Category Archives: History

InSecurityWatch: History, bombs, drones, zones


And lots more.

First, some history with the Associated Press:

US trained Alaskans as secret ‘stay-behind agents’

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

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

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

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

More history from PetaPixel:

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

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

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

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

Der Spiegel offers the latest Snowden leaks:

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press brings us up to date:

German security official warns of terror threat

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

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

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

And the Register covers iCloud insecurity:

JLaw, Upton caught in celeb nude pics hack

  • 100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped

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

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

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

More everyday insecurity from Threatpost:

Backoff Sinkhole Reveals Sorry Point-of-Sale Security

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

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

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

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

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

Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry

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

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

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

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

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the London Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

SINA English fires a counterblast:

Don’t mess with nuclear Russia, Putin says

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

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

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

Vocativ covers ad hoc dronage:

Poor Man’s Drone Warfare in Eastern Ukraine

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

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

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

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

More drone from the Los Angeles Times:

Israeli military reports downing drone that entered from Syria

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

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

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

From the London Daily Mail, a case of possession:

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

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

And a video report from the Wall Street Journal:

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

Program note:

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

From Deutsche Welle, the enemy of my enemy:

PKK – from terrorist threat to ally?

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera English covers a crackdown:

Bahrain arrests top human rights activist

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

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

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

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

From International Business Times:

Al-Qaeda Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill Six Soldiers In Yemen

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

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

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

Deutsche Welle covers an assault on a spook shop:

Al-Shabab militants attack Somali intelligence headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

Blast from the past: Bugging Marilyn Monroe


Plus mafiosi, celebrity buggers, JFK, and so much more. . .

First up, a post from 18 July 2010:

Marilyn Monroe’s bugs and a .22-caliber killer

Marilyn Monroe, perhaps the most emblematic Old Hollywood screen star, is in the news again, this time because the last house she owned — and the one where she died — is up for sale again. Asking price: $3.6 million.

The New York Daily News report included this in the concluding paragraphs offers this:

One of the more elaborate: when actress Veronica Hamel  reportedly bought the home in 1972, she discovered a telephone tapping and eavesdropping system while remodeling, according to Hamel’s IMDB.com  biography. This ignited the far-fetched rumors that the Mafia may have been responsible for Monroe’s death.

The home was built in 1929 and still has much of its original details, but has been remodeled several times.

First, some background. During esnl‘s years at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, he spent a fair amount of time looking into organized crime. Two sources had interesting stories to tell about the wiring found in the crawlspace at 12305 St. Helena Drive in Brentwood.

I had two sources: the late Marion Phillips [previously] and a corporate security officer who had once worked as as CIA officer. They told me the same story six years after the discovery of the wires.

The wiring was discovered during renovation work, and both law enforcement and corporate phone security officers examined the find. What they found was two different sets of wires.

Covert operators who install bugs and wiretaps have distinct “signatures” readily discernible to the cognoscenti, involving both the specific types of wires used and the way the wires are installed, ranging from the brand of connectors used to the types of knots, the manner of soldering, and the way the wires are secured.

One set of wires was instantly recognizable as an FBI installation because of the distinct coating of the wires, which was reserved for law enforcement use. The signature of the second set, installed after the FBI wires, was also instantly recognizable.

The second wire man was Bernard Bates Spindel, the tap and bug expert hired out by both law enforcement and organized crime. One of his major clients was mobbed-up Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who had ample reason to fear illegal bugs.

Robert Kennedy, appointed Attorney General by his presidential brother John, had been waging a relentless “Get Hoffa” campaign as part of his overall attack on organized crime. It was a dangerous and thoroughly illegal war, since it was waged before federal law allowed the FBI to install bugs. FBI bugs exposed the inner workings of the Chicago Outfit, the old Capone gang.

The double-edged sword posed by the bugs was the harsh reality that John F. Kennedy had shared two mistresses with Outfit boss Sam Giancana. The first was Judith Campbell Exner, and the the second was the woman the tabloids dubbed the “Blonde Bombshell.”

Giancana had another tie to the Kennedy administration as well, and to the subsequent administration of Lyndon Johnson: The CIA was paying him, through front man Johnny Roselli, to carry out a “contract” on Fidel Castro.

