Category Archives: GWOT

InSecurityWatch: Spies, hacks, zones, drones


Today’s walk on the dark side begins with this from Nextgov:

Sen. Feinstein Pushes to Delay Release of CIA Torture Report

Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants a classified report released on Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” policies. She just doesn’t want it out quite yet.

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month urging the Justice Department to delay its compliance with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the disclosure of her panel’s so-called torture report. Feinstein argued the report is not ready for the public because negotiations are ongoing between her and the CIA over the document’s heavily redacted material.

“Not only would it be inappropriate for the department to release documents related to the committee’s study prior to the committee’s own release, but the result of the ongoing negotiations will likely positively affect the redactions in the documents being sought,” Feinstein wrote in a letter dated Aug. 12.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, gee, ya think so?:

Police often provoke protest violence, UC researchers find

The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.

The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations.

Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study’s lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces.

From the Wire, eyes on:

Ferguson Police Department Implements Body Cameras

Police officers in Ferguson began wearing body cameras over the weekend, as residents continue to protest the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager three weeks earlier.

About 50 body cameras were donated by two security firms, Safety Vision and Digital Ally, last week, after talks with the Ferguson Police Department in response to differing stories coming out the of the shooting on Aug. 9 of Michael Brown Jr. by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that officers are adjusting to working with body cameras, but that the overall response is positive now that nearly the entire department has been trained.

From Sky News, Cold War 2.0 arms up:

Nato Plans ‘Spearhead’ Force To Face Russia

  • The alliance unveils plans for a “high-readiness force” in eastern Europe amid more evidence of Russian aggression in Ukraine

Nato is set to create a “high-readiness” force and stockpile military equipment in Eastern Europe as a bulwark against potential Russian aggression, the alliance’s chief has said.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the proposed new force could be comprised of several thousand troops contributed to on a rotating basis by the 28 Nato countries.

Backed by air and naval assets, he said the unit would be a “spearhead” that could be deployed at very short notice to help Nato members defend themselves against any threat, including from Russia.

From the London Telegraph, waterboarding included?:

British jihadists to be forced to attend deradicalisation programmes, says Cameron

  • David Cameron announces moves to reverse Islamist brainwashing of British jihadists in new court order controls

British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria will be forced to attend “deradicalisation” programmes to reverse their warped brainwashing, David Cameron announced.

Dangerous fanatics made subject to court controls will be ordered to engage in anti-extremism schemes as part of a raft of new measures to combat the risk of British Islamists returning to the UK.

The move comes amid growing concern over the threat posed by Britons who have joined the terror group Isil in Syria and Iraq.

More from International Business Times:

British Prime Minister David Cameron Proposes Seizing Passports Of Suspected ISIS Militants

British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday proposed expansion of police powers and a deradicalization program to head off terror plots hatched by returning militants. An estimated 500 Britons are suspected of fighting alongside Islamic State militants, the Guardian reported.

The Conservative Party’s Cameron proposed seizing the passports of suspected militants and forcing terror suspects into deradicalization programs to reverse their fanaticism. The Telegraph reported suspects also could be forced to move from their hometowns. In addition, airlines would be required to provide more information about passengers.

Addressing the House of Commons, Cameron called the idea of British citizens swearing allegiance to militant groups such as the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, “abhorrent.” He said he is looking for ways to keep them from returning to the U.K.

From RIA Novosti, a dissent:

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Says UK Rogue State, Danger to World

The United Kingdom as a rogue state and a danger to the world, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said.

“The British Government is deeply, deeply immoral. They don’t care how many people they kill abroad if it advances them. Anybody who votes No [to Scottish independence] is voting to support a pathological state which is a danger in the world, a rogue state and a state prepared to go to war to make a few people wealthy,” Murray said in a speech made ahead of an historic vote on Scottish independence to be held in just three weeks.

He told an open public meeting in St Andrews that the actions he witnesses as a senior diplomat had changed his “world view” and said it was now “impossible to be proud of the United Kingdom.”

From the Intercept, today’s allies, yesterday’s enemy:

How the NSA Helped Turkey Kill Kurdish Rebels

Documents from the archive of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden that Der Spiegel and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The U.S. government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows, and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, D.C., has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the future NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

From the Associated Press, blowback:

Turkey summons US diplomat over spying report

The Turkish foreign ministry has summoned the most senior U.S. diplomat in the country for clarification of a report about American and British spying in Turkey.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent said the U.S. charge d’affaires and Turkish officials had discussed the report Monday. German magazine Der Spiegel and the online magazine The Intercept said that documents provided by former U.S. National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden show that Turkey was a high priority intelligence target for U.S. and British intelligence services.

According to Turkish news wires, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan downplayed the importance of the report, saying that all major countries spied on each other. An earlier report that Germany’s main intelligence agency had also targeted Ankara drew a more angry response from the Turkish government.

From TechWeekEurope, another front:

NATO Set To Ratify Cyber-Defence Declaration

  • NATO is set to add cyber-threats to its fundamental treaty – but reportedly has little idea about the computer arsenals of its member countries

NATO has confirmed that it plans to add cyber-attacks to the list of threats that would trigger a collective response when leaders of the organisation meet in Newport, Wales, later this week.

However, exactly what would constitute such an attack remains ambiguous, and NATO reportedly has little in the way of cyber-response capacity. The organisation, the headquarters of which is in Brussels, also lacks clear information on the cyber-weaponry of member states such as the US and the UK, which would be needed to form a detailed cyber-strategy, according to reports.

More from PCWorld , with a techie twist:

Europol launches international cybercrime task force

Europol launched a cybercrime task force Monday to fight online crime in the EU and other countries.

The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) will be piloted for six months and hosted at Europol’s European CyberCrime Center (EC3), the organization said in a news release.

The J-CAT will coordinate international investigations to take action against key online threats and top targets, such as underground forums and malware, including banking Trojans, Botnets and online fraud, Europol said.

