Todya’s walk of the spooky side begins in Washington with The Hill:
Obama legacy on line with NSA
President Obama is under pressure from all sides to announce major reforms to the National Security Agency on Friday.
Privacy and civil liberties groups as well as lawmakers on the left have urged for a wholesale termination of much of the government’s snooping. Silicon Valley, home to some of Obama’s biggest supports, is also pressing for change. So are foreign leaders, rankled by the notion that their ally might be spying on them.
The calls for reforms put Obama in a tough spot give his administration’s insistence that the NSA’s efforts are critical for national security.
While Obama is sure to announce some significant policy changes in his Jan. 17 address, it remains unclear just how far he is willing to go
The Guardian postures:
John McCain seeks congressional investigation into ‘broken’ NSA
- ‘There has been overreach’ says Republican senator
- Obama to announce surveillance proposals on Friday
John McCain, the Republican senator and former presidential candidate, has called for a congressional investigation into America’s “broken” National Security Agency, ahead of week in which the White House will announce its own reforms.
President Barack Obama will reveal a number of changes to the way the NSA and associated secret courts operate on Friday, concluding months of debate within the administration about the appropriate response to disclosures made by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
U.S. Senators Implore Obama to Rein in NSA Surveillance
Three U.S. senators say they think it’s time for U.S. President Barack Obama to rein in the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics.
The three Democrats, Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, wrote a letter to Obama earlier this week, urging him to follow the advice of an independent panel that recently recommended ending the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata collection and storage program, as well as other proposed NSA reforms. Each of the three senators sits on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“While we have served on the Intelligence Committee for varying lengths of time, all three of us can attest that our nation’s intelligence professionals are overwhelmingly dedicated and patriotic men and women who make real sacrifices to help keep our country safe and free,” the senators wrote. “We believe that they should be able to do their jobs secure in the knowledge that their agencies have the trust and confidence of the American people.”
The senators said that trust in American surveillance organizations has been “undermined by overly intrusive domestic surveillance programs and misleading statements made by senior officials over a period of many years.”
And the McClatchy Washington Bureau dissents:
How New Mexico’s Sen. Heinrich came to be a critic of NSA
Last May, Senate Intelligence Committee rookie Martin Heinrich was just settling into his new Senate office, five floors above the committee’s fiercely guarded headquarters, and finally wrapping his head around some of the intelligence matters he’d recently been tasked to oversee when Edward Snowden happened.
Suddenly, the world was filled with news of National Security Agency surveillance programs whose scope Heinrich had only begun to grasp.
“All of that came to a head very quickly,” said Heinrich, who’d attended his first intelligence briefing just six months before Snowden’s leak of documents exposed the NSA’s massive collection of Americans’ cellphone and Internet data. “I started to realize that the program was much more expansive than my assumption when I was in the House.”
The Daily Dot investigates:
British government funding research to study online habits, hackers, and Anonymous
The British Ministry of Defence is now funding postgraduate research into data mining, social media habits, and hacktivist groups like Anonymous.
The MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has invested the equivalent of $15.6 million into various PhD programs researching subjects ranging from the social media behaviour of political protesters, to the development of “battle-winning technologies.”
The DSTL-funded programs often focus on topics that could be used by the military, such as underwater drones, but many of the recently-announced new PhDs branch out into more esoteric fields that have more in common with online counter-terrorism programs. One example is a $160,000 study of “digital insurgency” at Kings College London, a course that will include an investigation into understanding the activities of Anonymous. (Good luck with that.)
RT drones away:
El Drone: Correa presents ‘surprise’ Ecuadorian UAV
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has unveiled the country’s first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle. The drone is to help Quito fight drug traffic and will also be on sale in South America, costing “7 times less” than its Israeli equivalent.
“We have pleasant surprises… Whether you believe it or not, we are already producing unmanned aircraft,” Correa told the Ecuadorians, speaking on local television on Saturday.
The prototype drone, called the UAV-2 Gavilán (“Hawk”), has been designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) to monitor borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as for assisting investigations.
