Category Archives: Mideast

InSecurityWatch: History, bombs, drones, zones


And lots more.

First, some history with the Associated Press:

US trained Alaskans as secret ‘stay-behind agents’

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

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

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

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

More history from PetaPixel:

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

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

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

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

Der Spiegel offers the latest Snowden leaks:

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press brings us up to date:

German security official warns of terror threat

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

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

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

And the Register covers iCloud insecurity:

JLaw, Upton caught in celeb nude pics hack

  • 100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped

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

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

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

More everyday insecurity from Threatpost:

Backoff Sinkhole Reveals Sorry Point-of-Sale Security

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

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

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

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

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

Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry

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

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

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

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

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the London Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

SINA English fires a counterblast:

Don’t mess with nuclear Russia, Putin says

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

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

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

Vocativ covers ad hoc dronage:

Poor Man’s Drone Warfare in Eastern Ukraine

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

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

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

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

More drone from the Los Angeles Times:

Israeli military reports downing drone that entered from Syria

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

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

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

From the London Daily Mail, a case of possession:

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

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

And a video report from the Wall Street Journal:

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

Program note:

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

From Deutsche Welle, the enemy of my enemy:

PKK – from terrorist threat to ally?

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

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

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

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

Al Jazeera English covers a crackdown:

Bahrain arrests top human rights activist

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

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

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

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

From International Business Times:

Al-Qaeda Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill Six Soldiers In Yemen

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

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

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

Deutsche Welle covers an assault on a spook shop:

Al-Shabab militants attack Somali intelligence headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Terror, hacks, drones, zones


First up, a sad reminder from the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland workers outraged over noose hung from city truck

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

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

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

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

From the London Telegraph, getting hyperbolic:

Britain facing ‘greatest terrorist threat’ in history

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press offers irony:

Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US

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

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

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

From the Guardian, a call to action:

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

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

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

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

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

On to drones, first with PetaPixel:

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

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

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

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

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

Texas megachurch pastor uses drones to spread his message

  • Drones, dubstep and… God?

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

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

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

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

Texas Border Patrol agent fires at armed militia member

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

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

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

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

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

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Said to Mull Alliance

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

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

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

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

The Nikkei Asian Review covers a quantum leap:

Toshiba creates leap in ‘unbreakable’ cryptography communication tech

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Cops, hacks, spies drones, zones


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

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

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

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

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

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

Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invasive Indian media demands, via the Guardian:

Indian journalists protest at publisher’s social media demands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Independent, medium and message:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Columbian dronal angst via CBC News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More dronal business from the Atlantic:

Inside Google’s Secret Drone-Delivery Program

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

A zipping comes across the sky.

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

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

From Network World, the feds are on the case:

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

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

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

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

From Al Jazeera English, cybercrime in Africa:

Cracking down on cybercrime in Ivory Coast

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, a secret in peril:

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

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

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, zones


From the world of spies, lies, military posturing, hacks, corporate voyeurism, and the ever diminishing realm of the truly personal, we open with a headline from Homeland Security News Wire:

Most of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland. With the addition of nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, the database now includes more than 125,000 events dating back to 1970 and, according to START, it remains the most comprehensive unclassified database of terrorist attacks around the world.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, business as usual:

In Senate-CIA fight on interrogation report, another controversy

The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.

Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.

Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.

From the London Daily Mail, a story Lenny Bruce would’ve loved:

Former HHS cyber security chief convicted in CHILD PORN case after using screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ on underground website

  • Timothy DeFoggi was found guilty Tuesday on all seven child-porn criminal charges he faced in federal court
  • Justice Dept says he ‘accessed’ and ‘solicited child pornography … [and] expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children’
  • DeFoggi ‘even suggested meeting one member in person,’ according to the DOJ, ‘to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children’
  • The former cyber security pro was listed near the top of the HHS organization chart in a document describing budget requests for 2014
  • His screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ were mentioned repeatedly in court and are part of the public record

Ars Technica takes the techgeek approach:

Cybersecurity official uses Tor but still gets caught with child porn

  • Timothy DeFoggi wrongly thought he was covering his tracks.

The former acting cybersecurity director for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tim DeFoggi, was convicted yesterday on three child porn charges.

As reported by Wired, DeFoggi is the sixth suspect to be caught by the FBI’s Operation Torpedo, which used controversial methods of defeating the Tor anonymizing software in order to find child porn suspects.

One site frequented by DeFoggi was PedoBook, hosted by Aaron McGrath—a Nebraska man who was convicted earlier for his role in the operations. The websites were only accessible to users who installed Tor on their browsers. DeFoggi used names such as “fuckchrist” and “PTasseater” to register on the sites, where he could view more than 100 videos and more than 17,000 child porn images.