EC3, the EU Cybercrime Taskforce, the FBI and the U.K. National Crime Agency (NCA) are part of the initiative. Andy Archibald, deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit from the NCA will lead the task force.

From SecurityWeek, Tweet that!:

US Cyber-Warriors Battling Islamic State on Twitter

The United States has launched a social media offensive against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, setting out to win the war of ideas by ridiculing the militants with a mixture of blunt language and sarcasm.

Diplomats and experts are the first to admit that the digital blitz being waged on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube will never be a panacea to combat the jihadists.

But US officials see social media as an increasingly crucial battlefield as they aim to turn young minds in the Muslim world against groups like IS and Al-Qaeda.

From the London Daily Mail, searching for a cause:

Did iCloud’s ‘Find My iPhone’ function help hacker steal ‘nude’ photos of Jennifer Lawrence and 100 other celebrities? Flaw may have allowed 4chan hacker to break into their accounts

  • Nude photographs that purportedly show multiple celebrities leaked online
  • The photos were obtained through Apple’s iCloud and published on 4chan
  • When activated, iCloud automatically stores users’ photos and data online
  • Flaw in its ‘Find My iPhone’ function reportedly undermined its security
  • Twitter is apparently shutting down accounts disseminating the pictures
  • Lawrence’s spokesman confirmed the nude photographs were published
  • Kate Upton’s attorney called leaked pictures ‘an outrageous violation’
  • Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead confirmed the photos of her are real
  • But not all ‘nude’ photographs that have been published are genuine
  • Hacker claims to have images of other stars, which have not been posted

From SecurityWeek, post-equine escape barn door repair:

Apple Patches Vulnerability Possibly Linked to Celebrity Picture Leaks

Apple has patched a flaw that may be linked to the leak of salacious celebrity photos on the Web.

The flaw existed in the ‘Find My iPhone’ service. In order to use it, hackers would need to know the username of the account they are targeting. The vulnerability allowed attackers to guess passwords repeatedly without being locked out and without notifying the account owner. If the password was successfully guessed, the attacker could then access the iCloud account.

A tool for brute forcing the accounts was posted on GitHub. News of the patch followed reports that nude photos of celebrities such as ‘Hunger Games’ actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton had been leaked on the Internet, and Anonymous and 4chan users claimed to have taken images from roughly 100 different celebrity accounts.

“There have been claims that iCloud may be involved, but it’s tricky to confirm even if all of the celebrities affected use Apple devices,” blogged security researcher Graham Cluley. “Many folks are blissfully unaware about iPhone photos being automatically sent to an Apple iCloud internet server after it is taken. That’s great in some ways – it means it’s easily accessible on our other Apple devices – but might be bad in others.”

BBC News clouds the issue:

‘Cloud’ concerns after celebrity picture leaks

  • Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence was one of the celebrities who had images leaked

Experts have raised concerns over the security of “cloud” storage sites following the leak of intimate pictures of celebrities.

It is understood some of the images were obtained from services such as Apple iCloud that back up content from devices on to the internet. Apple is understood to be looking into the issue.

One expert said that private data “becomes much more difficult to control” when using cloud services.

“It is important for celebrities and the general public to remember that images and data no longer just reside on the device that captured it,” said Ken Westin, security analyst at Tripwire.

“Although many cloud providers may encrypt the data communications between the device and the cloud, it does not mean that the image and data is encrypted when the data is at rest. If you can view the image in the cloud service, so can a hacker.”

PandoDaily gets scathing:

The celebrity photo leak is yet another example of Apple’s irresponsible approach to security

Apple might face the ire of several celebrities whose personal photographs were stolen and published over the weekend. In the latest example of the company’s irresponsible security practices, the images — at least those that haven’t been called forgeries by several celebrities and their spokespersons — are thought to have been taken from their subjects’ iCloud accounts.

Now, it’s clear that most of the blame should fall on the person who decided to violate the only shred of privacy that these celebrities had left, and on those who shared the images afterwards. This would never have been an issue if this person didn’t believe that personal photographs of people who happen to be famous should be stolen, skimmed through, and released to the Web.

But it seems that Apple will share in the blame, as the leak was followed by the revelation that before Sunday the company didn’t prevent brute force attacks, which gain access to accounts by submitting random passwords until the right one is found, from working on the iCloud website.

From TheLocal.se, Yar, matey:

Pirate Bay Swede’s trial set for final stage

The mother of Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has told The Local about her son’s “suffering” in jail ahead of the final stages of his trial.

Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and his 21-year-old Danish co-defendant are set to appear in Frederiksberg Court in Copenhagen in the latest development in the largest hacking case in Danish history.

The two men are accused of stealing social security numbers from Denmark’s national driving licence database, illegally accessing information in a Schengen Region database and hacking into police email accounts.

From Reuters, dronal executions:

Al Qaeda in Yemen executes three ‘spies’ for guiding drone strikes

Al Qaeda militants in Yemen executed three local men in the easterly Hadramout province on Monday whom they suspected of assisting U.S. drone strikes, security sources told Reuters.

In a statement posted online, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) acknowledged the threat it faced from air attacks by unmanned U.S. drones, which require on-the-ground intelligence to guide them in.

AQAP said it had captured a group of spies, adding: “The greatest help they give to the crusaders against the holy warriors is the placing of trackers for American spy planes.”

The Los Angeles Times covers more blowback:

Gunmen seize government ministries as Libya spirals further into chaos

Armed militiamen have seized control of most Libyan government ministries in the capital, Tripoli, the transitional government acknowledged early Monday, in the latest sign of a dramatic deterioration of Libya’s trappings of statehood.

Energy-rich Libya has slipped ever deeper into chaos since the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Kadafi in 2011. The armed groups that were allies in the fight to depose him have turned on one another, fighting for oil wealth and political control.

