Category Archives: GWOT

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, hacks, spies


And more. . .

We begin with a very real security threat from Salon:

Americans see economic inequality as a bigger threat than nuclear weapons

  • Asked to name top threat to the world, a plurality of Americans say it’s the gap between rich and poor

Pew polled people in 44 countries for the survey. In the U.S., 27 percent of respondents named income inequality as the biggest danger to the world, followed by religious and ethnic hatred (24 percent), nuclear weapons (23 percent), pollution and the environment (15 percent), and AIDS and other diseas (7 percent). Europe, which was also hard hit by the Great Recession and whose leaders have since embarked on an agenda of economic austerity, joined the U.S. in seeing economic inequality as the top global threat.

The findings are part of Pew’s spring 2014 Global Attitudes poll. Earlier this month, Pew unveiled data from the survey showing that a plurality of Americans support raising taxes as a means of combating economic inequality.

The percentage of Americans naming inequality as the top global threat has increased sharply since the Great Recession. In 2007, just 17 percent of Americans told Pew that they considered inequality the biggest threat.

And on to the highest profile conflict of the moment from BBC News:

Islamic State ‘being driven out of Syria’s Kobane’

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has been driven out of most of the northern Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish commander has told the BBC.

Baharin Kandal said IS fighters had retreated from all areas, except for two pockets of resistance in the east. US-led air strikes have helped push back the militants, with another 14 conducted over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the new UN human rights commissioner has called IS a “potentially genocidal” movement. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein described the group as the antithesis of human rights.

From TheLocal.dk, the latest player in the bombing war:

Danish F-16s carry out first mission against Isis

For the first time since parliament approved Denmark’s military involvement in northern Iraq, Danish jets took to the air to support an American-led mission.

Danish F-16 fighter jets participated in their first mission over northern Iraq on Thursday, the Defence Ministry announced.

“The jets took part in an operation over Iraq in close cooperation with our coalition partners. Our people have made dedicated and highly professional efforts to be ready and I am very pleased that the Danish F-16s are now actively contributing to the international coalition’s fight against the Islamic State,” Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen said in a statement.

Another high-flyer from the Guardian:

UK to send armed drones to assist campaign against Isis

  • Foreign secretary says drones will carry out surveillance over Iraq, and defence secretary says they will add to strike capability

Britain is to send heavily armed Reaper drones to the Middle East to help in the fight against forces from the Islamic State in Iraq.

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, told MPs that the Reaper drones would add to Britain’s surveillance operations over Iraq. Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said the drones would add to Britain’s “strike capability”.

Hammond told the Commons: “We are in the process of redeploying some of our Reaper remotely piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the Middle East to add to our surveillance capabilities.”

Blowback from the Guardian:

Threat of extremist attack in UK is escalating, say police

  • About 50 people a week referred to deradicalisation programmes, with 218 terror-related arrests so far this year

Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has said that several plots this year to murder people on Britain’s streets “directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas” have already been disrupted, with police activity to prevent extremist attacks at its highest level for years.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said Britain’s counter-terrorism network was battling increasing radicalisation via the internet, with fears that young British people are being brainwashed by material including depictions of beheadings, suicides, murder and torture. About 50 people a week are being referred to deradicalisation programmes, he said.

Activity to stop an attack was said by one source to be the highest since the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 attack on London’s transport system, with the threat level escalating as the year has worn on.

From BBC News, gee, we’re shocked:

US ‘hid Iraq chemical weapons incidents’

US troops and Iraqi police were wounded by exposure to abandoned chemical weapons in 2004-11 in a series of incidents largely kept quiet by the Pentagon, a US newspaper has reported.

The New York Times said the weapons were built by Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html

Soldiers and police uncovered about 5,000 warheads, shells or bombs.

The Times based its report on dozens of pages of classified documents, and interviews with soldiers and officials.

And from the Intercept, an ominous development:

New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents

Agents from New Zealand’s national police force ransacked the home of a prominent independent journalist earlier this month who was collaborating with The Intercept on stories from the NSA archive furnished by Edward Snowden. The stated purpose of the 10-hour police raid was to identify the source for allegations that the reporter, Nicky Hager, recently published in a book that caused a major political firestorm and led to the resignation of a top government minister.

But in seizing all the paper files and electronic devices in Hager’s home, the authorities may have also taken source material concerning other unrelated stories that Hager was pursuing. Recognizing the severity of the threat posed to press freedoms from this raid, the Freedom of the Press Foundation today announced a global campaign to raise funds for Hager’s legal defense.

