Category Archives: History

InSecurityWatch: Spies, lies, hacks, laws, drones


And the deepening mystery of those missing Mexican college students, plus lots more. . .

We begin with the London Telegraph, and surely a wonderful thing — but in the hands of a police state, your worst nightmare:

Mind-reading device invented by scientists to eavesdrop on ‘inner voice’

  • Scientists at the University of California were able to pick up several words that subjects thought using a new mind-reading device

It might seem the stuff of science fiction, but a mind-reading device is being developed by scientists which can eavesdrop on your inner-voice.

Reseachers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a machine and computer programme which converts brain activity into sounds and words.

Speech activates specific neurons as the brain works interpret the sounds as words. Each word activates a slightly different set of neurons.

Now scientists have started to develop an algorithm that can pick up the activity and translate it back into words in the hope it might help people who are unable to speak.

The war de jour from the Washington Post:

Airstrikes against the Islamic State have not affected flow of foreign fighters to Syria

More than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, a rate that has so far been unchanged by airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

The magnitude of the ongoing migration suggests that the U.S.-led air campaign has neither deterred significant numbers of militants from traveling to the region nor triggered a spike in the rate of travel among Muslim populations inflamed by American intervention.

“The flow of fighters making their way to Syria remains constant, so the overall number continues to rise,” a U.S. intelligence official said. U.S. officials cautioned, however, that there is a lag in the intelligence being examined by the CIA and other spy agencies, meaning it could be weeks before a change becomes apparent.

More from the Independent:

Isis in Iraq: Army’s triumph at Jurf Al-Sakhar lays bare the cost of defeating the militants

On Tuesday, hundreds of militiamen trundled out of Jurf al-Sakhar in trucks and buses, handing over control of the town and outlying villages and farms to Iraqi security forces. As flatbed trucks carrying field artillery waited to move out, Humvees and bomb disposal vehicles burned in streets that the insurgents had laced with explosives.

In the town centre, the smell of death lingered in the air. The Shia forces could not remain in the area, militia commanders said, as their presence would spark accusations of sectarian killings.

Already revenge attacks have been reported. As a convoy of trucks blaring religious music from loudspeakers drove out of the town, the men in the trucks were jovial and flashed peace signs, but the decaying body of an alleged insurgent was being dragged behind.

CBC News covers the recruiting ground:

In Tunisia, democracy triumphs but troubles remain

  • Poster child for Arab democracy, Tunisia is also big source of recruits for ISIS

Today, Tunisia stands as the great Arab hope for democracy, the possible light in a region where the other Arab Spring countries have descended into civil war or military dictatorship.

Its parliamentary election this week — the second since the initial revolt — was notable for its transparency, and saw the more secular Nidaa Tounes party overtake the Islamist Ennahda party, which had been forced into a bi-partisan, unity government earlier in the year because of a long-running political crisis.

But with the swing of the democratic pendulum now comes the very real problems of governing.

“There are no jobs,” says Ayouni Nasreddine, an unemployed, 28-year-old university graduate who lives here. “That is why the revolution began in Sidi Bouzid. Many men are unemployed and have no money.”

And the Washington Post covers a domestic warning:

Pentagon security agency: Watch out for Islamic State attacks in the U.S.

Recent threats made against U.S. troops by the Islamic State call for vigilance, including varying routes to work, limiting social media activity and hiding Defense Department IDs while in public, according to a new warning from the agency that protects the Pentagon.

The warning was issued Oct. 24, and posted online by the Military Times newspaper chain Wednesday. It was issued by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, a civilian-run organization in the Defense Department that is responsible for protecting occupants and visitors at the Pentagon and other facilities.

The Pentagon’s security warning referenced threats and recent attacks in Canada, Britain and France, and urges Department of Defense employees to exercise caution.

The latest drone strike from the Associated Press:

Drone strike kills 2 militants in NW Pakistan

Suspected U.S. drone-fired missiles struck a house early on Thursday in a restive tribal region in northwest Pakistan, killing two militants, officials said.

Two intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media, said the missiles hit a house in Azam Warsak village in the South Waziristan tribal region.

The house, owned by a local tribesman, Ashraf Mahsud, was occupied by Arab militants affiliated with al-Qaida, the officials said but did not provide more details about those killed or the airstrike itself. Mahsud, who is known to be associated with Uzbek militants operating in other parts of the region, was not at the house at the time, the officials said.

According to one of the two officials, who is based in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, most of the al-Qaida-linked foreign militants have left the tribal regions but some are still hiding in inaccessible pockets in the area.

From El País, citing the Bush doctrine in Spain:

Military court drops prosecution of soldiers who beat Iraqi prisoners

  • Judges suggest inmates may not have been protected by Geneva Conventions

A military court has decided it will no longer pursue the prosecution of five soldiers who were under scrutiny for allegedly abusing two prisoners at the Spanish base in Diwaniya, Iraq in 2004.

The servicemen, who are all current or former members of the elite military unit known as La Legión, were facing between 10 and 25 years in prison if found guilty, according to the Military Penal Code.

The case came to light in March 2013 when EL PAÍS released video footage showing three soldiers kicking two defenseless men inside a cell, under the watchful eyes of three other soldiers.

The suspects were a captain who now works at the National Intelligence Center (CNI), two corporals – one of whom is still with La Legión and the other with the Civil Guard – and two Civil Guards who were legionnaires at the time.

In a surprising interpretation, the court states that the Geneva Conventions on the protection of prisoners of war “in no way extends to terrorists” and that the victims of this particular crime could, in fact, be “the three alleged terrorists” who were transferred to the Diwaniya base on January 27, 2004 and thought to be involved in the mortar attack against Tegucigalpa Base, a US installation in Iraq.

The idea that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to alleged terrorists is nothing new. The doctrine was applied by former US president George W. Bush to justify the detention center in Guantánamo (Cuba). The US administration considered detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan “illegal enemy combatants” rather than prisoners, thus denying them the rights encoded in the conventions.

CBC News covers a high profile hack:

White House cyberattack confirmed by National Security Council

  • Officials declined to say who was suspected of launching attack

An attack by hackers on a White House computer network earlier this month was considered so sensitive that only a small group of senior congressional leaders were initially notified about it, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The officials said the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, collectively known as the “Gang of Eight,” were told last week of the cyberattack, which had occurred several days earlier.

Security experts said this limited group would normally be informed about ultra-secret intelligence operations and notifying them of a computer breach in this way was unusual.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said, “Consistent with sensitive intelligence matters, the director of the FBI notified congressional leadership and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees.”

And from the Washington Post, a verdict:

Murky Pentagon contract to build silencers ends in guilty verdicts

A Navy intelligence official and a California hot-rod mechanic were found guilty Wednesday on federal conspiracy charges stemming from a mysterious scheme to manufacture hundreds of AK-47 rifle silencers for a secret military project.

Lee M. Hall, a civilian Navy intelligence official at the Pentagon, and Mark S. Landersman, the mechanic, were convicted of conspiring to build 349 untraceable silencers — without a firearms license — and shipping them across state lines for a sensitive mission that was never fully explained in court.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who delivered the verdicts after bench trials in Alexandria, said she was unconvinced by defense attorneys’ assertions that the silencers were needed for a clandestine purpose and were necessarily obtained outside of normal channels.

Another drone story from Deutsche Welle:

France investigates mystery drones over nuclear plants

France has launched an investigation into unidentified drones spotted over several of its nuclear plants. The incident has reignited the debate about nuclear safety.

Unidentified drones seen over several of France’s nuclear reactors in recent weeks prompted the French government to launch an investigation on Thursday.

“Measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralize them,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told France Info Radio.

According to the state electricity company EDF, the unmanned aircraft were spotted over seven nuclear plants across the country between October 5th and October 20th, without any impact on the plants’ safety or functioning.

It is not known who was behind the mysterious flights. Aircraft are not permitted to fly within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius and an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) over nuclear plants.

Aspirational from Jiji Press:

U.N. Panel Adopts Japan-Led Resolution on Nuclear Abolition

The U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee on Wednesday adopted a Japanese-led resolution confirming U.N. member states’ “determination” to take “united action” for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The U.N. panel on disarmament approved the resolution by a vote of 163 to one, with 14 abstentions. Among the proponents were the United States, Britain and France, while such nations as Russia, China, India and Pakistan abstained. The only dissident was North Korea.

The First Committee adopted such a resolution for the 21st straight year. A record 116 countries, including Japan, the United States and Britain, jointly sponsored the latest resolution, Japanese officials said.

Panopticon on the march from Al Jazeera America:

With FBI biometric database, ‘what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas’

  • Agency officials defend police militarization and urge cops to adopt sophisticated technology to help identify suspects

The FBI has invested considerable energy in recent months in marketing a massive new biometric database to local cops, whom the agency will rely on to help feed it billions of fingerprints, palm prints, mug shots, iris scans and images of scars, tattoos and other identifiers.

But it took senior FBI consultant Peter Fagan just nine words this week to capture the ambitious scope of the agency’s aims with the new system, which is gradually replacing traditional fingerprint identification with facial recognition and other biometric identifier technology.

“What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas anymore,” Fagan told a roomful of police executives at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Orlando on Tuesday.

He said that reaching the FBI’s goal of better tracking criminal suspects from town to town depends on local cops’ ability to adopt increasingly sophisticated new technologies and to share their data with federal law enforcement. He urged police to begin to “pack the record[s]” by collecting as many high-quality biometric identifiers from arrested criminal suspects as possible.

And the National Journal covers the QT:

The FBI’s Secret House Meeting to Get Access to Your iPhone

  • The administration argues that encryption is making it difficult for police to catch dangerous criminals

The Obama administration is ramping up its campaign to force technology companies to help the government spy on their users.

FBI and Justice Department officials met with House staffers this week for a classified briefing on how encryption is hurting police investigations, according to staffers familiar with the meeting.

The briefing included Democratic and Republican aides for the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the staffers said. The meeting was held in a classified room, and aides are forbidden from revealing what was discussed.

It’s unclear whether the FBI is planning a similar briefing for Senate aides.

From the Intercept, imagine that!:

Secret Manuals Show the Spyware Sold to Despots and Cops Worldwide

When Apple and Google unveiled new encryption schemes last month, law enforcement officials complained that they wouldn’t be able to unlock evidence on criminals’ digital devices. What they didn’t say is that there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

We’re publishing in full, for the first time, manuals explaining the prominent commercial implant software “Remote Control System,” manufactured by the Italian company Hacking Team. Despite FBI director James Comey’s dire warnings about the impact of widespread data scrambling — “criminals and terrorists would like nothing more,” he declared — Hacking Team explicitly promises on its website that its software can “defeat encryption.”

