Category Archives: GWOT

InSecurityWatch: War, spooks, cops, hacks, more


A lot more.

First, from Al Jazeera English:

UN: ISIL committing war crimes in Syria

Massacres, beheadings, torture, sexual enslavement and forced pregnancy being carried out by group, investigators say.

Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a large scale in areas under the group’s control in Syria, UN investigators say.

In its first report focused squarely on acts by ISIL, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented on Friday a horrifying picture of what life is like in areas controlled by the group, including massacres, beheadings, torture, sexual enslavement and forced pregnancy.

“The commanders of ISIS have acted wilfully, perpetrating these war crimes and crimes against humanity with clear intent of attacking persons with awareness of their civilian or ‘hors de combat’ (non-combat) status,” the report said, using an alternate acronym for ISIL.

“They are individually criminally responsible for these crimes.”

The view from Canada, via CBC News:

Inside ISIS: Calgary man’s picture found in documents revealing underbelly of extremist group

  • CBC is first North American broadcaster to view secret files obtained by German TV from Iraqi forces

The face of a Calgary man who drove a bomb-laden car into an Iraqi military base outside Baghdad last November, killing 46 people, appears amid a treasure trove of documents and videos that lay bare the bureaucratic underbelly of ISIS.

The documents and videos provide a new weapon for coalition forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Coalition forces obtained the documents, videos and 160 USB keys after Iraqi special forces hunted and killed the group’s top commander, Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Bilawi, in early June.

Collateral damage from the New York Times:

Strikes by U.S. Blunt ISIS but Anger Civilians

American airstrikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the vaunted capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, have scattered its fighters and disrupted the harsh system they had imposed, residents and visitors there say. But they see no gratitude toward the United States.

Rather, they suggested in interviews, many people are angry at the Americans. Food and fuel prices in Raqqa have soared, power blackouts have prevailed, and order is now threatened by a vacuum of any authority.

For all their violence and intolerance toward disbelievers, the fighters of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at least functioned as a government, providing basic services and some semblance of stability.

And about that ISIS social infrastructure. . .from Deutsche Welle:

Documents reveal extensive bureaucratic structures in Islamic State

IS has set up a complex bureaucratic infrastructure that includes health care and social benefits in territories it has seized. Secret documents obtained by German media outlets shed light on the group’s inner workings.

Documents obtained by German public radio and television broadcasters NDR and WDR along with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung detail the complex bureaucratic system set up by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.

The documents, which the reporters were allowed to peruse and copy in some cases, give extensive insight into the bureaucratic infrastructure IS has implemented in areas captured in Iraq and Syria. Among other things, they detail a complex health care and pension system, marriage benefits along with financial benefits to widows or wives of IS fighters captured in combat.

The report released on Friday points to IS’ seeing itself as more than just a militia: the jihad group fighting to install a caliphate in much of the Middle East sees itself as an actual state. Not only does the group have enough income – believed to be mostly from oil sales and ransom money – but it also has the bureaucratic infrastructure needed to run a caliphate.

More from Süddeutsche Zeitung itself:

‘Islamic State’: A Bureaucracy of Terror

  • Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR and WDR examine confidential documents of the ‘Islamic State’

The terrorist organization ‘Islamic State’ (IS) has already begun building an extensive government structure. Internal IS documents examined by German public radio and television broadcasters NDR and WDR, and Germany’s leading broadsheet newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung detail IS’s extensive bureaucratic system. The documents (which the reporters were shown and in some cases able to copy) shed light on IS’s framework for health insurance, marriage benefits and support for the families of IS fighters who are killed or taken as prisoners.

The documents also contain extensive lists of names of fighters, detailed weapons purchases and the personnel records of suicide bombers. In a sort of index, IS leaders list “martyrs” who have been reassigned to suicide bomb missions. Most names on the list are accompanied by a phone number of a family member or friend who can be notified later. The documents show that many IS volunteers were assigned to suicide missions within just a week of their arrival in Iraq.

The documents provide an unprecedented insight into the radical Islamist organization that has seized territory in Syria and Iraq. The material analyzed dates from 2013 through early 2014 and relates almost exclusively to IS activity in Iraq. According to the Iraqi government, the documents were saved to memory sticks and hard drives which were obtained in a raid at high-ranking IS leader Abdul Rahman al-Bilawi’s hideout on June 5, 2014. At the time, al-Bilawi was second in command within IS and operated as ‘minister of war’, according to Iraqi sources. The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on the documents in June. Since then the Iraqi government has made some of the documents available to NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Still more from the Guardian:

Isis to mint own Islamic dinar coins in gold, silver and copper

  • Islamic State to produce own currency for use in self-declared caliphate – as soon as it can locate a mint and enough metal

It has gathered its fortune through the tools of modern finance, but now Islamic State (Isis) aims to mint its own coins.

The move is reportedly the brain child of the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has personally overseen the design of gold, silver and copper coins of the Islamic dinar to be used in his self-declared caliphate – as soon as the terror group can locate a mint and enough precious metals.

Isis has released designs of the coins and a breakdown of denominations. It claims the currency will free Muslims from a financial order that has “enslaved and impoverished” them. But it isn’t totally eschewing the mainstream economy, acknowledging that each coin’s worth will reflect the metal’s value on commodities markets.

Seeking a disconnect with the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

In Australia, Obama looks for help cutting cash flow to Islamic State

President Barack Obama arrived in Australia on Saturday looking for help on one of the most difficult tasks in the fight against the Islamic State: cutting off the millions of dollars flowing to one of the world’s best-funded terrorist organizations.

Obama made some progress in previous stops this week in China and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

In China, Obama and his counterpart, President Xi Jinping, agreed to work together on “cracking down on terrorist funding networks.” In Myanmar, the 18 leaders of the East Asia Summit reaffirmed in a statement their support to help combat the Islamic State, including its financing.

From the Associated Press, troubles:

West-backed Syria rebels shaken on multiple fronts

During a key battle in the rugged mountains of a northern province earlier this month, U.S.-backed Syrian rebels collapsed before an assault by al-Qaida fighters. Some surrendered their weapons. Others outright defected to the militants.

A detailed account of the battle in Idlib, from a series of interviews with opposition activists by The Associated Press, underscores how the moderate rebels that Washington is trying to boost to fight the Islamic State group are instead hemorrhaging on multiple fronts.

They face an escalated assault by Islamic extremists, which activists say are increasingly working together to eliminate them. At the same time, a string of assassinations has targeted some of their most powerful commanders.

“This is the end of the Free Syrian Army,” said Alaa al-Deen, an opposition activist in Idlib, referring to Western-backed rebel groups. “It’s the beginning of an Islamic emirate.”

From Reuters, cockeyed optimist?:

U.S. military chief says battle with IS starting to turn

The United States’ top military officer told American troops on a surprise visit to Baghdad on Saturday that the momentum in the battle with Islamic State was “starting to turn”, but predicted a drawn-out campaign lasting several years.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was visiting Iraq for the first time since President Barack Obama responded to Islamic State advances this summer by ordering troops back into a country they left in 2011.

Hours earlier, an Iraqi army colonel said security forces appeared close to retaking the country’s biggest refinery at Baiji, which has been under siege for months by Islamic State militants.

From the Washington Post, well, gollleeee:

U.S. weighs expanded CIA training, arming of Syrian allies struggling against Assad

The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases, U.S. officials said.

The proposed CIA buildup would expand a clandestine mission that has grown substantially over the past year, U.S. officials said. The agency now vets and trains about 400 fighters each month — as many as are expected to be trained by the Pentagon when its program reaches full strength late next year.

The prospect of expanding the CIA program was on the agenda of a meeting of senior national security officials at the White House last week. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the meeting or to address whether officials had reached a decision on the matter.

Meanwhile. . .from Xinhua, the Spring has sprung:

Death toll in Libya’s Benghazi clashes rises to 356

Another 16 people were killed in violent clashes between Libyan army and Islamic militants in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday, adding the total death toll to 356, sources said.

“The center has received 16 dead bodies killed in clashes and random shooting on Sunday,” a medical source in Benghazi medical center said.

The Libyan army, reinforced by gunmen loyal to retired Major- General Khalifa Haftar, has been waging a street war against Islamic militants in Libya’s second city Benghazi since mid- October, in an attempt to regain control of the city, which fell into the hands of Islamists last July.

Rebooting the big bang, from the Los Angeles Times:

Major overhaul of nuclear force planned to improve security and morale

Stung by a series of scandals in the nation’s nuclear force, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans Friday to overhaul its management, calling for billions of dollars to upgrade equipment, improve training, increase oversight and address security lapses and poor morale.