In August, one month before New Zealand’s national election, Hager published Dirty Politics, which showed that key figures in Prime Minister John Key’s National Party were feeding derogatory information about their opponents to a virulent right-wing blogger named Cameron Slater. Hager published evidence in the form of incriminating emails, provided by a hacker, demonstrating coordination between National Party officials and Slater. The ensuing scandal forced the resignation of a top Key ally, Justice Minister Judith Collins, and implicated numerous other National Party officials and supporters. Despite the scandal, the National Party won a resounding victory in the election, sending Key to a third term as prime minister.

From Al Jazeera America, The Most Transparent Administration in American History™ is a sore loser:

US may appeal release of Guantanamo tape

Federal judge asked to halt plans for releasing video showing Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being force-fed his meals.

The United States government has asked a federal judge to halt plans for releasing videotapes showing a Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being force-fed his meals.

In court papers filed on Wednesday night, the Justice Department told US District Judge Gladys Kessler that the government may appeal an order by the judge that would, for the first time, lead to disclosure of classified information in a proceeding involving a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

The Justice Department told Kessler that she was substituting the court’s judgment for that of executive branch officials, contrary to established precedent.

intelNews covers old school spookery:

Senior Polish defense official detained for ‘spying for Russia’

A high-ranking official in Poland’s Ministry of National Defense has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia.

Poland’s Dziennik Gazeta Prawna said early on Wednesday that a man had been detained by Polish security personnel because it was thought he had been acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Another source, Poland’s commercial news Radio Zet, reported that two men had been arrested, a colonel in the Polish Army and a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship.

Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s “Ministry of National Defense detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service.”

And RT covers Cold War 2.0, the latest complication:

US tanks arrive in Latvia to ward off ‘perceived’ Russian threat

US tanks have arrived in Latvia as NATO flexes its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.

The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, “This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations’ commitment to reassure our NATO allies,” Reuters reports.

After the jump, neo-Nazi legislators to stand trial in Greece, Another FBI blast at citizen encryption coupled with a shot at China, hackers game the latest online ad tech, cybercam spookery, another corporation found selling our their “secure” devices, an NSA exec’s curious enterprises, an intriguing story about what Greenwald and company haven’t published, “smart meter” hacking, the latest Cold War 2.0 move, more mass grave found as search for Mexican students intensifies and anger rises, an Aussie/Japanese Channel sub deal draws closer, Korean military talks stall, another Korean nuclear threat [from the U.S.], on to Hong Kong as the crackdown intensifies, America responds, and pointless talks are proposed, Taiwan frets over Chinese maritime moves and Japan looks to America for critical help, Japanese lawmakers pay a provocative visit [Abe does it with an offering], and an even more provocative moved aimed at banishing any admission of World War II war guilt. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, hacks, cops, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

We open with diminished expectations, via The Hill:

Obama: Expect ‘setbacks’ in ISIS fight

President Obama on Tuesday warned that there would be periodic “setbacks” in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the administration faces criticism over its strategy.

“This is going to be a long-term campaign, there are no quick fixes involved,” Obama said after a meeting with coalition military leaders at Joint Base Andrews, adding that there were “going to be periods of progress and setbacks.”

The president acknowledged that the terror network, which controls large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria, did not present a “classic” military challenge.

From BBC News, what a difference a border makes:

Turkish jets bomb Kurdish PKK rebels near Iraq

Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes have bombed Kurdish PKK rebel targets near the Iraqi border, as their ceasefire comes under increasing strain.

The air strikes on Daglica were in response to PKK shelling of a military outpost, the armed forces said.

Both sides have been observing a truce and it is the first major air raid on the PKK since March 2013.

Kurds are furious at Turkey’s inaction as Islamic State (IS) militants attack the Syrian border town of Kobane.

From BBC News again, adding fuel to flame:

Terror trial: Suspect ‘had Tony Blair’s address’

A terror suspect was considering an indiscriminate Mumbai-style attack and had an address for Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, the Old Bailey has heard.

Erol Incedal plotted to attack a “significant individual” or killings similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which left 174 dead, prosecutors said.

He also had a phone containing material supporting Islamic State, they added.

Mr Incedal, 26, from London, denies preparing for acts of terrorism. He is being tried partly in secret.

From the Guardian, noteworthy:

US security contractor shot dead in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh

  • One American killed and another wounded in gun attack at petrol station in eastern district of city

A US national was shot dead and another wounded in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Tuesday, police said, in what appeared to be the first killing of a westerner in years in a gun attack in the kingdom.

Police later shot and wounded an assailant and then arrested him, said the brief statement, carried by SPA, the state media agency said.

“The attack resulted in the killing of one person and the wounding of another and it turned out they were of American citizenship,” it said.

A US official said both victims were working with a private security contractor, Vinnell Arabia. The company was working with the Saudi national guard, the official said.