From Bloomberg News, they’ve got you covered:

Homeland Security Arms Local Cops With Super Spy Bug

Humvees and body armor, so jarring to see deployed in Ferguson, Mo., aren’t the only concern when it comes to the militarization of U.S. police forces.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that police in Tacoma, Wash., bought—and quietly used for six years—surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every mobile telephone call, text message, and data transfer up to a half-mile from the device.

Known as a Stingray and manufactured by Harris (HRS), a Pentagon contractor based in Melbourne, Fla., the device is small enough to be carried in a car. It tricks a mobile phone into thinking it’s a cell tower, drawing information, the paper said. Federal grants, including one from the Department of Homeland Security, were used to buy the equipment, according to public records the newspaper obtained.

Fusion raises an interesting question:

Fusion Investigates: How did America’s police departments lose loads of military-issued weapons?

Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon’s “1033 program” for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.

“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”

More troubling yet is the possibility that some of the missing weapons, which were given to local police departments as part of a decades’ old government program to equip cops for the wars on terrorism and drugs, are actually being sold on the black market, Lynch said.

H/T to Cryptogon.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, theatrical posturing:

Texas National Guard Deploys on Mexican Border

The first units of the National Guard contingent Texas Gov. Rick Perry is deploying to the Mexican border amid a surge in the arrivals of unaccompanied minors from Central America are in position, authorities said Tuesday.

“The Texas National Guard currently has troops all along the border between Texas and Mexico in support of Operation Strong Safety,” Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, public affairs officer at Texas Military Forces, told Efe.

Most of the roughly 63,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have arrived in the United States since last October entered the country via the 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) boundary between Texas and Mexico.

From the Associated Press, Sisyphus on the Mississippi:

In wake of Ferguson, police try to build trust

In the aftermath of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, some police departments are renewing efforts to reach out to black communities to build trust — holding public meetings, fielding questions and letting people voice the anger they feel toward officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown considers it a preventative step.

“I’d much rather they shout at me at a town hall meeting at a church and get to know me afterward than not have a relationship,” Brown said. After a police shooting has already happened, “it’s too late to try to establish relationships.”

From the Los Angeles Times, a Ferguson moment on Wilshire Boulevard:

Beverly Hills police regret holding black producer before Emmys

Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was “extremely unfortunate” that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party.

Producer Charles Belk “matched the clothing and physical characteristics” of a suspected bank robber when he was pulled over by officers on Friday evening after he left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours.

“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,” Belk said. “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”

LA Observed has the blowback:

Producer’s ‘detention’ by BHPD creates big backlash

Over the weekend I noticed that producer Charles Belk had posted a lengthy, angry account on Facebook about being detained by Beverly Hills police, handcuffed on the curb and denied access to a phone or a lawyer for six hours after he was stopped while walking to feed his parking meter on La Cienega Boulevard. He is black. The police say he was identified as bank robbery suspect. Belt’s post has been shared and liked more than 34,000 times on Facebook and he has been interviewed about the incident by, among others, NBC News. This incident clearly has legs beyond the BHPD’s explanation that he fit the description and they regret his inconvenience. Belk’s Facebook post has triggered what can only be called a massive outpouring of comments from people who feel they have similarly been detained by police essentially for being black. The media coverage? International.

From the Independent, a possible solution to the above?:

Cannabis-smoking couples are ‘less likely to engage in domestic violence’

Married couples who frequently smoke cannabis together are less likely to engage in domestic violence than those who consume the drug less regularly, a new study has suggested.

Researchers from Yale University, University of Buffalo and Rutgers followed 634 married couples for nine years.

They found that those who used cannabis together three times or more each month reported the lowest number domestic violence incidents (intimate partner violence) over the first nine years of marriage.

From the Associated Press, reviving the Cold War:

Finland, Sweden increase ties to NATO

Finland and Sweden plan to work more closely with NATO by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as NATO prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the Host Nation Support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security.” It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation.

While the London Telegraph gets defensive:

Police build ‘ring of steel’ for Wales Nato summit

  • More than 12 miles of steel fencing and more than 9,000 police will guard the UK’s biggest ever gathering of world leaders

Police are putting the finishing touches to a “ring of steel” of more than 12 miles of security fencing to protect world leaders heading to south Wales for next week’s Nato summit.

The two-day summit in Newport is the UK’s biggest ever gathering of international leaders as the military alliance decides how to deal with crises in Ukraine and Iraq.

Nine foot high steel fencing is being put around key parts of the Celtic Manor Resort where the summit is being held and at venues in Cardiff city centre. Police are also setting up checkpoints and entry gates to screen people as they enter the cordon.

