Category Archives: Mideast

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: War, terror blowback, & more


We begin with the Independent:

Isis in Kobani: US loses patience with Turkey and resupplies Kurdish fighters by plane – then Ankara allows reinforcements through

Turkey is to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and US aircraft have dropped military supplies to its defenders to prevent its capture by the Islamic State.

The US resupply effort marks a radical change in American policy towards direct cooperation with Kurdish fighters on the ground, whom Turkey has denounced as terrorists. During the month-long siege of Kobani, just south of the Turkish border, the Turkish army has hitherto prevented arms, ammunition and reinforcements reaching the town.

American C-130 cargo planes dropped some 21 tons of weapons including anti-tank guns and medical supplies. Stepped-up US air strikes on Isis positions, using intelligence supplied by the Kurds, has helped repel the Islamic militants.

Complications from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Kurdish hope for autonomy drives politics across four nations’ boundaries

With its decision to drop ammunition and weapons to the defenders of the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border, the Obama administration has inserted the United States into one of the most complex territorial and ethnic disputes to roil the Middle East. Unlike the better known split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, or the battle to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the battle over Kobani pits a relatively obscure political group against the extremists of the Islamic State.

Deadly blowback in Canada from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

 Two soldiers struck in Quebec hit-and-run

Two Canadian soldiers were injured in a hit-and-run incident that was quickly characterized as a “possible terror attack” by the federal government.

However, police are still investigating whether the soldiers were deliberately targeted.

One of the soldiers is in critical condition in hospital and authorities are “fearing for his life,” according to the Quebec provincial police. The other victim suffered more minor injuries.

The driver of the car was shot by local police in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., after his car rolled during a police pursuit. The suspect is in the incident is dead, according to the Sûreté du Québec. The 25-year-old male came from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and was “known to police,” according to Sergeant Michel Brunet, an SQ spokesman. He explained that the individual was named in various police databases, although he refused to provide more details at a news conference.

More from CBC News:

Martin Rouleau, Quebec driver shot by police, ‘radicalized’: RCMP

  • Hit and run that injured 2 soldiers raised in House of Commons as ‘possible terror attack’

A 25-year-old man who injured two soldiers in a hit and run and was later fatally shot by police in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., was known to federal authorities as someone who had been “radicalized,” according to the RCMP and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Martin Rouleau, a resident of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, about 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal, was known to provincial and federal law enforcement agencies, the RCMP said.

“This individual was known to federal authorities, including our integrated national security investigations team in Montreal, who along with other authorities were concerned that he had become radicalized,” the RCMP said in a statement Monday evening.

Radio-Canada reported that Rouleau’s Facebook page identifies him as Ahmad LeConverti (Ahmad the Converted). Neighbours told the CBC’s French-language service that he converted to Islam about a year ago.

More blowback, with a bust from TheLocal.de:

Four arrested in raids against Isis

Police raided 15 homes across Germany over the weekend and arrested four suspected supporters of the Islamic State (Isis). They are alleged to have smuggled a teenager and thousands of winter military clothes to the terrorist group’s frontlines.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung Saturday’s raids had originally been scheduled for the end of October, but was moved up when at least one of the Isis suspects began to suspect a police operation against them was being planned.

And preparations across the Pacific with Jiji Press:

FBI Agents Join Tokyo Police Counterterrorism Drill

Tokyo police were joined by two special inspectors of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday for a drill in Tokyo to prepare for possible terror attacks in the Japanese capital.

In the drill ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, the FBI inspectors, who are undergoing training at Japan’s National Police Agency, played suspicious characters.

It is unusual for FBI agents visiting Japan to join a drill open to the media. The drill by the Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department is apparently aimed at demonstrating Japan-US collaboration in the field of counterterrorism. The bureau is strengthening antiterrorism measures prior to the Tokyo Olympics.

The Guardian brings us Cold War 2.0:

Nuclear weapons deal with US renewed in secret, UK confirms

  • UK tables amendments to Mutual Defence Agreement
  • Proper scrutiny and Commons debate needed

The British government has just published amendments updating a treaty that goes to the heart of the UK’s special relationship with the US.