The manuals describe Hacking Team’s software for government technicians and analysts, showing how it can activate cameras, exfiltrate emails, record Skype calls, log typing, and collect passwords on targeted devices. They also catalog a range of pre-bottled techniques for infecting those devices using wifi networks, USB sticks, streaming video, and email attachments to deliver viral installers. With a few clicks of a mouse, even a lightly trained technician can build a software agent that can infect and monitor a device, then upload captured data at unobtrusive times using a stealthy network of proxy servers, all without leaving a trace. That, at least, is what Hacking Team’s manuals claim as the company tries to distinguish its offerings in the global marketplace for government hacking software.

And they’re surprised? Via the Washington Post:

ICE twice breached privacy policy with license-plate database

After the Department of Homeland Security canceled a plan for broad law enforcement access to a national license-plate tracking system in February, officials established a policy that required similar plans be vetted by department privacy officers to ensure they do not violate Americans’ civil liberties.

Two months later, however, officials with DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency bypassed the privacy office in purchasing a one-year subscription for a commercially run national database for its Newark field office, according to public contract data and department officials. In June, ICE breached the policy again by approving a similar subscription for its Houston field office. The database contains more than 2.5 billion records.

The policy was created after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who oversees ICE, canceled a solicitation that could have given ICE field offices across the country — more than 12,000 personnel — access to a national license-plate database.

From CNN, down and in:

Undercover sting: FBI agents posed as Internet repairmen

In sting operation last July, undercover FBI agents gained access to a hotel suite by disabling the hotel’s Internet, and then posing as Internet repair technicians.

Now one of the suspects who was charged in the sting is crying foul.

At Caesar’s Palace, a casino hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas, FBI agents deliberately cut off the Internet for a suite used by Paul Phua, a high-stakes gambler. Then, they showed up at the suite and made a bogus service call.

On their undercover video, you can hear the imposters asking their targets what the trouble is.

BuzzFeed covers dismay:

Senator Leahy Criticizes FBI For Creating Fake News Story

The letter comes after agents created a fake Associated Press article to nab a suspected school bomber in Seattle in 2007. This is the latest in a series of incidents in which cops have been criticized for pretending to be someone else.

Senator Patrick Leahy isn’t happy with feds pretending to be journalists online — even if they are going after dangerous suspects.

On Thursday, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to review “all techniques involving federal law enforcement officials impersonating others without their consent.”

Leahy’s letter comes just days after the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation created a fake Associated Press article, as part of a 2007 operation to catch a potential school bomber.

After the jump, a Ferguson hack, and a massive hack of industrial vulnerabilities, malware in your magazine, credit card data theft refined, on to Mexico and those missing students starting with a violent protest at a gubernatorial manse, a presidential meeting fail, a mayoral resignation, global attention, and a parallel protest in Washington, violent dissent in Burkina Faso, an ominous declaration from Beijing, island-building by China and Vietnam in disputed waters, a Korean court hits a Japanese corporation with wartime reparations, and a French crackdown on creepy clowns. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Robots, terror, hacks, drones


And a lot more.

We begin with a threat to jobs, one that will only get worse and lead to yet more global instability. First, from TheLocal.ch:

Nestlé to ‘employ’ robot clerks in Japan stores

Swiss-based food giant Nestlé says its Japan unit is hiring 1,000 robots as sales clerks at stores across the country.

The first batch of the robots — a chatty humanoid called Pepper — will report to work by the end of this year at outlets that sell coffee capsules and home espresso machines.

“From December, they will start selling coffee machines for us at big retail stores,” said Nestlé Japan spokeswoman Miki Kano.

“We are sure that our customers will enjoy shopping and being entertained by robots.”

More from PCMagazine:

Lowe’s Hires Robots for the Holidays

Lowe’s is hiring some new workers for the holiday season, but they’re not human.

The hardware store just announced plans to test customer service robots, which will be able to help you locate items in the store, and share real-time information about product promotions and inventory. Dubbed OSHbot, the robots can speak multiple languages and remotely connect with expert employees in other locations to answer project-related questions.

Unfortunately, the robots won’t yet be making an appearance at Lowe’s stores nationwide. Lowe’s will deploy two of the bots at its Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, Calif. to see whether customers and employees embrace the technology.

The OSHbots roll right up to you, say hello, and ask what you need. They also feature 3D-scanning technology, so you can bring in a spare part, scan it under a 3D-sensing camera, and OSHbot will identify the product, tell you how much it costs, and then guide you to where you can find it on store shelves.

And another robotic development that’s particularly spooky, via United Press International:

Israeli company showcases manned/unmanned patrol boat

  • A patrol boat for homeland security applications that can operate autonomously or by personnel on board is being highlighted by Israel Aerospace Industries at an exhibition in France

A manned/unmanned patrol boat for homeland security and other applications is being highlighted in France this week by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The vessel being shown at the Euronaval International Naval Defense and Maritime Exhibition is the Katana, which the company launched earlier this year.

The Katana can operate autonomously through the use of an advanced command-and-control station or controlled by personnel on board.

On to the crisis of the year, via BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: Peshmerga fighters head to Turkey

Iraqi Kurdish forces are travelling to Turkey, from where they plan to cross into Syria to battle Islamic State (IS) militants besieging the town of Kobane.

Officials said a plane carrying 150 Peshmerga had left Irbil. Their heavy weapons will be transported by land.

Turkey agreed to the deployment last week after refusing to allow Turkish Kurds to cross the border to fight.

Earlier, the Turkish prime minister rejected claims that he was not doing enough to end the jihadists’ assault.

More from Reuters:

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)

“Many antique collectors unwillingly support terrorists like Islamic State,” Michel van Rijn, one of the most successful smugglers of antique artifacts in the past century, told German broadcaster Das Erste this month.

And smuggling is booming in Iraq and Syria right now. In Iraq, 4,500 archaeological sites, some of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, are reportedly controlled by Islamic State and are exposed to looting. Iraqi intelligence claim that Islamic State alone has collected as much as $36 million from the sales of artifacts, some of them thousands of years old. The accounts data have not been released for verification but, whatever the exact number is, the sale of conflict antiquities to fund military and paramilitary activity is real and systematic.

Grainy video from soldiers fighting for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at Palmyra, an ancient capital in what is now Syria, shows delicate grave reliefs of the dead, ripped out, gathered up and loaded into the back of their truck. The soldiers present the heads of decapitated statues to the camera. Other stolen Palmyrene treasures were exposed by an undercover reporter for The Sunday Times. Sculptures, pillar carvings and glass vessels were found to be on sale for knock-down prices in Beirut, Lebanon. Roman vases had been robbed from graves and were being sold by the box.

And this from Der Spiegel:

Interview with an Islamic State Recruiter: ‘Democracy Is For Infidels’

  • How does Islamic State think? How do its followers see the world? SPIEGEL ONLINE met up with an Islamic State recruiter in Turkey to hear about the extremist group’s vision for the future.

The conditions laid out by the Islamist are strict: no photos and no audio recording. He also keeps his real name secret as well as his country of origin, and is only willing to disclose that he is Arab. His English is polished and he speaks with a British accent.

He calls himself Abu Sattar, appears to be around 30 years old and wears a thick, black beard that reaches down to his chest. His top lip is shaved as is his head and he wears a black robe that stretches all the way to the floor. He keeps a copy of the Koran, carefully wrapped in black cloth, in his black leather bag.

Abu Sattar recruits fighters for the terrorist militia Islamic State in Turkey. Radical Islamists travel to Turkey from all over the world to join the “holy war” in Iraq or Syria and Abu Sattar examines their motives and the depth of their religious beliefs. Several Islamic State members independently recommended Abu Sattar as a potential interview partner — as someone who could explain what Islamic State stands for. Many see him as something like an ideological mentor.

And on a related note, via Reuters:

U.S. boosts security at government buildings, citing calls by terrorist groups

The United States is stepping up security at government buildings in Washington and other major cities in response to “calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday.

“Given world events, prudence dictates a heightened vigilance in the protection of U.S. government installations and our personnel,” Johnson said in a statement.

From Reuters, a reminder of an earlier regime change venture:

Libya near ‘point of no return’, U.N. says as fighting toll rises

Factional warfare in Libya is pushing the oil producer “very close to the point of no return”, the U.N. special envoy to the country said on Tuesday with efforts to bring about a ceasefire and political dialogue showing no result.

The death toll from two weeks of street fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist armed groups in the eastern city of Benghazi has risen to 170, medics said. Seven people were killed alone on Tuesday, 15 on Monday.

The North African country has had two governments and parliaments since a militia group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli in August, setting up its own cabinet and assembly.

From BuzzFeed, can you say “Hubris”?:

Blackwater Founder Blames “Anti-War Left” For The Convictions Of Guards Who Killed Iraqi Civilians

“In the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops and this time they went after contractors and Blackwater represented anything they love to hate.”

The founder and former CEO of Blackwater Erick Prince blamed the anti-war left Tuesday for the conviction of four former guards for the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad.

“There’s a lot of politics that surrounds the event,” Prince said on NewsMax TV’s Midpoint. “The government spent tens of millions of dollars after this one case and a lot came after that Nisour Square event.”

“The bureaucratic attack the company withstand because of this. It’s all wrapped into the anger of the Iraq War. In the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops and this time they went after contractors and Blackwater represented anything they love to hate.”

Panopticon pervasiveness from the Guardian:

GCHQ views data with no warrant, government admits

  • GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material revealed in documents submitted to UK surveillance watchdog

British intelligence services can access raw material collected in bulk by the NSA and other foreign spy agencies without a warrant, the government has confirmed for the first time.

GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material are revealed in documents submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the UK surveillance watchdog, in response to a joint legal challenge by Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International. The legal action was launched in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations published by the Guardian and other news organisations last year.

The government’s submission discloses that the UK can obtain “unselected” – meaning unanalysed, or raw intelligence – information from overseas partners without a warrant if it was “not technically feasible” to obtain the communications under a warrant and if it is “necessary and proportionate” for the intelligence agencies to obtain that information.

The rules essentially permit bulk collection of material, which can include communications of UK citizens, provided the request does not amount to “deliberate circumvention” of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which governs much of the UK’s surveillance activities.

And from National Journal, we’ll show you yours if you’ll show us ours:

British Spies Allowed to Access U.S. Data Without a Warrant

Newly released documents from the British government reveal a lack of judicial oversight for how it sifts through communications data collected by the NSA and other foreign governments

British authorities are capable of tapping into bulk communications data collected by other countries’ intelligence services—including the National Security Agency—without a warrant, according to secret government documents released Tuesday.

The agreement between the NSA and Britain’s spy agency, known as Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ, potentially puts the Internet and phone data of Americans in the hands of another country without legal oversight when obtaining a warrant is “not technically feasible.”

The data, once obtained, can be kept for up to two years, according to internal policies disclosed by the British government. GCHQ was forced to reveal that it can request and receive vast quantities of raw, unanalyzed data collected from foreign governments it partners with during legal proceedings in a closed court hearing in a case brought by various international human-rights organizations, including Privacy International, Liberty U.K., and Amnesty International. The suit challenges certain aspects of GCHQ’s surveillance practices.