Just what the feds and Spindel captured on their tapes at the Monroe house

remains a mystery. The actress allegedly killed herself there on 5 August 1962 after returning from the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe, a gambling resort jointly owned by Frank Sinatra and Giancana, and allegations have surfaced that Giancana beat her at his private cabin shortly before she fled back to Brentwood.

Sinatra’s ties to Giancana cost the crooner his gambling license, though a fawning Nevada Gaming Commission would later restore it two decades later, despite massive evidence that Old Blue Eyes always danced to the wise guy’s tune.

Gianana proved a high-profile and somewhat inept mob boss, and few shed tears when he was whacked in the basement of his Oak Park, Illinois, home on the night of 19 June 1975.

In a final twist of fate for esnl, Giancana was killed as as he whipping up a batch of his legendary sausage and peppers. The weapon was a silenced .22-caliber Colt Woodsman semiautomatic pistol modified and fitted out with a custom made silencer by a St. Louis armorer who provided an identical pistol to George Patrick McKinney, the killer whose trial first brought esnl into the Santa Monica courtroom of Judge Lawrence J. Rittenband, the jurist who would besmirch himself 10 months later with his handling of the Roman Polanski case.

Back to Marilyn’s curious bugs

An FBI report dated 2 September 1961 offers some insight into the bugs at Monroe’s house.

Fred Otash, a disgraced Los Angeles Police Detective turned private eye, spent his latter years publishing a trashy Hollywood tabloid, making more money from what he didn’t print that what actually appeared on paper. Otash, Lt. Phillips told me, specialized in digging up dirt on celebrities, then withholding it in return to hefty payoffs.

BLOG Otash

One of the reasons Freddie was able to thrive as a bottom-feeder was the classic con’s dodge, playing snitch in return for a blind eye from law enforcement.

On 16 August 1961, Otash reported in to his FBI handler to report that he’d been contacted in New York by Spindel, who “made known the fact that Hoffa was about to ‘bury the Kennedys’ and in doing so they were attempting to use every means possible which included the setting up of electronic listening devices on the Kennedys wherever possible.

Spindel’s approach was to determine whether informant would be interested in handling such work for Hoffa on the West Coast, such as developing information concerning the identity of any prostitutes knowqn to have any association whatsoever with either the Attorney General or the President and Spindel was of the belief thois [sic] information could be developed through [name redacted] or Peter Lawford

. . .Spindel indicated they were compiling all possible information for this so-called ‘hate campaign’ and contemplated inclusion of this material in the [Teamsters] Union magazine.

The report concludes: “There is no indication on the part of the informant of emotional instability, unreliability or the furnishing of false information.”

Otash would later play the role of supporting cast in the L.A. noir crime novels of James Elroy, and was featured in this interview by Mike Wallace in 1957.

And an subsequent post from 3 June 2012:

More confirmation: The bugs in Marilyn’s house

Three years ago we wrote about the two sets of covert microphone installations in Marilyn Monroe’s house — one installed by freelance wireman Bernard Bates Spindel on behalf of Jimmy Hoffa and the other by J. Edgar Hoover’s boys, and both eager to dig up the dirt on the Kennedys, Jack and Bobby.

Another player in the game was Freddie Otash, a corrupt ex-LAPD vice cop who made a tidy living digging up dirt for Hollywood gossip magazines and for the increasingly paranoid Howard Hughes.

Now comes a new twist, reported by the Irish Independent:

Otash, who inspired the character of private investigator Jake Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson) in the 1974 film Chinatown, was a notorious Hollywood gumshoe during the 1950s and 1960s, who snooped on – and on behalf of – a slew of the era’s stars, including Lana Turner, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra and Bette Davis. In his notes, Otash claims to know the location of Judy Garland’s secret supply of pills; to have caught James Dean shoplifting at a Hollywood store; and to have heard Marilyn Monroe having sex with John F Kennedy.

>snip<

Otash, known as “Mr O”, died aged 70 in 1992, having just completed a book called Marilyn, Kennedy and Me. The manuscript, never published, was also found among his files, which had been kept by his daughter. In it, he recalls bugging Monroe’s house, allegedly to snoop on Kennedy and other Democrats for the Republican tycoon Howard Hughes. Otash claims to have taped an argument between Monroe, Bobby Kennedy and Kennedy’s brother-in-law, the actor Peter Lawford, on the day she died.

The detective later said Lawford had asked him to remove anything that incriminated the Kennedy brothers – both rumoured to have had romantic relations with Monroe – from the dead star’s home.