Speaking at the Pentagon and later in this snow-dusted base that is home to a fleet of B-52 bombers and missiles with nuclear warheads, Hagel said that sweeping changes were needed to address problems that could undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Disclosures of cheating on tests, drug use, violations of security rules and lax supervision have rocked the Pentagon’s nuclear force over the last two years. The Air Force has fired at least two nuclear commanders and disciplined others.

More from the Guardian:

US nuclear force reviews find security flaws and poor leadership

  • Defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, to order major changes and billions in extra funding to improve management of arsenal

The reviews – one by Pentagon officials and the other by outside experts – concluded that the structure of US nuclear forces was so incoherent that it could not be properly managed in its current form, and that this explained why top-level officials were often unaware of problems below them.

The officials said the reviews found a “disconnect” between what nuclear force leaders said and what they delivered to lower-level troops who executed the missions in the field.

To illustrate the extent of decay in the intercontinental ballistic missile force, the reviews found that maintenance crews used to have access to only one set of tools required to tighten bolts on the warhead end of the Minuteman III missile, and that this toolset was being used by crews at all three ICBM bases, in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. They had to share it via Federal Express delivery, the officials said. The crews now had one tool set at each base.

The reviews also found that a combination of problems amounted to fundamental flaws rather than random or periodic slip-ups, the officials said. The nuclear forces were currently meeting the demands of the mission but were finding it increasingly difficult to cope.

From the New York Times shrinks, self-shrinking:

Psychologists to Review Role in Detainee Interrogations

The nation’s largest organization of psychologists will conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government’s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration.

The American Psychological Association said in a statement released late Wednesday that its board had named David H. Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, to conduct the review.

For years, questions about the role of American psychologists and behavioral scientists in the development and implementation of the Bush-era interrogation program have been raised by human rights advocates as well as by critics within the psychological profession itself. Psychologists were involved in developing the enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency. Later, a number of psychologists, in the military and in the intelligence community, were involved in carrying out and monitoring interrogations.

Intrusive neighbors, from VICE News:

More Drones on US Borders Create Privacy Concerns for Its Neighbors

The US will soon launch widespread drone surveillance on its border with Canada, after blanketing half its border with Mexico with the unmanned aerial vehicles in place of border patrol agents.

But the drones — which officials told VICE News cost $10 million each and take high-resolution videos while soaring over remote areas — violate people’s right to privacy and will further “militarize” the line between the US and Canada, analysts told VICE News.

“This creates a virtual wall between the countries,” Don Alper, the director of Western Washington University’s Center for Canadian-American Relations and Border Policy Research Institute, told VICE News. “It doesn’t make sense to me. There are other ways of security, like close cooperation between Canadian and American enforcement — and they already do cooperate really well.”

Ditto, via Reuters:

Sweden says has proof of foreign submarine intrusion in October

Sweden has proof that a small foreign submarine was operating illegally in its waters last month, its top military officer said on Friday after a mysterious episode that triggered the country’s biggest military mobilization since the Cold War.

More than 200 troops, stealth ships and helicopters scoured Baltic waters off the capital Stockholm in October after reports of foreign “underwater activity”, but without finding or bringing to the surface any submarine.

“The military can confirm that a small U-boat breached Sweden’s territorial waters. We can exclude all alternative explanations,” the head of Sweden’s armed forces, General Sverker Goransson, told a news conference.

After the jump, Washington deploys its naval ray guns, Germany’s costly deployment, a post-Snowden Humint preference, spy versus spy in Israel, apprehension in Ferguson, a Border Patrol backshooter named, a polygraphic cheating teacher busted, Marvel’s warriors recruited by Spanish cops, British cyberbullying soars, malware targets Europe’s governments, China busts malware makers, Spain moving on Palestinian recognition, Israeli issues lifetime ban on humanitarian surgeon, cultural hubris from the Turkish president, a Pakistani denial of a Washington allegation, kiss-ins challenge Indian moral police, the unspeakable spoken in Myanmar, on to Hong Kong and Occupy leaders rebuffed, Obama voices a challenge to China, China complains of U.S. spy flights, China announces streaming media bans, China shows off drones and rockets, Xi wants tighter Aussie ties and a maritime code of conduct, Japan sides with Washington as it continues retooling remilitarization, adopting a new anti-terror law, Okinawa’s likely next governor opposes U.S. base relocation, plus enhancing enhancement for enhancements. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, hacks, hate


And so much else.

First, you knew it was coming, via the Guardian:

US military considers sending combat troops to battle Isis forces in Iraq

  • General Martin Dempsey tells House committee that he would consider abandoning Obama’s pledge and send troops to fight Isis in Iraq

The top-ranking officer in the American military said on Thursday that the US is actively considering the direct use of troops in the toughest upcoming fights against the Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq, less than a week after Barack Obama doubled troop levels there.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, indicated to the House of Representatives armed services committee that the strength of Isis relative to the Iraqi army may be such that he would recommend abandoning Obama’s oft-repeated pledge against returning US ground troops to combat in Iraq.

Retaking the critical city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest, and re-establishing the border between Iraq and Syria that Isis has erased “will be fairly complex terrain” for the Iraqi security forces that the US is once again supporting, Dempsey acknowledged.

“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by US forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” he said.

And, uh, that droned guy? Uh, well. . .via BBC News:

Islamic State: ‘Baghdadi message’ issued by jihadists

Islamic State has released an audiotape it says was recorded by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, days after reports that he had been killed or injured.

In the recording, released via social media, the speaker says IS fighters will never stop fighting “even if only one soldier remains”.

Correspondents say the recording appears authentic and recent. BBC analysts say the message is probably also intended to counter the claim that Baghdadi has been killed.

Ancillary action, via BBC News:

Egypt sailors missing after navy ship attacked in Med

Gunmen have attacked an Egyptian navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, state media say, leaving five servicemen injured and eight more missing at sea.

The vessel reportedly caught fire in the assault, some 70km (45 miles) off the northern port of Damietta. In two further attacks in northern Sinai, militants killed five policemen and soldiers, officials said.

A three-month state of emergency was declared in northern Sinai last month after 31 soldiers were killed.

Gettin’ spooky, from the Guardian:

Race to revive NSA surveillance curbs before Congress handover

  • Harry Reid, leader of the outgoing Democratic Senate majority, attempts to bring USA Freedom Act to a vote

The major post-Edward Snowden legislation meant to constrain the National Security Agency received a new lease on life Wednesday when the Senate majority leader paved the way for the USA Freedom Act to receive a vote before the congressional session expires.

Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who will cease being majority leader when his party returns to the minority in January, filed a procedural motion that will permit the bill to receive a hearing on the Senate floor, perhaps as early as next week. Its supporters have feared that Senate inaction would quietly kill the only post-9/11 attempt at curtailing mass surveillance.

The USA Freedom Act, which passed the House of Representatives in May with bipartisan support, seeks to get the NSA out of the business of bulk domestic phone records collection, though how far it restrains the surveillance agency is a matter of dispute.

The London Telegraph covers cellular spooks aloft:

US using fake cellphone towers on planes to gather data

  • The devices, nicknamed ‘dirtboxes,’ can collect information from tens of thousands of cell phones in a single flight

An agency of the US Justice Department is gathering data from thousands of cell phones, including both criminal suspects and innocent Americans, by using fake communications towers on airplanes, according to reports.

The program run by the US Marshals Service began operations in 2007 and uses Cessna planes flying from at least five major airports and covering most of the US population, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The planes use devices made by Boeing Co that mimic the cell phone towers used by major telecommunications companies and trick mobile phones into revealing their unique registration data, the report said.

The devices, nicknamed “dirtboxes,” can collect information from tens of thousands of cell phones in a single flight, which occur on a regular basis, according to those with knowledge of the program, the Journal said.

Big Brother’s Mini-Mes, from the East Bay Express:

Controlling the Surveillance State

A new report from the ACLU shows that local law enforcement agencies have been spending big bucks on surveillance technology — and offers recommendations on how to rein in the spending

California cities and counties have spent more than $65 million on surveillance technologies in the past decade while conducting little public debate about the expenditures, according to a new report published this week by three American Civil Liberties Union chapters in the state. Public records reviewed by the ACLU also indicate that though cities and counties in California bought surveillance technologies 180 instances, they only held public discussions about the proposals just 26 times.

The technologies examined in the report included automated license plate readers, closed-circuit video cameras, facial recognition software, drones, data mining tools, and cellphone interception devices known as ISMI catchers or stingrays. The report analyzed purchases by 59 cities and by 58 county governments in California. In many instances, city and county officials used federal grant money to make the purchases, and then asked local legislative bodies to rubber-stamp their decisions. “We long suspected California law enforcement was taking advantage of federal grant money to skirt official oversight and keep communities in the dark about surveillance systems,” said Nicole Ozer, the technology and civil liberties director for the ACLU of California.