Threatpost covers the bottom line:

Cyberespionage: ‘This Isn’t a Problem That Can Be Solved’

“This isn’t a problem that can be solved. Don’t think it has a solution,” Joel Brenner, former head of national counterintelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and former senior counsel at the NSA, said in a keynote speech at the Kaspersky Government Cybersecurity Forum here Tuesday. “We are economically interdependent with the Chinese in an extraordinary way.”

Brenner pointed out a number of factors that have hoped lead to the current state of affairs, including the interconnection of virtually every conceivable asset and what he says has been the stasis in defensive thinking and operations in the last 10 years or so.

“If you thought the state of cyber defense had become substantially better in the last ten years, you’d be wrong,” he said. “We’ve been walking backward on cybersecurity for more than a decade and we’ll continue to walk backward unless and until we can address the core issues. The defensive stance needs to change from filter and guard to hunt and kill.”

From the Japan Times, the high price of apocalyptic security:

Imminent U.S. revamp of nuclear weapons, subs and planes is too costly, some say

Over the next 30 years, Washington will have to overhaul or replace much of its nuclear arsenal, an effort that experts say could cost as much as a trillion dollars. The problems will lie in choosing what is truly indispensable, and in how to pay for it.

The congressionally mandated National Defense Panel put it bluntly in a July review of the Pentagon’s defense plans, saying the effort to build a new triad of nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines is “unaffordable” under present budget constraints.

With legislation in 2011 putting in place a decade of budget spending cuts, analysts say the White House will ultimately have to delay some systems, trim others or find more money. Most likely, it will have to do all three.

Gee, they’ve got mail! From the New York Times:

Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S.

In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.

The number of requests, contained in a 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.

The audit, along with interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, offers one of the first detailed looks at the scope of the program, which has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge offers his take on the snail mail “hack”:

BLOG Mailer

And they’re looking for more, via the Guardian:

FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance

  • Agency requests rule change but civil liberties groups say ‘extremely invasive’ technique amounts to unconstitutional power grab

The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement that would grant it significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.

Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violating first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight.

The regulatory body to which the Department of Justice has applied to make the rule change, the advisory committee on criminal rules, will meet for the first time on November 5 to discuss the issue. The panel will be addressed by a slew of technology experts and privacy advocates concerned about the possible ramifications were the proposals allowed to go into effect next year.

South China Morning Post has the latest plumbing news:

FBI net closing on ‘Edward Snowden-style’ leaker of terror watch-lists

The net is closing on a second “Edward Snowden-style” whistle-blower who has reportedly been identified by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, it emerged yesterday.

Agents had identified an employee of a US contracting firm who was suspected of leaking a US government watch list of terrorists to a journalist linked to Snowden, Yahoo News reported.

Agents had reportedly searched the suspect’s home and a criminal investigation had been opened by prosecutors in the US state of Virginia. However, no one had been arrested or charged, the report said.

It is believed that the suspect was inspired by Snowden.

From the Associated Press, pressing the issue:

AP, Seattle Times object to FBI’s fake news story

The Associated Press and The Seattle Times are objecting after learning that the FBI created a fake news story and website using their names to catch a bomb threat suspect in 2007.

Police in suburban Lacey, near Olympia, sought the FBI’s help as repeated bomb threats prompted a week of evacuations and closures at Timberline High School in June 2007.

After police interviews of potential suspects came up empty, the agency obtained a warrant from a federal magistrate judge to send a “communication” to a social media account associated with the bomb threats, with the idea of tricking the suspect into revealing his location, according to documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The “communication,” which contained a software tool known as a “computer and Internet Protocol address verifier,” turned out to be a link to a phony AP story about the bomb threats posted on a fake Seattle Times webpage. The 15-year-old suspect clicked on the link, revealing his computer’s location and Internet address, and helping agents confirm his identity.

The boy was arrested.

Defense One covers hackery:

NATO’s Take on Cyberspace Law Ruffles China’s Feathers

Recent revelations by a group of security researchers of another China-based hacking group, reportedly more sophisticated than Unit 61398, is likely to set off the usual recriminations and denials, but have very little impact on the U.S.-China bilateral relationship. The Chinese embassy has already responded that “these kinds of reports or allegations are usually fictitious,” a response that Robert Dix, vice president of government affairs for Juniper Networks, colorfully and baldly describes as the Chinese giving “a big middle finger to anybody in the United States that’s tried to out them or point fingers in their direction.”

The report on the group, called Axiom, describes a six-year campaign against companies, journalists, civil society group, academics, and governments, and may preclude any real discussion on cyber issues between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next week. There was, however, very little chance that their sidebar discussion was going to lead to major progress. The differences between the two sides are deep.

An article that ran last week in the People’s Liberation Army Daily [Chinese] criticizing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and efforts to develop the laws of armed conflict in cyberspace shows just how deep the differences are.

And from CNET, most interesting:

People trust NSA more than Google, survey says

  • In a result consistent with previous polling, a new poll has respondents claiming they’re more concerned about Google seeing all their private data than the government

People don’t always say what they think. Especially in business and love.

Please, therefore, consider this question: whom would you trust more with your private data: the NSA, a company like Google, or your mom?

I ask because I’m looking at the results of a survey, conducted between October 9 and12, that asked just that. It asked simple questions, to which its sponsors hoped to get simple answers.

The results went like this. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being “I am shivering uncontrollably with fear”) the idea of Google or a similar concern having access to all your private data got a concerned score of 7.39.

The idea of the NSA having its eyes and hands all over you? 7.06. What about your boss snooping? That merited a mere 6.85. While the notion of your parents knowing it all got a 5.93.

From PandoDaily, another reason to make you hinky about da Google:

You can run, but you can’t hide: Google expands its real-world surveillance system with Google Fit

The company has developed an application that allows Android smartphone owners to collect health-related information in one place. It’s called Google Fit, and besides challenging Apple’s HealthKit service, it also represents Google’s efforts to gather real-world data to complement the information it already has about the digital world.

It’s no longer enough for companies to track someone’s activity across the Web by monitoring their emails, analyzing their browsing history, or keeping tabs on their online searches. All that information now needs to be supplemented with data about what someone’s doing in the real world, whether that’s demonstrated through location tracking or through a health application.

Why else would so many companies rush to help people track their steps, count their calories, or collect other health-related information? It’s not just about making self quantification more convenient for the few self-obsessed consumers who actually use that information. It’s also about increasing the amount of information that can be offered to advertisers — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but certainly as soon as these companies can get away with it.

From the Daily Dot, can you hear them now?:

Verizon is launching a tech news site that bans stories on U.S. spying

  • Verizon is getting into the news business. What could go wrong?

The most-valuable, second-richest telecommunications company in the world is bankrolling a technology news site called SugarString.com. The publication, which is now hiring its first full-time editors and reporters, is meant to rival major tech websites like Wired and the Verge while bringing in a potentially giant mainstream audience to beat those competitors at their own game.

There’s just one catch: In exchange for the major corporate backing, tech reporters at SugarString are expressly forbidden from writing about American spying or net neutrality around the world, two of the biggest issues in tech and politics today.

Unsurprisingly, Verizon is deeply tangled up in both controversies.

After the jump, killing the Fourth Estate with impunity, blood on the newsroom floor, White House hackery, a major hack of a cell-phone-based electronic payment system, millions of Californians lose personal data to hackers, a major malware breach of Gmail Drafts, hacking arrests to come at an amoral media baron’s Old Blighty holding, feds crack down on stadium droners while others drones may carry heart-zappers, cops arm for violence in Ferguson, sending a battlewagon to bust grandpa, On to Mexico and probing for graves in the search for missing Mexican students as more arrests ensue and parents confront a president, a police purge in Venezuela, droning up Down Under as civil rights take a hit, an assassination plot in Bangldesh, on to Hong Kong and pressing the fight, two bizarre tales from North Korea, a call for a purge in a Japanese shrine, and those threatening clowns and trolls of Europe. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Canada, war, spies, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

We begin with a familiar routine, this time with Canada sacrificing civil liberties, via Reuters:

Canada must do more to rein in threat from radicals: police head

The head of Canada’s national police told a parliamentary committee on Monday the government must do more to stop homegrown radicals, such as those who killed two soldiers on home soil last week, from going overseas for militant training.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said last week’s killings in Ottawa and outside Montreal, which he said appeared to be carried out with minimal planning or preparation, show the nation faces a “serious” threat.

“While we are facing this threat at home, we must focus our efforts on preventing individuals traveling abroad to commit to commit acts of terrorism,” Paulson said. “Preventing the individuals from traveling is critical. If these individuals return with training and/or battle experience, they pose an even greater threat to Canada and our allies.”

More from Xinhua:

Canadian government introduces protection of Canada from terrorists act

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney Monday announced that the Canadian government has introduced the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act to better protect Canadians.

The announcement came five days after an armed terrorist stormed into the Canadian parliament after killing a soldier at the War Memorial nearby last Wednesday. The attacker, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a homegrown radical, was killed later by security officers in the parliament.

Blaney said terrorism remains a serious threat to Canada and Canadian interests. The nature of this threat continues to be apparent both abroad and at home.

And from The National, a surprisingly realistic assessment:

Panel: What do we sacrifice to be safe?

Program notes:

Given the killings of two Canadian soldiers this week, should police and intelligence officials have more power to stop terror attacks and other security threats? Brian Stewart, Veronica Kitchen and Barry Cooper talk through the implications.

From Reuters, China follows the same course:

China to streamline counter-terrorism intelligence gathering

China will set up a national anti-terrorism intelligence system, state media said on Monday, as part of changes to a security law expected to be passed this week after an upsurge in violence in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Hundreds of people have been killed over the past two years in Xinjiang in unrest the government has blamed on Islamists who want to establish a separate state called East Turkestan.

Rights groups and exiles blame the government’s repressive policies for stoking resentment among the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home.

More from SINA English:

China to set up anti-terror intelligence gathering center

China will set up an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering center to coordinate and streamline intelligence gathering in the field, according to a draft law submitted for reading on Monday.

The counter-terrorism law aimed to improve intelligence gathering and the sharing of information across government bodies and among military, armed police and militia, and enhance international cooperation, said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the top legislature.

Explaining the draft to lawmakers, Lang said China is facing a serious and complex situation against terrorism, with more influence from “international factors.”

And in Old Blighty, a trial date is set, via the Guardian:

June trial for four accused of Isis plot to kill police and soldiers in London

  • Group allegedly swore allegiance to Islamic State and carried out “hostile reconnaissance” on military targets

Four men accused of a terror plot to kill police or soldiers in London will face a jury next June, a court has heard.

The four are alleged to have sworn allegiance to Islamic State (Isis) and carried out “hostile reconnaissance” on police and military targets, as part of a plot in which a gun, silencer and ammunition were obtained, as well as a moped.