Read the rest.

So did Otash bug Monroe’s home? Neither of our two sources, Marion Phillips, the second in command and operations boss of LAPD’s mob squad, and a former phone company security expert who’d formerly worked for the CIA, said Otash had installed bugs. The two sets of wiring were clearly identifiable, one the FBI’s and the other Spindel’s.

There was no evidence of a third set of bugs, which leads us to suspect Otash may have serviced Spindel’s installation or otherwise shared in it’s fruits. But there was no sign he’d ever planted microphones of his own.

InSecurityWatch: Terror, hacks, drones, zones


First up, a sad reminder from the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland workers outraged over noose hung from city truck

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

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

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

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

From the London Telegraph, getting hyperbolic:

Britain facing ‘greatest terrorist threat’ in history

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press offers irony:

Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US

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

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

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

From the Guardian, a call to action:

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

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

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

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

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

On to drones, first with PetaPixel:

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

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

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

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

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

Texas megachurch pastor uses drones to spread his message

  • Drones, dubstep and… God?

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

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

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

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

Texas Border Patrol agent fires at armed militia member

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

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

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

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

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

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Said to Mull Alliance

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

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

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

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

The Nikkei Asian Review covers a quantum leap:

Toshiba creates leap in ‘unbreakable’ cryptography communication tech

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

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

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

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

Ebola, its origins, and how it spreads


If you are at all interested in the sudden surge of Ebola outbreaks in Africa, then this 28 August lecture at the University of California’s public health school in Berkeley will fill in a lot of gaps in your knowledge.

The speaker is a pediatrician and epidemiologist who was there at the beginning, investigating the first major outbreak in 1976 in the Sudan, where he learned first-hand about the disease and the devastation it brings.

Especially illuminating is his explanation of the reasons behind both the disaster the disease inflicts on the medical staff who care for them, with infected doctors and nurses themselves sparking a surge in new cases.

Also notable are the impacts of contrasting forms of government and traditional burial practices on outbreak containment,

Donald P. Francis serves as executive director of Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases in San Francisco, a global NGO.

Here’s an excerpt from his bio:

An infectious disease trained pediatrician and epidemiologist, Dr. Francis has over 30 years experience in epidemic control and vaccines. He spent 21 years working for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) focusing on vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, cholera, smallpox, and hepatitis B. He directed the WHO’s Smallpox Eradication Program in Sudan and U.P. State in Northern India. His hepatitis B vaccine work included Phase III trials among gay men in the United States and among infants born to carrier mothers in China. Dr. Francis was also a member of the WHO team investigating the world’s first outbreak of Ebola virus in 1976. Dr. Francis has worked on HIV/AIDS since its emergence in 1981.

From UC Berkeley Events:

The 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Update on an Unprecedented Public Health Event

Program note:

Dr. Francis, MD, DSc is the Executive Director at Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases (GSID) in South San Francisco.

Joseph Stiglitz: On the corporate looting machine


In conversation with Bill Moyers, the Nobel laureate economist deconstructs the parasitic nature of the postmodern neoliberally reconstructed politically empowered machine that is, shall we say, RoboCorp.

From Moyers & Company:

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers

Program notes:

A recent report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill Moyers that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values,” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

Chart of the day: Obama’s non-green thumb


From the Los Angeles Times, the amount of marijuana grown by Uncle Sam for doling out to researchers plunged after the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first President to ever admit using the stuff [a topic we’ve previously noted:

BLOG Doobie

And to close, from a previous post:

Excerpts from the Washington Post Associate Editor David Maraniss’s book Barack Obama: The Story on our president’s days as a serious Hawaiian pothead and member of the ironically named Choom Gang, via Buzzfeed Politics:

Barry popularized the concept of “roof hits”: when they were chooming in the car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.

When you were with Barry and his pals, if you exhaled precious pakalolo (Hawaiian slang for marijuana, meaning “numbing tobacco”) instead of absorbing it fully into your lungs, you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around. “Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated,” explained one member of the Choom Gang, Tom Topolinski, the Chinese-looking kid with a Polish name who answered to Topo.

 

InSecurityWatch: Cops, hacks, spies drones, zones


We begin with demilitarization in a California college town from Sacramento’s KOVR-TV:

Davis City Council Tells Police To Have Plan For Getting Rid Of MRAP Military Vehicle In Next 60 Days

The Davis City Council has told the police department it must get rid of a military vehicle it received in the next 60 days.