The government and the elected parliament last month decamped to the eastern city of Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, and Islamist-linked militias from the western city of Misrata hold sway in the capital, having driven out rival armed groups. Libya now has two competing parliaments, with each declaring the other illegitimate.

And from UCLA, a sobering question:

In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?

Children’s social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media, according to a UCLA psychology study.

UCLA scientists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices.

“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA College and senior author of the study. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

After the jump, off to Asia and political arfrest and the Game of Zones, including more tensions in Pakistan and an Anonymous attack, signs of a deal for Japanese boats for Aussie sailors, hints of Hong Kong turmoil, a drone exposition in China, an assimilation push driven by Beijing, an ideological crackdown on Chinese campuses, more evocation of the “Anti-Japanese War,” Indo/Japanese security deals, and the emerging Sino/Russian partnership. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: History, bombs, drones, zones


And lots more.

First, some history with the Associated Press:

US trained Alaskans as secret ‘stay-behind agents’

Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S. government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show.

Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950.

“The military believes that it would be an airborne invasion involving bombing and the dropping of paratroopers,” one FBI memo said. The most likely targets were thought to be Nome, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Seward.

So FBI director J. Edgar Hoover teamed up on a highly classified project, code-named “Washtub,” with the newly created Air Force Office of Special Investigations, headed by Hoover protege and former FBI official Joseph F. Carroll.

More history from PetaPixel:

US Spy Satellites Used to Drop Photos in ‘Film Buckets’ from Space for Airplanes to Catch in Mid-Air

So, you think taking your film to the local shop to get developed is a pain? Try being an American spy satellite in the 1960s. Getting your film developed then meant dropping it in a special ‘film bucket’ capsule from space, which the US Air Force then had to catch in mid-air.

Strange as this seems, this is in fact how it worked, as you can see in the video above. Photographs captured by these so-called “Corona” satellites were shot on special 70 millimeter Kodak film using two panoramic cameras that evolved over the course of the program.

The satellites carried anywhere between 8,000 and 16,000 feet of film per camera (depending on the year and thickness of the film) and once one of these rolls was spent, it would be jettisoned in a GE reentry capsule nicknamed “film bucket.” This is where it gets interesting.

Der Spiegel offers the latest Snowden leaks:

A Two-Faced Friendship: Turkey Is ‘Partner and Target’ for the NSA

  • Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal wide-scale spying against Turkey by America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ. They also show the US worked closely with Ankara to battle Kurdish separatists.

Documents from the archive of US whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The US government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, DC, has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

The Associated Press brings us up to date:

German security official warns of terror threat

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency expects that Islamic extremists who have traveled to Syria and Iraq will return and commit terror attacks.

Unlike Britain, Germany hasn’t raised its national threat level for terrorism recently. But Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that there was an “increased abstract threat” of attacks in Germany.

At least 400 people from Germany have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic extremist groups, though the real figure may be significantly higher, Maassen told Deutschlandfunk radio.

And the Register covers iCloud insecurity:

JLaw, Upton caught in celeb nude pics hack

  • 100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped

Naked photos of US celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande have been published online by an anonymous hacker who reportedly obtained the explicit pics from the victims’ Apple iCloud accounts.

Nude photos of 17 celebrities have been published online. The anonymous hacker posting on grime-‘n-gore board 4Chan claimed to have naked pics on more than 100 celebrities in total.

Lawrence’s publicist Bryna Rifkin confirmed the validity of the photos and condemned their publication.

More everyday insecurity from Threatpost:

Backoff Sinkhole Reveals Sorry Point-of-Sale Security

Kaspersky Lab researchers say that a recent analysis of two Backoff malware command and control servers paints “a very bleak picture of the state of point-of-sale security.”

Kaspersky Lab sinkholed two of the malware’s command and control servers. In just two days, nearly 100 infected systems, mostly in the U.S. and Canada but also in a number of other countries, attempted to contact the servers which are now no longer controlled by Backoff’s authors. Victims are said to include a popular Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S., a North American freight shipping and transport logistics company, a liquor store chain in the U.S., a North American payroll association and more.

Backoff is a piece of malware that targets the point-of-sale terminals that process payment information at retail locations. This year has been something of a golden age for such malware. Breaches at Target and Michael’s are known to have been caused by point-of-sale malware, and breaches of customer payment data at various other locations like the Albertson’s and Supervalu grocery store conglomerates, UPS, and others are all but confirmed to have been caused by point-of-sale malware as well.

In the past year, we’ve written about at least four different point-of-sale threats: Chewbacca, Dexter, a class of malware known as RAM scrapers and now Backoff.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers another kind of domestic insecurity:

Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry

A union leader in the oil industry in the central Colombian province of Meta was gunned down by hired killers riding a motorcycle, officials said Saturday.

Edith Santos was hit with two bullets in the chest while in her office at San Isidro de Chichineme in Acacias, Meta Province, the USO petroleum workers union said in a communique.

The union leader’s family took her to a medical center in the region where she soon died.

Santos was president of a community association and assessor for the National Security Professionals Union, or Sinproseg, which represents bodyguards and security guards in all Colombia.

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the London Telegraph:

Top general blasts Cameron’s weakness on Putin and Islamic State

  • A former British commander of Nato accuses the Prime Minister of demeaning himself with a ‘flaccid’ stance against the Islamic State

David Cameron has demeaned himself with a “flaccid” response to the crisis in Iraq a former British Nato commander has said in scathing attack on Government foreign policy.

Gen Sir Richard Shirreff likened the Prime Minister’s stance to the appeasement of the 1930s and said it would embolden Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Sir Richard, who until recently was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Nato Europe, accused Mr Cameron of losing his nerve and undermining Nato by declaring he does not want to send troops abroad to fight.

SINA English fires a counterblast:

Don’t mess with nuclear Russia, Putin says

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence.

He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.