The operations is one of the biggest ever police deployments. More than 9,000 police officers will be drafted in to protect 180 VIPs including 60 heads of state and senior ministers.

Meanwhile plans are underway to give all those coppers plenty of work. From the People’s Assembly:

BLOG Nato

From the Guardian, why needs the Magna Carta?:

Met chief calls for new anti-terror powers and backs ‘presumption of guilt’

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe also calls for return of ‘something like’ control orders, which tighten authority over terror suspects

Britain’s most senior police chief has called for wide-ranging new powers to tackle homegrown terrorism, including a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits Syria without prior notice should be treated as a terror suspect.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, chief constable of the Metropolitan police, also called for a return of control orders and said Britons who wage jihad in Syria or Iraq should be stripped of their passports.

Most significantly, however, Hogan-Howe became the first serving police chief to back Boris Johnson’s proposal for the presumption of innocence to be overturned for Britons who travel to warzones.

El País cites another source of insecurity:

Spain on alert over new biker gangs

  • Groups hail mostly from Germany and the Netherlands and have long records of criminal activity

Law enforcement agencies are warning about a new type of criminal in Spain: members of biker gangs, most of whom are coming in from central Europe.

An Interior Ministry report states that “this is the right time to increase preventive police activity and research, considering their incipient state in our country.”

The report mentions gangs such as Hell’s Angels, Satudarah MC, No Surrender MC and Bandidos MC, all of whom are well established in Germany and the Netherlands, among other countries.

All of them also have a long record of criminal activity, ranging from arms and drug trafficking, to money laundering, burglary, extortion and violent robbery.

Bloomberg raises hackery suspicions:

FBI Examining Whether Russia Is Tied to JPMorgan Hacking

Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are also linked to the attack, one of the people said.

From TheLocal.no, Norse petro-hackery:

300 oil companies hacked in Norway

Around 300 oil and energy in Norway companies has been affected by one of the biggest computer hacking attacks ever to happen in the country, a government source said on Wednesday.

National Security Authority Norway (Nasjonal Sikkerhetsmyndighet – NSM) revealed 50 companies in the oil sector were hacked and 250 more are now being warned by the government agency. NSM is Norway’s prevention unit for serious hack attacks.

The attack was the largest of its kind against Norwegian interests to take place, reported Dagens Næringsliv on Wednesday.

From News On Japan, a terminal alert:

Japan airports’ Wi-Fi allows snooping

Users of free wireless Internet connections at Japan’s Narita, Kansai and Kobe airports are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping of their e-mail and web browsing, a study by an information and communications specialist showed Tuesday.

Such risks can be prevented by encrypting Wi-Fi connections, but the three airports refrain from doing so in favour of user convenience, as password entry would be required for encrypted Internet connections.

Free Wi-Fi connections are available at about 900,000 locations nationwide including public facilities and convenience stores, but many of them are not encrypted, according to Masakatsu Morii, a professor at a graduate school of engineering at Kobe University.

SecurityWeek gets proactive:

Singapore Boosts Cyber Security After Hacking Incidents

Singapore on Tuesday announced new measures to strengthen cyber security to prevent a recurrence of attacks on government websites including those of its president and prime minister.

Information minister Yaacob Ibrahim said the government is upgrading its Cyber-Watch Centre, allowing it to track malicious activities and respond swiftly when there are security breaches. The upgrades are expected to be completed by January 2015.

“Large-scale cyber security breaches have made headlines and raised public concerns,” Yaacob said in a speech to a conference of experts in Singapore, referring to attacks against US retailer Target and other international incidents. “Governments, businesses, manufacturers and consumers must guard against data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware attack against their networks,” he said.

From Network World, ad-umbration:

New malvertising campaign hit visitors of several high-profile sites

Some visitors to several high-profile websites last week were redirected to browser exploits that installed malware on their computers because of malicious advertisements on those sites.

The attack affected visitors to Java.com, Deviantart.com, TMZ.com, Photobucket.com, IBTimes.com, eBay.ie, Kapaza.be and TVgids.nl between Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, according to researchers from Dutch security firm Fox-IT.

“These websites have not been compromised themselves, but are the victim of malvertising,” the researchers said Wednesday in a blog post. “This means an advertisement provider, providing its services to a small part of a website, serves malicious advertisement aimed at infecting visitors with malware.”