An echo from Cold War 1.0, via the London Daily Mail:

Atomic bomb spy David Greenglass, whose false testimony sent his own sister and her husband to the electric chair, dies aged 92

  • David Greenglass served 10 years in prison for his role in the most explosive atomic spying case of the Cold War
  • He gave testimony that sent his brother-in-law and sister, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, to the electric chair in 1953
  • Greenglass, 92,  died in New York City on July 1
  • He lived for decades under an assumed name in Queens, hoping to be forgotten for his part in the case that is still furiously debated to this day

A clarion call from the Guardian:

UK intelligence agencies need stronger oversight, says David Blunkett

  • Former home secretary tells committee continued secrecy is undermining public confidence in wake of Snowden revelations

The former home secretary David Blunkett has called for stronger oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies and warned that the “old-fashioned paternalism” of secrecy based on perceived security interests was undermining public confidence in their activities.

Blunkett called for the legal framework on mass surveillance to be updated on a regular basis and for judicial oversight to be made much more robust and transparent.

The Labour MP’s call came during only the second public evidence session ever held by the intelligence and security committee. Its inquiry into security and privacy was set up following the disclosures by Edward Snowden of the scale of the bulk collection of personal data by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency.

From the National Journal:

Snowden’s Closest Confidant Reveals What It Was Like Spilling the NSA’s Secrets

  • “We knew we were going to piss off the most powerful people in the world,” Laura Poitras told National Journal

There’s a prolonged scene in Laura Poitras’ new documentary, Citizenfour, when Edward Snowden looks in his hotel room’s mirror and tussles his hair in a nervous—and, ultimately fruitless—attempt to defeat bedhead.

The shot is a revealing and humanizing moment for Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who became known the world over last summer after his leaks exposed the agency’s vast phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Despite his notoriety, such an intimate look at Snowden has been missing from the story of arguably the greatest heist and disclosure ever of U.S. government secrets—until now.

Cyberwar revelations from SecurityWeek:

Russia-linked Hackers Exploited Windows Zero-day to Spy on NATO, EU, Others

Attackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Windows to spy on NATO, the European Union, Poland, Ukraine, private energy organizations, and European telecommunications companies, according to cyber-intelligence firm iSight Partners.

Microsoft is expected to patch the flaw today as part of October’s Patch Tuesday release.

The espionage campaign began five years ago and is still in progress, iSight said in its advisory. It has evolved several times over the years to adopt new attack methods, and only began targeting the Windows zero-day with malicious PowerPoint files in August, according to the company. iSight analysts have named the operation “Sandworm Team” because the attackers included several references to Frank Herbert’s Dune in the code.

Very curious, via the Guardian:

Chat logs reveal FBI informant’s role in hacking of Sun newspaper

  • US agency faces questions after records show Lulzsec leader, who was informant at time, helped attack that closed UK sites

The FBI is facing questions over its role in a 2011 hacking attack on Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in the UK after the publication of chat logs showed that a man acting as an agency informant played a substantial role in the operation.

In July 2011, a group of hackers known as Lulzsec – an offshoot of Anonymous – posted a fake story about the death of Murdoch, penetrated several News International (now News UK) corporate sites, and claimed to have obtained gigabytes of material from the company’s servers.

The attack was so successful that the publisher took down the websites of the Sun and the Times while technicians worked out the scale of the hack.

Dropbox punts, via SecurityWeek:

Dropbox Denies It Was Hacked, Says Passwords Stolen From Other Services

On Monday, a group of hackers posted a message on Pastebin claiming they have “hacked” nearly 7 million Dropbox accounts. The cloud storage giant said the data was stolen from other services, not from its own systems.

The hackers have already published hundreds of email addresses and associated passwords in clear text. They claim they will publish more as they get Bitcoin donations, but so far only 0.0001 BTC has been transferred to their address.

Reddit users have confirmed that at least some of the credentials are valid, but Dropbox says the information has been stolen from other services. In an effort to protect its customers from such attacks, the company is resetting the passwords for compromised accounts.

Another hack from TechWorm :

Personal Data of 850,000 job seekers of Oregon potentially compromised

  • 850,000 Job seekers from Oregon at risk of data theft

News emerge of another hack taking place, this time in Oregon, USA. The system in question is Oregon Employment Department’s WorkSource Oregon Management Information System (WOMIS).

This system is in short, a database for job seekers. Potential candidates share personal information on the site, information that might help them secure a job. This information has apparently been breached.

An anonymous tip was sent to the organization notifying them of a security vulnerability in the WorkSource Oregon Management Information System (WOMIS).  As per the reports available, the data that may be compromised includes names, addresses and Social Security Numbers.