Vocativ covers ad hoc dronage:

Poor Man’s Drone Warfare in Eastern Ukraine

  • Crowdfunded pro-Ukrainian “nerd units” are using unarmed drones to spot separatist forces and guide their mortar attacks on target

Ukraine’s military geeks are bringing the fury to the front line. The pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighters were frustrated with the lack of organization and funding of the Ukrainian army, so the self-proclaimed “nerd units” decided to take matters into their own hands. They crowdsourced funds to purchase drones and quadcopters. And now the eye-in-the-sky machines are proving to be a game-changer in the fight against pro-Russian separatists.

Aerial information about enemy fighters is key in any conflict, but for a largely underfunded and inefficient army, like Ukraine’s, it’s hard to come by. The lack of such information hurts in terms of both intel and financing: Every badly aimed mortar is just more money wasted.

With their newfound aerial support, the pro-Ukrainian forces are now using a drone named “The Fury” to call in coordinates for their mortar attacks against the pro-Russian rebels. The Fury has located enemy tanks near Gorlivka, Ukraine, which the soldiers later destroyed, according to a drone pilot whose identity was withheld.

More drone from the Los Angeles Times:

Israeli military reports downing drone that entered from Syria

Israel’s air force shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered the nation’s airspace over the Syrian border Sunday, Israeli military officials said.

According to an army statement, the drone crossed the border near Quneitra and was destroyed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile.

The military said that despite “sensitivity to recent occurrences in the proximity of the border,” it would respond to any breach of Israeli sovereignty. “We will continue to act to maintain safety and security” of Israeli civilians, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

From the London Daily Mail, a case of possession:

‘Dawn of Libya’ Islamist militia lets journalists TOUR American embassy in Tripoli after storming the compound evacuated by diplomats amid mounting violence

  • Footage reportedly taken inside the compound shows men gathered around the embassy villa’s swimming pool, with some even jumping in
  • An official claims the compound is being ‘safeguarded’ and was not ‘ransacked’
  • The compound has been unoccupied since July 26 when U.S. diplomats evacuated to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort
  • It comes near the two-year anniversary of the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi

And a video report from the Wall Street Journal:

Raw Video: Militia Members at U.S. Embassy Grounds in Libya

Program note:

Amateur video shows what appears to be Libyan militia members enjoying the pool on the grounds of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. The embassy was evacuated in July due to security concerns. Photo: AP/Amateur UGC Video

From Deutsche Welle, the enemy of my enemy:

PKK – from terrorist threat to ally?

  • The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is banned in Germany. The EU deems it a terrorist group. Now, however, regarding the threat from ‘IS,’ some German politicians appear ready to begin discussions over reconsidering.

Summer 1993: Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members storm the Turkish consulate in Munich. They take hostages and demand of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that he increase support for Kurdish rights.

The PKK carried out dozens of attacks that year on Turkish institutions in Germany, often as arson attacks. The battle that the PKK had been fighting against Turkey since the 1980s had also arrived in Germany.

The Kurds have long fought for their own state, an independent Kurdistan, as their settlements are spread across several countries: Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. In these attacks, primarily in eastern Turkey and neighboring border regions, tens of thousands of people were killed – Turkish soldiers, PKK fighters, and thousands of civilians as well.

Al Jazeera English covers a crackdown:

Bahrain arrests top human rights activist

Maryam al-Khawaja, who campaigns against abuse in Gulf state, charged with insulting king and assault on arrival.

The prominent Bahrain human rights activist and critic of the ruling family, Maryam al-Khawaja, has been arrested by authorities on her arrival at the Gulf state’s airport.

Posts on the Twitter account of Khawaja said she had been charged with insulting the king, assaulting police officers, and faced charges for her involvement with the rights campaign, Wanted For Justice.

Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, is the daughter of Shia Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been in custody in Bahrain since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

From International Business Times:

Al-Qaeda Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill Six Soldiers In Yemen

An Al-Qaeda affiliate killed six soldiers in Yemen Sunday, announcing on Twitter the deaths marked the start of a “widespread campaign.” The attacks by Ansar Al-Shariah were among the deadliest and most coordinated in southern Yemen since the army launched a campaign earlier this year to rid Abyan and Shabwa provinces of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants.

Ansar al-Sharia announced on Twitter it had launched a “widespread campaign in Shabwa province on Sunday at noon that targeted a number of military and security locations for the Sanaa regime.” The attacks were in the form of suicide bombings — one in the Gol al-Rayda district, the other near a checkpoint in Azzan, both in Shabwa province.

Reuters reported security forces killed five militants who tried to take over a police station in the eastern province of Hadramount. Last week, thousands of supporters of the Shiite Houthi group protested in the streets, demanding the overthrow of the government. They expressed anger at corruption within the state an the recent increase in fuel prices.

Deutsche Welle covers an assault on a spook shop:

Al-Shabab militants attack Somali intelligence headquarters

  • Militant group al-Shabab has bombed Somalia’s intelligence headquarters in the capital, Mogadishu. The rebels were trying to reach a high-security prison within the facility.

The militants carried out a bomb and gun attack against the facility in central Mogadishu on Sunday. The complex is a key interrogation center for Somalia’s intelligence agency, and contains a high security prison. Many suspected militants are believed to be held there, along with political prisoners.

The attack took place at about midday, when a car bomb exploded outside the Godka Jilacow facility. At least three further explosions and a gun battle took place afterwards.

Al-Shabab has confirmed its militants were behind the assault.

After the jump, it’s on to Asia, with turmoil in Pakistain, plus the latest developments in the Game of Zones, including Indo/Pakistani cross-border clashes, Thai coup consolidation, an Indonesian social media crackdown, a Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong electoral rules and a promised response, Taiwanese regrets and Chinese drones, and much, much more. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, hacks, drones, zones


First up, a sad reminder from the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland workers outraged over noose hung from city truck

Police launched an investigation Wednesday into a noose found hanging from a truck at Oakland’s corporation yard, and top city leaders met for more than two hours with workers to discuss the racially charged incident.