And on to Asia, the theater of crises of late, starting with a linkup via the Yomiuri Shimbun:
Japan, Russia to expand defense exchanges
The Japanese and Russian governments are considering revising a memorandum on defense exchanges to expand the scope of their bilateral cooperation, a move that may make reciprocal visits by the two nations’ defense ministers regular events, according to government sources.
Envisaged measures will likely include shoring up joint maneuvers by the Self-Defense Forces and the Russian armed forces. The two governments hope to sign a new memorandum at a meeting of their defense ministers as early as this autumn, the sources said.
The main purpose of the revision is to ensure that an agreement reached at talks between the defense ministers in Tokyo last November is put in statutory form. Specific measures to be written into the new memorandum will include each defense minister visiting the other on a regular basis; starting discussions on sending Air Self-Defense Force transport aircraft to Russia for the purpose of promoting exchanges between troops from the two countries; and sharing information related to U.N. peacekeeping activities.
Channel NewsAsia Singapore blusters:
Japan vows defence as China ships near disputed isles
Japan’s defence minister vowed on Sunday to defend the country’s territory as three Chinese government ships entered disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea, the first such incident this year.
The Chinese coastguard vessels sailed into the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters at about 8.30 am (2330 GMT Saturday) off one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, Japan’s coastguard said. They left less than two hours later.
“We can never overlook repeated incursions into territorial waters,” Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters.
The Mainichi updates:
3 Chinese ships sail in Japanese waters around Senkaku Islands
Three Chinese coast guard ships sailed in Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Sunday, the Japan Coast Guard said.
It is the first time since Dec. 29 that Chinese ships have been spotted in Japanese waters around the islands.
The three ships entered the waters around 8:35 a.m., and left by 10:40 a.m.
Want China Times charts another voyage:
USS Freedom conducted patrol operations in the South China Sea: admiral
The USS Freedom, the first littoral combat ship of the United States Navy, conducted patrol operations in the disputed South China Sea during its deployment to Singapore, reports the Washington DC-based US Naval Institute News, citing Vice Admiral Tom Copeman, commander of the Naval Surface Forces of the US Pacific Fleet.
The admiral made the remarks during a press conference held in San Diego, California on Jan. 6. Discussing the USS Freedom’s 10-month deployment to Singapore between March and December 2013, Copeman told reporters that it was a success despite several high-profile systems problems during its first deployment.
Want China Times takes wing:
Report puts China’s air power growth fastest in world: website
A global ranking shows that China is developing its air power faster than any other country in the world, propelled in part by its newest jet fighters and special mission military aircraft, according to Chinese-language site Sina Military.
The article cited a 2013-2014 world air power report published by UK-based weekly Flight International.
In 2013, China ranked second in the world for the number of fighter jets at 1,453, trailing the 2,740 fighters in the United States, and coming in just ahead of Russia, which placed third with 1,438, according to the web site.
The Asahi Shimbun counsels:
POLL: 60% of S. Koreans want Park to mend fences with Japan
Nearly 60 percent of South Koreans said President Park Geun-hye should take proactive measures to repair ties with Japan, which went from bad to worse after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine last month, a survey showed.
According to the survey by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a private think tank, 87.6 percent said Abe should not have visited the shrine, which memorializes 14 Class-A war criminals along with Japan’s war dead.
The telephone survey of about 1,000 people was conducted Dec. 29-31 after Abe visited Yasukuni on Dec. 26. In many parts of Asia, visits to the shrine by Japanese politicians are seen as glorifying the nation’s wartime past.
According to the survey, 57.7 percent of respondents called for Park to take proactive steps to improve relations with Japan.
SINA English declares:
Japan must show respect: France
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Tokyo to draw lessons from France and Germany to resolve sensitive historical issues, Phoenix TV reported on Friday.
During a meeting with their French counterparts on Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera defended Abe’s visit to the Tokyo-based Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals.
Fabius responded that “these things have to be resolved through the work of historians, public opinion and with respect for others.” Speaking of the rift between China and Japan, Fabius said, “The tensions are a source of concern. … We want this part of the world to find solutions to ease tensions.”
Xinhua adds some heat from a past Japan has been unwilling to confront:
Japan’s state role in wartime sex slaves documented
Wartime documents show Japanese government’s role in forcing women to work as wartime sex slaves for Japanese occupying troops.