The four men, all from London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Monday. Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, and Momen Motasim, 21, appeared by video link, speaking only to confirm their names. A fourth man, Nyall Hamlett, 24, appeared in the dock.

From the Intercept, a symptom of endless war:

Iraq War Now Being Fought By People Who Were Just Kids When It Started

Last week, the Pentagon announced the death of the first American serviceman in the war against ISIS. Marine Lance Cpl. Sean Neal was killed in what was described as a “non-combat incident” in Iraq, making him the first American to die in “Operation Inherent Resolve” – America’s latest military excursion into that country.

Cpl. Neal was only 19 years old. He would have only been eight at the outset of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and merely six on 9/11 – a child at the time of both these events.  The fact that he ended up losing his life in Iraq is on one hand tragic, and on the other completely absurd.

The tragedy here is that a young man with a long future ahead of him ended up dying in a distant country before even reaching the age of twenty. The absurdity is that men such as him are still losing their lives as a result of still-inexplicable decisions made over a decade ago. The Iraq War never ended, but now it’s being fought by men who were just children when it started. Walter Lippman once said, “I don’t think old men ought to promote wars for young men to fight.” In our time, old men have been promoting wars that kids would ultimately end up fighting.

The New York Times ups the ante:

Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews in Iraq

From the battlefield near Baiji, an Islamic State jihadist fired a heat-seeking missile and blew an Iraqi Army Mi-35M attack helicopter out of the sky this month, killing its two crew members.

Days later, the Islamic State released a chilling series of images from a video purporting to capture the attack in northern Iraq: a jihadist hiding behind a wall with a Chinese-made missile launcher balanced on his shoulder; the missile blasting from the tube, its contrail swooping upward as it tracked its target; the fiery impact and the wreckage on a rural road.

The helicopter was one of several Iraqi military helicopters that the militants claim to have shot down this year, and the strongest evidence yet that Islamic State fighters in Iraq are using advanced surface-to-air missile systems that pose a serious threat to aircraft flown by Iraq and the American-led coalition.

From the Associated Press, nothing succeeds like failure:

INSIDE WASHINGTON: Profiting from failure

The Army’s $5 billion intelligence network has largely failed in its promise to make crucial data easily accessible to soldiers and analysts in the field. But for a select group of companies and individuals, the system has been a bonanza.

Designed to provide a common intelligence picture from the Pentagon to the farthest reaches of Afghanistan, the Distributed Common Ground System has proven crash-prone, unwieldy and “not survivable,” in the words of one memorable 2012 testing report.

Meanwhile, the defense companies that designed and built it continue to win multi-million-dollar intelligence contracts. And a revolving door has spun between those and the military commands that continue to fund the system, records show.

Several people who worked in key roles in Army intelligence left for top jobs at those companies. In the world of government contracting, that’s not illegal or entirely uncommon, but critics say it perpetuates a culture of failure.

Legal challenges, via the Associated Press:

NSA surveillance challenges moving through courts

While Congress mulls how to curtail the NSA’s collection of Americans’ telephone records, impatient civil liberties groups are looking to legal challenges already underway in the courts to limit government surveillance powers.

Three appeals courts are hearing lawsuits against the bulk phone records program, creating the potential for an eventual Supreme Court review. Judges in lower courts, meanwhile, are grappling with the admissibility of evidence gained through the NSA’s warrantless surveillance.

Advocates say the flurry of activity, which follows revelations last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of once-secret intelligence programs, show how a post-9/11 surveillance debate once primarily hashed out among lawmakers in secret is being increasingly aired in open court — not only in New York and Washington but in places like Idaho and Colorado.

“The thing that is different about the debate right now is that the courts are much more of a factor in it,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. Before the Snowden disclosures, he said, courts were generally relegated to the sidelines of the discussion. Now, judges are poised to make major decisions on at least some of the matters in coming months.

From Yahoo News, the second Snowden?:

Feds identify suspected ‘second leaker’ for Snowden reporters

  • The FBI recently searched a government contractor’s home, but some officials worry the Justice Department has lost its ‘appetite’ for leak cases

The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called “second leaker” who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case.

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect’s home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.

But the case has also generated concerns among some within the U.S. intelligence community that top Justice Department officials — stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases — may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern “there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases.”

From Gallup, a source of high anxiety:

Hacking Tops List of Crimes Americans Worry About Most

As the list of major U.S. retailers hit by credit card hackers continues to grow this year, Americans are more likely to worry about having credit card information they used in stores stolen by computer hackers than any other crime they are asked about. Sixty-nine percent of Americans report they frequently or occasionally worry about this happening to them. Having a computer or smartphone hacked (62%) is the only other crime that worries the majority of Americans.

Here’s the full list of America’s top criminal worries:

BLOG Compucrime

A security breach, via SecurityWeek:

Tor Exit Node Found Maliciously Modifying Files

A researcher has identified an exit node on the Tor anonymity network which is set up to maliciously modify the files that go through it.

Josh Pitts, a researcher with the Leviathan Security Group, has been analyzing ways to alter binary files during download with the aid of man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. In a presentation he made at the DerbyCon security conference this year, the expert noted that cybercriminals had probably been using techniques similar to the one he disclosed, but he only had circumstantial evidence.

To put his theory to the test, Pitts developed a module for Exitmap, a Python-based tool that allows users to check Tor exit nodes for traffic modifications. Roughly an hour after he started running the tool, the researcher identified a “very active” Russian exit node that was wrapping binary files that passed through it with malware.

Network World covers another costly hack attack:

Disaster as CryptoWall encrypts US firm’s entire server installation

“Here is a tale of ransomware that will make your blood run cold,” announced Stu Sjouwerman of security training firm KnowBe4 in a company newsletter this week and he wasn’t exaggerating.

One of his firm’s customers contacted him on 14 October for advice on how to buy Bitcoins after all seven of its servers containing 75GB of data had been encrypted by a recent variant of the hated CryptoWall ransom Trojan.

An admin had clicked on a phishing link which was bad enough. Unfortunately, the infected workstation had mapped drives and permissions to all seven servers and so CryptoWall had quickly jumped on to them to hand the anonymous professional a work day to forget.

From SecurityWeek, not altogether surprising:

Hackers Target Ukraine’s Election Website

Hackers attacked Ukraine’s election commission website Saturday on the eve of parliamentary polls, officials said, but they denied Russian reports that the vote counting system itself had been put out of action.

The http://www.cvk.gov.ua site, run by the commission in charge of organising Sunday’s election, briefly shut down. Ukrainian security officials blamed a denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, a method that can slow down or disable a network by flooding it with communications requests.

“There is a DDoS attack on the commission’s site,” the government information security service said on its Facebook page.

The security service said the attack was “predictable” and that measures had been prepared in advance to ensure that the election site could not be completely taken down.

Network World covers metastasis:

The ‘Backoff’ malware linked to data breaches is spreading

The number of computers in North America infected by the Backoff malware, which is blamed for a string of payment card breaches, has risen sharply, according to research from network security company Damballa.

The company detected a 57 percent increase between August and September in devices infected with Backoff, which scrapes a computer’s RAM for leftover credit card data after a payment card has been swiped, said Brian Foster, Damballa’s CTO.

Damballa based its finding on data it collects from its ISP and enterprise customers, who use its traffic analysis products to detect malicious activity.

Damballa sees about 55 percent of internet traffic from North America, including DNS requests, though for privacy reasons it doesn’t know the IP addresses of most of those computers, Foster said.

From BuzzFeed, America’s finest allies, at it again:

Saudi Lawyers Sentenced To Eight Years Behind Bars For Tweeting

The criminal court, which usually tries terrorism cases, said that the lawyers’ actions on Twitter “undermines general order.”

A Saudi Arabian court on Monday sentenced three lawyers to up to eight years in jail for sending tweets critical of the government.

The tweets were directed against the justice ministry, which has since 2010 promised to reform the courts system and codify just how the country’s legal adherence to Sharia law works.

Prosecutors charged the three lawyers with “contempt of the judiciary, interfering with its independence, criticizing the justice system and the judiciary.”

For unexplained reasons, the case took place under the auspices of the Specialized Criminal Court — which was created in 2008, ostensibly to conduct trials against suspected terrorists.

After the jump, ghosts from World War II including Italian compensation demands to Germany and the Greek demand for repayment of war debt incurred at gunpoint plus Uncle Sam’s Nazi minions, latter-day wannabes, rising pressure over a murdered Mexican journalist, arrests in the case of the missing Mexican students as a town waits for answers and a new governor is named, repression in Egypt, India builds up its military, China and Vietnam seeks maritime accommodation, on to Hong Kong and Beijing allegations and a media campaign, China accuses Taiwan of spy games, and America’s Kafka Kops. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, fear, blowback, crime


Plus the latest on the ongoing uproar over those missing Mexican college students, Hong Kong, and hacks.

First, from USA TODAY, a chronic constitutional condition:

The United States is in a perpetual state of national emergency.

Thirty separate emergencies, in fact.

An emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter on the 10th day of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 remains in effect almost 35 years later.

A post-9/11 state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush — and renewed six times by President Obama — forms the legal basis for much of the war on terror.

Tuesday, President Obama informed Congress he was extending another Bush-era emergency for another year, saying “widespread violence and atrocities” in the Democratic Republic of Congo “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”

Those emergencies, declared by the president by proclamation or executive order, give the president extraordinary powers — to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.

From the Associated Press, terror in the north:

Gunman in Canada attack complained about mosque

The gunman who shot and killed a soldier in plain daylight then stormed Canada’s Parliament once complained that Vancouver mosque he attended was too liberal and inclusive, Muslim leaders said Friday.

Assam Rashid, spokesman for the British Columbia Muslim Association, said Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, visited the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque for several months in 2011 before he was told not to come back.

Rashid said the association has been working on a preventive program that focuses on minimizing the effect of terrorist and criminal propaganda in Canada.

And the inevitable demand for the same things that happen south of the border from CBC News:

Ottawa shooting: Harper government wants to make terror arrests easier

  • ‘Accelerated review of police abilities’ underway, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is giving more indications of how the government intends to strengthen Canada’s security laws in the wake of Wednesday’s attack in Ottawa on Parliament Hill.

The minister told Radio-Canada on Friday that the government is eyeing the thresholds established in Canadian law for the preventive arrests of people thought to be contemplating attacks that may be linked to terrorism. Officials are considering how to make it easier to press charges against so-called lone-wolf attackers.

“The challenges are the thresholds — the thresholds that will allow either preventive arrest, or charges that lead to sentences, or more simple operations,” Blaney said in French. “So what the prime minister has asked is for us to review in an accelerated manner the different mechanisms that are offered to police to ensure everyone’s security.”