They relate to the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) first signed in 1958, which, according to the government, enables the UK and the US “nuclear warhead communities to collaborate on all aspects of nuclear deterrence including nuclear warhead design and manufacture”.

One amendment refers to potential threats from “state or non-state actors”. But the amendments are for the most part arcane and their significance cannot be understood in the absence of information which is kept secret.

The MDA does not have to be debated or voted on in parliament, as I have remarked before. Though the agreement is incorporated in US law, it has no legal status in Britain.

And from the London Telegraph, most interesting:

Cars of future ‘will detect heart attacks’ in drivers

  • In response to the ageing population, Ford cars will anticipate a driver’s heart attack, bring the vehicle to a safe halt and alert doctors

Cars will soon be fitted with seats that trigger a “safe” emergency stop if a driver suffers a heart attack.

Ford, the giant American manufacturer, said its seats will be fitted with sensitive electrodes that monitor the driver’s heart beat, through clothing, looking for irregularities.

The technology will work with a camera that tracks head movements and sensors on the steering wheel. If there are signs of a possible heart attack, a computer will take over steering and braking, guiding the car safely to a halt.

The Guardian covers the digital memory hole:

Google removes results linking to stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence nude

  • Links to sites hosting the hacked photos have started to be removed by Google after copyright takedown requests filed by Lawrence’s lawyers

Google has removed two links to a site hosting stolen nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence after requests by the actor’s lawyers.

The takedown requests were filed under the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA), with her lawyers Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp stating that the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright.

The DMCA, which governs the use of copyrighted material and is usually used in reference to pirated TV shows, films and music, requires sites to “expeditiously” remove unlawful images from their servers.

From the Guardian again, spies and lies Down Under:

Australian government metadata requests far higher than disclosed

  1. Requests for Australians’ phone, web browsing and location data exceeded half a million last year, ACMA figures reveal

The total number of government requests for Australians’ phone, location and web data is far higher than government agencies are disclosing, with more than 500,000 separate requests for information made last year.

The latest annual report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has revealed that there was 582,727 requests for phone, web browsing and location data – commonly known as “metadata” – that can reveal detailed information about a person’s personal lives and associations.

This figure is at odds with the more widely cited number of 300,000 a year, which is disclosed in the annual telecommunications interception reports made by the attorney general’s departments.

After the jump, the latest on those missing Mexican college students and town takeovers by federales, vanishing Australian civil liberties, the punitive panopticon Down Under, India launches a ballistic challenge to China, Thai scholar faces criminal charges for “insulting” a long-dead monarch, on to China and a Hong Kong crackdown, an off limits notice to scholars of the Maoist past, and a terrorist strike in Western China, on to Japan and a pax American, and racist insults challenged. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, trolls, spies, Hong Kong


We begin with the war of the moment, via Reuters:

U.S.-led coalition jets strike Kobani, Islamic State shells hit Turkey

U.S.-led coalition jets pounded suspected Islamic State targets at least six times in the besieged Syrian town of Kobani on Saturday after the fiercest shelling in days by the insurgents shook the town’s center and hit border areas within Turkey.

Shelling continued after the strikes hit the center of Kobani. Several mortars fell inside Turkey near the border gate, called Mursitpinar, according to witnesses.

Islamic State militants have battled Kurdish fighters for a month to take control of Kobani and consolidate a 60 mile (95 km) stretch of land they control along the Turkish border, but stepped-up air strikes in recent days have helped Kurds fend off the advance.

And the latest to join the fray, from the London Telegraph:

‘You can’t stay sitting on your couch’, says member of Dutch motorcycle gang joining fight against Islamic State militants

  • Members of “No Surrender” are joining Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on the front line city of Zumar, Iraq

Members of the Dutch motorcycle gang “No Surrender” have joined the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the Northern region of Iraq in their fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Dutch gang member Ron, who did not give his last name, is fighting with the Peshmerga forces on the frontline in the city of Zumar, close to the Syrian border.

When asked by a local television news reporter why he joined the Kurdish forces, he said he couldn’t watch the Islamic State’s violent acts against the Yazidi religious minority, any longer from his home in the Netherlands.