“If we figure out who did it, that person will be a former employee of the city,” interim City Administrator Henry Gardner said.

A hanging noose is associated with the lynching of African-Americans in the South. “The symbol is extremely powerful, unmistakably hateful and clearly indicating the hanging of blacks,” said Gardner, who is African-American.

Two African-American Public Works employees spotted the noose hanging from a bar on the back of their city-issued pickup truck about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

From the London Telegraph, getting hyperbolic:

Britain facing ‘greatest terrorist threat’ in history

  • David Cameron warns that Isil have made ‘specific’ threats against Britain as the terror threat level is raised

Britain faces the “greatest and deepest” terror threat in the country’s history, David Cameron warned as he pledged emergency measures to tackle extremists.

The UK threat level was raised to “severe” — its second highest — meaning that a terrorist attack is “highly likely” in light of the growing danger from British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria.

The Prime Minister said that the risk posed by Isil (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) will last for “decades” and raised the prospect of an expanding terrorist nation “on the shores of the Mediterranean”.

He disclosed that Isil had made “specific” threats against the UK and did not rule out military action to tackle the growing problem.

The Associated Press offers irony:

Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US

The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response to terrorism after the Islamic State group seized a wide territory across Iraq and Syria.

While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, King Abdullah’s statement appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against the Islamic State group and its supporters in the region. Saudi Arabia openly backs rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but is concerned that the breakaway al-Qaida group could also turn those very same weapons on the kingdom.

“If neglected, I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America,” he said at a reception for foreign ambassadors Friday.

From the Guardian, a call to action:

The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post. We can’t let them make up the rules

  • Innocent people’s lives are being ruined. Why isn’t anyone watching the watchlist?

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. Now we know just how opaque, inefficient and discriminatory it can be.

As we were reminded again just this week, you can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly, and the consequences can be long and enduring. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information.

This kind of data sharing, however, isn’t limited to the latest from Edward Snowden’s NSA files. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors.

On to drones, first with PetaPixel:

Yellowstone Levels Criminal Charges at Drone Users Who are Violating the Park’s Ban

Yellowstone is no longer taking a slap-on-the-wrist, “we’ll let you off with a warning” approach to people who violate the park’s ban on camera drones. Egged on by several incidents since the ban went into effect, the park is starting to file criminal charges against violators that could mean $5,000 fines and/or 6 months in jail.

The main reason for the crackdown seems to be Theodorus Van Vliet, who earlier this month crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring after it was widely publicized that the park had banned the use of the little RC helicopters.

This incident has led to a long and expensive search for the drone — which has still not been found — as concerns mount about what this piece of machinery might do to the delicate bacterial ecosystem inside the hot spring. But Van Vliet is far from alone in breaking the ban

And from the San Antonio Express-News, get droned for Jesus!:

Texas megachurch pastor uses drones to spread his message

  • Drones, dubstep and… God?

A North Texas megachurch pastor is using drones, which have killed more than 4,700 people in the past decade, to spread his message of the omniscient power of God through sermons and in a 45-second video ad.

The ad, which ran in Dallas-area theaters during previews for the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” promotes “Drone Month” at Pastor Ed Young’s Fellowship Church in Grapevine. The video features Young, standing in front of a predator drone armed with missiles, comparing drones’ ability to “know it all” and “see it all” to God while dubstep music plays in the background.

“The drone metaphor is a terrible and disturbing one,” said Matthew Gault, who wrote about the ads in Medium’s War is Boring blog. “It trivializes the big questions about a scary new technology and equates God with a weapon of war.”

And while we’re in Texas, gun blazing at the border via the Guardian:

Texas Border Patrol agent fires at armed militia member

  • Unknown number of militia members have come to the Texas border following a surge in illegal immigration this summer

A Border Patrol agent pursuing a group of migrants in a wooded area near the Texas-Mexico border on Friday fired several shots at an armed man who later identified himself as a militia member.

Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora said agents had been chasing a group of migrants east of Brownsville Friday afternoon when an agent saw a man holding a gun near the Rio Grande. The agent fired four shots, but did not hit the man. The man then dropped his gun and identified himself as a member of a militia. Zamora said no other details were immediately available.

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, whose agency is involved in the investigation, said the incident occurred on private property and it appeared the man had permission to be there. He was not arrested, Lucio said.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, more cause for insecurity?:

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Said to Mull Alliance

Several of Mexico’s major drug cartels are pursuing an alliance, capital daily Reforma said on Friday, citing unnamed intelligence sources.

The Juarez organization and Los Zetas are among the groups trying to create a “cartel of cartels,” the newspaper said in a front-page story.

The impetus to band together comes after each of the criminal outfits has experience significant setbacks, the sources told Reforma.

Senior figures from the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel, the Juarez-based mob run by the Carrillo Fuentes family, Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartel met in June in Piedras Negras, a city in the northern border state of Coahuila, according to the sources.

The Nikkei Asian Review covers a quantum leap:

Toshiba creates leap in ‘unbreakable’ cryptography communication tech

Toshiba has developed a new technology for quantum cryptography communication networks, paving the way for commercial use of cryptographic communication.

The major Japanese electrical machinery maker aims to have this technology in commercial use within five years. The purportedly “theoretically unbreakable” encryption technology is designed to protect data from cyber-attacks, which are becoming more complicated and malicious in nature.

Quantum cryptography communication transmits encrypted data and their secret digital keys on photons passing through optical fibers. When outsiders, such as hackers, try to access such data without authorization, the keys are broken due to changes in the photons, which then makes the data impossible to decode.