While Al Jazeera America focuses on the cause:

Foreign policy shift puts Canada in extremists’ crosshairs

  • Unprecedented stance on Middle East affairs is putting Canada ‘on the map’ for armed attacks

A drastic shift in Canada’s Middle East policy has put the country “on the map” of international armed groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), said one analyst, after two lethal attacks in the span of a week — one of which is said to have been inspired by the group.

“Canada seems to have gone far right” under the administration of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Roksana Bahramitash, director of research for the Canada research chair in Islam, pluralism and globalization at the University of Montreal.

His administration’s dramatic stance on Middle Eastern affairs, what analysts call an unprecedented departure from that of previous governments, which focused their diplomacy on aid and peacekeeping missions, “puts Canada in a position it has never been in before,” she said.

And from Reuters, what as surprise. . .:

U.S. weighs passport, border changes in wake of Ottawa attack

U.S. officials are debating whether to tighten controls on the border with Canada and make it easier to revoke the passports of suspected militants, steps that could gain traction following two attacks in Canada this week.

The officials cautioned on Thursday that the discussions are in preliminary stages and that no immediate action appeared likely by either U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration or Congress.

While there was no specific evidence of a new threat in the United States, federal and state authorities were on a heightened state of alert following a gunman’s attack in Ottawa on Wednesday and another by an assailant in Quebec on Monday.

An interesting development from the Washington Post:

Russian fighter suspected of terrorism and held in Afghanistan to be prosecuted in U.S.

A Russian captured fighting with insurgents in Afghanistan and held for years at a detention facility near Bagram air base will be flown to the United States to be prosecuted in federal court, according to U.S. officials.

The move marks the first time a foreign combatant captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan and held at Bagram will be transferred to the United States for trial, a decision the Obama administration has weighed for months. With combat operations winding down, the administration’s authority to continue to hold the man was in question, and U.S. officials said Russia had little interest in getting him back.

The detainee, known by the nom de guerre Irek Hamidullan, is suspected of leading several insurgent attacks in 2009 in which U.S. troops were wounded or killed. He was captured that year after being wounded in a firefight.

Disputing Kerry via Xinhua:

Russia, U.S. reach no agreement on sharing intelligence against IS: Russian FM

Russia has reached no agreement with the United States over sharing intelligence against the extremist Islamic State (IS) group or sending military instructors to Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

“There was no agreement that we would share information in the context of the activities of the so-called coalition set up by the Americans to combat the Islamic State, nor was there an agreement that we would send our instructors to train the Iraqi army,” Lavrov told a local TV channel.

Lavrov made the clarification in response to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks after their meeting in Paris on Oct. 14 that the two had agreed “to intensify intelligence cooperation with respect to ISIL (Islamic State) and other counter-terrorism challenges.”

BuzzFeed claims a scalp:

Exclusive: Shakeup At NSA After BuzzFeed News Reports On Potential Conflict Of Interest

Top National Security Agency official Teresa Shea is leaving her position after BuzzFeed News reported on her and her husband’s financial interests. The move comes as the NSA faces more questions about the business dealings of its former director Keith Alexander, and potential ethics conflicts. This post has been updated to include a response from the NSA.

One of the nation’s top spies is leaving her position at the National Security Agency (NSA), a spokesman confirmed Friday, amid growing disclosures of possible conflicts of interest at the secretive agency.

The shakeup comes just a month after BuzzFeed News began reporting on the financial interests of the official, Teresa Shea, and her husband.

Shea was the director of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, which involves intercepting and decoding electronic communications via phones, email, chat, Skype, and radio. It’s widely considered the most important mission of the NSA, and includes some of the most controversial programs disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, including the mass domestic surveillance program.

The NSA provided a statement Friday that said Teresa Shea’s “transition” from the SIGINT director job was routine and “planned well before recent news articles.” The agency indicated she would remain employed, but did not provide specifics.

From the Washington Post, their lips are Sealed:

In a federal trial examining a classified military deal, don’t mention the Navy SEALs

Witnesses, attorneys and even the judge took special care not to let the phrase “Navy SEALs” pass their lips during a federal criminal trial in Alexandria this week, further cloaking an already mysterious case involving the purchase of hundreds of unmarked rifle silencers for the military.

Instead, people involved in the trial referred obliquely to “the program,” “operators” and “other entities in the government” when discussing who might have wanted to use the silencers, which were acquired through a classified Navy contract.

On Wednesday, a key defense witness was interrupted almost immediately after he introduced himself as the weapons accessory manager for the Naval Special Warfare Command — which oversees the Navy’s commando units, including the furtive SEALs.

“Has it been explained to you that certain terms are not to be used?” U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema cautioned. The witness, Rodney F. Lowell, replied that he had been advised of the restrictions, but noted that the name of the Navy command itself was hardly a secret.

RT covers a Polish black prison appeal:

CIA secret prison ruling sees Poland appeal to European Human Rights Court

Poland has lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights against a condemning ruling on the country’s so-called ‘black sites’. The court found Warsaw had violated two terror suspects’ rights as it let the CIA interrogate them on its territory.

The appeal to review the case was lodged by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, which announced the move on Friday. Details of the appeal are withheld, but it is said to have been prepared on procedural grounds, according to Reuters.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland violated an international treaty to protect human rights in 2002-2003 as it stroke a deal with the CIA. The rights the Polish authorities were cited to have abused include cover-up of torture, the right to liberty and the right to an effective remedy for victims of crime.

From the Guardian, sea hunt cancelled:

Sweden calls off hunt for submarine

  • Reports of foreign underwater activity in the Stockholm archipelago triggered week-long search

Sweden’s navy has cancelled its week-long operation in the archipelago off Stockholm after finding no trace of the Russian submarine widely anticipated by military specialists and the media.

“Our assessment is that in the inner archipelago there was a plausible foreign underwater operation,” Rear Adm Anders Grenstad said. “But we believe that what has violated Swedish waters has left.”

Whatever was there could not have been a conventional submarine, Grenstad said, but a “craft of a lesser type”. It was not possible to state how big it was or to what country it belonged, he added. “The operation is substantially complete. The vessels and amphibious units have gone to port and resumed normal preparedness,” he said.

The Guardian covers a Whisper-ing campaign:

Top senator demands explanation from Whisper after user tracking revelations

  • Senator Jay Rockefeller emphasises concern over location tracking and says Guardian revelations raise ‘serious questions’

The chair of the Senate commerce committee has said revelations about how the “anonymous” social media app Whisper is tracking its users raise “serious questions” over privacy and demanded an explanation from the company.

Senator Jay Rockefeller wrote to the chief executive of Whisper to ask for a detailed, in-person briefing for his committee staff. He emphasised his concern over the location tracking of supposedly anonymous users of the app and demanded documents from Whisper.

Rockefeller’s intervention comes a week after the Guardian revealed how Whisper is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed by opting out of geolocation services. Privacy experts have already called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the app’s business practices.

From the Guardian again, keeping them in suspense:

Whisper CEO suspends staff pending inquiry into ‘anonymity’ revelations

  • Editor-in-chief reported to be placed on leave
  • Heyward: Guardian reporting ‘just plain wrong

The chief executive of the “anonymous” social media app Whisper has placed at least two employees on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation by the company.

Earlier this month, the Guardian revealed that Whisper, which promises users anonymity and claims to be “the safest place on the internet”, was tracking the location of its users, including some who had specifically asked not to be followed.

Michael Heyward made the announcement the day after it emerged that a powerful Senate committee chairman had written to the company, raising “serious questions” about its use of data.

SecurityWeek covers a doubly ominous development:

Malvertising Campaign Infected Visitors to Yahoo, Other Sites With Ransomware

Researchers at Proofpoint have uncovered a malvertising campaign that hit a number of high-profile sites, including Yahoo, Match.com and AOL domains.

According to Proofpoint, the scheme generated an estimated $25,000 a day for the attackers.

“Without having to click on anything, visitors to the impacted websites may be stealthily infected with the CryptoWall 2.0 ransomware,” blogged Wayne Huang, vice president of engineering at Proofpoint. “Using Adobe Flash, the malvertisements silently “pull in” malicious exploits from the FlashPack Exploit Kit.”

“The exploits attack a vulnerability in the end-users’ browser and install CryptoWall 2.0 on end-users’ computers,” he continued. “Similar to the behavior of other “ransomware,” CryptoWall then encrypts the end-users’ hard drive and will not allow access until the victim pays a fee over the Internet for the decryption key.”

And the Independent covers woes for a Murdoch minion:

Phone-hacking: The Piers Morgan connection – Mirror admits some stories during Morgan’s tenure may have been obtained by illegal means

The publisher of the Daily Mirror has admitted for the first time that articles likely to have been the product of illegal phone hacking appeared in editions of the newspaper during the period when Piers Morgan was its editor.

In new defence documents produced by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the company accepts that several stories which appeared in the Daily Mirror between 2002 and 2004 were likely to have involved “unlawful interceptions of voicemails” and the blagging of call data.

The publisher is currently fighting dozens of civil claims which allege a “widespread and habitual” use of hacking inside its three national titles.

From the Contra Costa Times, another selfie scandal:

Warrant: CHP officer says stealing nude photos from female arrestees ‘game’ happened in L.A., Dublin offices

The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect’s phone while she was in custody told investigators such image-stealing has been going on for years in the state law enforcement agency, stretching from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station, according to court documents obtained by this newspaper Friday.

CHP officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez confessed to stealing explicit photos from a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect without her permission in August and forwarding images to at least two other CHP officers. The five-year CHP veteran called it a “game” among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit. Harrington told investigators he had done the same thing to female arrestees a “half dozen times in the last several years,” according to the court records, which included graphic text messages between Harrington and his Dublin CHP colleague Officer Robert Hazelwood.

“It appears as though other women have fallen victim to this ongoing ‘game’ while in the custody of law enforcement,” said Rick Madsen, a Danville attorney representing a 23-year-old San Ramon who was the first to report that Harrington stole her photos while she was in custody at County Jail in Martinez on Aug. 29. “The callousness and depravity with which these officers

From the Guardian, yet another broadside:

Ferguson protests: Amnesty report criticises police excesses

  • Rights group raises concerns about heavy-duty equipment, ammunition, curfew and children affected by teargas

An excessive police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of an unarmed 18-year-old earlier this year ran the risk of killing demonstrators and impinged on their human rights, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The report, by Amnesty observers deployed to monitor the protests, found that the militarised reaction to a small minority of violent demonstrators “impacted the rights of all participating” to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly under the US constitution and state law.

Heavily armed police clashed with demonstrators in Ferguson on successive nights in August after Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson. Teargas, stun grenades and rubber and wooden bullets were shot at crowds to force them to leave the streets.

Noting that the so-called “less-lethal” ammunition that was shot at crowds in Ferguson “can result in serious injury and even death”, Amnesty’s 23-page report said on Friday that “at least two children were treated for exposure to teargas” during the protests.