The report also found that only one-third of the cities and counties surveyed had privacy policies to prevent law enforcement abuse.

Nuclear cowboys reined in, from International Business Times:

Chuck Hagel To Order Shake-Up Of US Nuclear Forces, Following Series Of Scandals

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering significant changes to the management of the country’s nuclear weapons, after internal reviews concluded that the “incoherent” structure of forces means they cannot be properly managed, according to the Associated Press.

Two senior U.S. defense officials, who discussed the situation with the AP on condition of anonymity, told the agency that Hagel will be proposing additional investment of between $1 billion and $10 billion dollars and appointing more senior military officers to key posts.

U.S. nuclear forces have been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months. In January, a group of Air Force officers who work on nuclear launch duty were suspended and had their security clearances revoked, after being caught cheating on proficiency tests.

In addition, military-run nuclear facilities have failed safety inspections, troops have been found violating safety protocols surrounding launch command centers and an Air Force general in charge of an entire section of U.S. nuclear weapons was removed from his post, following an incident of embarrassing, drunken behavior while on an official visit to Russia, according to the AP.

Drones over the border with BBC News:

US-Mexico border ‘patrolled by drones’

The US government is using drones to patrol half of its border with Mexico, a report by the Associated Press says.

The strategy means that the US is increasingly able to move away from using large numbers of border patrol agents along the entire frontier. The drones allow border control agents to focus on areas of “greater threat”, says the report.

The US border immigration system is under pressure in the face of a worsening border crisis.

And Amazon drones launched, from the Guardian:

Amazon to begin testing same-day delivery drones in Cambridge

  • Online retailer expands R&D operations in England, two years after buying Cambridge-based startup Evi Technologies

Amazon is planning to test drones in Cambridge, England, as the battle to offer consumers same-day deliveries heats up.

The US company announced with considerable fanfare late last year that it was considering using drones as a way of dramatically reducing the time it takes to deliver orders to customers. At the time there was speculation that the move was little more than a publicity stunt. But Amazon said in July that it had sought permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration to test drones that could fly as fast as 50 miles per hour for up to 30 minutes at a time to deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg (5lb).

Amazon is now expanding its R&D operations in Cambridge – two years after buying Cambridge-based startup Evi Technologies – to take advantage of the talent pool of academics and researchers in the area. The lab will focus on Prime Air, Amazon’s name for its drones project, the blog TechCrunch reported.

Old-fashioned spookery, from intelNews:

Lithuania charges state employee with spying for Belarus, Russia

Prosecutors in Lithuania have charged an employee of a state-owned airline navigation services provider with spying for neighboring Belarus, though it is presumed the compromised information may have also been shared with Russia.

Lithuanian government prosecutor Darius Raulusaitis told reporters at a news conference on Monday that the man charged was a Lithuanian national living and working in capital Vilnius. He has been identified only with his initials, which are R.L.

The alleged spy is being accused of collecting information relating to Lithuania’s military strength with the intention of sharing it with unregistered agents of Belarus.

TheLocal.es covers a continuing coverup:

Spain scraps plan to declassify military files

Spain’s decision to shelve plans to declassify thousands of documents relating to the country’s Civil War and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco is a mistake, a top historian has told The Local.

Defence Minister Pedro Morenés has said that the government will not be classifying some 10,000 armed services documents from the Civil War and Franco dictatorship era because of insufficient resources to analyse their contents.

The papers from the 1936-1968 period, which reportedly shed light on issues such as the military’s role during the Civil War and relations with foreign powers during the dictatorship, had been slated for declassification by the previous Socialist government.

BuzzFeed starts our “cops behaing badly” segment:

Secret Service Agent Chatting On Cell Phone Missed White House Intruder

A new review points to a series of Secret Service failings as the reason Omar Gonzales managed to penetrate the White House in September.

An intruder managed to climb the White House fence and make it inside the presidential residence due to Secret Service failures, a new review has found.

The Department of Homeland Security review explores how 42-year-old Army veteran Omar Gonzalez penetrated the White House on Sept. 19. Gonzalez had hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his car, investigators later found.

According to the review, the Secret Service’s radios and alarms didn’t function correctly, The New York Times reported. In addition, a Secret Service officer missed Gonzales because he was talking on his personal cellphone and didn’t have his earpiece in. The officer had also left his second radio in his locker.

From the Guardian, slightly harder than shooting fish in a barrel:

Ex-Maryland police officer sentenced for shooting handcuffed suspect

  • Johnnie Riley to serve five years in prison for shooting which paralyzed suspect from the waist down, far less time that prosecutors had requested

A former Maryland police officer convicted in a shooting that paralyzed a handcuffed suspect from the waist down was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison, far less time than prosecutors had requested.

Former District Heights police Sg Johnnie Riley, 44, was sentenced in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. He could have faced up to 45 years in prison, and prosecutors asked for a 20-year sentence.

Prosecutors say Riley shot a handcuffed man in the back in September 2012 after the man got out of a police cruiser and ran away. The injured man, Kalvin Kyle, was paralyzed from the waist down. Riley had pulled Kyle over on suspicion of driving a stolen motorcycle.

From euronews, a Parisian police protest:

Schools barricaded in Paris in anger over alleged police brutality

Program notes:

Hundreds of students barricaded school entrances across Paris and held demonstrations on Thursday against alleged police brutality.

It’s the latest in three weeks of protests since the death of 21-year-old botany student Remi Fraisse.

He was killed during a march against plans to build a dam in southwestern France. His death has been blamed on a grenade fired by police which hit him in the back, getting lodged between his back pack and clothes before exploding.

And from the Independent, prosecutorial misbehavin’:

Hundreds of asylum-seekers ‘wrongly deported’ on drug smuggler’s evidence

Theresa May is facing fresh embarrassment amid allegations that the Home Office has for years been relying on the work of a convicted drug smuggler who lied about his qualifications to help it determine sensitive asylum cases – which may have resulted in hundreds of people being wrongly deported.

The unnamed individual works as a language analyst for Sprakab, a Swedish firm which since 2000 has been paid by the Home Office to study audio recordings of people claiming asylum in Britain. It often uses the firm’s judgements – which are based on 20-minute telephone interviews – to support its rejection of asylum applications.

Allegations have now surfaced in Sweden suggesting that the man is a convicted criminal who fabricated parts of his CV. Several independent linguistic experts have also cast doubt on the quality of his work, which earlier this year was criticised by the UK’s Supreme Court as offering “wholly inappropriate” views on whether an asylum-seeker sounded convincing.

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Rome Ferguson, and Germany [where an an alleged neo-Nazi pederast is busted as well], anti-Semitism resurgent in Europe, European Memory Hole fines for Google, California concealed weapons upheld, tracing a hack attack’s epidemiology, fake iPhone app hack attacks, and a jailed hacker confesses, on to China and a promise of maritime peace, Taiwan cedes air supremacy to the Mainland, Japan next and an Abe bid for a three-way with Seoul and Beijing, Abe’s cops stage a heavy-handed raid on leftist students, Japanese/Australian defense talks, and Robocop, the mall version. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cold War 2.0, hacks, zones


And so much more.

First up, Cold War 2.0, from BBC News:

Russian planes to patrol in Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico

Russia has said its air force will conduct regular air patrols from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Russia had wound down such long-range missions after the end of the Cold War.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there was a plan to provide long-range aviation maintenance for the flights.

Amid renewed tensions over Ukraine, Western analysts say Russia has been returning to methods used to test Nato defences during the Cold War. On Wednesday, Mr Shoigu said “long-range aviation units” would fly along the borders of the Russian Federation and over the waters of the Arctic Ocean.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

NATO says fresh columns of Russian armor and troops entering Ukraine

NATO’s top commander said Wednesday that the alliance has seen columns of Russian troops, armored vehicles and heavy guns entering eastern Ukraine over the last two days.

U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove told reporters during a visit to Bulgaria that the border between Ukraine and Russia where Moscow-backed separatists are in control is now “completely wide open” to infusions of foreign fighting power into the conflict area.

“We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air-defense systems and Russian combat troops entering Ukraine,” Breedlove said.

He said NATO didn’t have a firm number on the invading vehicles but said they were in “multiple columns.”

Still more Cold War 2.0 hype from News Corp Australia:

Russian warships ‘heading to Australia’

A CONVOY of heavily armed Russian war ships, including at least one high powered missile cruiser, are cruising international waters to Australia’s north, Defence has confirmed.