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including cyberwar, simultaneous blasts of rhetorical artillery are accompanied by feelers to set out the rules to a game they’ve been [dangerously] improvising, Abe again invokes vanquished imperialists while China evokes their mortal foes, Tokyo diplomatic posturing, a Pakistani challenge, beefed up Aussie security and a healed intel rift, Hanoi/Beijing fence-mending, Seoul/Tokyo talks, a Pyongyang riposte, a Chinese crackdown, and a telling suppression of free speech in the good ol’ U.S.A. . . Continue reading

The American Frankenstein faces its monster


For years the American government’s black ops boys and girls stirred up religious fundamentalists to rise up against strong central governments, invoking populist justifications.

Needless to say, students of history will recognize parallels with other extremists bent on purification through extermination of “impure” or parasitic elements.

And now the blowback, plus a lot more dark arts games are unfolding, with the ironic twists becoming ever more blatant.

First, this from intelNews:

US sharing intelligence with Syrian government, say sources

The United States is secretly sharing intelligence about the Islamic State with the government of Syria, according to sources.

On Monday, American officials told the Associated Press that US President Barack Obama had authorized reconnaissance flights over Syrian airspace with the aim of gathering intelligence on the Islamic State —known previously as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

Pentagon officials said the reconnaissance flights are intended to collect “additional intelligence” on the Islamic State’s troop movements in Syria. Their ultimate goal is reportedly to assist the president and his advisors as they contemplate whether the US should launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets on Syrian soil.

From The Intercept, the latest from Glenn Greenwald:

The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria

It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” –  Tony Blair, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Nicholas Kristof and Samantha Power – issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

U.S. military action against the Assad regime was thwarted only by overwhelming American public opinion which opposed it and by a resounding rejection by the UK Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to assume the usual subservient British role in support of American wars.

Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.

The Progressive notes another irony:

ISIS’s Brand of Islam Similar to U.S. Ally’s

While the Obama Administration is figuring out the best way to combat the extremism of groups like ISIS, it continues to maintain close ties with the Middle Eastern regime that promotes the same brand of Islam.

“The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.

In an online column, AbuKhalil elaborates on his view.

“Mainstream Islam frowns upon the views, excesses, practices and interpretations of ISIS,” he writes. “But Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

Finally, from The Real News Network, a Jessica Desvarieux interview with veteran Middle East beat journalist Patrick Cockburn, who has reported for both the Financial Times and, currently, the Guardian. His latest book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

From The Real News Network:

The Islamic State, Assad, and the Contradictions Faced by the US in Syria

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Patrick, there are so many contradictions in this story. Let’s try to work out some of these contradictions. First explain the U.S.’s objectives in Syria. And how did it come to be that they are now fighting the very same forces that they once supported?

COCKBURN: Yes. It’s something of a diplomatic disaster. The U.S. supported the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad to weaken and replace him over the last three years. But over the last year and a half, the main opposition has been jihadis, al-Qaeda type organizations, and over the last six months it’s been the Islamic State, ISIS, which the U.S. is fighting in or were helping the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government fight in Iraq. So in one country they’re supporting the government against ISIS, in Iraq, and in Syria they’re doing exactly the opposite, they’re opposing the government, which is fighting ISIS. And I don’t think this contradiction can go on very long. I think soon they’ll have to decide whose side they’re on.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, and that’s a good question, because there are consequences depending on which side they choose, because if they look to topple Assad, that benefits ISIS. If they look to attack ISIS, that helps Assad. So it seems like quite a mess. What would you suggest they do?

COCKBURN: Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the great threat to both these countries is ISIS, which is a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam. They killed last week a single tribe that opposed them. They killed 700 members. Another 1,500 have disappeared. So these are big-scale massacres. So I think they should oppose ISIS. But they need to do it effectively, which means that they have a parallel policy with the Syrian government, which they’ve been trying to overthrow. I don’t think they’re going to have a U-turn in that policy, because it would be to humiliating. But covertly I think that they’re shifting their ground. They need to prevent Assad’s government falling to ISIS.

DroneWatch: Flying high and on the ground


We open our collection with a video report on the latest military front from RT America:

Obama sending drones to monitor ISIS in Syria

Program notes:

The US is further ramping up its involvement in the Levant as the Islamic State threat grows. On Tuesday, the Obama administration revealed it will conduct surveillance flights over Syria to monitor the radical jihadists that have taken control of large portions of the country. Longtime foes, the US and Syria both announced they are not working together on the operation, and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned that while surveillance is acceptable, unilateral strikes will be viewed as acts of aggression. Matt Southworth of the Friends Committee on National Legislation speaks with RT’s Manila Chan on the expanding conflict.

And by away of an aside, consider a case of an earthbound munition you might call a drone of on wheels, via Spiegel:

Factory and Lab: Israel’s War Business

Israel invests more money in research than most other countries — and in no other place are research institutes, the defense industry, the army and politics as interwoven. The result is a high-tech weapons factory that successfully exports its goods globally.

