Argyle Street again.

Riot police used pepper spray and batons in a bid to drive back the protesters and the clashes led to a number of arrests. Among them was award-winning international photo-journalist Paula Bronstein, who was detained after jumping onto a car to take pictures. Her arrest was later condemned by the Foreign Correspondents Club, which issued a statement accusing the police of “intimidating’‘ journalists.

For our final item, the Asahi Shimbun covers the latest provocation from Abe’s crew:

3 Cabinet members visit Yasukuni Shrine as Tokyo tries to improve ties with China

Three Cabinet members visited the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Oct. 18 as the government is seeking a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sanae Takaichi, 53, minister of internal affairs and communications, said the visit should not affect Japan’s ties with its neighbors.

“Offering sincere appreciation with respect is a spontaneous act of following one’s heart and is not something that should be looked at in terms of diplomatic relations,” she told reporters after her visit to the shrine, which is marking its Oct. 17-20 autumn festival.

Also visiting the shrine were Eriko Yamatani, 64, minister in charge of the issue of abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, and Haruko Arimura, 44, minister overseeing the promotion of women’s activities.

InSecurityWatch: War, terror, hacks, cops, more


The latest boots hitting Iraqi ground from TheLocal.it:

Isis: Italy to send 280 soldiers to Iraq

Italy will send 280 soldiers to Iraq to train Kurdish forces in their fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) jihadist group, Italy’s defence minister Roberta Pinotti said.

The country will also dispatch a KC-767 aircraft for in-flight refueling and two Predator drones for regional surveillance, Ansa reported.

In September, Italy said it would send arms and aid to Iraq as part of its involvement in a US-lead coalition fight against the militant group, but that it would not take part in air strikes.

Canadian boots on the ground from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Mission could involve a year of training Iraqi forces, Canadian general says

Countries intervening in the Iraq conflict will be called upon to conduct large-scale training of Iraqi forces for as long as a year after a U.S.-led coalition succeeds in blunting the attack power of Islamic State jihadists there, top Canadian military commanders say.

This suggests Canada’s military involvement to the Iraq conflict could stretch far beyond the six-month commitment made by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

General Tom Lawson, chief of the defence staff, said a meeting of coalition countries in Washington earlier this week devoted a lot of time to how to train the Iraqi army. Bagdhad’s existing forces, which benefitted from years of training assistance by the United States, nevertheless fell apart when faced with advancing Islamic State forces earlier this year.

He said Canada right now is part of the emergency response to this jihadist force that has wreaked havoc across parts of Iraq and Syria.

Look, up in the sky! From the Guardian:

Islamic State training pilots to fly MiG fighter planes, says monitoring group

  • Militants reportedly have three captured jets and witnesses cited as saying they have seen planes flying low over Aleppo

Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to a group monitoring the conflict in Syria.

Isis is using lots of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and Jeeps taken from the Syrian and Iraqi armies but this is the first report that it has planes in the air.

Isis, which took the US by surprise this year with its rapid territorial expansion in Syria and Iraq, has three Russian-built MiG jets, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which appears to have a good network of observers on the ground and has often proved reliable in the past.

And else in MENA, via the Washington Post:

Libyan general’s forces make major push to oust Islamist militants from Benghazi

A rogue Libyan general waging a months-long campaign against Libya’s Islamists launched a full-blown assault on Benghazi this week, touching off clashes with the militants dominating the city.

More than a dozen people have been killed in the violence, which started Wednesday, raising fears that the battles will evolve into an all-out civil war.

Khalifa Hifter announced in a televised address Tuesday that he intends to “liberate” Benghazi — the epicenter of the 2011 uprising against strongman Moammar Gaddafi — from the Islamist militias that stalk its streets.

A day later, the 71-year-old Hifter launched his effort. His forces — a mixture of former Gaddafi officers, pro-Hifter militias and army troops — stormed Benghazi to oust the militants.

And the corporate silver lining to clouds of war from MintPress News:

ISIS: Military Contractors’ “Gravy Train” To Profits

“Wall Street’s looking ahead and saying, ‘War’s good for business and companies are going to cash in,’” the director of a think tank aimed at addressing war and corruption, among other issues, tells MintPress News

Since the beginning of the year, the defense stocks of America’s top five arms producers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman — have risen substantially. Last month, Bloomberg reported that “the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world.”

These conflicts include the Afghanistan War, NATO’s arms buildup to monitor Russia in Ukraine, military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and armaments for governments wishing to suppress internal dissent.

Arms contractors are “trying to exploit the crisis,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based think tank aimed at addressing war, corruption, inequality and climate change. It appears they’re succeeding this regard, as investors are greedily buying up stocks of weapons manufacturers. For example, Lockheed Martin’s share prices have risen from $146 a share at the beginning of the year to $174 today.