Defence is monitoring the fleet of four ships, which include a cruiser, a destroyer a tug boat and a refueller, which were believed to be in the Coral Sea, south of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on Wednesday evening.

Australian ships HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Stuart were ordered to “crash sail” to the Coral Sea earlier this week in a bid to “greet” the Russian fleet. It is believed HMAS Parramatta arrived last night and HMAS Stuart was a day away.

From the New York Times, depends on what the meaning of is is, as in torture:

U.S. Tells U.N. Panel of Steps to Revise Policy on Interrogation

The Obama administration told a United Nations panel in Geneva on Wednesday that the United States had tortured terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, but that it had since taken steps to prevent any future use of unlawful, coercive interrogation techniques.

“The United States is proud of its record as a leader in respecting, promoting and defending human rights and the rule of law, both at home and around the world,” Mary McLeod, the acting State Department legal adviser, told the panel. “But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our values.”

The panel addressed by Ms. McLeod monitors compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In her testimony, she formally introduced a new position by the United States government on whether a provision of that treaty, which prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” imposes legal obligations on its conduct abroad. The George W. Bush administration contended that it applied only on American soil.

From the Guardian, sins of omission?:

Doubt cast over US torture investigation as more CIA detainees come forward

  • Lawyers for men allegedly tortured by the CIA say their clients were never interviewed as part of a major criminal investigation concluded in 2012

More lawyers for men allegedly tortured by the CIA are coming forward to say that the major US criminal investigation into torture never interviewed their clients.

The Justice Department inquiry, concluded in 2012 without charging anyone involved in the CIA’s Bush-era network of secret prisons, is receiving new scrutiny thanks to a United Nations committee hearing in Geneva this week examining US compliance with international anti-torture law.

Looking at US conduct on torture for the first time since 2006, the committee on Wednesday specifically asked a US delegation about the defunct investigation, conducted by John Durham, an assistant US attorney in Connecticut.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers an urgent impulse:

Senate to vote on NSA overhaul bill

The Senate could vote as early as Friday on a bill that would revamp the way the National Security Agency collects telephone data in its domestic spying program.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed a motion Wednesday to end debate on the USA Freedom Act, a measure authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., that would essentially end the agency’s bulk collection of so-called metadata.

Broad searches, either through a particular service provider or by a broad geographic region or zip code, would be stopped under the bill, Leahy said in an outline of the bill. The government wouldn’t be able to collect all information relating to a particular service provider or broad geographic region under the bill.

From the Guardian, silent but deadly:

Watch out: the US government wants to pass new spying laws behind your back

  • Dangerous cybersecurity legislation would allow Google and Facebook to hand over even more of your information to the NSA and FBI

Now, as the post-election lame-duck session opens on Wednesday in Washington, the Senate might try to sneak through a “cybersecurity” bill that would, as the ACLU puts it, “create a massive loophole in our existing privacy laws”. The vague and ambiguous law would essentially allow companies like Google and Facebook to hand over even more of your personal information to the US government, all of which could ultimately end up in the hands of the NSA and the FBI.

The House already passed a version of this bill earlier in the year, and the White House, despite vowing to veto earlier versions, told reporters an “information sharing” cybersecurity bill was on its list of priorities for the lame-duck session (while NSA reform is not).

Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein says she’s willing to make privacy compromises to get the bill to the floor, but did not elaborate – at all – on what those were. And given the sleazy tactics of House permanent select intelligence committee member Mike Rogers in pretending he had the support of privacy groups when the House passed its version of the bill, it’s hard to take anything the intelligence committees say in the area of privacy on good faith.

The Register Googles irony:

Who will save Europe’s privacy from the NSA? Oh God … it’s Google

  • Sucking up everyone’s data? That’s our freakin’ job!

A Google lawyer says Europeans spied on by the NSA should get the same rights as Americans – such as the right to sue the US government for privacy invasions.

David Drummond, chief legal officer for the information-harvesting monster (Google), published a blog post on Wednesday titled “It’s time to extend the US Privacy Act to EU citizens.”

The European Commission has been calling for such a move ever since ex-NSA techie Edward Snowden blew the lid off Uncle Sam’s global internet spying last year. New Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova is in Washington this week to try to negotiate such a deal.

According to Drummond, who was in Brussels last week as part of Google’s “right to be forgotten” roadshow, there is an “urgent need for surveillance reform” to repair severely damaged relations between the US and Europe.

From the Intercept, hush money:

Secret Cash Pays for U.S. Drone Mistakes

A Yemeni family was paid $100,000 for the death of relatives in a U.S. drone strike in 2012, according to a remarkable story yesterday from Yahoo News. Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a 56-year-old who works at Yemen’s environmental agency, has been on a mission to find out why his innocent nephew and brother-in-law were killed in a strike that also took out three suspected militants. He made it to Washington D.C. last fall, he told journalist Michael Isikoff, where he met with two White House national security aides. They listened, but said little in response.

Then, this summer, Jaber was given a bag of “freshly minted” bills by a Yemeni security official. The money, he was told, came from the U.S. government.

Jaber’s account adds to the piecemeal picture of how the U.S. responds to wrongful deaths in the remote air war in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. In Afghanistan, the military has set up systems to pay cash to the families of civilians it kills or injures. But when it comes to drone strikes, the administration has been far less open about if and when it compensates civilian casualties.

Hacking above the cloud with the Washington Post:

Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network

Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said.

The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, according to three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised.

Officials also said that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack.

From Nextgov, a story with implications for the far-sighted:

DHS Drafts Blueprints for Self-Repairing Networks as Hacks Mount

The Department of Homeland Security is working with industry to automate cyber defenses inside the government, which will ensure operations continue during and after hack attacks, DHS officials said Wednesday.

Enterprise Automated Security Environment, or EASE, could give rise to something like a self-repairing network, Philip Quade, chief operating officer of National Security Agency’s information assurance directorate, told Nextgov last week.

Hacks are inevitable, many security professionals say. Resiliency is the key to preventing the attackers from finding sensitive information or disrupting activities, they add.

So what’s a couple of decades, right? From CBC News:

Microsoft patches ‘significant vulnerability’ in Windows

  • 19-year-old bug lets attacker remotely take over Windows computers

Microsoft Corp issued patches on Tuesday to fix a bug in its Windows operating system that remained undiscovered for 19 years.

The bug, which is present in every version of Microsoft Windows from Windows 95 onward, allows an attacker to remotely take over and control a computer.

IBM Corp’s cybersecurity research team discovered the bug in May, describing it as a “significant vulnerability” in the operating system.

“The buggy code is at least 19 years old and has been remotely exploitable for the past 18 years,” IBM X-Force research team said in its blog on Tuesday.

Cops behaving badly in the Big Easy, from the New York Times:

New Orleans Special Crimes Detectives Routinely Ignored Cases, Report Says

An scathing report on a New Orleans Police Department unit has found that in nearly 1,300 sex crime-related calls fielded by fives detectives over a three-year period, 86 percent showed no record of having been investigated beyond an initial report, with the substantial majority being simply classified as miscellaneous.

The report, compiled by the city’s Office of Inspector General, examined every call that came to the five detectives, in the police department’s special victims unit, between 2011 and 2013. During that time, 1,290 calls for service were assigned to these detectives, who are not named in the report. In only 450 cases did the detectives fill out an initial report, and in 271 of those cases, no further reports were made at all.

Michael Harrison, who was permanently appointed as the city’s new police superintendent last month, said in a news conference that the five detectives and their supervisors had been assigned to other departments and that the department’s public integrity bureau was investigating the officers’ actions and re-examining their caseload. He suggested that some of what the detectives did might go beyond neglect of duty to potential criminal action, such as the altering official paperwork to make it appear that work had been done.

More of the same, this time in Old Blighty, via BBC News:

Police handling of child abuse intelligence to be investigated

Three police forces face an inquiry over alleged failures to act on tip offs about potential paedophiles.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will examine how Essex, North Wales and North Yorkshire handled information from Canadian police passed to the UK in 2012.

Around 2,000 names were sent by Toronto Police to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The three forces referred themselves to the IPCC for investigation.

And from United Press International, oops:

Police mistakenly shoot 911 caller thinking he was gunman

Police in Washington state mistakenly shot a good samaritan who reported suspicious activity on Halloween, thinking he was the gunman they were chasing.

The police mistook him for 59-year-old John Kendall, who allegedly shot his neighbor Abigail Mounce in the face and the drove to the woods where he shot himself in the head. The man who found the car reported it to police and remained at the scene.

The VPD officers reportedly did not know the person who called 911 was there and fired on him, shooting him in the leg.