After the jump, more graves found in hunt for missing Mexican students, the chief suspects, a governor recuses himself but fails to alleviate, a Mexican editor is murdered, life sentences for Argentine junta murderers, ISIS splits the Afghan Taliban, Comfort Women cloud Seoul/Tokyo relations, North Korean nukes go ballistic, on to Hong Kong and an ominous observation as protest leaders submit to their own vote, a backlash protest targets journalists, and a pronouncement from Beijing, and an unanticipated national security issue in France. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, war, Mexico, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

First up, from the Associated Press:

2 dead in shooting attack at Canada’s Parliament

A gunman with a scarf over his face killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that rocked the building with the boom of gunfire and forced lawmakers to barricade themselves in meeting rooms. The gunman was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the rampage the second deadly terrorist attack on Canadian soil in three days. “This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere,” Harper said.

He added: “We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”

Canada was already on alert at the time of the shooting rampage because of a deadly hit-and-run assault Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an “ISIL-inspired terrorist.” ISIL is also known as Islamic State.

More from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.

Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized – the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau has a record in Quebec in the early 2000s for petty crimes such as possession of drugs, credit-card forgery and robbery. He was also charged with robbery in 2011 in Vancouver.

The soldier who was killed was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, according to his aunt. Cpl. Cirillo, who was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a regiment of Reserve Forces based in Hamilton, was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency, his aunt told The Globe and Mail.

On to the Mideast with Reuters:

Consumed by Islamic State, Iraq’s Anbar province a key battleground again

In recent weeks, the world has watched the battle to save Syria’s border town of Kobani from Islamic State. But the radical jihadists have for longer been engulfing another strategically more vital target – Iraq’s western Anbar province and its road to Baghdad.

The vast desert region – where Sunni tribes rose up in 2006 and 2007 to drive out al-Qaeda with the Americans – has throughout 2014 been parcelled up, city by military camp, before the Iraqi government and U.S. forces could act.

Now Anbar’s largest airbase Ain al-Asad, the Haditha Dam – a critical piece of infrastructure – and surrounding towns are encircled by Islamic State to the west from the Syrian border and to the east from militant-controlled sections of Ramadi.

Droning on with Old Blighty via the Guardian:

UK to fly military drones over Syria

  • Government says Reaper drones will be deployed soon to gather intelligence, but insists move is not a military intervention

Britain is to send military drones over Syria to gather intelligence in a move that will deepen its involvement in the campaign against Islamic State (Isis), Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has revealed.

Downing Street insisted that the flights did not amount to military intervention and said there was a clear legal case for drone surveillance in Syria under the principles of “national and collective defence”.

The Reaper drones have already been active in Iraq, after parliament gave its approval for Britain to take part in air strikes against Isis. However, this will be the first time they will have ventured into Syrian territory, where David Cameron has not sought approval for military action because of fears it would be blocked by Labour and some within the prime minister’s own party.

From the London Daily Mail, that old-time religion:

ISIS releases sickening video clip showing Syrian woman being stoned to death by group of men – including her own father

  • Shocking footage understood to have been filmed in Syrian city of Hama
  • Cleric seen ranting at woman and accusing her of committing adultery
  • Woman told to be ‘content and happy’ at stoning as it is ordered by God
  • She pleads for her life before asking if her father could ever forgive her
  • He responds telling her not to call him father, then orders murder to begin
  • A man was also stoned to death for adultery in a separate incident

From the Guardian, before the fall:

Life inside Kobani before Isis attacked

Program notes:

New video footage filmed inside Kobani shows what life was like for the Kurdish civilians living there just a few days before Islamic State, or Isis, attacked the city.

In footage obtained by the Guardian, local journalist Moustafa Ghaleb records candid interviews with friends and family, as coalition air-strikes buzz overhead and the Isis advance prompts people to evacuate to the Turkish border.

From SciDev.Net, demanding science:

ISIS besieges universities but allows scientists’ return

Scores of students and professors have left Iraqi universities as the militants of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) continue to advance in Iraq and Syria — but now the group appears to want the researchers to come back.

“We grant all teachers … whose place of work or residence is within the caliphate [an Islamic state], a maximum period of ten days from the date of this statement to return and resume their work. If they fail to do so, their moveable and immovable property will be confiscated,” reads a leaflet, reportedly distributed by ISIS on 3 October.

Having captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq, in late June ISIS stated it had created a caliphate stretching from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq. The group has reportedly replaced the name ‘Republic of Iraq’ on some universities and research institutions with ‘Islamic State — Knowledge Bureau’.

And from MintiPress News, hints of a hidden hand:

Erdogan: The Man Pulling The Strings In A Middle Eastern Puppet Show

Turkey certainly didn’t invent ISIS, but the Turkish government under former Prime Minister, current President Erdogan has been stoking Islamic radicalism to further its own political goals — namely, the fall of Assad and the return of something reminiscent of the Ottomans

As noted by Veli Sirin in a report for the Gatestone Institute, “Turkey under a stronger Erdogan presidency may become more Islamic, more neo-Ottoman, and more directed to the East rather than the West.”

“Neo-Ottoman” and “Islamic” seem very much the order of the day when referring to Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign agenda, which supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, which later merged with the Nusra Front and ISIS — especially vis-a-vis the rise of ISIS in the greater Levant.

According to many, Erdogan’s alleged shadow games with ISIS represent little more than the manifestations of a desire to see rise a new Ottoman Empire, the impetus of which will be fed by ISIS crusaders. Egypt’s foreign ministry issued a statement in September, slamming Erdogan for his promotion of terror in the region. The statement read, “The Turkish President, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through its support for groups and terrorist organizations … Whether political support or funding or accommodation in order to harm the interests of the peoples of the region to achieve personal ambitions for the Turkish president and revive illusions of the past.”

Even more damaging was the April publication of Seymour Hersh’s work, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” in which the veteran journalist argues Turkey would have orchestrated the Ghouta sarin gas attack in order to drag the United States into a war.

The Christian Science Monitor points to the unseen obvious:

America’s Saudi problem in its anti-IS coalition

  • Saudi Arabia sentenced dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death. That’s trouble for a strategy that rests on ending sectarianism in Iraq

Following two years in jail, most of that time in solitary confinement, Saudi Arabia sentenced dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death [15 October] for leading demonstrations and “inciting sectarian strife.” Mr. Nimr’s predicament – and that of at least 5 other Shiite activists Saudi Arabia has sentenced to death this year – illustrates a problem for the US strategy for taking on the so-called Islamic State in Iraq.

The Obama administration believes that a non-sectarian government in Iraq is the key answer to the country’s problems. There’s little doubt that the Shiite dominated politics that emerged after the US invaded Iraq in 2003 has fueled support for IS among the country’s Sunni Arabs.

But with country’s like Saudi Arabia in the coalition the US is trying to build against IS, you have one of the greatest forces for sectarianism in the region. Nimr has long been an influential figure among Saudi Arabia’s repressed Shiite minority, who are concentrated in the country’s oil-rich east.

While the Washington Post covers a problem for the press:

New Afghan government investigates newspaper for ‘blasphemous article’

Top staffers at an Afghan newspaper are being investigated for blasphemy after the publication of an article that questioned whether Muslims should embrace the possibility that more than one God exists.

The investigation, apparently being led by intelligence and cultural affairs officials, came at the request of Afghanistan’s new president and chief executive officer.

Afghan officials stressed Wednesday that no arrests have been made.

More domestic blowback from the Associated Press:

FBI: Denver girls may have tried to join jihadis

The FBI said Tuesday that it’s investigating the possibility that three girls from the Denver area tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State extremists.

An FBI spokeswoman says agents helped bring the girls back to Denver after stopping them in Germany. Spokeswoman Suzie Payne says they’re safe and have been reunited with their families.

She didn’t identify the girls or provided other details.

The announcement comes one month after 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada, Colorado, pleaded guilty to charges that she conspired to help militants in Syria.

And in Germany, via CNN:

From Jewish football to jihad: German ISIS suspect faces jail

At first Alon Meyer thought it was a bad joke.

When Kreshnik Berisha, the first suspected member of ISIS to stand trial in Germany, was arrested upon his arrival back in Frankfurt in December after spending six months in Syria, youth team football coach Meyer was left shell-shocked.

The coach thought for a while and then it slowly sank in — this was the same boy who had once stood by his side and taken the field in the shirt of Makkabi Frankfurt, Germany’s largest Jewish sports club.

Meyer’s phone began to buzz with journalists trying to ask him whether he remembered Berisha, a 20-year-old born in Frankfurt to Kosovan parents.

And to toss another ingredient into the stew, this from BBC News:

Iraq Blackwater: US jury convicts four of 2007 killings

A US federal jury has found four Blackwater security guards guilty of killing 14 Iraqis in a square in Baghdad in 2007.

One former guard was found guilty of murder with three others guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

A further 17 Iraqis were injured as the private contractors opened fire to clear the way for a US convoy.

The shootings sparked international outrage and a debate over the role of defence contractors in warfare.

From intelNews, interesting:

Iran announces arrest of alleged spies at Bushehr nuclear plant

Senior Iranian government officials have announced the arrest of a group of alleged spies in Iran’s southwestern province of Bushehr, home to the country’s only nuclear energy plant. Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alawi told the semi-official Fars News Agency on Tuesday that the spies had been “identified and sent to justice”.

Located along Iran’s coastal Persian Gulf region, the Bushehr nuclear power plant has a long history. Its construction initially began in the mid-1970s by German engineers. But work on the plant was halted in 1979, immediately following the Islamic Revolution. Iraqi forces repeatedly bombarded the site during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. But the government began to rebuild it in the 1990s with the help of Russian technicians.

In September of 2011, the Bushehr nuclear power plant was inaugurated in a widely publicized ceremony that was attended by several Russian officials, including Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko. The completion of the facility made it the first civilian nuclear power plant anywhere in the Middle East

A spooky anti-Snowden valedictory from the Guardian:

Outgoing GCHQ boss defends agency activities after Snowden revelations

  • Sir Iain Lobban uses valedictory address to praise extraordinary job of staff with ‘mission of liberty, not erosion of it’

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing director of Britain’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ, has used his valedictory address to deliver a full-throated defence of its activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

In a speech referencing cryptographer Alan Turing and wartime codebreaking efforts, Lobban praised GCHQ staff as “ordinary people doing an extraordinary job”, and said his agency’s mission was “the protection of liberty, not the erosion of it”.

The usually secretive agency has been under unprecedented scrutiny since June 2013 when the Guardian and other news organisations revealed how it and its US counterpart, the NSA, were scooping up vast quantities of internet and phone traffic.

More from the London Telegraph:

GCHQ chief: Internet has become refuge for plotters

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing head of GCHQ, says that the idea the internet doesn’t need policing is a flawed ‘Utopian dream’ as he argues the security services need ‘strong capabilities’ to stop those who want to harm Britain

The Internet has become a refuge for the “worst aspects of human nature” and the security services are making huge sacrifices to protect the public from “plotters, proliferators and paedophiles”, the outgoing head of GCHQ has warned.