After the jump, the latest plays in the Asian Game of Zones, including an Afghan spooky shootout, turmoil and threats in Pakistan, journalists murder in Balochistan, Indo/Japanese summitry, a Chinese warning, a military mandate, China bases a claim, Japanese dissent, UN warns Japan warned about epidemic of anti-Korean hate speech. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, alarms, hacks, zones


The first of today’s headlines from the realms of state and personal security, militarism, spies, and all the rest begins with an internal security problem in the U.S., the right of citizens of color to treated with dignity by the armed representatives of the state.

From Reuters:

U.N. urges U.S. to stop police brutality after Missouri shooting

The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record.

“Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing,” Noureddine Amir, CERD committee vice chairman, told a news briefing.

Oddly, a Google search turned up only one video on the story, and that from Iran’s PressTV News:

UN watchdog calls on US police to end racism, brutal tactics

Program note:

A United Nations watchdog is calling on the US police to put an end to racism and brutal tactics in the force.

From the American Civil Liberties Union, one step in the right direction, with a caution:

Body-Worn Cameras Should Not Expand Beyond Law Enforcement

The Guardian reported last week that Miami Beach is planning on expanding the use of body cameras beyond the police to include “meter maids,” code enforcement officers, and building and fire inspectors. This use of the technology does not make sense.

We’ve always been concerned about the privacy-invading potential of body cameras. As we wrote in our white paper on the technology,

Body cameras have more of a potential to invade privacy than [other] deployments. Police officers enter people’s homes and encounter bystanders, suspects, and victims in a wide variety of sometimes stressful and extreme situations. . . . Perhaps most troubling is that some recordings will be made inside people’s homes, whenever police enter—including in instances of consensual entry… and such things as domestic violence calls.

Balanced against these privacy dangers, however, is the significant need to increase oversight in light of the long record of abusive and illegal behavior by police officers (and other law enforcement agents like Border Patrol officers). Police in specific circumstances are given the authority to shoot to kill, to use brutal force, and to arrest citizens—and all too often, officers abuse those powers.

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the Los Angeles Times:

Britain raises security threat from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’

Responding to recent events in Syria in Iraq, Britain has upgraded its security threat level to “severe,” the government announced Friday, meaning a terrorist attack there is “highly likely.”

The nation’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, an independent body, made the determination based on its latest intelligence, officials said.

This is the first time in three years that the U.K. has been at such a heightened security threat level.

From CBC News, enshrining the national security state:

David Cameron, British PM, plans new laws to tackle terrorism threat

  • U.K. raises terror threat level to severe over Syria, Iraq concerns

British Prime Minister David Cameron says he’ll introduce new laws to combat terror suspects, pledging to seize passports to fight what he described as an extremist threat more dangerous than any previously seen.

Cameron told reporters that while the Taliban facilitated al-Qaeda terrorism, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group is “effectively a state run by terrorists.”

“We could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member,” he said.

From TechWeekEurope, protest:

Surveillance Protesters Picket GCHQ

  • Britain’s top secret eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, faces a weekend of protests by privacy campaigners

The security cameras surrounding the Government Communications Headquarters, more commonly known as GCHQ, had a busy Friday with a small group of online activists staging a low-key protest outside.

The small number of protesters on Friday were reportedly outnumbered by the police and members of the media, according to the BBC. There was minor disruption at the Cheltenham site on Friday morning, as GCHQ staff were driven by bus into the site itself, instead of the usual practice of being dropped off outside.

GCHQ at Cheltenham, GloucestershireA much larger protest by the ‘We Are Anonymous’ group at the Cheltenham site is expected to take place over the weekend.

The protest is in support of a legal challenge by civil liberty groups, including Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others. The groups are mounting a legal challenge against the alleged use of mass surveillance by intelligence services.

The New York Times covers blowback from the Bush era:

As Blackwater Trial Closes, Focus Turns to Moments Before Chaos

When jurors begin deliberating next week in the murder and manslaughter trial of four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors, so much will depend not on the frenzied minutes of heavy gunfire in the busy Nisour Square in Baghdad, but on the moments of relative calm just before the chaos.

Traffic had come to a halt on Sept. 16, 2007, as four American armored trucks blocked the entrance to the square. Traffic police waved their arms, and the cars piled up. Then, two vehicles back, on the main artery running north into the traffic circle, a white Kia abruptly lurched forward.

The machine-gun fire was about to begin. Seventeen Iraqis would soon be dead.

Twelve American jurors will have to decide whether it was a massacre, a firefight or a horrible accident of war. The verdict will close seven years of investigation into a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment and was a nadir in the Iraq war. Blackwater, once a major security contractor, came to symbolize American power run amok. The fallout from the shooting unraveled the company, which was sold and renamed Academi.

From TechWeekEurope, cyberwar:

Syrian Malware Team Thought To Be Behind BlackWorm RAT

  • A lesser-known group of pro-government hackers is pushing sophisticated malware

A group calling itself the Syrian Malware Team (SMT) has been spotted carrying out attacks using the sophisticated BlackWorm Remote Access Tool (RAT), with one of the members thought to be responsible for its creation.

According to security vendor FireEye, which identified 11 members of the group, SMT supports the government of Bashir Al-Assad, and even puts the president’s face on its banners.

The group is suspected to have links to the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), which has been making headlines following a string of successful attacks against e-commerce sites, social networks and media organisations.

And from Bloomberg News, cyberextortion:

‘Your Money or Your Files’ as Threat of Online Stickups Grows

You’re an entrepreneur, managing the business from your PC. You’re a doting mother, with hundreds of photos of your children on your laptop. Now, if someone seized all those files, how much would you pay to get them back?

There’s nothing theoretical about the scenario. Hundreds of thousands of people have had to wrestle with that question as so-called ransomware infections have surged, encrypting billions of documents. Hackers demand hundreds or thousands of dollars to provide the key that unscrambles files so you can view and use them again. One particularly virulent strain, called CryptoWall, has infected about 625,000 systems and encrypted more than 5.25 billion files since mid-March, according to new research from Dell SecureWorks. One desperate U.S. victim paid the hackers $10,000.

