We begin with the Guardian:
Ferguson protesters and police clash as grand jury decision nears
- Police charge at demonstrators in freezing temperatures as Ferguson awaits decision on whether officer will be charged
Police in riot gear clashed with a small group of protesters in a sub-freezing Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday night, as tensions grew over a coming announcement on whether a white officer will be charged for killing an unarmed black 18-year-old.
About 50 officers wearing riot helmets and carrying batons and shields repeatedly charged at demonstrators, who were gathered outside the Ferguson police headquarters to demand the indictment of officer Darren Wilson, who shot dead Michael Brown on 9 August.
In the most serious confrontation since a grand jury decision on Wilson became imminent in mid-November, protesters sounded sirens, shouted abuse at police and revived chants of “hands up – don’t shoot” from the nights of unrest in the St Louis suburb after Brown’s death.
And elsewhere, from the Washington Post:
Fear of deadly ‘religious war’ between Jews and Muslims raised after synagogue attack
Israelis and Palestinians expressed fear Wednesday that their decades-old conflict was moving beyond the traditional nationalist struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands and spiraling into a raw and far-reaching religious confrontation between Jews and Muslims.
The threat — perhaps more accurately the dread — of an incipient but deadly “religious war” was expressed by Muslim clerics, Christian leaders and Jewish Israelis one day after a pair of Palestinian assailants, wielding meat cleavers and a gun, killed five Israelis, including a prominent American Israeli rabbi, in a Jerusalem synagogue.
“All of us are scared that there will be a religious war, that extremists from both sides will start fighting each other,” said Oded Wiener, an Israeli Jew from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.
More from the Associated Press:
Israeli mayor’s ban on Arab workers ignites uproar
The mayor of a southern Israeli city sparked a national uproar Thursday by barring Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in local preschools, citing security concerns after a rash of attacks by Palestinian assailants elsewhere in the country.
The proposal was condemned as racist by Israeli leaders, but it reflected the tense mood in the country and deepened longstanding divisions between the nation’s Jewish majority and Arab minority. An opinion poll showed solid public support for the measure.
Israel has been on edge following a wave of Palestinian attacks that has killed 11 people over the past month, including five this week in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue. Most of the attacks have occurred in Jerusalem — whose population is roughly one-third Palestinian — with deadly stabbings in Tel Aviv and the West Bank as well.
From The Hill, a hint of things to come:
Pentagon, in reversal, won’t wait for Congress to deploy Iraq troops
The Pentagon said Thursday that it would begin deploying 1,500 new troops to Iraq “in the next weeks” without first securing funding from Congress, reversing previous comments.
“We can deploy troops to the theater, but — so that — that process can and will continue,” said Defense Department press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Kirby also said Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, has also moved about 50 U.S. forces within Iraq to Anbar Province to get a “jump start” on expanding the advise-and-assist mission, as well as starting to train Iraqi forces in their fight against Islamic militants.
“But it doesn’t mean that we still don’t need the authorization in terms of the resources that will go with the much more robust program that we’re trying to get done,” Kirby said. “He can start it and he is.”
The origins of the specie, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:
Islamic State reportedly buying silver, gold as it prepares to issue currency
The Islamic State is accumulating gold, silver and copper in markets throughout northern and western Iraq, dealers report, in an apparent effort to stockpile enough precious metal to follow through on a pledge to mint its own currency.
On Nov. 11, the Islamic State’s Beit al Mal, an ancient Islamic term akin to “Department of Treasury,” announced that the group would reintroduce the dinar currency of the Umayyad Caliphate, which ruled an empire that stretched from modern Iran to Spain for much of the seventh and eighth centuries. The announcement – which included images of three types of coins in gold, copper and silver – drew skepticism from experts, who doubted that the Islamic State could arrange a system to mint and issue a modern currency.
But interviews with dealers in precious metals indicate that the Islamic State has begun the complex process of issuing the currency, a reminder that as the best-financed non-state actor in history – with a revenue stream from oil sales and aggressive taxation – it’s been able to install bureaucratic controls over the large swath of territory it’s claimed in Iraq and Syria.