The London Daily Mail covers indiscretion [Osama knew better]:

ISIS tells its jihadis to stop betraying their location when they tweet: Fighters’ obsession with social media is letting spies track where they are

  • Jihadi fighters told to stop tweeting names, locations and identifiable photos
  • Isis leaders also want them to remove metadata from their tweets
  • Information from digital files can be valuable to intelligence agencies
  • Arabic language manual handed out to fighters gives detailed instructions

Schneier on Security gets spooky:

NSA Classification ECI = Exceptionally Controlled Information

ECI is a classification above Top Secret. It’s for things that are so sensitive they’re basically not written down, like the names of companies whose cryptography has been deliberately weakened by the NSA, or the names of agents who have infiltrated foreign IT companies.

As part of the Intercept story on the NSA’s using agents to infiltrate foreign companies and networks, it published a list of ECI compartments. It’s just a list of code names and three-letter abbreviations, along with the group inside the NSA that is responsible for them. The descriptions of what they all mean would never be in a computer file, so it’s only of value to those of us who like code names.

This designation is why there have been no documents in the Snowden archive listing specific company names. They’re all referred to by these ECI code names.

And the Guardian covers a call for a probe:

Privacy experts call for Whisper to be investigated over tracking of some users

  • Federal Trade Commission could examine issue of ‘anonymous’ app tracking users who have asked not to be followed

Privacy experts on Friday called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine social media app Whisper’s tracking of “anonymous users”.

The US consumer watchdog has broad powers to sanction companies it believes have breached their promises to consumers and has become increasingly interested in claims made by tech companies, sanctioning Facebook, Google and Snapchat in recent years.

On Thursday the Guardian revealed that Whisper, an app that promises to “anonymously share your thoughts and secrets”, is tracking its users including some who have asked not to be followed and storing their posts indefinitely while it trawls their messages to identify interesting stories to promote itself in the media.

“That’s exactly the kind of deceptive practice that the FTC should crack down on because consumers do rely on those representations,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which filed a complaint with the FTC last year asking it to investigate Snapchat.

Getting punitive with BBC News:

Internet trolls face up to two years in jail under new laws

Internet trolls could face up to two years in jail under new laws, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

He told the Mail on Sunday quadrupling the current maximum six-month term showed his determination to “take a stand against a baying cyber-mob”.

The plan has been announced days after TV presenter Chloe Madeley suffered online abuse, which Mr Grayling described as “crude and degrading”.

Magistrates could pass serious cases on to crown courts under the new measures.

And from the Independent a high-flyin’ spy?:

Top secret space plane: American X-37B aircraft lands after secret mission lasting almost two years

A top secret unmanned space plane, that has spent nearly two years circling the Earth on a classified mission, has landed at a US Air Force base on the Southern California coast.

The aircraft, which resembles a miniature version of the space shuttle, safely touched down at 9.24am on Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Theories have abounded as to the highly classified mission undertaken by the Orbital Test Vehicle or X-37B during its 674 days in orbit. Among them is the suggestion that the aircraft was used to spy on China’s new space laboratory.

Several experts have theorized it carried a payload of spy gear in its cargo bay. Other theories sound straight out of a James Bond film, including that the spacecraft would be able to capture the satellites of other nations.

And a low-flyer? From TheLocal.se:

Sweden hunts damaged Russian sub: report

A Russian distress call prompted Sweden’s hunt for “foreign underwater activity” in the Stockholm archipelago, newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reports.

Swedish signals intelligence officials first heard an emergency call on Thursday evening, the newspaper said. Fourteen hours later, at around midday on Friday, a foreign vessel was spotted in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sweden intercepted further communications after it began its military operation in the waters off Stockholm, as encrypted messages were relayed between transmitters in the Stockholm archipelago and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, SvD said.

The Swedish military said it could neither confirm nor deny the report.

And on to Hong Kong,m first with a breakthrough from Nikkei Asian Review:

Hong Kong government to meet protesters

The Hong Kong government announced Saturday it will meet with student protesters on Oct. 21.

It remains unclear, however, whether the two sides will be able to find common ground, as tensions have been mounting since the government forcibly cleared protesters from one of their bases.