On to Ferguson with BBC News:

Dozens arrested in Ferguson protests

Nearly 50 people have been arrested at protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager two months ago.

Civil rights activist Cornel West was among those held after he led a march to the police station.

Riot police lined up outside the building and arrests were made when people tried to break the line.

The protests were part of four days of events called “Ferguson October”, which calls for an end to police brutality.

A video report from RT America:

Police shut down protests in Ferguson

Program notes:

Marches continued in Ferguson, MO on Monday, with protesters descending on several Walmarts to demonstrate against police violence and what they call racial discrimination by law enforcement. Part of “Moral Monday,” the activists demanded justice for the killings of Ferguson resident Michael Brown and John Crawford III, who was gunned down inside an Ohio Walmart in August. RT’s Lindsay France followed the protests and has more details.

After the jump, it’s on to Mexico and the deepening mystery of the missing students, protest takes an inflammatory turn, Mexican anti-riot police dispatched, on to Asia and a reappearing Kim, it’s police to the barricades in Hong Kong, Japan sends mixed messages on the eve of a China trip as maritime talks also draw near, and Shinzo Abe grabs the power of the state secret and protests ensue. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, spies, hacks, Hong Kong


We begin with suspicions confirmed from the Christian Science Monitor:

Islamic State: Britain’s top diplomat says endgame is regime change in Syria

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says training up to 50,000 Syrian rebels is crucial to fighting Islamic State militants. The US said Monday that Turkey had agreed to train rebels there.

Britain’s top diplomat says the US-led military campaign in Syria against Islamic State militants must be followed by regime change in Damascus, the seat of power for President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would help the US to stand up a proxy army in Syria that would be capable of fighting both Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and President Assad’s forces. The US Congress last month approved a spending bill to train and arm a force of moderate Syrian rebels.

Mr. Hammond says Britain, which has carried out airstrikes in Iraq against IS targets, may join the US-led bombing campaign in Syria. But he insists that the end goal of military intervention in Syria’s civil war, now into its fourth year, must be the removal of Assad. And he rejects the suggestion by some former defense officials in Britain, including the former head of the army, that the West may have to make common cause with Assad against IS, as the greater threat to global security.

Curious, via Reuters:

Syria’s air force ramps up strikes in west as U.S. hits east

Syria’s air force carried out strikes against rebels at more than double its usual rate on Monday, according to a monitoring group, ramping up its offensive near the capital while Washington strikes Islamic State fighters far away.

The intensified air strikes by President Bashar al-Assad’s government will add to the fear among Assad’s opponents that he is taking advantage of the U.S. strikes to crush other foes, including the “moderate opposition” that Washington backs.

The United States says it does not want to help Assad’s government despite bombing Islamic State, the most powerful group fighting against Damascus in a three year civil war. Washington aims to help arm moderates to fight against both Assad and Islamic State.

From the Associated Press, chaos reigning:

Militants take Iraq army camp, bombs grip Baghdad

Militants with the Islamic State group on Monday captured a military training camp in western Iraq, inching closer to full control of the restive Anbar province, as a spate of deadly bombings shook Baghdad, hitting mostly Shiite neighborhoods and leaving at least 30 dead.

The attacks, which came as Iraqi Shiites marked a major holiday for their sect with families crowding the streets in celebration, raised new concerns that the Sunni militant group is making gains despite U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on a visit to Iraq warned that the airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the militant group and stressed that the Iraqi security forces would have to do the “heavy work on the ground.”

From Reuters, the ineffable:

Islamic State seeks to justify enslaving Yazidi women and girls in Iraq

The Islamic State group said it enslaved families from the minority Yazidi sect after overrunning their villages in northwestern Iraq, in what it praised as the revival of an ancient custom of using women and children as spoils of war.

In an article in its English-language online magazine Dabiq, the group provides what it says is religious justification for the enslavement of defeated “idolators”.

The ancient custom of enslavement had fallen out of use because of deviation from true Islam, but was revived when fighters overran Yazidi villages in Iraq’s Sinjar region.

“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided as khums,” it said. Khums is a traditional tax on the spoils of war.

Feeding the flames with the Guardian:

Tunisia becomes breeding ground for Islamic State fighters

  • By some estimates, there could be more Tunisians fighting for Isis than combatants from any other single country

Though Tunisia is in many senses the most advanced and secular of Arab states – and the only country to have come through the revolutions of 2011 relatively unscathed – that is only half the story. According to some estimates, there are more Tunisians fighting for Isis than from any other single country.

The Tunisian interior ministry itself estimates that at least 2,400 of its citizens have become combatants in Syria since 2011, and that around 400 have returned. Several thousand more have been prevented from travelling, they say, and there has also been an attempt to close down the recruitment networks. The well-worn routes led through Tunis airport, especially flights to Istanbul, or across the southern land border, via Libyan training camps.