Most malware is like a pickpocket, taking your valuables before you’re aware of it. CryptoWall and other ransomware is like a mugger: your money or your files. It’s smart, really, because in most cases, your files are most valuable to you. It’s also easy money for hackers, a lot less work than trying to sell 40 million purloined card numbers on the black market, a la the Target breach. Keith Jarvis, a SecureWorks researcher in Atlanta, found that 1,683 CryptoWall victims forked over a total of $1.1 million to the hackers.

Bloomberg again, this time toting up a tab:

The Cyber-Terror Bailout: They’re Already Talking About It, and You May Be on the Hook

Bankers and U.S. officials have warned that cyber-terrorists will try to wreck the financial system’s computer networks. What they aren’t saying publicly is that taxpayers will probably have to cover much of the damage.

Even if customers don’t lose money from a hacking assault on JPMorgan Chase & Co., the episode is a reminder that banks with the most sophisticated defenses are vulnerable. Treasury Department officials have quietly told bank insurers that in the event of a cataclysmic attack, they would activate a government backstop that doesn’t explicitly cover electronic intrusions, two people briefed on the talks said.

“I can’t foresee a situation where the president wouldn’t do something via executive order,” said Edward DeMarco, general counsel of the Risk Management Association, a professional group of the banking industry. “All we’re talking about is the difference between the destruction of tangible property and intangible property.”

The Register covers a chilling hack:

Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen

  • I scream, you scream, we all scream ‘DATA BREACH’!

Ice cream mogul Dairy Queen appears to have been breached with hackers likely stealing credit cards from some of its many US stores.

The chilling news comes from sources within the US banking sector who separately told cyber-crime prober Brian Krebs that fraudulent transactions on credit cards appeared to have stemmed from a breach at the company.

Dairy Queen admitted the US Secret Service had been in touch after initial waffle claiming it had no evidence of a breach.

From the Guardian, the corporation strikes again:

US cable giants call on FCC to block cities’ expansion of high-speed internet

  • USTelecom wants to block expansion of popular networks in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina

The US cable industry called on the Federal Communications Commission on Friday to block two cities’ plans to expand high-speed internet services to their residents.

USTelecom, which represents cable giants Comcast, Time Warner and others, wants the FCC to block expansion of two popular municipally owned high speed internet networks, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the other in Wilson, North Carolina.

“The success of public broadband is a mixed record, with numerous examples of failures,” USTelecom said in a blog post. “With state taxpayers on the financial hook when a municipal broadband network goes under, it is entirely reasonable for state legislatures to be cautious in limiting or even prohibiting that activity.”

On to drones, starting with this from the Guardian:

California to introduce tough new measures to limit police drone use

  • Bill would require state’s police to seek a warrant for unmanned drone use in virtually all situations other than emergencies

California is poised to introduce tough new controls on police deployment of drones for surveillance, as the debate around the acceptable uses of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) gathers pace.

Bill AB1327 has passed all stages in the California legislature and now awaits the signature of governor Jerry Brown. Should Brown give it the green light, as expected, it would send a powerful message across America about the limits of drone surveillance from the technology capital of the country.

Under the bill, police departments throughout the state would be required to seek a warrant from a judge in virtually all situations other than in emergencies, such as an oil spillage, fire or hostage-taking. Where surveillance images have been recorded, they would have to be destroyed within one year.

And from United Press International, calling Ranger Rick!:

Yellowstone endures third drone violation in less than two months

“Even if we can locate it, is it feasible to remove it?” Yellowstone officials ponder of the second of three recently crashed drones.

Park and wildlife officials in Wyoming are experiencing déjà vu after a third individual was cited for flying an unmanned areal surveillance device in less than two months.

The latest offender was cited Aug. 19 for flying his personal drone in the area around the Midway Geyser Basin according to Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash. Unlike past offenders, the latest drone operator managed to avoid harming the national park.

Since National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis banned the use of unmanned areal devices across the park system’s 84 million protected acres in June, three individuals have been cited for flying drones in Yellowstone alone, with a fourth citation in Grand Teton National Park.

From Reuters, summing up:

Ukraine seeks to join NATO; defiant Putin compares Kiev to Nazis

Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, its strongest plea yet for Western military help, after accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, defiant as ever, compared Kiev’s drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two. He announced that rebels had succeeded in halting it, and proposed that they now permit surrounded Ukrainian troops to retreat.

Speaking to young people at a summer camp, Putin told his countrymen they must be “ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.” He described Ukrainians and Russians as “practically one people,” language that Ukrainians say dismisses the very existence of their thousand-year-old nation.

From the Independent, a curious tale:

Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast

An oil tanker loaded with $100 million of disputed Iraqi Kurdish crude has disappeared of the coast of Texas in the latest development in a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse between Baghdad and the Kurds.

The AIS ship tracking system used by the U.S. Coast Guard and Reuters on Thursday showed no known position for the United Kalavrvta, which was carrying 1 million barrels of crude and 95 percent full when it went dark.

Several other tankers carrying disputed crude from Iran or Iraqi Kurdistan have unloaded cargoes after switching off their transponders, which makes their movements hard to track.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including ongoing tensions in Pakistan, Abe’s Indian Modhi-vation, Sino-Russian military ties, more Chinese plane posturing and reasons therefor, Chinese courts open, Japan yens for a beefier military, and a curious North Korean defection. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, zones


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

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

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

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

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, business as usual:

In Senate-CIA fight on interrogation report, another controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ars Technica takes the techgeek approach:

Cybersecurity official uses Tor but still gets caught with child porn

  • Timothy DeFoggi wrongly thought he was covering his tracks.

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

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

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

From Bloomberg News, they’ve got you covered:

Homeland Security Arms Local Cops With Super Spy Bug

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

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

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

Fusion raises an interesting question:

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

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

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

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

H/T to Cryptogon.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, theatrical posturing:

Texas National Guard Deploys on Mexican Border

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, Sisyphus on the Mississippi:

In wake of Ferguson, police try to build trust

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

Dallas Police Chief David Brown considers it a preventative step.