From the Guardian, commitment:
French Isis fighters filmed burning passports and calling for terror at home
- Emergence of video showing four men comes as France reels from the identification of two of its nationals partaking in a mass beheading in Syria
A film released by Islamic State (Isis) shows jihadi fighters burning French passports and calling on others to bring terror to the streets of the European country.
Released by one of Isis’s main media outlets, Al Hayat, the video shows four men who purport to be from France, including three who deliver messages in French to camera.
Burning what appear to be several French passports in a campfire, a masked man can be heard saying: “We disbelieve in you and your passports, and if you come here we will fight you.”
The Guardian brings it on home:
Three men planned Isis-inspired public beheading, court hears
- Nadir Ali Sayed, Yousaf Shah Syed and Haseeb Hamayoon charged over alleged plot to decapitate member of public with knives
Three men were preparing a terrorist plot to behead a member of the public, inspired by the propaganda of Islamic State militants, a court has heard .
The men were arrested a fortnight ago, shortly before Remembrance Sunday, and were preparing to carry out an imminent plan to decapitate a person with knives, Westminster magistrates court was told on Thursday.
Nadir Ali Sayed, 21, from Hounslow, west London, Yousaf Shah Syed, 19, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Haseeb Hamayoon, 27, from Hayes, west London, are accused of planning acts of terrorism.
And the McClatchy Washington Bureau covers death from afar:
Use of drones against Islamic State changes the meaning of warfare
In America’s war against the Islamic State, many of those fighting sit in a dark, cold room and stare at computer screens for 12 hours at a stretch.
There are dozens of them, men and women, each wearing camouflage, looking for suspected Iraqi and Syrian jihadists scurrying across the screen. If something changes on the screen – a group of dark figures crossing a street, a string of vehicles racing down a road – they pass the information to another pilot, who might decide to open fire with a Hellfire missile or an electronically guided bomb.
The greatest combat hazard they face is from the Red Bull and other sugary drinks they devour to stay awake; their unit has the worst rate of cavities in the Air Force.
“I would rather be deployed,” said Capt. Jennifer, a reservist and intelligence analyst whose full name the Air Force withheld for security reasons. “My daughter calls me because she is sick and I have to pick her up from school. When I am deployed forward I am deployed. I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day.”
Cyberwar, via the Washington Post:
Foreign powers steal data on critical U.S. infrastructure, NSA chief says
Several foreign countries, including China, have infiltrated the computers of critical industries in the United States to steal information that could be used in the planning of a destructive attack, the director of the National Security Agency said Thursday.
That was one of the cyberthreats outlined at a congressional hearing by Adm. Michael S. Rogers, who also said he expects criminal gangs may become proxies for nations carrying out attacks on other nations.
“There are multiple nation states that have the capability and have been on the [industrial] systems,” he said before the House Intelligence Committee.
From the New York Times, gee, what a surprise:
N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Could Go On, Even if a Law Expires
A little-known provision of the Patriot Act, overlooked by lawmakers and administration officials alike, appears to give President Obama a possible way to keep the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records program going indefinitely — even if Congress allows the law on which it is based to expire next year.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday night used a filibuster to block consideration of a bill to end and replace the N.S.A. phone records program. The debate about what may happen next has played out based on a widely held premise: that the legal basis for the program, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, will expire on June 1, so if Congress remains gridlocked, the program will automatically shut down.
“I believe that if we do not pass this bill, the metadata program is at risk because the 215 program sunsets next year,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in Tuesday night’s debate. But that premise may be incorrect. If the summer arrives and the program is facing a shutdown, Mr. Obama could invoke the provision to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to keep it going.
From the Associated Press via the Japan Times, notable:
Years before the Snowden revelations, senior NSA codebreaker objected to mass surveillance program
Years before Edward Snowden sparked a public outcry with the disclosure that the National Security Agency had been secretly collecting American telephone records, some NSA executives voiced strong objections to the program, current and former intelligence officials say. The program exceeded the agency’s mandate to focus on foreign spying and would do little to stop terror plots, the executives argued.
The 2009 dissent, led by a senior NSA official and embraced by others at the agency, prompted the Obama administration to consider, but ultimately abandon, a plan to stop gathering the records.