After the jump, Google battles a Memory Hole mandate, hard times intolerance in Rome, major kidnapping arrests in Mexico, FARC apologies for tribal murders, Israeli cops arrested for killing Palestinian teens, U.S. swabbies attacked in Turkey. Azerbijanis shoot down an Armenian chopper, Nigerian anger at American munitions restraints, on to Hong Kong and more violence at the Occupy camp as the courts refuse to halt a potential eviction, the to Japan and a fatal protest of resurgent militarism and strong political opposition to a military base move. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Class, war, hacks, & zones


Onward, first with the single greatest global security threat from Al Jazeera America:

Global inequality is a rising concern for elites

  • The worldwide wealth gap is the World Economic Forum’s trend to watch for 2015

Income inequality is now the number one global concern, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) — an assessment supported by research suggesting even economic elites now fret over the impact on society of the growing wealth divide.

In an annual WEF report released last week, United Nations adviser Amina Mohamed warns that income inequality can have pervasive social and political consequences. The deepening gap between rich and poor, she writes, “reduces the sustainability of economic growth [and] weakens social cohesion and security.”

That perceived threat to social stability may be why income inequality has steadily climbed the WEF’s list of priorities with each new edition of it annual economic assessment. In its 2011 report, the WEF listed inequality as “the most underestimated” global trend. By last year’s edition, it had climbed to second place.

Al-Monitor covers hands across the divide:

Iraqi Shiites join Sunnis to fight Islamic State

Shiite authorities have assumed a prominent role in calming the situation and preventing their followers from having violent reactions that may have dire consequences. Iraq’s prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, along with his spokesmen, has repeatedly said, “Sunnis are ourselves, not only our brothers.” Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Hussein Ismail al-Sadr regularly receives Sunni tribesmen and clerics from different parts of Iraq, an important step in the prevention of sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

IS did not only target Shiites to drag them into attacking Sunnis, but also suppressed moderate Sunnis to rid the internal front from moderate perspectives and from those who coexist with Shiites. The group deals severely with Sunni tribes that preserve or seek to preserve good ties with Shiites. The Oct. 20 execution of several members of the Bou Nemr tribe in Anbar province is a prominent example. The group has killed 238 men from the tribe and a mass grave of 250 tribesmen was recently found.

These actions have resulted in adverse reactions that were not the group’s objective. The Sunnis sought help from the Shiites to get rid of the group. In an interview with Al-Hurra on Oct. 29, Bou Nemr leader and parliament member Ghazi al-Gaood called on Shiite leaders, particularly Muqtada al-Sadr and the head of the Badr Organization, Hadi Al-Amiri, to oppose the destruction of his tribe by this group. He said they were facing a genocide at the hands of a barbaric group that had no religious, moral or humane principles, and therefore they welcomed any force that could assist them, even if this meant resorting to help from Israel.

Ignorance, intentional or otherwise, via the Guardian:

Libyan former CIA detainees say US torture inquiry never interviewed them

US government preparing to defend its record on torture before UN panel, but fresh accusation reopens controversy over 2012 decision by prosecutor not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse

As the US government prepares to defend its record on torture before a United Nations panel, five Libyan men once held without charge by the CIA say the main criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse never even interviewed them.

The Libyans’ accusation reopens controversy over the 2012 pre-election decision by the prosecutor in the case not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse – an episode the US State Department has held up as an example of its diligence in complying with international torture obligations.

On Wednesday, a United Nations committee in Geneva is scheduled to hear a US delegation outline recent measures Washington has taken to combat torture. It will be the first update the US has provided to the committee since 2006, when the CIA still operated its off-the-books “black site” prisons. Human rights campaigners who have seen the Obama administration repeatedly decline to deliver justice for US torture victims consider it a belated chance at ending what they consider to be impunity.

Among the committee’s requested submissions, issued in 2010, is a description of steps the US has taken to ensure torture claims against it are “promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated”. The committee specifically asked for a status update about the Justice Department’s since-concluded torture inquiry.

From the Intercept, inquiring minds want to know:

What Happened to the Humanitarians Who Wanted to Save Libyans With Bombs and Drones?

Almost without exception, war advocates justified NATO’s military action in Libya on the ground that it was driven not primarily by strategic or resource objectives but by altruism. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote: “Libya is a reminder that sometimes it is possible to use military tools to advance humanitarian causes.” Former Obama official Anne-Marie Slaughter argued that intervention was a matter of upholding “universal values,” which itself advanced America’s strategic goals. In justifying the war to Americans (more than a week after it started), President Obama decreed: “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”

But “turning a blind eye” to the ongoing – and now far worse – atrocities in Libya is exactly what the U.S., its war allies, and most of the humanitarian war advocates are now doing. Indeed, after the bombing stopped, war proponents maintained interest in the Libyan people just long enough to boast of their great prescience and to insist on their vindication. Slaughter took her grand victory lap in a Financial Times op-ed headlined “Why Libya sceptics were proved badly wrong,” Dismissing those who were telling her that “it is too early to tell” and that “in a year, or a decade, Libya could disintegrate into tribal conflict or Islamist insurgency, or split apart or lurch from one strongman to another,” she insisted that nothing could possibly be worse than letting Gaddafi remain in power. Thus: “Libya proves the west can make those choices wisely after all.”

Kristof similarly took his moment in the sun to celebrate his own rightness, visiting Tripoli in August and then announcing that Americans were regarded by grateful Libyans as heroes. While carefully larding up his column with all sorts of caveats about how things could still go terribly wrong, he nonetheless trumpeted that “this was a rare military intervention for humanitarian reasons, and it has succeeded” and that “on rare occasions military force can advance human rights. Libya has so far been a model of such an intervention.” When Gaddafi’s defeat was imminent, the White-House-supporting Think Progress blog exploited the resulting emotions (exactly as the GOP did when Saddam was captured) to taunt the Republicans: “Does John Boehner still believe U.S. military operations in Libya are illegal?” – as though killing Gaddafi somehow excused the waging of this war in the face of Congressional rejection of its authorization, let alone guaranteed a better outcome for Libyans.

Speaking of Libya. . .via BBC News:

Libya violence: Activists beheaded in Derna

Three young activists have been found beheaded in Derna, in eastern Libya.

The three, who had relayed information about the city through social media, had been kidnapped earlier this month.

Several Islamist groups are competing for control of the city, with some militants recently declaring allegiance to Islamic State.

Libya has been in a state of flux since Col Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with disparate tribes, militias and political factions fighting for power.

The Guardian covers a curious decision:

UK drops security claim blocking Pakistani’s lawsuit over ‘torture’

Government abandons argument that UK-US intelligence ties preclude letting Yunus Rahmatullah sue for damages

The UK government has abandoned its long-standing claim that relations with Washington would suffer if a Pakistani citizen who claims he was tortured by British and American troops was allowed to sue for damages in court.

Yunus Rahmatullah says he was tortured over a 10-year period after being captured by British special forces in Iraq and handed over to US troops in 2004. He was released by the US without charge in May.

The British government made the concession as a former American ambassador roundly dismissed the government’s case.

From the Express Tribune, an all-too-familiar story in Pakistan:

Drone strike kills six in North Waziristan

At least six suspected militants were killed, and three others were injured in a US drone attack in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Tuesday evening.

Initial reports suggest that the drone fired two missiles on a vehicle and a residential compound. As a result of the strikes, the vehicle and a portion of a house were destroyed.

The identities of the killed have not been ascertained as yet, but local tribesmen claim that the killed were local and foreign militants.

Pakistan routinely protests against US drone strikes, which have been targeting militants in the tribal areas since 2004, saying they violate its sovereignty and are counterproductive in the fight against terror.

But most analysts believe the resumption of the drone programme after it was suspended at the start of the year — reportedly to give Pakistan space for negotiations with the Taliban — is evidence of collusion between the two countries.

Skynet alert, via the New York Times:

Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill

Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.

As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.

Britain, Israel and Norway are already deploying missiles and drones that carry out attacks against enemy radar, tanks or ships without direct human control. After launch, so-called autonomous weapons rely on artificial intelligence and sensors to select targets and to initiate an attack.

Cold War 2.0, via TheLocal.no:

Russian super-jets seen flying near Norway

Photo evidence of a new Russian fighter jet caught flying just outside Finnmark in North Norway were released by Norwegian security forces on Tuesday.

The images were taken by Norwegian air defence personnel at the end of October, but capture the might of the new aircraft technology Russian has at its disposal and threat to security posed by the re-emerging superpower state.

The images showed two of the new Russian Su-34 fighter jets, never before been seen flying in and around North Europe. The series of pictures were taken on October 29th this year, outside the coast of Finnmark, reported VG.