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

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

Beverly Hills police regret holding black producer before Emmys

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

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

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

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

LA Observed has the blowback:

Producer’s ‘detention’ by BHPD creates big backlash

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, reviving the Cold War:

Finland, Sweden increase ties to NATO

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

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

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

While the London Telegraph gets defensive:

Police build ‘ring of steel’ for Wales Nato summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG Nato

From the Guardian, why needs the Magna Carta?:

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

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

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

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

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

El País cites another source of insecurity:

Spain on alert over new biker gangs

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

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

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

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

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

Bloomberg raises hackery suspicions:

FBI Examining Whether Russia Is Tied to JPMorgan Hacking

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

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

From TheLocal.no, Norse petro-hackery:

300 oil companies hacked in Norway

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

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

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

From News On Japan, a terminal alert:

Japan airports’ Wi-Fi allows snooping

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

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

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

SecurityWeek gets proactive:

Singapore Boosts Cyber Security After Hacking Incidents

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

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

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

From Network World, ad-umbration:

New malvertising campaign hit visitors of several high-profile sites

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

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

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

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

The American Frankenstein faces its monster


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

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

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

First, this from intelNews:

US sharing intelligence with Syrian government, say sources

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

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

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

From The Intercept, the latest from Glenn Greenwald:

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

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

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

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

The Progressive notes another irony:

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

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

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

In an online column, AbuKhalil elaborates on his view.

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

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

From The Real News Network:

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

From the transcript:

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

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

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

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

DroneWatch: Flying high and on the ground


We open our collection with a video report on the latest military front from RT America:

Obama sending drones to monitor ISIS in Syria

Program notes:

The US is further ramping up its involvement in the Levant as the Islamic State threat grows. On Tuesday, the Obama administration revealed it will conduct surveillance flights over Syria to monitor the radical jihadists that have taken control of large portions of the country. Longtime foes, the US and Syria both announced they are not working together on the operation, and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned that while surveillance is acceptable, unilateral strikes will be viewed as acts of aggression. Matt Southworth of the Friends Committee on National Legislation speaks with RT’s Manila Chan on the expanding conflict.

And by away of an aside, consider a case of an earthbound munition you might call a drone of on wheels, via Spiegel:

Factory and Lab: Israel’s War Business

Israel invests more money in research than most other countries — and in no other place are research institutes, the defense industry, the army and politics as interwoven. The result is a high-tech weapons factory that successfully exports its goods globally.

There’s not much left of the high-tech car. In a warehouse about the size of an aircraft hangar, its remains look tiny. There are no wheels, no chassis, just the angular body of the car. And it’s not in good shape at all. There’s a gaping hole in its side with edges of lacerated metal. “Rocket-propelled grenade,” says Yoav Hirsh, smiling. Had a person been inside, he or she would likely not have survived the blast. But there was no one behind the wheel: The Guardium is a fully automated vehicle.

Pride radiates from Hirsh — who has a mix of gray and white hair, an athletic frame and a determined look on his face — when he talks about his cars. He’s the CEO of G-Nius, one of first companies in the world able to produce an army of robot fighters. The Guardium has been used since 2007 in patrols along the border of the Gaza Strip. It can be guided by remote control or can steer itself through a pre-selected route as its cameras and sensors capture data about the surroundings.

“Guardium already has 60,000 hours of operations behind it,” Hirsh says. “And it has saved many lives.” He says the aim is to complete “missions without any risk to the soldiers.” But in addition to saving lives, G-Nius vehicles can also destroy them, using remote-control weapons systems mounted on top of the unmanned vehicles. Hirsh notes that, although the weapons-equipped vehicles haven’t yet been used, they are deployable. In another warehouse, a standard Ford F350 pick-up truck is parked, one equipped with its own weapons station. The cameras and sensors are real but the machine gun is a dummy. “We’re a civilian firm, after all,” Hirsh says.

Back to those flying machines, this time from the corporate and private sectors.

From RT:

Dawn of Drones: Civilian UAVs to flood US skies amid fears of collision risks

Program notes:

In March a US airways pilot reported a near-miss with a tiny drone over Tallahassee Airport in Florida. And that is just one case of 15 recently registered. RT’s Gayane Chichikyan reports.

From The Hill, another one of those incidents:

FAA investigating drone over NFL game

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking into a drone that allegedly flew over an NFL preseason game in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday evening.

The agency said in a statement provided to The Hill on Wednesday that it “is investigating a report it received from local law enforcement about an unmanned aircraft operating over Bank of America Stadium” while the Carolina Panthers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs.

The incident is not the first time the FAA has investigated drone use in connection with a sporting event. The agency stopped the Washington Nationals baseball team from using drones to photograph some of its spring training games in Viera, Fla., earlier this year.

The FAA also shut down drone operations for a Minnesota beer company earlier this year.

And from The Daily Dot, drones over the Magic Kingdom™:

Disney patents drone technology that’s still technically illegal to use

When you think of the technology at Disney theme parks, the images that likely come to mind are the dated autonomatronics of rides like Pirates of Caribbean and the Country Bear Jamboree. Yet, the Happiest Place on Earth has actually long been a leader in the mass adoption of cutting-edge technologies. Not only is the company investing more than a billion dollars in the tech required to track every move made by every single visitor to the Magic Kingdom, but, according to a newly uncovered trio of patents, Disney wants to get into the drone business.

If Disney decides to actually implement the technologies contained in the patents, the result would be a major step forward in how drones are both used and conceptualized by the vast majority of Americans. However, under current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, actually using that technology would be against the law.

Disney’s patents seem to center around doing large-scale stage shows featuring disney characters. The technology would allow Disney to coordinate multiple drones such that they can operate giant puppets.