In his valedictory speech Sir Iain Lobban said that his staff are “ordinary people doing an extraordinary job” who have been “insulted time and again” by allegations that they carry out mass surveillance.

But he warned that the “Utopian dream” that the Internet should remain a “totally ungoverned space” is “flawed” and said that Britain needs “strong intelligence and cyber capabilities” to identify those who “would do us harm”.

Severance from Reuters:

Exclusive: Ex-spy chief’s private firm ends deal with U.S. official

Former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander has ended a deal with a senior U.S. intelligence official allowing the official to work part-time for his firm, an arrangement current and former officials said risked a conflict of interest.

Reuters reported on Friday that the U.S. National Security Agency had launched an internal review of the arrangement between NSA Chief Technical Officer Patrick Dowd and IronNet Cybersecurity Inc, which is led by Alexander, his former boss.

On Tuesday, Alexander said: “While we understand we did everything right, I think there’s still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company,” that it was best for him to terminate the deal.

U.S. intelligence officials past and present said the agreement risked a conflict of interest between sensitive government work and private business, and could be seen as giving favoritism to Alexander’s venture, even if the deal was approved by NSA lawyers and executives.

Vice News makes a telling point:

We Can’t Properly Debate Drone Casualties Without Knowing The Names of Those Killed

The most important question to ask of the Global War on Terror should be the most simple to answer. Instead, it is a perennial shadow cast over US counter-terror operations since 9/11.

We still don’t know, and still must ask: Who exactly is the enemy?

In 2001, the Authorization of Military Force Act told us that the enemy was whoever perpetrated the September 11 attacks and their affiliates. In 2013, President Barack Obama stated that this meant “al Qaeda, the Taliban, and its associated forces.” But associated forces was not defined. Administration officials told the New York Times that Obama’s method for counting combatants “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone.” A Justice Department memo released this summer told us that US citizens, too, could be legitimate targets. Then, the Islamic State, a terror group actively disaffiliated with al Qaeda and the Taliban, were included as “the enemy.”

“The enemy,” then, is whomever gets targeted as the enemy. The validity and legality of these targets is debated post hoc, often after they are dead. A chilling illustration of this comes in the form of a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based organization that tracks US drone usage and the victims of drone strikes. The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project makes clear quite how little we know about the casualties of these strikes, which stretch the notion of “targeted” beyond recognition.

The Washington Post gets testy:

Panetta clashed with CIA over memoir, tested agency review process

Former CIA director Leon E. Panetta clashed with the agency over the contents of his recently published memoir and allowed his publisher to begin editing and making copies of the book before he had received final approval from the CIA, according to former U.S. officials and others familiar with the project.

Panetta’s decision appears to have put him in violation of the secrecy agreement that all CIA employees are required to sign, and came amid a showdown with agency reviewers that could have derailed the release of the book this month, people involved in the matter said.

The memoir, which is almost unfailingly complimentary toward the spy service where he served as director from 2009 to 2011, was ultimately approved by the CIA’s Publications Review Board before it reached store shelves.

But preempting that panel — even temporarily — carried legal risks for both Panetta and his publisher. Other former CIA employees have been sued for breach of contract and forced to surrender proceeds from sales of books that ran afoul of CIA rules.

And from the Guardian, a resource chiller:

Russia prepares for ice-cold war with show of military force in the Arctic

  • Vladimir Putin sends troops and jets to oil- and gas-rich region also coveted by Canada, United States, Norway and Denmark

Yaya is a very small Arctic island, barely one metre above sea level and covering only 500 square metres. Russian pilots discovered it at the beginning of October. With the Admiral Vladimirsky research ship having confirmed its presence in the Laptev Sea, Yaya will soon be added to the map of the Arctic Ocean and will become part of Russian territory, the RIA Novosti state news agency announced. In its determination to defend its interests in this icy waste, Russia is no longer content to leave its mark, as it did in 2007 when it planted a Russian flag, in a titanium capsule, 4,200 metres below the north pole. Now it is engaging in large-scale militarisation of the Arctic, a vast area coveted by itself and its four neighbours: Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark.

RIA Novosti says that former Soviet bases are being reactivated in response to renewed Nato interest in the region. According to the Russian authorities, the airstrip on Novaya Zemlya can now accommodate fighters and part of the North Fleet is establishing quarters there. A new military group will be formed in the far north consisting of two brigades, totalling 6,000 soldiers, deployed in the Murmansk area and then the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region. Radar and ground guidance systems are also planned for Franz Josef Land (part of Novaya Zemlya), Wrangel Island and at Cape Schmidt. The federal security service plans to increase the number of border guards on Russia’s northern perimeter.

During the recent Vostok 2014 full-scale military exercises – the biggest since the end of the Soviet Union – Russian troops carried out combat missions in the Arctic, using the Pantsir-S and Iskander-M weapon systems. Such moves may bring back the atmosphere of the cold war, when the region was the focus of US and Nato attention, as they were convinced that it would be a launchpad for nuclear strikes.

After the jump, Swedish sub anxieties and a declaration of force and purse strings opening, secret dealings in Germany, Germany arms deal secrecy, unfriending the Feebs, hacking Flash, an epidemic of cybercrime in Old Blighty, posting an award for those missing Mexican students amidst a massive manhunt and a mayor named as the instigator of the disappearances and a human rights chief’s ouster demanded, a Chilean Dirty War murder suspect busted, provocative bluster Down Under, a Malaysian jibe at Canberra, then on to Hong Kong and a frustrating meeting followed by charges and a threat plus a provocative protest, Beijing stakes an insular claim, Japan/South Korean feelers and posturing, agreements and dissent over American military bases on Japanese soil, Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Panic, pols, Africa, fear & drugs


And much, much more.

We begin on the lighter side, given what follows.

From Reuters Plus:

Cuddly Ebola toy almost wiped out

Program note:

It’s probably the only time you’ll find Ebola associated with “Add to Wishlist”. Giantmicrobes.com’s fluffy rendition of the deadly virus is completely sold out.

A more serious note — much more serious — from Agência Angola Press:

World must stop Ebola in West Africa or face ‘pandemic’ – Cuba’s Castro

The world must confront Ebola in West Africa to prevent what could become one of the worst pandemics in human history, Cuban President Raul Castro said on Monday.

“I am convinced that if this threat is not stopped in West Africa with an immediate international response … it could become one of the gravest pandemics in human history,” Castro told a summit of the leftist ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean countries in Havana.

Cuba is sending 461 doctors and nurses to West Africa, the largest medical contingent of any single country to fight the worst Ebola outbreak on record.

Another warning from the Independent:

Ebola outbreak: Nowhere is safe until virus is contained in Africa, claims the top doctor who beat it in Nigeria

Dr Faisal Shuaib, the incident manager for Nigeria’s Ebola response, told The Independent that Nigeria was still under threat, and that no state could afford to be complacent.

“Yes we have contained an outbreak, but there’s always a threat that we could be infected again by individuals travelling from affected states,” he said. “The outbreak in West Africa is two different stories, a success story in Nigeria, and a story of human tragedy [in the worst-affected states].

“There are still lot of resources required in Sierra Leone and Liberia to contain the outbreak. We need international clarity that as long as the outbreak continues in West Africa, then no country, no individual in the world is safe from contracting the disease. We need to mobilise resources – human, material and financial – to these countries to contain the outbreak there,” he said.

“Then and only then can we say we have dealt with this as a global community as one human race.”

From Shanghai Daily, a key reason for the win:

Nigeria declared Ebola-free thanks to doctor who died from the virus

The first case in Nigeria was imported from Liberia when Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer collapsed at the main international airport in Lagos on July 20.

Authorities were caught unawares, airport staff were not prepared and no hospitals had an isolation unit, so he was able to infect several people, including health workers at the hospital where he was taken.

But they acted fast after the doctor on duty, who later herself died of the disease, quarantined him against his will and contacted officials.

Ameyo Adadevoh, the doctor at the First Consultants hospital in Lagos, kept him in the hospital despite his protests and those of the Liberian government, preventing the dying man spreading it further, said Benjamin Ohiaeri, a doctor there who survived the disease.

“We agreed that the thing to do was not to let him out of the hospital,” Ohiaeri said, even after he became aggressive and demanded to be set free. “If we had let him out, within 24 hours of being here, he would have contacted and infected a lot more people … The lesson there is: stand your ground.”

From South China Morning Post, a promise:

WHO chief pledges ‘transparent’ review of its handling of Ebola crisis

  • WHO chief Margaret Chan says agency will be upfront about how it handled disease, after damning internal report details its initial failings

The head of the World Health Organisation said the agency would be upfront about its handling of the Ebola outbreak after an internal report detailed failures in containing the virus – while a senior WHO official praised the precautions China has taken.

In a draft document, the WHO says “nearly everyone” involved in the Ebola response failed to notice factors that turned the outbreak into the biggest on record.

It blames incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information.

WHO director general and former Hong Kong director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said on Monday that the report was a “work in progress”. Chan, who was attending a conference in Tunisia, said: “I have promised WHO will be fully transparent and accountable.”

The Wire covers the political:

Democrats Defy Obama in Favor of an Ebola Travel Ban

  • The question of restricting flights to insulate the U.S. has become a classic campaign litmus test

Worried about the political fallout from the Ebola outbreak, vulnerable Senate Democrats are declaring their support for a U.S. travel ban from the afflicted countries in west Africa.

In multiple cases, the Democrats are shifting from their earlier positions on the question, despite arguments from senior U.S. medical officials and the White House that stiff restrictions would only make it harder to prevent an infected person from entering the country. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire joined the crowd on Monday night, saying through a spokesman that she “strongly supports any and all effective measures to keep Americans safe including travel bans if they would work.” Shaheen said last week she didn’t think a travel ban makes sense, but she is facing heavy criticism from her Republican opponent, former Senator Scott Brown, on the issue. Under pressure from Republicans, Senator Kay Hagan came out in support of a ban late last week, and Senators Mark Pryor and Mark Udall have also called for travel restrictions.

More from BuzzFeed:

Democratic Congressional Candidate: Ebola Is Coming To Nevada, Ban Travel From Africa

  • “I wasn’t sure why they didn’t stop tourists visas a week ago from Africa. I wasn’t sure about that, why that hasn’t happened?”

A Democratic congressional candidate says Ebola is coming to southern Nevada and wants to ban travel from Africa.

In a video from last Thursday, Erin Bilbray, the Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada’s 3rd District

Bilbray said hospitals need to be equipped to handle Ebola saying, “I think it is gonna happen here in southern Nevada, god forbid.”