In announcing the planned talks, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam said five representatives from each side will hold a discussion that will be broadcast live to the public. Lam said she will represent the government along with cabinet members in charge of political reforms.

The meeting will be held for two hours in the afternoon in the southern part of Hong Kong Island. It will be moderated by Lingnan University President Leonard Cheng.

Promptly followed by a blowup, via the Los Angeles Times:

Both sides in Hong Kong warn of crisis as clashes continue

After a flare-up of violence between Hong Kong police and pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday, government officials and protest leaders alike warned that the situation was heading toward a breaking point.

Demonstrators remained encamped around government headquarters in the Admiralty district and had reoccupied streets in the dense commercial Mong Kok area. Police had cleared the Mong Kok sit-in early Friday, but demonstrators returned later in the day and took back control of several key streets, clashing with officers throughout the night.

Speaking out after 26 people were arrested and dozens injured in Mong Kok early Saturday, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said police had been “extremely tolerant” and that protesters’ increasingly “illegal acts are undermining the rule of law.”

And the latest from Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post:

Violent clashes in Mong Kok cast doubt on government’s plans to break Occupy impasse

  • Riot police back in action as clearance of Mong Kok barriers riles crowd; government seeks a bridge from Beijing’s ruling to students’ demands

Violent clashes between demonstrators and riot police erupted in Mong Kok last night, casting doubt over what the government said were fresh moves to start talks with students in a bid to end a seemingly intractable impasse over electoral reform that has sparked almost three weeks of unprecedented street protests.

Just hours after police moved in to clear the Mong Kong Kok Occupy site, more than a thousand protesters poured back into the district, clashing with police. Fresh trouble broke out near the government headquarters in Lung Wo Road in Admiralty.

By the early hours of this morning, a section of Nathan Road in Mong Kok was occupied by protesters as police moved to stop them blocking the junction with Argyle Street again.

Riot police used pepper spray and batons in a bid to drive back the protesters and the clashes led to a number of arrests. Among them was award-winning international photo-journalist Paula Bronstein, who was detained after jumping onto a car to take pictures. Her arrest was later condemned by the Foreign Correspondents Club, which issued a statement accusing the police of “intimidating’‘ journalists.

For our final item, the Asahi Shimbun covers the latest provocation from Abe’s crew:

3 Cabinet members visit Yasukuni Shrine as Tokyo tries to improve ties with China

Three Cabinet members visited the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Oct. 18 as the government is seeking a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sanae Takaichi, 53, minister of internal affairs and communications, said the visit should not affect Japan’s ties with its neighbors.

“Offering sincere appreciation with respect is a spontaneous act of following one’s heart and is not something that should be looked at in terms of diplomatic relations,” she told reporters after her visit to the shrine, which is marking its Oct. 17-20 autumn festival.

Also visiting the shrine were Eriko Yamatani, 64, minister in charge of the issue of abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, and Haruko Arimura, 44, minister overseeing the promotion of women’s activities.

EbolaWatch: Scares, pols, meds, Africa


And more.

We begin with a video report that lends credence to suspicions we’ve long harbored. From CCTV America:

Ebola outbreaks associated with deforestation

Program notes:

Experts have been trying to figure out what’s behind the recent rise in Ebola cases. Some have turned to nature, specifically the trees, for a possible answer. Some scientists argue that the shrinking size of forests could put people in closer contact with disease carrying wildlife and that possibility is causing global concerns. For more on the impact of global deforestation, CCTV America interviewed Susanne Breitkopf, the Senior Political Advisor for Greenpeace International.

And next to two notable and sad instances of Ebolaphobia, first from FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian paper doing an exceptional job of covering the crisis:

Georgia U. Cancels FPA Newsroom Chief’s McGill Lectures Over Ebola

The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia has rescinded the decision of the University’s journalism school Grady College to invite FrontPageAfrica newsroom editor Wade C. L. Williams for its McGill Lecture slated for October 22, 2014.

All was set for the trip as the college had already purchased a round trip plane ticket and made hotel reservations for the journalist’s visit when it was forced to cancel last minute to time because of fear she could get sick while visiting the US thereby exposing students to the deadly Ebola virus.