The controversy over the mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle attracted a large crowd on Tuesday that was largely against it.

The council adopted the resolution to come up with a plan to get rid of the vehicle. A petition is circulating asking the council to press the police to either get rid of or destroy the vehicle.

From the Washington Post, imitation, flattery, and all that:

Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The victims of waterboarding are often strapped down on gurneys or benches while cold water is poured over a cloth covering their faces; they suffer the sensation of feeling they are drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a May 2005 Justice Department memo on the CIA’s use of the technique.

From Reuters, an intervention to protect the deep political agenda:

Exclusive: U.S. may use secrets act to stop suit against Iran sanctions group

The U.S. government is considering using a powerful national security law to halt a private lawsuit against a non-profit group, United Against A Nuclear Iran, according to a source familiar with the case.

Greek businessman and ship owner Victor Restis last year sued UANI for defamation after the New York-based group, whose advisors include former intelligence officials from the United States, Europe and Israel, accused him of violating sanctions on Iran by exporting oil from the country.

Earlier this year, U.S. government lawyers declared their interest in the lawsuit, warning that information related to UANI could jeopardize law enforcement activities.

Invasive Indian media demands, via the Guardian:

Indian journalists protest at publisher’s social media demands

  • Give us your Facebook and Twitter passwords, says Times of India company

The publisher of the Times of India wants its journalists to convert their personal social media accounts into company ones and, in order to do so, has asked them to reveal their Facebook and Twitter passwords.

Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL) — India’s largest media conglomerate – was forced to amend its original demands after protests from journalists.

It had told staff they must sign contracts agreeing that management could continue to post updates on their personal accounts even after they had left the company. It also prohibited staff from posting news links on their own accounts.

From The Daily Dot, give the man a job at Comcast:

Iranian Ayatollah condemns high-speed Internet as ‘un-Islamic’

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a senior Iranian cleric, believes that high-speed mobile Internet like 3G networks are “un-Islamic” and that they violate “human and moral norms,” Radio Liberty reports.

Shirazi further asserts that Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace should do more to prevent access to “negative features” of the Web like anti-Islamic movies or pornography.

“Authorities should not merely think about the financial earnings of this program, and consider it as a type of religious intellectualism and academic freedom,” Makarem Shirazi wrote on his website.

From the Independent, medium and message:

Graffiti dying out as people vent spleen on Twitter, says top cop

Graffiti and other forms of public vandalism are dying off as people turn to social media to vent their anger instead, the most senior police officer in Scotland has said.

Sir Stephen House, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, suggested that disaffected members of the public are increasingly using services such as Twitter and Facebook to make angry or abusive comments instead of spray-painting buildings, leading to a decline in recorded vandalism.

“Social media in some instances has replaced graffiti as a way of making your views heard. We have had to deal with offensive comments made on Twitter. My view is that 10 to 15 years ago, that would have been sprayed on the side of a building,” Sir Stephen told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority.

He cited figures which show that vandalism, fire-raising, malicious damage and related crimes have been falling dramatically in Scotland in recent years. Between April and June this year 13,453 such offences were committed, down nearly eight per cent on the same period in 2013. The figure has more than halved since 2009/10, when it was 28,146.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, clever, eh?:

Canadian couple detained in China were spies disguised as ‘ordinary citizens’: state media

A Canadian couple detained by Chinese authorities were spies disguised as “ordinary citizens,” according to new information published by China’s state media.

Kevin and Julia Garratt have been accused of stealing Chinese military and national defence research secrets. They were detained Aug. 4, but not formally arrested, and China has offered little information on what they are accused of doing. The Christian couple ran a coffee shop near the border with North Korea, worked to bring humanitarian aid into that secretive country and worked to train North Korean Christians inside China.

Their detention by China’s State Security Bureau has been seen by Canadian authorities as reprisal for the arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada suspected of masterminding the electronic theft of U.S. fighter jet secrets.

British Columbian dronal angst via CBC News:

Peeping drone ‘an invasion of privacy,’ B.C. homeowner says

  • Oak Bay woman says drone was buzzing her home, but police say no laws were broken

A Victoria-area resident says she spotted a drone buzzing around her property, but police say their hands are tied.

Laura Moffett says the man, who was flying the drone in a park across the street, was allegedly trying to peek inside her home in Oak Bay.