Next, from Gallup, the trend line revealing declining confidence in the ability of America’s government to handle an Ebola outbreak on this side of the Atlantic:

BLOG Ebola

Now that white folks are getting sick. . .from Homeland Security News Wire:

Congress ready to allocate additional funds to agencies working on Ebola

Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

Efforts to contain and eliminate Ebola in affected countries need more U.S. government funding, according to aid organizations and public health agencies involved in the matter. Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who heads the Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, has asked his staff to work with the administration to figure out what resources will be needed to fight Ebola in the United States and West Africa. “Areas of focus in these discussions on funding for the U.S. Ebola response include the need for resources to expand quarantine stations, train and equip health workers, test potential treatments and vaccines, and expand our response in West Africa,” an aide to Harkin said.

From the Associated Press, and why aren’t we surprised?:

Insurer considers Ebola exclusion in some policies

Global property and casualty insurer Ace Ltd. says it may exclude Ebola coverage from some of its general liability policies.

The Swiss company said Tuesday that it is making the decision on a “case by case” basis for new and renewal policies under its global casualty unit, which offers coverage for U.S.-based companies and organizations that travel or have operations outside the U.S.

Ace said in a statement that it is evaluating the risk for clients that might travel to or operate in select African countries with higher exposure to the Ebola virus. It did not specify how many policies this might affect and declined to say if it has put an exclusions of this sort in place yet.

The company appears to be one of the first insurers to disclose that it is making modifications specific to Ebola, but that doesn’t mean it is the only one.

Laying down the rules with the Guardian:

Ebola health workers must be covered head to toe, say new US guidelines

  • Nurses’ groups and others had called for revised advice
  • Stricter CDC guidance provides ‘extra margin of safety

Federal health officials issued new guidelines to promote head-to-toe protection for health workers treating Ebola patients.

Officials have been scrambling to come up with new advice since two Dallas nurses became infected while caring for the first person diagnosed with the virus in the United States.

The new guidelines issued on Monday set a firmer standard, calling for full-body garb and hoods that protect workers’ necks; setting rigorous rules for removal of equipment and disinfection of gloved hands; and calling for a “site manager” to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment.

Nurses’ groups and other hospital workers had pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the new guidance, saying the old advice was confusing and inadequate, and workers felt unprepared.

From the New York Times, preparations:

New York Health Care Workers Gather for Ebola Training

Thousands of health care workers, including janitors and security guards, doctors and nurses, gathered at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on Tuesday for a combination training session and pep rally to prepare them in the event that the Ebola virus is found in New York.

The workers are being taught how to recognize Ebola and prevent it from spreading. Though many said they had already received training at their hospitals, the session was intended to address concerns that existing practices were inadequate, after two nurses in Dallas contracted the virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died on Oct. 8. The session’s organizers planned to communicate the latest protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had been updated as recently as Monday.

Though several New York hospitals have taken in patients with symptoms signaling Ebola, like high fever, none have tested positive for the virus. To date the only three people to be diagnosed with it in the United States are the three in Dallas.

From CCTV America, another impact of the Ebola crisis in the U.S.:

Liberians in the US facing stigma of the virus

Program notes:

Liberians in the United States say they are facing social isolation as a result of fears that they will pass on the Ebola virus. CCTV America’s Daniel Ryntjes reports.

From TheLocal.de, a call form Germany:

Steinmeier wants epidemic task force

At the World Health Summit in Berlin, the Ebola crisis took centre stage at talks meant to create plans for how to handle future outbreaks.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the conference on Sunday with his own ideas.

“One could possibly conceive of something like the White Helmets. Not an organisation that is always there, but a pool of experts, of doctors, of nursing staff, that one can call upon in these kind of crisis situations,” he said at his key note speech.

At a press conference, Steinmeier added that a coordinated effort is most important to stem the spread of the Ebola outbreak.

Consultation from Agência Angola Press:

WHO’s emergency committee on Ebola to meet Wednesday

The World Health Organization’s emergency committee on Ebola will meet on Wednesday to review the scope of the outbreak and whether additional measures are needed, a WHO spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

“This is the third time this committee will meet since August to evaluate the situation. Much has happened, there have been cases in Spain and the United States, while Senegal and Nigeria have been removed from the list of countries affected by Ebola,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing.

The 20 independent experts, who declared that the outbreak in West Africa constituted an international public health emergency on Aug. 8, can recommend travel and trade restrictions. The committee has already recommended exit screening of passengers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

From The Hill, case closed:

American journalist declared free of Ebola

An American freelance journalist has been cleared of the Ebola virus after he fell ill while working as a cameraman for NBC News and Vice News in Liberia, according to reports.

Ashoka Mukpo tweeted Tuesday night that he’s had three consecutive days of negative Ebola tests and called the discovery “a profound relief.”

Another Northerner cured, from TheLocal.no:

Norwegian Ebola victim free of virus

A Norwegian woman who contracted the Ebola virus while working for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leoneis now free of the virus and was released from an isolation unit on Monday.

“Today I am in good health and am no longer contagious,” Silje Lehne Michalsen told reporters just minutes after Oslo University Hospital announced she had recovered.

Profits aplenty, via the Associated Press:

Ebola causing spike in demand for hospital gear

Manufacturers and distributors of impermeable gowns and full-body suits meant to protect medical workers from Ebola are scrambling to keep up with a surge of new orders from U.S. hospitals, with at least one doubling its staff and still facing a weekslong backlog. Many hospitals say they already have the proper equipment in place but are ordering more supplies to prepare for a possible new case of Ebola.

This gear is made of material that does not absorb fluids and is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus, which has infected thousands across West Africa, many of whom caught the disease while caring for those infected. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact, through cuts or mucous membranes, with bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and feces, and proper protective equipment helps prevent doctors and nurses from accidentally getting any fluids in their eyes, nose or mouth.

Hospitals are paying close attention to the type of protective gear they stock after two nurses contracted Ebola earlier this month while caring for a Liberian man dying of the disease at a Dallas hospital. The nurses were exposed to the disease during what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called a “breach in protocol” at the hospital. But some medical professionals criticized the CDC for distributing guidelines that do not require medical staff caring for infected patients to don full-body suits or wear multiple layers of gloves.

Likewise, from Deutsche Welle:

Disinfection a growing market

  • Demand for disinfection and disease protection gear is booming amidst concern about the Ebola epidemic

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers amelioration:

Ebola panic may be subsiding in Dallas

Panic over Ebola appears to be waning across much of the Dallas-Fort Worth region as residents drop off the quarantine list and more is learned about how the virus spreads.

Numbers of note from the Washington Post:

U.S. influx of travelers from Ebola-stricken nations slows

During the first five days of screening, there were an average of about 80 travelers a day from the three countries, down from the average of 150 that had been expected.

Enhanced screening at JFK — where about 43 percent of the passengers enter — began on Oct. 11, and was implemented five days later at Dulles and airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark.

The number of West Africans arriving in the United States has been closely held by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Passengers from Ebola-stricken countries to use five U.S. airports

Passengers flying to the U.S. from three Ebola-stricken countries will have to fly into one of five designated American airports for additional screening, including having their temperature taken, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday.

The restriction was immediately criticized by House Republicans who want a complete ban on travelers coming from West African countries with high Ebola infection rates.

Starting Wednesday, airline passengers coming from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must fly into New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Johnson said.

More screening from the Japan Times:

India to step up travel surveillance to stop any Ebola outbreak

India stepped up its efforts on Tuesday to prevent an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, conducting mock drills at its airports and installing surveillance systems.

Global health authorities are struggling to contain the world’s worst Ebola epidemic since the disease was identified in 1976. The virus has killed more than 4,500 people across the three most-affected countries, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

All international airports and seaports in India will soon be equipped with thermal scanners — similar to Nigeria, which has been declared Ebola-free — and other detection equipment, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Japan screens, and more from Jiji Press:

Fears Grows over Possible Ebola Outbreak in Japan

Japan has become concerned about a possible Ebola outbreak in the country, prompting the health ministry to take precautions such as training doctors and implementing preventive measures at airports.

Fears have grown since medical workers in the United States and Spain suffered secondary infections from sufferers who entered the countries from Africa.

In Japan, Ebola hemorrhagic fever is in the Type 1 category of most dangerous infectious diseases. Only 45 designated medical institutions nationwide are allowed to accept those believed to have the virus.    Each institution can admit between one and four patients.

More from the Japan Times:

Japan orders travelers from Ebola nations to report twice daily

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Tuesday travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are now required to report their health condition to officials twice daily for three weeks, regardless of whether they have had known contact with Ebola patients.

The move comes amid growing fears of a global Ebola pandemic. Japan’s response so far includes the introduction of a bill in the Diet that would give local governments greater power to require patients with an infectious disease to submit samples for testing for Ebola.

Shiozaki said the quarantine requirement for travelers will last 21 days.

Still more from Nikkei Asian Review:

Japan getting the lowdown on Ebola from US military

Japan sent five officials, including members of the Self-Defense Forces, to the headquarters of the United States Africa Command in Germany on Tuesday to collect information about the Ebola outbreak and help prevent the spread of the disease.

One of the five, an Air Self-Defense Force major, will remain at the facility in Stuttgart to gather information on the status of regions affected by Ebola and related activities by the armed forces of other countries. The officer is also expected to support the American military in coordinating transportation of personnel and supplies in affected areas.

Some in the U.S. government reportedly want the SDF to participate in activities in affected areas, including constructing medical facilities and transporting supplies. But Japan intends to stay put for now.

And tuurnabout’s fair play, from the Washington Post:

Now an African country is screening incoming Americans and Spaniards for Ebola

According to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, the tiny land-locked East African nation has begun screening passengers from the United States and Spain for the deadly virus.

From a note on the embassy’s Web site:

Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition — regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola — by telephone by dialing 114 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the duration of their visit to Rwanda (if less than 21 days), or for the first 21 days of their visit to Rwanda. Rwandan authorities continue to deny entry to visitors who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, or Sierra Leone within the past 22 days.

The screening measures have been in place for two days, and images apparently showing the screening forms have been posted on Twitter.

After the jump, another Carribean travel ban, sparse preparations in Pakistan, British Columbia gets ready, scares and readiness in China, Europe boosts its donations, a new high-speed diagnostic tests as new treatments are rushed into production and vaccine trials commence, Cuba sends more medical teams with thousands of volunteers waiting in the wings, food woes intensify and care gaps wide, the Sierra Leone death tool continues to rise and dubious treatments flourish, retired soldiers are pressed into service, and recovered patients faces growing stigmatization, on to Liberia and a call for border monitors and Kenyans in Monrovia hankering for home, a call for blood, lost survivors, memories of civil war, and tightened controls on the press, Kenya orders border scanners, and the safari business in decline. . .    Continue reading

Chart of the day: The real winners in Afghanistan


From a new report from the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan: After a Decade of Reconstruction and over $7 Billion in Counternarcotics Efforts, Poppy Cultivation Levels are at an All-Time High [PDF]:

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