The secret internal debate has not been previously reported. The Senate on Tuesday rejected an administration proposal that would have curbed the program and left the records in the hands of telephone companies rather than the government. That would be an arrangement similar to the one the administration quietly rejected in 2009.
The now-retired NSA official, a longtime code-breaker who rose to top management, had just learned in 2009 about the top-secret program that was created shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the U.S. He says he argued to then-NSA Director Keith Alexander that storing the calling records of nearly every American fundamentally changed the character of the agency, which is supposed to eavesdrop on foreigners, not Americans.
From the Washington Post, piping down:
Utah legislature considers shutting off NSA’s water
A Utah state legislative committee will consider a bill that could eventually cut off millions of gallons of water for a major National Security Agency facility south of Salt Lake City as a protest against the mass collection of Americans’ data.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marc Roberts (R), would prohibit any municipality from providing “material support or assistance in any form to any federal data collection and surveillance agency.”
That’s a barely veiled reference to the Utah Data Center, a massive collection facility operated by the NSA in Bluffdale, a small suburb of Salt Lake City. The facility, completed last year at a cost of about $1.7 billion, houses super computers that require 65 megawatts of power, enough to power about 33,000 homes, according to the Associated Press.
Homeland Security News Wire sounds an alarm:
NSA director: China and “one or two” other nations can damage U.S. critical infrastructure
Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, told lawmakers yesterday that China and “one or two” other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks which would paralyze the U.S electric grid and other critical infrastructure systems across the country.
A cyberattacks of such scope has been discussed in the past – it was even dubbed a “cyber Pearl Harbor” – but Rogers was the first high official to confirm that such a crippling attack on the United States was not a mere speculation.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Rogers, speaking at a hearing of the House intelligence committee, said U.S. adversaries are conducting electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they will be well-positioned to damage and disrupt the industrial control systems which run chemical facilities, nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities, dams, and much more.
On a similar note and interesting time, from Sky News:
NATO’s Cyber War Games Amid Surge In Attacks
- NATO faces cyber attacks almost daily, data shows, as Sky News gains access to the organisation’s biggest ever security exercise
NATO’s computer servers are detecting 200 million suspicious cyber events every single day, the alliance has revealed.
On average the military organisation is the victim of five major cyber attacks each week and that has increased “significantly” since Russian aggression in Ukraine started. The figures were published as NATO carried out its biggest ever cyber security exercise involving hundreds of computer analysts.
The three-day event, taking in 28 nations, was held on a former Soviet base in the city of Tartu, close to the Russian border.
The Washington Post covers considerately:
CIA Director John Brennan considering sweeping organizational changes
CIA Director John Brennan is considering sweeping organizational changes that could include breaking up the separate spying and analysis divisions that have been in place for decades to create hybrid units focused on individual regions and threats to U.S. security, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.
The proposal would essentially replicate the structure of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and other similar entities in the agency — an idea that reflects the CTC’s expanded role and influence since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
U.S. officials emphasized that the proposal is in its preliminary stages, and could still be scaled back or even discarded. Already the idea has encountered opposition from current and former officials who have voiced concern that it would be too disruptive and might jeopardize critical capabilities and expertise.
And from the London Telegraph, an ominous development in Old Blighty:
Theresa May to give MI5 and police power to force terror suspects to move
- Terror suspects will be forced to move towns and leave their associates behind under plans to revive relocation powers
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is to give police and the security services the power to force terror suspects to move to towns far away from their homes as she restores a key element of control orders.
The ability to relocate suspects to other areas was abandoned when control orders were replaced by the weaker terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) following a series of court rulings.
The Conservatives said that they wanted to re-introduce them earlier this year amid growing concerns about British jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq, but were met with opposition from the Liberal Democrats.
After the jump, British cops snooping on the press, a very curious California prosecution, curious customers of American spyware makers, allegations of security cam hacking by the Russians, Cuban slams cyberwar attacks, an Assange appeal denied, Gitmo detainees get gone, automotivation for cyberterror, a Colombian kidnap resolution mooted, Chilean justice long delayed, China and Russia strengthen military ties, signs of a split in the Hong Kong Occupy movement, a momentary Great Firewall loosening, Tokyo and Washington play war games, and a critical take on Greenwald’s technomyopia. . . Continue reading