And the old reliable honey trap, via intelNews:

UK report warns about sexual entrapment by foreign spies

A leaked report issued by military authorities in the United Kingdom cautions British officials to be aware of attempts by Chinese and Russian intelligence services to compromise them using sexual entrapment.

The London-based Sunday Times newspaper said it had acquired a copy of the document, entitled Manual of Security, authored by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence for use by senior officials. The manual warns that foreign intelligence services are known to employ sexual entrapment or romantic attachment as a means of compromising their targets.

The document singles out the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Chinese Ministry of State Security as two adversary agencies that are known to employ sexual entrapment on a regular basis.

From the Intercept, dirty deeds scrutinized:

EU Scrutinizes Spyware Exports To Sketchy Regimes

The European Union will start paying closer attention to sales of invasive surveillance software, which has previously flowed from European companies to countries with questionable human rights records.

Under new EU rules issued recently, certain kinds of monitoring software will require a license to export. Those license applications would provide more transparency about where the software is going, and could potentially allow governments to block unsavory sales.

As The Intercept has reported, companies like Milan-based Hacking Team or FinFisher, of Munich, sell to countries where authorities appear to have used the software to spy on dissidents and the press. Hacking Team implants have been discovered on the devices of Moroccan and Ethiopian journalists, while leaked FinFisher documents showed that activists and political opposition members in Bahrain had been targeted.

German hacking the official sort, via RT:

German intelligence to monitor overseas social networks

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency plans to spend hundreds of millions of euros on surveillance technology designed to monitor foreign social networks, local media reported, citing a confidential document.

The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) will spend €28 million, in 2015 alone, on its Strategic Technical Initiative (SIT), the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported.

According to a confidential report seen by the newspaper, the agency asked the Bundestag’s Budget Committee for a total of €300 million ($375 million) for the SIT program between 2015 and 2020.

The BND plans to set up an early warning system for cyber attacks, the report said.

The Diplomat covers cyberspooks:

Cyber Espionage and US-China Relations

Program notes:

Cyber issues are increasingly at the forefront of the U.S.-China relationship. The Obama administration places great emphasis on stopping cyber attacks on U.S. commercial interests while China decries the cyber espionage revealed in the Edward Snowden leaks. Dr. James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins The Diplomat to talk about China’s (and America’s) cyber espionage activities, policy options for Washington, and what progress has been made so far.

From Nextgov, a win:

Federal Judge Says Public Has a Right to Know About FBI’s Facial Recognition Database

A federal judge has ruled that the FBI’s futuristic facial-recognition database is deserving of scrutiny from open-government advocates because of the size and scope of the surveillance technology.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said the bureau’s Next Generation Identification program represents a “significant public interest” due to concerns regarding its potential impact on privacy rights and should be subject to rigorous transparency oversight.

“There can be little dispute that the general public has a genuine, tangible interest in a system designed to store and manipulate significant quantities of its own biometric data, particularly given the great numbers of people from whom such data will be gathered,” Chutkan wrote in an opinion released late Wednesday.

After the jump, Flash vulnerabilities redux, a South Korean hacker’s confession, seeking goose sauce for the hacked gander, malware downloads for your iPhone, NGOs and rights activists targeted by malware, the ongoing corrupt police assets seizure regime, more protests in Mexico over those slaughtered students, killer cops in Brazil, a provocative Russian nuclear move in Iran, on to Hong Kong, first with a greenlight for cops to clear away Occupy protesters [who are preparing to surrender] and an Obama denial, China strengthens its economic alliance, mixed signals between Washington and Beijing, China wows with a new stealth fighter as it seeks a greater Afghan role, and Japan asks for a hotline with Beijing, plus the new LGBT/African American/Jewish friendly Klan. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Drones, war, hacks, spies


Plus the latest moves in the Asian Game of Zones. . .

We begin with a drone attack from BBC News:

UK drone carries out first strike in Iraq

The UK carried out its first drone attack on Islamic State militants in Iraq over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence has said.

An RAF Reaper drone was involved in coalition missions near Baiji, the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery.

The MoD said the drone “successfully attacked” militants who were laying improvised explosive devices.

And from BBC News again, and so it grows:

Islamic State: Egyptian militants pledge loyalty

A jihadist group which has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis announced the move on a Twitter account in Arabic, saying IS promised “a new dawn raising the banner of monotheism”.

IS has taken over large parts of conflict-racked Syria and Iraq, declaring a cross-border caliphate.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had previously denied allying itself with IS.

Leading us to note with interest this from the Associated Press:

US reviewing democracy work in hostile countries

The State Department said Monday it was reviewing some of its secretive democracy-promotion programs in hostile countries after The Associated Press reported that the nation’s global development agency may effectively end risky undercover work in those environments.

The proposed changes follow an AP investigation this year into work by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which established a Twitter-like service in Cuba and secretly sought to recruit a new generation of dissidents there while hiding ties to the U.S. government. The agency’s proposed changes could move some of that work under America’s diplomatic apparatus.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to elaborate on the plan Monday, saying it was “premature” because of ongoing deliberations. “We continue to believe we need to find creative ways to promote positive change in Cuba, but beyond that, we’re still assessing what any change or what any impact would be,” she said.

From the Washington Post, the inevitable:

The Pentagon wants an airborne aircraft carrier to launch drones

In the 2012 movie “The Avengers,” Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and the rest of the gang flew on a massive aircraft carrier that carried dozens of planes through the air and disappeared from plain view with the help of a cloaking device. The idea that the U.S. military could develop something similar is still seen as far-fetched, but this much is true: a Pentagon agency has just launched a new effort to develop an airship sure to draw comparisons.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is exploring whether it would be possible to turn an existing plane into a flying fortress capable of launching and recovering numerous drone aircraft. Doing so would extend the range of drones that gather intelligence and perform other missions while saving money and limiting the risks pilots take, DARPA officials said Sunday.

“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky,’” said Dan Patt a DARPA program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new [unmanned aerial system] designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”

From RT, Persian drones:

Iran test-flies 1st US drone replica

An Iranian copy of a US reconnaissance drone captured in 2011 has carried out its first flight, and the Revolutionary Guards have declared the test a success.

“We promised that a model of RQ-170 would fly in the second half of the year, and this has happened. A film of the flight will be released soon,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told the IRNA state news agency.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed content at the event, describing the day as “sweet and unforgettable” in a video published by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

RQ-170 Sentinel was seized three years ago after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan. Tehran says that it managed to reverse-engineer the drone and now can launch its own UAV production.

A video report from Iran’s PressTV:

IRGC says version of captured US spy drone operational

Program notes:

A senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps says Iran has made operational a version of the captured US RQ-170 spy drone.

The IRGC’s Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh made the announcement on Monday. He said that a video showing the flight test of the stealth drone will be distributed soon. The RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft was downed by the Iranian armed forces electronic warfare unit in 2011. Tehran had announced that it intended to carry out reverse engineering on the captured aircraft, which is similar in design to a US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber. The drone is one of America’s most advanced spy aircraft.

Drawing closer to Skynet with Aviation Week & Space Technology:

MDA Inches Closer To Launching ‘On Remote’

  • Airborne UAV infrared data are key in Aegis BMD test

The most recent Missile Defense Agency (MDA) trial last month for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system is moving the agency closer to proving that airborne infrared sensors can be used to cue a ballistic target intercept.

The agency’s ultimate goal is to integrate the disparate elements of a vast ballistic missile defense system—including satellites, airborne infrared data and ground- and ship-based radars—into a single system of sensors and shooters functioning seamlessly. A product of this architecture would be to “launch on remote” and eventually “engage on remote.”

By launching on remote, an interceptor would be fired at a target based on offboard data—in this case, without the USS John Paul Jones Aegis destroyer’s own SPY-1 S-band radar acquiring the target. Once airborne, the host system, the SPY-1, would acquire the target and aid the interceptor as it heads for a kill.

With engage-on-remote operations, the host system’s sensor never actually acquires the target. Instead, an intercept is achieved using all offboard data piped into the interceptor by way of the Pentagon’s Battle Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system.

From the Los Angeles Times the Magic National Security Kingdom™:

No-fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny

The sky over Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando is “national defense airspace.” Intentionally violating Mickey and Minnie’s airspace, the alerts warn, could result in interception, interrogation and federal prosecution.

These no-fly zones are known as temporary flight restrictions, like the ones that surround the president when he travels or those put in place above Ferguson, Mo., during protests over the summer. Wildfires, air shows and large sporting events regularly get temporary flight restrictions.

Yet there is nothing temporary about the restrictions over the Disney properties. Such limits do not exist over competing theme parks such as Universal Studios or Knott’s Berry Farm.