In Douar Hicher, a poor district at the edge of Tunis, it is common knowledge that 40 or 50 young men have left to fight and perhaps a dozen have been killed.

The same neighbourhood contributed four “martyrs” to the 2011 revolution that ousted long-time dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then, amid a general loosening of the control of the state, radical Islam has moved into the mosques and an overexcited free-for-all has overtaken the internet and social media now that censorship has ended.

British blowback from the Independent:

Three more men arrested in London on suspicion of planning terrorist attack

Three more men have been arrested in central London on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. The suspects, aged 24, 21 and 25 are being held in custody after being detained on Monday by the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesperson said: “All three were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

A search was also conducted at a business address in west London and at a further four homes in the north-west of the capital.

The arrests on Monday were in connection to an alleged Islamist plot that was foiled last week.

Comparative media chops from Defense One:

ISIS Is Better Than Al-Qaeda At Using the Internet

Al-Qaida has an Internet presence nearly two decades old, using various platforms and—more recently—social media to push its message. But it is ISIS, the relative newcomer, that has escalated its Internet efforts to the point that governments are beginning to see winning the Internet as central to the fight against terrorism.

European government officials reportedly met Thursday in Luxembourg with heads of tech companies—including Twitter, Facebook, and Google—to discuss how to combat online extremism. And the U.S. State Department launched its own Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications in 2011.

Much of ISIS’s online strategy stems from lessons learned while its members were still in al-Qaida’s fold. But when the groups split apart, their online strategies diverged as well—especially in how they use social media.

Cjurious covert ops from the Washington Post:

Probe of silencers leads to web of Pentagon secrets

The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.

Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.

The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.

Black prison blowback from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

UNC legal team, rights advocates take up cause of tortured ex-prisoner

North Carolina human rights advocates and a legal team from the University of North Carolina School of Law are pressing for an apology on behalf of a man who was tortured in Pakistani and Moroccan prisons over nine years, and, according to documents, secretly transported by the CIA on a North Carolina-based plane.

“I would like recognition of the injustice I went through,” Abou Elkassim Britel, an Italian of Moroccan descent who lives in Italy, said in an email Friday to McClatchy, written with his wife, Anna. “My honor and my dignity have been violated. I was deprived of family and freedom, or a future and career. I returned home after a 10-year exile with my health and mental state ruined, with no work and with much suffering.”

Britel said he wanted the apology as a public recognition of his wrongful suffering and to press the United States and other governments involved “to put an end to abuse and torture.”

The Independent covers reciprocity:

Bahrain ‘spied on political activists living in the UK’

The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate allegations that the Bahrain government and a UK-German technology company criminally conspired to spy on political activists living in the UK.

Three British-based Bahrainis say that sophisticated “spyware” software was introduced to their computers so that the Gulf country could monitor their activities.

Privacy International (PI) has made a criminal complaint against British company Gamma International after evidence was posted online, including real-time conversations in which the company’s staff gave technical support to Bahraini officials in using its FinFisher spyware. The leak of 40 gigabytes of information suggested 77 people had been targeted by Bahrain.

From the Guardian, an Aussie spooky giveaway:

Australia’s defence intelligence agency conducted secret programs to help NSA

  • It is unclear, from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, whether programs to hack computer networks continue at ASD

Australia’s defence intelligence agency has conducted secretive programs to help the US National Security Agency hack and exploit computer networks, according to documents published by the Intercept.

The documents, which were leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal new details about some of the NSA’s most closely guarded secrets. The documents describe a class of “exceptionally compartmentalised information” (ECI) that strictly classifies information about select NSA programs.

The information is so secret that some parts of these operations are only released on the approval of the NSA director. The US’s “five-eyes” partner countries, which include Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand, have access to some of this information although release is handled “on a case-by-case basis”.

A collective effort from the Japan Times :

Millions of voiceprints quietly being harvested

Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.

Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.

“We sometimes call it the invisible biometric,” said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.

Those companies have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases, according to Associated Press interviews with dozens of industry representatives and records requests in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

The Register delivers a dressing down:

Cops and spies should blame THEMSELVES for smartphone crypto ‘problem’ – Hyppönen

  • Spooks are ‘imperfect’ warns top securo-bod

Law enforcement and intel agencies have no right to complain about the improved security of smartphones because they brought the problem on themselves, according to security guru Mikko Hyppönen.

Policing and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic have been vociferous in their complaints about Apple and Google’s respective decisions to include more effective encryption on their smartphones.

FBI Director James Comey, US attorney general Eric Holder and Europol boss Troels Oerting have all waded in to say that the changes would make life difficult for law enforcement.