The McGill Lecture, which is free and open to the public is sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and will be held October 22 at 4 p.m. in Room 250 of the Miller Learning Center but with a new speaker Antonio Mora, a prominent Hispanic journalist who is a two-time winner of the Peabody Award.

“I received a call from Georgia just days before my trip. A woman with a pleasant voice delicately told me that parents were panicking and the general public was against my coming to the university,” stated Williams in a blog post published days after the university reached the decision.

And the second incident, via the Star in Nairobi:

Parents in a British school threatens to pull children out over teachers trip to Kenya fearing Ebola

Parents from a British school have threatened to pull their children from school over a planned trip to Kenya by teachers for fear they will contract Ebola.

The Mirror reports that a 60-signature petition has been circulated at Berkeley Primary School in Crewe in Cheshire demanding that the two teachers planning the trip to Kenya for an exchange programme.

They want the teachers isolated for a three-week ebola incubation period.

But the alarm has baffled the school because Kenya is far away from the ebola danger zone of West Africa.

Now on to the gravely serious, first from the Independent:

Ebola outbreak could be ‘definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation’, warns Oxfam

Ebola is poised to become the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”, Oxfam has warned, with more troops, funding and medical aid urgently needed to tackle the outbreak.

In an “extremely rare” move, the charity is calling for military intervention to provide logistical support across West Africa.

It says the world has less than two months to counter the spread of the deadly virus, which means addressing a “crippling shortfall” in military personnel.

Oxfam said troops are now “desperately needed” to build treatment centres, provide flights and offer engineering and logistical support. While Britain was leading the way in Europe’s response to the epidemic, it said countries which have failed to commit troops were “in danger of costing lives”.

Next, analysis from the Associated Press:

Mission Unaccomplished: Containing Ebola in Africa

Looking back, the mistakes are easy to see: Waiting too long, spending too little, relying on the wrong people, thinking small when they needed to think big. Many people, governments and agencies share the blame for failing to contain Ebola when it emerged in West Africa.

Now they share the herculean task of trying to end an epidemic that has sickened more than 9,000, killed more than 4,500, seeded cases in Europe and the United States, and is not even close to being controlled.

Many of the missteps are detailed in a draft of an internal World Health Organization report obtained by The Associated Press. It shows there was not one pivotal blunder that gave Ebola the upper hand, but a series of them that mounted.

Nearly every agency and government stumbled. Heavy criticism falls on the World Health Organization, where there was “a failure to see that conditions for explosive spread were present right at the start.”

WHO — the United Nations’ health agency — had some incompetent staff, let bureaucratic bungles delay people and money to fight the virus, and was hampered by budget cuts and the need to battle other diseases flaring around the world, the report says.

Al Jazeera English covers a reassessment:

WHO promises to review Ebola response

UN agency pledges to review its efforts to contain outbreak after internal document hints at its failings.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has promised to undertake and publish a full review of its handling of the Ebola crisis after a leaked document appeared to show the UN agency had failed to do enough to contain the epidemic.

The WHO said in a statement on Saturday that it would not comment on an internal draft document obtained and released by the Associated Press news agency, in which the organisation blamed incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information for its allegedly slow and weak response to the outbreak that has reportedly killed more than 4,500 people since May.

“We cannot divert our limited resources from the urgent response to do a detailed analysis of the past response. That review will come, but only after this outbreak is over,” WHO said.

And the Associated Press covers te case that has Americans on edge:

Ebola lapses persisted for days at Dallas hospital

Just minutes after Thomas Eric Duncan arrived for a second time at the emergency room, the word is on his chart: “Ebola.” But despite all the warnings that the deadly virus could arrive unannounced at an American hospital, for days after the admission, his caregivers are vulnerable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed to lapses by the hospital in those initial days. And Duncan’s medical records show heightened protective measures as his illness advanced. But either because of a lag in implementing those steps or because they were still insufficient, scores of hospital staffers were put at risk, according to the records.

The hospital’s protective protocol was “insufficient,” said Dr. Joseph McCormick of the University of Texas School of Public Health, who was part of the CDC team that investigated the first recorded Ebola outbreak in 1976. “The gear was inadequate. The procedures in the room were inadequate.”