The Disney restrictions have been in place since 2003, thanks to a provision quietly slipped into a massive congressional spending bill weeks before the Iraq war. Defense and counter-terrorism officials did not appear to ask for the Disney protections, which were instead urged by at least one Disney lobbyist, according to an Orlando Sentinel investigation in 2003.

From the ACLU Blog of Rights, a common language:

British Spying Is Our Problem, Too

The chilling effect of surveillance may be spreading across the Atlantic.

We learned last week that GCHQ – the U.K. equivalent of the NSA – permits its employees to target the communications of journalists and lawyers. That revelation has serious implications for the work of both groups.

American surveillance is already impacting the work of U.S.-based journalists and lawyers. As the ACLU and Human Rights Watch documented in a recent report, the effects are not pretty. National security and intelligence journalists have been struggling to develop and maintain relationships with increasingly skittish sources, and lawyers are losing the freedom to communicate with clients, co-counsel, and witnesses without exposing confidential information to the government.

We depend on the press to keep us informed, helping ensure the government’s accountability to the governed. But when journalists are vulnerable to surveillance, that accountability suffers.

Attorneys are also indispensable, and their right to communicate privately with clients has long been recognized both in domestic and international law. When attorneys can’t communicate freely with clients, they can’t build trust or develop strategy. That weakens important due process rights and diminishes our confidence in the verdicts issued by our justice system.

German hackery from TheLocal.de:

BND to hire hackers to check shopping carts

Update: Germany’s foreign intelligence agency plans to spend millions to penetrate the secure connection technologies used by social networks, banks and online shops.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Monday that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) will spend €28 million in 2015 on its ‘Strategic Technical Initiative” (SIT).

A confidential report seen by the newspaper showed that spies have asked a parliamentary oversight committee for a total of €300 million for the SIT programme between 2015 and 2020. Over €6 million has already been spent in 2014 laying the groundwork.

They say that the aim of the programme is to penetrate foreign social networks and create an early warning system for cyber attacks.

Hackers go postal, via the New York Times:

Postal Service Discloses Major Data Theft

The Postal Service on Monday became the latest government agency to announce a major theft of data from its computer systems, telling its roughly 800,000 employees and retirees that an attack “potentially compromised” databases containing postal employees’ names, birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers.

The announcement came just weeks after the White House disclosed an intrusion into its unclassified computer systems, which resulted in a shutdown of some of its communications while the malicious software was being removed.

The working assumption at the White House was that its troubles were caused by Russian hackers; the Postal Service attack, by contrast, seemed to have the signature of Chinese hackers. But attributing attacks is difficult, and first indications are frequently inaccurate.

From the Guardian, the Oops Factor:

Efforts to protect US government data against hackers undermined by worker mistakes

  • Reports show that hacking and cybercrime swamp federal agencies as US struggles to keep pace with international groups of hackers

A $10bn-a-year effort to protect sensitive government data, from military secrets to social security numbers, is struggling to keep pace with an increasing number of cyberattacks and is unwittingly being undermined by federal employees and contractors.

Workers scattered across more than a dozen agencies, from the defense and education departments to the National Weather Service, are responsible for at least half of the federal cyberincidents reported each year since 2010, according to an Associated Press analysis of records.

They have clicked links in bogus phishing emails, opened malware-laden websites and been tricked by scammers into sharing information.

One was redirected to a hostile site after connecting to a video of tennis star Serena Williams. A few act intentionally, most famously former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who downloaded and leaked documents revealing the government’s collection of phone and email records.

Upscale hostelry hostility from the Kaspersky Lab:

Kaspersky Lab sheds light on “Darkhotels”, where business executives fall prey to an elite spying crew

Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team experts researched the “Darkhotel” espionage campaign, which has lurked in the shadows for at least four years while stealing sensitive data from selected corporate executives travelling abroad. “Darkhotel” hits its targets while they are staying in luxury hotels. The crew never goes after the same target twice; they perform operations with surgical precision, getting all the valuable data they can from the first contact, deleting traces of their work and melting into the background to await the next high profile individual.  The most recent travelling targets include top executives from the US and Asia doing business and investing in the APAC region: CEOs, senior vice presidents, sales and marketing directors and top R&D staff have all been targeted. Who will be next? This threat actor is still active, Kaspersky Lab warns.

The Darkhotel actor maintains an effective intrusion set on hotel networks, providing ample access over the years, even to systems that were believed to be private and secure. They wait until, after check-in, the victim connects to the hotel Wi-Fi network, submitting his room number and surname at the login. The attackers see him in the compromised network and trick him into downloading and installing a backdoor that pretends to be an update for legitimate software – Google Toolbar, Adobe Flash or Windows Messenger. The unsuspecting executive downloads this hotel “welcome package”, only to infect his machine with a backdoor, Darkhotel’s spying software.

Once on a system, the backdoor has been and may be used to further download more advanced stealing tools: a digitally-signed advanced keylogger, the Trojan ‘Karba’ and an information-stealing module. These tools collect data about the system and the anti-malware software installed on it, steal all keystrokes, and hunt for cached passwords in Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer; Gmail Notifier, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! and Google login credentials; and other private information. Victims lose sensitive information – likely the intellectual property of the business entities they represent. After the operation, the attackers carefully delete their tools from the hotel network and go back into hiding.

After the jump, cops in Canada acting like cops below the border, Spanish schismatics, Germans shut down a Far Right protest, a CNN shutdown in Moscow, a U.N. investigation of lethal Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities, a ghost from the past returns, Iran makes a conciliatory nuclear more, a move towards an Aussie/Japanese military alliance, Abe and Xi, not sittin’ in a tree, a Beijing twist, and another olive branch form Tokyo, Japanese-Koreans protest inflammatory racism, and Japan launches a naval buildup. . .  Continue reading

James Risen eviscerates Obama’s panopticon


The Pulitzer-winning New York Times national security reporter currently facing the threat of prison unless he divulges his sources, dissects the creeping fascism of the Obama version of the national security state in a fascinating interview on CCTV’s The Heat.

There’s a certain irony in the venue, given that CCTV is the largest state television broadcaster in China, where the government maintains an even stronger surveillance and control of their media that the U.S. does [an issue that's never raised], but host Anand Naidoo asks the right questions and gives Risen ample room to respond.

The resulting dialog reveals the administration’s utter capitulation to the to the agenda set by the Bush’s imperial enablers and the utter confusion that abdication seems to have spawned in the Department of Justice, which has sent mixed messages about the fate they intend for the reporter.

Risen also sees as heroes Edward Snowden and other leakers who have revealed some of the extent of the metastatic and increasingly punitive national security state, and he contends that Snowden took the only course possible for a concerned citizen in his position.

And as an aside we would add that you know things are getting really bad when a reporter for the Times speaks so scathingly of the direction Washington has gone.

From CCTV America:

The Heat discusses the NSA, CIA and press freedom with journalist James Risen [1]

Program notes:

James Risen is the New York Times reporter who broke the story about the secret warrantless wiretapping program by America’s National Security Agency. Now he is under pressure by the government to divulge his sources or go to jail. In his new book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writes about how the American government is consumed by war. Journalist James Risen joined The Heat to discuss his legal battle and his latest book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.”

And the second part:

The Heat discusses the NSA, CIA and press freedom with journalist James Risen [2]

 

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, hacks, drones


And more. . .much more.

First, he’s just a cockeyed optimist, via the Guardian:

Obama confident US troop surge in Iraq will put coalition on offensive

  • President: new troops will focus on training local forces to fight Isis
  • Comments draw emerging parallel to past US military strategy in Iraq

The latest US troop surge in Iraq will allow an offensive campaign against Islamic militants, Barack Obama claimed on Sunday, as political talk shows featuring the president and his predecessor, George W Bush, underscored the growing echoes of the past in current American military strategy.

In his first public comments since doubling the number of US ground troops in Iraq to 3,000, Obama said the decision did not represent a failure of his administration’s early reliance on air strikes in Iraq and Syria. He said the deployment, announced on Friday night, “signals a new phase” in his campaign against the Islamic State – known as Isis or Isil.

“Rather than just try to halt Isil’s momentum, we are now in a position to start going on some offensive,” he told CBS.

“The air strikes have been very effective in degrading Isil’s abilities and slowing the advances they were making. Now we need some ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, to start pushing them back.”

The Guardian again, with uncertainty:

Fate of Isis leader remains unclear after US airstrike in Iraq

  • Monitoring of Isis communications following attack near Mosul reveals nothing to suggest Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed

Officials in Baghdad and Washington remained unclear on Sunday about the fate of the Islamic State (Isis) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after a key aide was killed in a US air strike near Mosul.