“Governments annoyed by companies taking a stand on security should remember they caused this themselves by hacking companies from their own countries,” Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure, told El Reg.

“Instead of just considering attacks from criminals some of the largest software companies have to consider attacks from their own governments too.”

Nextgov covers a hacking claim:

DHS: Attackers Hacked Critical Manufacturing Firm For Months

An unnamed manufacturing firm vital to the U.S. economy recently suffered a prolonged hack, the Department of Homeland Security has disclosed.

The event was complicated by the fact that the company had undergone corporate acquisitions, which introduced more network connections, and consequently a wider attack surface. The firm had more than 100 entry and exit points to the Internet.

The case contains a lesson for civilian and military agencies, both of which are in the early stages of new initiatives to consolidate network entryways.

From the Independent, modified resoration:

‘Rich Kids of Tehran’ are back on Instagram – but this time they’ve been forced to clean up their act

The first post of the new account defended their use of social media as a way of showcasing an alternate view of Iranian culture and society to the rest of the world.

They said: “We have changed the way the world looks at us. People don’t use camels for transportation but some choose to use ‘Italian and German horses.’

“We did not have any bad intentions and we are not against anyone. We wanted to show the luxurious side of Tehran to the world. Only thing we did was to post some pictures on Instagram.

“We love our country and like any other country we have rich and we have less fortunate people. Some rich people in Iran come from wealthy families who have been rich for generations. Others simply made their wealth by working hard.”

Snappish blowback from The Hill:

Snapchat under fire following photo leak

Snapchat could be in hot water with federal regulators after private images and videos from as many as 200,000 people were posted online.

The widely popular photo-sharing service has denied that it was hacked and has instead blamed the release on outside companies that users rely on to store their photos.

But the smartphone application is under new pressure from privacy advocates just months after it settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges it misled consumers about its data collection, and only weeks after an unrelated leak of hundreds of celebrities’ nude photos.

After the jump, foundation funding for U.S. police spyware, protests in Ferguson, another police shooting in Mexico, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang heads to Moscow as ties between the two countries tighten, police and triad thugs attack protesters, an ultimatum follows, and on to North Korea with Kim unapparent and a bodies of dead Americans are used as a political ploy. . .   Continue reading

Clarke and Dawe: Which Iraq War would that be?


Aussie satirists John Clarke and Bryan Dawe [previously] are at it again, delving into their country’s decision to join the latest Mesopotamian combat.

From ClarkeAndDawe:

Clarke and Dawe – The War in Iraq. Not the Previous One. The Current One.

Program note:

“Roger Wilco. Pilot with the Tax Dept.”

InSecurityWatch: War, spooks, cops, drones, zones


We begin with war underway from the Observer:

Kobani: time running out for hundreds of besieged civilians

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

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

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

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

Canadian boots headed for Mideast ground, from CBC News:

ISIS mission: Canadian advance team leaves for Kuwait next week

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

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

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

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

More northern exposure from CBC News:

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

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

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

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

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

CBC/Radio-Canada raises a question:

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

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

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

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

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

Another leaker lurking, via the Guardian:

Second leaker in US intelligence, says Glenn Greenwald

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

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

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

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

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

Legal revelations, via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

Unraveling the net wth JapanToday:

States and corporations grab for reins of the Internet

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

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

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

Google this, from the Japan Times:

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

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

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

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

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

Asset seizures fuel police spending

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

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

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

Protesting with the Guardian:

Thousands march through St Louis to condemn police shootings of teens

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian again, public and private:

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

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

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, spies, borders


We begin with a warning from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Nobel Prize winner Malala told Obama U.S. drone attacks fuel terrorism

The teenager who became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday told President Barack Obama at a White House meeting last year that she worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as well as Kailash Satyarthi of India, for pushing for young people’s rights, including the right to education.

Malala, now 17, made international headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus two years ago for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. After recovering, she took her campaign for children’s education across the world, writing a book and even speaking at the United Nations last year.

Hysteria in Old Blighty, via the London Telegraph:

Security services monitoring ‘thousands’ of terrorism suspects in London, says Boris Johnson

  • Mayor of London discloses that threat from Isil and other terrorist groups is larger than previously known

The security services are monitoring “thousands” of terrorist suspects in London, Boris Johnson has disclosed, suggesting the threat from Islamist extremists may be far greater than has previously been admitted.

Until now, it was thought that the main danger came from around 500 jihadis who have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK to join Isil or al-Qaeda fighters, around half of whom have returned to Britain.

But the Mayor of London suggested the threat from home-grown terrorist plots was far more widespread than the relatively small numbers of extremists who have gone abroad to fight.