“Wall Street’s betting that this war’s going to go on for awhile, and that the Pentagon is going to get rid of budget cuts,” Hartung said of the conflict with ISIS. “It’s going to be a gravy train. Companies are sort of saying, ‘I don’t know how much we’re going to make,’ but Wall Street’s looking ahead and saying, ‘War’s good for business and companies are going to cash in.’”

But then there’s that whole question of just whose boots will be meeting Syrian and Iraqi ground. From RT America:

Generals contradict Obama’s “no boots on the ground” ISIS strategy

Program notes:

Mixed messages out of Washington are leaving many wondering who is in control of the US-led war against the Islamic State group. While President Barack Obama reassures the public no American soldiers will be fighting on the ground, repeated comments by top military leaders seemingly contradict, or at least muddy, the commander in chief’s message. RT’s Ben Swann speaks with former high-ranking CIA officer Ray McGovern to get his take.

BBC News covers more blowback:

Terror plot suspects planned to kill police, court hears

Five men have appeared in court charged in connection with a terror plot “to shoot, to kill, police officers or soldiers on the streets of London”.

Tarik Hassane, Suhaib Majeed, Nyall Hamlett, and Momen Motasim, all from London, have been charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism. A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, from London, faces firearms offences.

All five were remanded in custody until 27 October after the hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, and they’re rethinking that whole blame-Hitler-for-the-Holocaust thing too:

Senate’s inquiry into CIA torture sidesteps blaming Bush, aides

A soon-to-be released Senate report on the CIA doesn’t assess the responsibility of former President George W. Bush or his top aides for any of the abuses of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, avoiding a full public accounting of one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part to that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also didn’t examine the responsibility of top Bush administration lawyers in crafting the legal framework that permitted the CIA to use simulated drowning called waterboarding and other interrogation methods widely described as torture, McClatchy has learned.

On a related note, consider this from the Intercept:

Blowing the Whistle on CIA Torture from Beyond the Grave

In the fall of 2006, Nathaniel Raymond, a researcher with the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights, got a call from a man professing to be a CIA contractor. Scott Gerwehr was a behavioral science researcher who specialized in “deception detection,” or figuring out when someone was lying.  Gerwehr told Raymond “practically in the first five minutes” that he had been at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo in the summer of 2006, but had left after his suggestion to install video-recording equipment in detainee interrogation rooms was rejected. “He said, ‘I wouldn’t operate at a facility that didn’t tape. It protects the interrogators and it protects the detainees,’” Raymond recalls.

Gerwehr also told Raymond that that he had read the CIA inspector general’s report on detainee abuse, which at the time had not been made public. But “he didn’t behave like a traditional white knight,” Raymond told The Intercept. Though he had reached out to Raymond and perhaps others, he didn’t seem like a prototypical whistleblower. He didn’t say what he was trying to do or ask for help; he just dropped the information. Raymond put him in touch with a handful of reporters, and their contact ended in 2007.

In 2008, at the age of 40, Gerwehr died in a motorcycle accident on Sunset Boulevard. Years after Gerwehr died, New York Times reporter James Risen obtained a cache of Gerwehr’s files, including emails that identify him as part of a group of psychologists and researchers with close ties to the national security establishment. Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price, uses Gerwehr’s emails to show close collaboration between staffers at the American Psychological Association (APA) and government officials, collaboration that offered a fig leaf of health-professional legitimacy to the CIA and military’s brutal interrogations of terror suspects.

Reuters covers spooky funny business:

Exclusive: NSA reviewing deal between official, ex-spy agency head

The U.S. National Security Agency has launched an internal review of a senior official’s part-time work for a private venture started by former NSA director Keith Alexander that raises questions over the blurring of lines between government and business.

Under the arrangement, which was confirmed by Alexander and current intelligence officials, NSA’s Chief Technical Officer, Patrick Dowd, is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week at IronNet Cybersecurity Inc, the private firm led by Alexander, a retired Army general and his former boss.

The arrangement was approved by top NSA managers, current and former officials said. It does not appear to break any laws and it could not be determined whether Dowd has actually begun working for Alexander, who retired from the NSA in March.

Hitting that old brick wall, with the Associated Press:

Lawmakers probing NSA face German secrecy hurdles

German lawmakers probing the U.S. National Security Agency following Edward Snowden’s revelations have hit a hurdle: their own government.

Officials have refused to let a parliamentary inquiry see dozens of German intelligence documents detailing the extent to which the country’s spy agencies cooperated with their U.S. counterparts.

A government spokeswoman said Friday that Germany is bound by secrecy accords that give the U.S. the right to review and comment on any documents that affect its interests.

But spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz denied this amounted to a U.S. veto.

A replacement named, via Reuters:

China names new envoy to Iceland after Japan spying report

Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed China’s new ambassador to Iceland, a month after overseas Chinese media reported that the previous envoy had been arrested for passing secrets to Japan.

The announcement by China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday was the first official confirmation that Beijing had replaced its previous envoy to Iceland, Ma Jisheng. New York-based Chinese language portal Mingjing News reported in September that Ma and his wife had been taken away by Chinese state security earlier this year.

Zhang Weidong, 57, replaces Ma, who was suspected of having become a Japanese spy while working in the Chinese embassy in Tokyo between 2004 and 2008, according to Mingjing News.

A sub-marine mystery from the Associated Press:

‘Foreign underwater activity’ reported in Sweden

Sweden’s military says it has sent naval vessels, aircraft and home guard forces to investigate reports of “foreign underwater activity” in the Stockholm archipelago.

The Armed Forces say they launched an intelligence operation Friday in the archipelago after receiving information “from a credible source.” Armed Forces spokesman Jesper Tengroth wouldn’t say whether a submarine had been sighted or give any other details.

The announcement was reminiscent of the Cold War, when Sweden’s armed forces routinely hunted for Soviet submarines in its waters.

And from TheLocal.de, drones delayed:

Bundeswehr drones can’t handle Ukraine winter

‘Luna’ drones promised by Germany to monitor the Russian-Ukrainian border may not be sent after all – they can’t handle the bitter cold expected in the Ukrainian winter.

“It’s a technical problem of the Luna system that it can’t be controlled reliably at temperatures below minus 19 degrees [Centigrade, minus two Fahrenheit],” German MP Gernot Erler told public broadcaster Deutsche Rundfunk.

Winter temperatures in the region would often plunge far lower at the drones’ operational heights of 3,000 metres and above, Bild reported, citing a military source.

While MIT Technology Review ponders commercial drones:

Air Traffic Control for Drones

  • If large numbers of commercial drones are to take to the skies, they’ll need an air traffic control system

How do you keep small drone aircraft safe in the world’s busiest national airspace? One idea is to have them use cellphone networks to feed data back to an air traffic control system made just for drones.

A startup called Airware is working with NASA on a project exploring how to manage the swarms of commercial drones expected to start appearing in U.S. skies. The four-year program will create a series of prototype air traffic management systems and could shape how widely commercial drones can be used. Airware’s main business is selling control software and hardware to drone manufacturers and operators.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has yet to propose rules to govern the use of commercial robotic aircraft in U.S. skies. But it predicts that 7,500 unmanned craft weighing 55 pounds (25 kilograms) or less will be operating in the U.S. by 2018.

Whilst droning on, consider this from Deutsche Welle:

Dancing Drones

Program notes:

Scientists at the Technical University of Zurich have been working with Cirque du Soleil to choreograph ten lampshades fitted with small drones in an aerial dance. The result: a hit video on Youtube.

Back to the serious side with another scoop from the Assange set, via the Guardian:

WikiLeaks’ free trade documents reveal ‘drastic’ Australian concessions

  • Secret negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership have been apparently revealed, and experts are concerned about what they show

Secret negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement have apparently been breached by another leak of material which shows Australian consumers could pay more for cancer medicines and face criminal penalties for non-commercial copyright breaches.

The publication on WikiLeaks of the intellectual property (IP) chapter comes on the eve of the latest round of negotiations in Australia between the 12 member countries, Australia, the US, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand.

The agreement has the capacity to affect Australian domestic law in many areas, but the secrecy of negotiations means citizens of member countries do not have full access to the Australian government’s preferred outcomes.

Two of the more contentious areas in the IP area relate to copyright and pharmaceuticals.

After the jump, the latest hacking innovation, Microsoft snares ten million spams a minutes, from tracking terrorists to cops and robbers, an L.A.P.D. meltdown, and a pot-robbin’ federal marshal, allegations of massive police corruption in Old Blighty, the latest on those missing Mexican college students disappeared after a police massacre, the missing mayor implicated in the crime sacked, a mysterious banner names names, the latest student protest, and the dirty war waged on the same ground decades earlier, off to India and a terrorism crackdown coming as an olive branch extends to China, a  Sino/Vietnamese rapprochement, on to Hong Kong and a crackdown intensified, a Chinese cartoonist seeks Japanese refuge,  a strong hint that Socialist Realism is heading for a mainland comeback, and a protest from China aimed at Tokyo, plus a Washington denial of Tokyo’s claims of an early withdrawal from an Okinawa base, and a truly terrifying security threat in France. . . Continue reading