While Defense One covers a regulatory disaster:

Dallas Hospital Had the Ebola Screening Machine That the Military Is Using in Africa

The military is using an Ebola screening machine that could have diagnosed the Ebola cases in Texas far faster, but government guidelines prevent hospitals from using it to actually screen for Ebola.

It’s a toaster-sized box called FilmArray, produced by a company called BioFire, a subsidiary of bioMérieux and it’s capable of detecting Ebola with a high degree of confidence — in under an hour.

Incredibly, it was present at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas when Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan walked through the door, complaining of fever and he had just come from Liberia. Duncan was sent home, but even still, FDA guidelines prohibited the hospital from using the machine to screen for Ebola.

While the Guardian covers desperate ass-covering:

Texas hospital mounts ‘#PresbyProud’ fightback as Ebola criticism mounts

  • Dallas hospital where nurses were infected engages PR firm
  • Union chief says: ‘There has been no leadership’

The hospital in Texas where two nurses became the first people to contract Ebola inside the US is mounting an aggressive public relations campaign to rescue its image, as nursing representatives call for its top executives to be held accountable for the crisis.

Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas hired Burson-Marsteller, a New York-based PR firm, to direct a fightback against sharp criticism it received after Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was first sent home by the hospital, died there from Ebola.

It has since published slick video clips of smiling nurses praising their managers and hosted a brief “rally” of medics wielding pro-hospital placards outside the emergency room for television news cameras. Amid fears patients might stay away, the hospital has tried to flood social media with the hashtag “#PresbyProud” and issued rebuttals to allegations about its practices after nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson were infected while treating Duncan, who died on 8 October.

From the New York Times, politics as usual, with a desperate edge:

The Partisan Divide on Ebola Preparedness

After a second case of Ebola was discovered among the staff of a Dallas hospital that treated an infected patient, public concerns are likely to increase about whether the United States health care system can properly respond to an outbreak.

Data from surveys suggest, however, that those views — like so many others — are being shaped by people’s partisan affilations as much as by news about the outbreak itself.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post survey, only 54 percent of Republicans are confident in the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to Ebola — far fewer than the 76 percent of Democrats who expressed confidence. This finding represents a striking reversal from the partisan divide found in a question about a potential avian influenza outbreak in 2006, when a Republican, George W. Bush, was president. An ABC/Post poll taken at the time found that 72 percent of Republicans were confident in an effective federal response compared with only 52 percent of Democrats.

From the Washington Post, Obama urges:

Obama: ‘We can’t give in to hysteria or fear’ of Ebola

President Obama on Saturday sought to tamp down fears of an Ebola outbreak and defend his administration from Republican critics who have called for a more aggressive response to the disease, including sealing off U.S. borders to visitors from countries battling widespread outbreaks.

“We can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “Trying to seal off an entire region of the world — if that were even possible — could actually make the situation worse.”

Such actions would make it harder for American health-care workers, soldiers and supplies to reach stricken areas, Obama said. It could also cause residents of countries in West Africa where Ebola is still spreading to try to evade screening on their way to the United States or Europe.

The president’s main message was one of calm, coming at a time of growing worry in communities throughout the country. “We can’t give in to hysteria or fear, because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need,” Obama said. “If we’re guided by science — the facts, not fear — then I am absolutely confident we can prevent a serious outbreak here in the United States.”

From the White House, here’s the address:

Weekly Address: What You Need to Know About Ebola

Program notes:

In this week’s address, the President discussed what the United States is doing to respond to Ebola, both here at home and abroad, and the key facts Americans need to know.

Making a list and checking more than twice, via the Associated Press:

More than 100 monitored for Ebola symptoms in Ohio

Health officials in Ohio are monitoring more than 100 people following the visit by a Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola shortly after returning to Texas from the Cleveland area.

Officials said Saturday that none of those being monitored are sick.

State officials previously said 16 people Amber Vinson had contact with were being monitored. Officials say the sharp increase is a result of the identification of airline passengers who flew with Vinson between Dallas and Cleveland and the identification of people who also visited the dress shop where her bridesmaids were trying on dresses.