More from the Independent:

UK terror threat: Police put on special terror alert for their own safety

Britain’s 130,000 police officers were urged to be “vigilant for their personal safety” after counter-terror chiefs warned the threat level against them had increased in the past 24 hours.

Mark Rowley, the national lead for counter-terrorism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, refused to discuss specific intelligence but confirmed the threat level against detectives and support staff up and down the country had been “heightened”.

Police and the intelligence agencies are working around the clock to track hundreds of suspected British jihadists as they return from fighting with Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq.

Assistant Commissioner Rowley said: “The threat level to police officers and staff has been heightened, but we are used to confronting risk and danger; this is what we do on a daily basis, and we are well trained.

“We are informing our officers and staff of the heightened risk and reminding them to remain vigilant and alert to any possible dangers. We are asking them to follow existing policies and good practice. Measures are being put in place to increase the vigilance of officers and staff.

The Japan Times covers motivation:

Ancient prophecies of apocalypse give Islamic State jihadists hope

An infidel horde flying 80 banners meets a Muslim army at the Syrian town of Dabiq in an apocalyptic battle. The Muslims are decimated but ultimately prevail and conquer the world.

This ancient Sunni Muslim prophecy — mentioned in canonical accounts of the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings — has become a rallying cry for Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, especially since they seized Dabiq in August.

The town itself has negligible military value compared with the strategic Islamic State-controlled cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

But as Islamic State jihadists come under a U.S.-led aerial onslaught to stop their advance, its importance as a symbol has become clear.

Reuters delivers a warning:

U.N. says thousands likely to be massacred if jihadists take Kobani

Thousands of people most likely will be massacred if Kobani falls to Islamic State fighters, a U.N. envoy said on Friday, as militants fought deeper into the besieged Syrian Kurdish town in full view of Turkish tanks that have done nothing to intervene.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said Kobani could suffer the same fate as the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were murdered by Serbs in 1995, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two, while U.N. peacekeepers failed to protect them.

“If this falls, the 700, plus perhaps the 12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” de Mistura said. The United Nations believes 700 mainly elderly civilians are trapped in the town itself and 12,000 have left the center but not made it across the border into Turkey.

From Deutsche Welle, a recruit on trial:

Young man confesses in Germany’s first IS terror trial

A 20-year-old on trial for involvement in a terrorist organization has confessed to fighting alongside the IS in Syria. In a statement, he said he saw it as his duty to defend Sunni Muslims from the tyranny of Assad.

A man on trial in Germany for his alleged involvement in the “Islamic State” (IS) war in Syria has confessed to having joined the militia and fighting in Syria. Twenty-year-old Kreshnik B is on trial for his alleged membership in a foreign terrorist organization.

Born in Hesse to a family from Kosovo, Kreshnik B admitted to going to Syria in 2013 to fight against the Assad regime in his third day of court on Friday, October 10.

In a written confession read out by his lawyer in Frankfurt on Friday, he said, “The inconceivable violence used by the Alawite Assad regime against the Sunni majority was enraging and bewildering. No one wanted to help the people there.”

On to the world of spies and hacks, first with SecurityWeek:

Hackers Show the NSA’s Capabilities Are Not Magic

A group of security researchers, hardware hackers, hardware developers and hobbyists have set out to demonstrate that many of the tools similar to those used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) for surveillance operations can be reproduced on a low budget with open source software and hardware components.

The project, called the “NSA Playset,” came out of a collaboration between security researcher Dean Pierce and Michael Ossmann, founder of Great Scott Gadgets. Shortly after the NSA’s ANT catalog was leaked online, they recruited several others who had already implemented or were working on implementing capabilities that were similar to the ANT tools.

The ANT catalog is a 48-page classified document containing information on the technologies used by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit for cyber surveillance. The document is one of the many files obtained by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

On to the pros, via The Intercept:

Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany

The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.

“It’s something that many people have been wondering about for a long time,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, after reviewing the documents. “I’ve had conversations with executives at tech companies about this precise thing. How do you know the NSA is not sending people into your data centers?”

Here’s one of those delightful NSA grahpics accompanying the report:

BLOG NSA

From the Guardian, reunited:

Edward Snowden’s girlfriend living with him in Moscow, film reveals

  • Lindsay Mills, thought to have been deserted by Snowden before NSA revelations, appears beside whistleblower in Citizenfour

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

From the London Telegraph, sadly, partly true:

Big companies snoop on public more than GCHQ, says spy chief

  • Sir Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ, says private firms are the ones who know everything about you and share data

Private firms snoop far more on the public than the spy agencies, the head of GCHQ has said.

Sir Iain Lobban, Director of the intelligence agency, said it was the “commercial companies” who know everything about people and share the data with each other.