The files came out as a crushing blow to Japan’s right-wing politicians seeking to deny that Japan had played a state role in the issue and saying the “comfort women” were “transported by private businessmen.”
The 32 Japanese documents newly revealed by Jilin Provincial Archives regarding “comfort women” show in detail the Japanese government and military’s role in abducting, trafficking and forcing women to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.
According to documents dating from March 27 to April 19, 1945, the Anshan Branch of the then Japanese Central Bank of Manchou had transferred money to the Japanese troops under the name “public funds for the military’s use to buy comfort women.” Similar cases of “transfer of public funds” could also be found in other telephone records.
JapanToday splits the tab:
S Korea to pay $866.6 mil in 2014 to host U.S. troops
South Korea said Sunday it had agreed to pay about $866.6 million this year to keep on its soil U.S. troops who help guard against threats from North Korea.
Seoul’s foreign ministry, after months of negotiation with Washington, confirmed this year’s contribution of 920 billion won ($866.6 million), up 5.8% from last year.
The two allies also agreed on a maximum 4% annual increase in the amount until 2018, the ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young told reporters.
And the Japan Times unearths:
U.S. Army tested biological weapons in Okinawa
- Rice fungus released in at least two sites in early 1960s, documents show
The U.S. Army tested biological weapons in Okinawa in the early 1960s, when the prefecture was still under U.S. rule, according to U.S. documents obtained by Kyodo News.
In the tests, conducted at least a dozen times between 1961 and 1962, rice blast fungus was released over paddies to see how it affected production, the documents made available by U.S. authorities showed.
Rice blast disease causes lesions to form on the plant, threatening the crop. The fungus, which is known to occur in 85 countries, is estimated to destroy enough rice to feed 60 million people a year.
The Guardian probes:
Honeywell under investigation for Chinese-made parts in US warplanes
- Sensors and magnets for F-35 fighter jet were made in China
- Pentagon issued waivers to ban on Chinese-made components
The US Justice Department is investigating export and import procedures at Honeywell International Inc after the firm included Chinese parts in equipment it built for the F-35 fighter jet, three sources familiar with the matter said.
Reuters last week reported that the Pentagon twice waived laws banning Chinese-built components in US weapons in 2012 and 2013 for parts supplied by Honeywell for the $392bn Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 programme.
New details have now emerged about one of those waivers, which involved simple thermal sensors that Honeywell initially produced in Scotland before moving that production line to China in 2009 and 2010. The other waivers involved high-performance magnets built in China and elsewhere.
And South China Morning Post declines:
White House responds to petition, saying it can’t kill Kimmel show
- Replying to petition over ‘kill Chinese’ quip on ABC show, US says free speech is paramount
The White House has weighed in on a petition calling for the US government to crack down on Jimmy Kimmel Live, a television talk show that sparked a furore in China in October with a joke about killing Chinese people to avoid paying down US debt to the country.
More than 105,000 people signed on to a White House petition calling for an apology after the show on the American Broadcasting Co included a segment where Kimmel asked a group of children how the United States should pay back the US$1.3 trillion it owes to China.
A six-year-old said: “Kill everyone in China.” Host Jimmy Kimmel replied: “That’s an interesting idea.”
For our final item, Spook Behaving Very, Very Badly [see bolded] from Business Insider:
Police Say Man With 48 Bombs Also Had Top Secret Clearance, Guns, A Vest, And Blueprints
A man caught speeding with 48 bombs in his car also had a remote detonating device, guns, and military base schematics and was on an 85 mph b-line toward a U.S. Navy SEALs training facility, Police tell Laura Arenschield of the Columbus Dispatch.
Andrew Scott Boguslawski, 43, was in a 70 mph zone and law enforcement caught up with him on New Years Eve, pulled him over, and eventually arrested him.
Now Boguslawski, who works as a trainer at the Indiana training facility for Navy SEALs, is under suspicion for potential terrorist aspirations.
Boguslawski is a specialist in the Army National Guard, where he works as an intelligence analyst and holds a compartmentalized Top Secret security clearance.