Vinson’s stepfather is quarantined in his home in the Akron suburb of Tallmadge. That is where Vinson stayed during her visit. The stepfather is the only person in the state under such a restriction.

Golden State preparations from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Gov. Jerry Brown says state is working on Ebola safeguards

Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that the state is drawing up plans to protect nurses, other health care workers and the public from Ebola, saying California must avoid mistakes made in Texas in dealing with the disease.

The governor said he has met with public health officers and spoken with national nurses representatives to devise guidelines that hospitals must follow should an Ebola patient be diagnosed in California.

“We’ve got work to do,” Brown said in an interview with The Chronicle. “It’s a fast-moving story.”

He said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the state Department of Public Health, is heading up the effort, and that health officials will meet with Cal/OSHA on Tuesday to discuss “issues of workers’ safety.”

From the Miami Herald, preparations in another state:

CDC responds to Florida’s requests for help with potential Ebola outbreak

The federal Centers for Disease Control agreed Saturday to some — but not all — of Gov. Rick Scott’s Ebola-related requests.

The CDC will hold a conference call with Florida hospitals next week on best practices, Scott said Saturday. The organization has also given Florida the green light to spend about $7 million in federal grant funding on protective suits for health care workers.

“The CDC indicated that we will receive formal approval next week, but based on this preliminary approval, we have already begun using these funds to enhance our Ebola preparedness efforts,” Scott said in a statement.

The governor is still waiting on the CDC to contact passengers on a plane that stopped in Fort Lauderdale after carrying a nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola.

He also has yet to receive 27 of the 30 Ebola testing kits he requested.

From the Associated Press another oversight failure:

Ebola monitoring inconsistent as virus spread

The inconsistent response by health officials in monitoring and limiting the movement of health workers has been one of the critical blunders in the Ebola outbreak. Friends and family who had contact with Duncan before he was hospitalized were confined to homes under armed guard, but nurses who handled his contagious bodily fluids were allowed to treat other patients, take mass transit and get on airplanes.

“I don’t think the directions provided to people at first were as clear as they needed to be, and there have been changes in the instructions given to people over time,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, a doctor who did his residency in Dallas.

Local health authorities have said repeatedly throughout the response that their guidance and direction can change.

“Please keep in mind the contact list is fluid, meaning people may fall off the list or new people may be added to the list depending on new information that could arise at any time on any given day,” said Dallas County health department spokeswoman Erikka Neroes on Friday when asked how many people are even being monitored.

From The Hill, a case where Republicans and businesses are on the outs:

Businesses quietly push back at Ebola travel ban

Businesses are pushing back against lawmakers’ calls to impose a ban on travelers from the three West Africa nations at the center of the Ebola epidemic.

Public opposition is coming from U.S. airlines, who have seen their stocks hit because of fears the Ebola scare will lead to a drop in travel.

Other business groups are quietly telling the White House to stand firm in opposing a ban.

They echo arguments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a ban would isolate Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, potentially making it tougher to slow the epidemic in those countries.

From the New York Times, the first of two stories of life in limbo:

Life in Quarantine for Ebola Exposure: 21 Days of Fear and Loathing

As the Ebola scare spreads from Texas to Ohio and beyond, the number of people who have locked themselves away — some under government orders, others voluntarily — has grown well beyond those who lived with and cared for Mr. Duncan before his death on Oct. 8. The discovery last week that two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital here had caught the virus while treating Mr. Duncan extended concentric circles of fear to new sets of hospital workers and other contacts.

Officials in Texas said Thursday that nearly 100 health care workers would be asked to sign pledges not to use public transportation, go to public places or patronize shops and restaurants for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for Ebola. While not a mandate, the notices warn that violators “may be subject” to a state-ordered quarantine.

When officials revealed that one of the infected nurses had flown from Dallas to Cleveland and back before being hospitalized, nearly 300 fellow passengers and crew members faced decisions about whether to quarantine themselves. The next day, a lab technician who had begun a Caribbean cruise despite possible exposure was confined to a stateroom. Medical workers, missionaries and journalists returning from West Africa — especially from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Ebola is rampant — are also staying home.

Dr. Howard Markel, who teaches the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said the quarantines recalled the country’s distant epidemics of cholera, typhus and bubonic plague.