“It’s an invasion of privacy. We have a skylight above, and on the weekend I had my nieces and nephews around playing in the pool, and what if he had been doing it then and taking videos?” said Moffet.

But Oak Bay police Sgt. Chris Goudie says the actions weren’t criminal, and police won’t be recommending any charge.

More dronal business from the Atlantic:

Inside Google’s Secret Drone-Delivery Program

After two years of development, the Silicon Valley company reveals to The Atlantic that it has substantial research effort into building flying robots than can deliver products across a city in a minute or two.

A zipping comes across the sky.

A man named Neil Parfitt is standing in a field on a cattle ranch outside Warwick, Australia. A white vehicle appears above the trees, a tiny plane a bit bigger than a seagull. It glides towards Parfitt, pitches upwards to a vertical position, and hovers near him, a couple hundred feet in the air. From its belly, a package comes tumbling downward, connected by a thin line to the vehicle itself. Right before the delivery hits the ground, it slows, hitting the earth with a tap. The delivery slows, almost imperceptibly, just before it hits the ground, hardly kicking up any dust. A small rectangular module on the end of the line detaches the payload, and ascends back up the vehicle, locking into place beneath the nose. As the wing returns to flying posture and zips back to its launch point half a mile away, Parfitt walks over to the package, opens it up, and extracts some treats for his dogs.

The Australian test flight and 30 others like it conducted in mid-August are the culmination of the first phase of Project Wing, a secret drone program that’s been running for two years at Google X, the company’s whoa-inducing, long-range research lab.

From Network World, the feds are on the case:

FBI, Secret Service studying ‘scope’ of reported bank cyberattacks

A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman said Wednesday the agency is working with the Secret Service to determine the “scope” of reported cyberattacks against several financial institutions.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Russian hackers struck JPMorgan Chase and another bank earlier this month. A subsequent report in the New York Times said the attacks hit JPMorgan Chase and four other U.S. financial institutions. The Times reported that “gigabytes” of information were stolen, including customer account information.

A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman did not confirm the attacks, saying that “companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day. We have multiple layers of defense to counteract any threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.”

From Al Jazeera English, cybercrime in Africa:

Cracking down on cybercrime in Ivory Coast

  • Ivory Coast tackles internet fraud scourge, but analysts say criminals continue to outsmart authorities.

The story is the same at almost every internet café in the main Ivorian city of six million inhabitants, with thousands of small and large computer halls for public use, which locals say have been seized by cybercriminals, who spend seven days a week in front of computer screens seeking fast cash.

“You can’t find any cybercafé in Abidjan without these rogues,” says Armand Zadi, founder of Internet pour l’Avenir, or Internet for the Future, an NGO that campaigns against abusive use of the internet in the West African country.

“They have abandoned schooling and believe they can succeed in life through internet scams because they see other young men in town who make money from it and later branch out into legitimate businesses. Our fear is growing that they could become role models for other youths,” he says.

From the Guardian, a secret in peril:

Zuma’s position weakens as he loses battle to keep ‘spy tapes’ under wraps

  • Secret recordings were key to dropping of corruption and fraud allegations against the South African president

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, suffered a court defeat on Thursday that could open the way for more than 700 corruption charges against him to be reinstated.

The decision, after a five-year legal battle, is a setback for Zuma, who is already besieged by criticism over taxpayer-funded upgrades of his private residence and concerns over his health.

South Africa’s supreme court of appeal dismissed Zuma’s bid to block the release of the so-called “spy tapes” containing conversations that were used as grounds to drop fraud and corruption allegations against him shortly before he became president in 2009. The tapes were said to reveal a political conspiracy against Zuma before a crucial African National Congress conference in 2007, where he defeated sitting president Thabo Mbeki in a bitter leadership struggle. They are said to show evidence of collusion between the former heads of an elite police unit and the national prosecuting authority to manipulate the prosecutorial process – though some are sceptical of the claim.

After the jump, the latest from Asia and the Game of Zones, including Aussie insecurity, an Aussie leak, border troubles and hints of an internal crackdown in Pakistan, hints of an Indo/Japanese nuclear deal, a Chinese beatdown and more Sino/American semantic volleys, Japan postures and gets a Chinese lecture, Chinese TV gets tough on Japanese history, a Japanese crackdown on dissent and an insular buildup, a consequences of a leak on Taiwan. . . Continue reading