A senior Iraqi official confirmed to the Guardian that the aide, Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Sajar, was killed in the the attack late on Friday night, which hit a 10-car convoy southwest of the Isis stronghold.

Athaee was known to have been in almost constant contact with Baghdadi and officials deduced that his presence in the convoy likely meant that Baghdadi was with him.

However, monitoring of the group’s communications in the aftermath of the attack has revealed nothing to suggest that Baghdadi was killed. Officials have not ruled out that he may have been injured.

A revolutionary threat in Cairo from the Egypt Independent:

Salafi Front vows ‘Islamic Revolution’ on 28 November

A Salafi leader allied with the Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to stage an “Islamic Revolution” on Friday, 28 November, across the republic.

“That day will witness a second Kandahar in all provinces,” Khaled Saeed, chief coordinator of the Salafi Front, told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The Salafi Front, part of the Anti-Coup Alliance that supports the reinstatement of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy, was formed in 2011 after the 25 January revolution when it broke away from the more mainstream and pro-regime group Salafi Dawaa.

From the New York Times, corruption by any other name. . .:

Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize

The seminars offered police officers some useful tips on seizing property from suspected criminals. Don’t bother with jewelry (too hard to dispose of) and computers (“everybody’s got one already”), the experts counseled. Do go after flat screen TVs, cash and cars. Especially nice cars.

In one seminar, captured on video in September, Harry S. Connelly Jr., the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., called them “little goodies.” And then Mr. Connelly described how officers in his jurisdiction could not wait to seize one man’s “exotic vehicle” outside a local bar.

“A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new,” he explained. “Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.’ “

Mr. Connelly was talking about a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government, without ever securing a conviction or even filing a criminal charge, to seize property suspected of having ties to crime. The practice, expanded during the war on drugs in the 1980s, has become a staple of law enforcement agencies because it helps finance their work. It is difficult to tell how much has been seized by state and local law enforcement, but under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001. Much of that money is shared with local police forces.

From the Guardian, Cold War 2.0 intensification:

Close military encounters between Russia and the west ‘at cold war levels’

  • Report lists 40 cases of ‘brinkmanship’, including near-collision between Russian spy plane and passenger jet, in past eight months

Close military encounters between Russia and the west have jumped to cold war levels, with 40 dangerous or sensitive incidents recorded in the past eight months alone, according to a new report published on Monday.

The report, Dangerous Brinkmanship by the European Leadership Network, logs a series of “highly-disturbing” incidents since the Ukrainian crisis began earlier this year, including an alarming near-collision between a Russian reconnaissance plane and a passenger plane taking off from Denmark in March with 132 passengers on board.

What made the incident especially dangerous was that the Russian plane did not have on its transponders, the usual method of signalling its presence to other aircraft.

The report by the London-based thinktank comes after a warning from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev that the world is “on the brink of a new cold war”.

While Russia Today offers a reminder:

Winston Churchill wanted to nuke Kremlin ‘to win Cold War,’ FBI memo reveals

A secret memo from the FBI’s archives has revealed that Britain’s Winston Churchill once urged the US to drop an atomic bomb to “wipe out” the Kremlin. He reportedly thought it was the only remedy against the spread of communism to the west.

Churchill, Britain’s prime minister during World War II and again during the Cold War 1950s, made his views known to a visiting American politician in 1947, The Daily Mail reported in a preview of a new book, “When Lions Roar: The Churchills and The Kennedys” by investigative journalist Thomas Maier. The book containing the secret FBI memo is to be published next month.

Britain and the Soviet Union had been allies during WW2. However, according to the memo written by an FBI agent, Churchill asked a Right-wing Republican senator, Styles Bridges, to help persuade then-President Harry Truman to launch a nuclear attack which would make the former USSR easy to deal with.

And the Los Angeles Times considers the costs:

Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly

The nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile has shrunk by 85% since its Cold War peak half a century ago, but the Energy Department is spending nine times more on each weapon that remains. The nuclear arsenal will cost $8.3 billion this fiscal year, up 30% over the last decade.

The source of some of those costs: skyrocketing profits for contractors, increased security costs for vulnerable facilities and massive investments in projects that were later canceled or postponed.

“We are not getting enough for what we are spending, and we are spending more than what we need,” said Roger Logan, a senior nuclear scientist who retired in 2007 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The whole system has failed us.”

The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.

From the Guardian, business as usual in Old Blighty:

UK condemned over arms sales to repressive states

  • Former Tory defence secretary Sir John Stanley says government quietly relaxed controls on arms licences to ‘countries of concern’

The government used to reject arms export licences where there was concern they might be used for “internal repression”, but now a licence will be refused only if there is a “clear risk” that military equipment might be used in violation of international law.

Former Foreign Office minister Peter Hain, who established the strict criteria on arms sales, last night demanded that the government be transparent about the change and called for parliament to be allowed a vote. He said: “The present government has run a coach and horses through our arms export controls, circumventing the legislation we put in place by putting a particular spin on it. It has enabled them to sell arms to countries and for purposes that should not be allowed under the legislation.

“There is a clear policy in the legislation that arms should only be sold to countries for defensive purposes and not for internal suppression or external aggression. In the case of Gaza over the summer, that has clearly been flouted. Bahrain is another example.”

Data from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reveals that in the first six months of 2014 the UK granted licences worth £63.2m of arms sales to 18 of the 28 states on its official blacklist, countries about which the Foreign Office has the “most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”. Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka and Russia were among the countries that Britain approved military equipment for.

From the Los Angeles Times, great expectations:

Washington braces for results of Senate investigation of CIA practices

After six years and a $40-million investigation, the Democratic-led Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release conclusions this month from its controversial probe of CIA detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects overseas during the George W. Bush administration.

The partly redacted report is likely to renew the national debate over now-banned techniques that critics decried as torture and which supporters insist were necessary to stop further terrorist plots after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S. embassies in the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the Islamic world have been told to prepare for the possibility of violent protests and threats after the report’s release, according to officials briefed on the preparations and who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The New York Times gets spooky:

Getting Close to Terror, but Not to Stop It

  • Port Authority Officer Kept Sources With Ties to Iran Attacks

After a car bombing in southeastern Iran killed 11 Revolutionary Guard members in 2007, a C.I.A. officer noticed something surprising in the agency’s files: an intelligence report, filed ahead of the bombing, that had warned that something big was about to happen in Iran.

Though the report had provided few specifics, the C.I.A. officer realized it meant that the United States had known in advance that a Sunni terrorist group called Jundallah was planning an operation inside Shiite-dominated Iran, two former American officials familiar with the matter recalled. Just as surprising was the source of the report. It had originated in Newark, with a detective for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The Port Authority police are responsible for patrolling bridges and tunnels and issuing airport parking tickets. But the detective, a hard-charging and occasionally brusque former ironworker named Thomas McHale, was also a member of an F.B.I. counterterrorism task force. He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and developed informants inside Jundallah’s leadership, who then came under the joint supervision of the F.B.I. and C.I.A.

From CBC News, antinostalgia:

Berlin Wall: East Germans lived in fear under Stasi surveillance

  • Network of intimidation saw a third of the population informing on neighbours and friends

The surveillance machine was enormous, including a spy network of intimidation that saw an estimated one in three people informing on neighbours, friends or loved ones.

“If you look outside of the prison, the large building … this was a factory of the Stasi,” said guide Cliewe Juritza, himself an inmate of the prison for a year after he was captured trying to reach West Germany in 1985, just four years before the wall came down.

“The production of the gadgets of espionage or observation. Altogether there were 91,000 [State Security] employees … and 2,500 were working here,” he said.

There were more than 100 interrogation rooms along the prison’s dim-lit halls, sinister by dint of their blandness: a desk, a table, a chair and a phone.

And from USA Today, blown away:

Defendants walk after FBI agent accused of snorting evidence

Program notes:

Charges against 13 defendants in a drug conspiracy case were dropped amid allegations that an FBI agent snorted some of the evidence. Some of them had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

After the jump it’s on to drones, with more French nuke plant drone sightings, Swiss military drones burglars, corporate-enabled hacking for the feds, Journalistic solidarity for beleaguered Egyptian colleagues, Israeli Arabs erupt over a police shooting, on to Hong Kong where Occupy protestors gets a warning from the top in Beijing, signs of limits to the growing Beijing/Moscow military alliance, a game-changing Chinese jet, a marginalized Obama confronts a growing gap with China, Obama’s silent treatment of Pyongyang, America’s new BFF, the surprisingly nostalgic beneficiary of those leaked celebrity nude selfies, and a reminder from history of the dangers of the panopticon state. . . Continue reading