“Ebola is jerking us back to the 19th century,” he said. “It’s terrible. It’s isolating. It’s scary. You’re not connecting with other human beings, and you are fearful of a microbiologic time bomb ticking inside you.”

The second, from Bloomberg, covers another woe:

Ebola Fears Stymie Home Quest for Quarantined in Dallas

Louise Troh and the three other people in her household have spent much of their isolation on laptops and mobile phones, playing video games, tossing a football, speaking to relatives and reading the Bible.

The activities have been welcome diversions for Troh, her son and two young men she considers family — “the boys,” as she refers to her housemates. She’s the girlfriend of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die in the U.S. from Ebola.

When they are released from their 21-day, state-ordered quarantine on Oct. 20, they face an uncertain future in Dallas, owing to continued fears about their closeness to the deadly virus. A new-apartment deal busted up after Troh had already made a deposit, and Dallas’s top county official and Troh’s pastor say people are reluctant to rent to someone who was so close to Ebola.

From New York Times, another complication:

Waste From Ebola Poses Challenge to Hospitals

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured the public this month that most American hospitals could treat cases of Ebola, it was technically correct. Hospitals routinely treat highly contagious diseases, and top-tier ones are extensively equipped to isolate patients who pose special risks.

But the infection over the past week of two Texas hospital workers betrayed what even many of the best hospitals lack: the ability to handle the tide of infectious waste that Ebola generates.

Ebola’s catastrophic course includes diarrhea, vomiting and hemorrhaging of blood, a combination difficult enough to contain in less-communicable illnesses. When they are highly contagious, disposing of the waste and cleaning up what is left behind require expertise and equipment that some specialists said are lacking even in highly regarded medical facilities.

Those shortcomings are compounded, they said, by surprising gaps in scientists’ knowledge about the Ebola virus itself, down to the time it can survive in different environments outside the body.

And from RT, an offer that’s bound to cause heartburn in Foggy Bottom:

Fidel Castro offers cooperation with US in fight against Ebola

Fidel Castro has expressed Cuba’s readiness to cooperate with the US in the global fight against Ebola. Cuba has been on the frontline of international response to the worst outbreak in the disease’s history.

In his article “Time of Duty,” which was published on Saturday, the retired Cuban leader said that medical staff trying to save lives are the best example of human solidarity. Fighting together against the epidemic can protect the people of Cuba, Latin America, and the US from the deadly virus, he added.

“We will gladly cooperate with American [medical] personnel in this task – not for the sake of peace between the two states which have been adversaries for many years, but for the sake of peace in the world,” wrote Castro.

And Sky News covers a plea for help:

Cameron Presses EU Leaders On Ebola Fund

  • The PM urges the EU to double its funding in the fight against the deadly virus, saying “much more must be done”

David Cameron has called for European Union leaders to double their contribution to help tackle ebola, demanding a combined 1bn euro (£800m) pledge.

The Prime Minister has written to the other 26 leaders and European Council president Herman van Rompuy calling for agreement to an “ambitious package of support” at a Brussels summit next week.

He made clear his frustration that other countries are failing to shoulder their share of the burden of international efforts to deal with the epidemic in West Africa which has killed more than 4,500.

Britain has committed £125m to its contribution – the second highest sum after the US. Downing Street said the total contribution from the EU is 500m euros (£400m).

After the jump, the travel industry enters a potential tailspin, cruise ship woes, French flight attendants demand an end to Paris/Conakry flights as France introduces airport screenings, ship screenings in Sweden, travel warnings in Cairo and confidence {SARS-inspired?] in China and a false alarm, a vaccine production delay, Canadian drugs dispatched, on to Africa and a chilling question, Kenyan doctors dispatched, on to Sierra Leone with food on the way, youth join the fight, a street battle with police over a corpse in the street, and an angry bureaucratic shakeup, on to Liberia an a construction shutdown, WHO offers a prescription, a plea for more aid and a promise from Washington, and a warning that things are worse than the press reports, a suicidal leap and an escape in Guinea as contagion spreads into a gold mining region, and from Nigeria, hope accompanied by a warning. . . Continue reading