There is an ongoing row over the level of snooping powers the police and intelligence agencies should have.

But Sir Iain’s comments came as it emerged three of the UK’s main mobile phone companies automatically provided data on customers to the police if asked.

The Los Angeles Times covers cops misbehavin’:

LAPD ghost cars: Cops lied about officers on patrol, report finds

Los Angeles police deliberately deceived senior officials by artificially inflating the number of officers on patrol, according to an investigation by the LAPD’s independent watchdog.

In a report released Friday, the inspector general for the Police Commission found evidence that officers in at least five of the department’s 21 patrol divisions were said to be patrolling city streets in cars when, in fact, they were at station desks.

The report’s findings bolstered allegations made by union officials that patrol commanders around the city were using the so-called ghost cars to mask the fact that they did not have enough officers on patrol to meet mandatory staffing levels.

And yet more hacking, via United Press International:

Massive Snapchat nude photo leak targeting everyday people underway, Snapchat blames users

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” Snapchat said.

Hackers posting in the online forum 4Chan are actively leaking at least 100,000 nude or compromising photographs obtained from users of mobile picture message app Snapchat.

Initially suspected to be an elaborate hoax by trolls posting on 4Chan, Snapchat confirmed the leak on its official Twitter account and denied any responsibility for security breach, saying the pictures were lifted from third-party apps that allow users to save photos sent via the history-less mobile app.

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” the company tweeted.

Network World covers another hack attack:

Dairy Queen stores hit by ‘Backoff’ malware, payment card data stolen

Dairy Queen said Thursday the “Backoff” point-of-sale malware infected systems at 395 of its stores, stealing payment card data.

The company, which has 4,500 independently owned franchises in the U.S., said in a statement it believes the “malware has been contained.” Most of the stores, including one Orange Julius location, were affected for between three weeks to a month starting in early August, according to a list.

“We deeply regret any inconvenience this incident may cause,” wrote CEO and President John Gainor.

PCWorld covers another one:

Kmart hacked, exposing customers’ card numbers

Sears Holding Corp. said Friday the payment systems at its Kmart retail chain had been breached as a result of malware, compromising shoppers’ credit and debit card numbers.

The U.S. retail chain’s payment systems were infected with a form of malware that went undetected by its anti-virus systems, Sears said. There is no evidence that Kmart shoppers’ personal information, PIN numbers, email addresses or Social Security numbers were stolen, and the malware has since been removed, Sears said.

A forensic investigation indicates that the breach began in early September, Sears said. Kmart’s IT team discovered the breach only this Thursday.

After the jump, Japan orders Google amnesia, more unrest in St. Louis after police shooting, protests in Ferguson, more violence in St. Louis, protests in Ferguson, military misbehavin’ comes home to roost, digital crime in the police station, on to the deepening mystery of the mass graves and missing Mexican students, parental vigils, a missing mayor, and a hunt for masterminds, more murderous criminality, this time military, violence in Brazil, on to Asia and a bloody border battle, a Korean Coast Guard killing of a Chinese fisherman sparks a diplomatic row, Hong Kong protesters hit the street, and Taiwan lends its support. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, spies, hacks, drones, more


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

Turkey, Kurd tensions worry US in fight for Kobani

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

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

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

A parallel development from BBC News:

Turkish action against IS in Syria ‘unrealistic’

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

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

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

From Reuters, the focus of the storm:

Islamic State seizes large areas of Syrian town despite air strikes

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press covers the newest player:

Australia launches first airstrike in Iraq

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

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

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

And from intelNews, a spooky discovery:

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

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

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

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

The Mainichi covers Japanese war tourism:

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

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

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

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

Domestic InSecurity from the New York Times:

Protests in St. Louis After Police Officer Kills Black Teenager

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

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

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

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

More from CBC News:

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

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

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

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

The shooting led to an angry protest.

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

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

From the Washington Post, the latest Ferguson revelation:

Ferguson police continued crackdown on protesters after federal, state interventions

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

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

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

On to the spooky realm with Network World:

Judges spar with attorneys on national security data requests

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

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

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

The Intercept covers priming:

How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers

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

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

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

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

TechWeekEurope covers embarrassment by hackery in Old Blighty:

UCL Students Receive Thousands Of Spam Emails In ‘Bellogate’

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

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

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

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

Selfish selfies thwarted by Tehran, via the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

Beijing takes exception, via Reuters:

China angered after FBI head says Chinese hacking costs billions

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

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

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

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

And from the Guardian, censorship of another sort:

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

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

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

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

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

Network World covers a worm infestation:

Android SMS worm Selfmite returns, more aggressive than ever

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

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

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

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