There’s not much left of the high-tech car. In a warehouse about the size of an aircraft hangar, its remains look tiny. There are no wheels, no chassis, just the angular body of the car. And it’s not in good shape at all. There’s a gaping hole in its side with edges of lacerated metal. “Rocket-propelled grenade,” says Yoav Hirsh, smiling. Had a person been inside, he or she would likely not have survived the blast. But there was no one behind the wheel: The Guardium is a fully automated vehicle.

Pride radiates from Hirsh — who has a mix of gray and white hair, an athletic frame and a determined look on his face — when he talks about his cars. He’s the CEO of G-Nius, one of first companies in the world able to produce an army of robot fighters. The Guardium has been used since 2007 in patrols along the border of the Gaza Strip. It can be guided by remote control or can steer itself through a pre-selected route as its cameras and sensors capture data about the surroundings.

“Guardium already has 60,000 hours of operations behind it,” Hirsh says. “And it has saved many lives.” He says the aim is to complete “missions without any risk to the soldiers.” But in addition to saving lives, G-Nius vehicles can also destroy them, using remote-control weapons systems mounted on top of the unmanned vehicles. Hirsh notes that, although the weapons-equipped vehicles haven’t yet been used, they are deployable. In another warehouse, a standard Ford F350 pick-up truck is parked, one equipped with its own weapons station. The cameras and sensors are real but the machine gun is a dummy. “We’re a civilian firm, after all,” Hirsh says.

Back to those flying machines, this time from the corporate and private sectors.

From RT:

Dawn of Drones: Civilian UAVs to flood US skies amid fears of collision risks

Program notes:

In March a US airways pilot reported a near-miss with a tiny drone over Tallahassee Airport in Florida. And that is just one case of 15 recently registered. RT’s Gayane Chichikyan reports.

From The Hill, another one of those incidents:

FAA investigating drone over NFL game

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking into a drone that allegedly flew over an NFL preseason game in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday evening.

The agency said in a statement provided to The Hill on Wednesday that it “is investigating a report it received from local law enforcement about an unmanned aircraft operating over Bank of America Stadium” while the Carolina Panthers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs.

The incident is not the first time the FAA has investigated drone use in connection with a sporting event. The agency stopped the Washington Nationals baseball team from using drones to photograph some of its spring training games in Viera, Fla., earlier this year.

The FAA also shut down drone operations for a Minnesota beer company earlier this year.

And from The Daily Dot, drones over the Magic Kingdom™:

Disney patents drone technology that’s still technically illegal to use

When you think of the technology at Disney theme parks, the images that likely come to mind are the dated autonomatronics of rides like Pirates of Caribbean and the Country Bear Jamboree. Yet, the Happiest Place on Earth has actually long been a leader in the mass adoption of cutting-edge technologies. Not only is the company investing more than a billion dollars in the tech required to track every move made by every single visitor to the Magic Kingdom, but, according to a newly uncovered trio of patents, Disney wants to get into the drone business.

If Disney decides to actually implement the technologies contained in the patents, the result would be a major step forward in how drones are both used and conceptualized by the vast majority of Americans. However, under current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, actually using that technology would be against the law.

Disney’s patents seem to center around doing large-scale stage shows featuring disney characters. The technology would allow Disney to coordinate multiple drones such that they can operate giant puppets.

InSecurityWatch: Race, spooks, hacks, Asian heat


Today’s coverage of the things that make governments and citizens insecure [often not the same things in the same ways] begins with a real cause for national insecurity in the U.S. Via MintPress News:

US Has “Much Left to Do” On Racism: Segregation Worse Now Than In 70s

One UN committee member is shocked that “in spite of several decades of affirmative action in the United States to improve the mixing up of colors and races in schools … segregation [is] nowadays much worse than it was in the 1970s.”

An official summary of last week’s discussions between the U.N. experts and civil society groups recorded one committee member’s shock “to realize than in spite of several decades of affirmative action in the United States to improve the mixing up of colors and races in schools … segregation was nowadays much worse than it was in the 1970s.”

Another expert noted that “some 39 million African Americans [are] particularly affected by structural racial discrimination in the United States … part of the broader heritage of slavery,” according to the summary.

Indeed, rights advocates here say that one of the most significant impacts of the race convention has been around the broader understanding of the structural issues of racism that persist in the U.S. — those ways in which institutionalized discrimination becomes considered normal.

Techdirt covers the sadly predictable:

Obama Review Of Military Gear Handed To Law Enforcement; Thinks Real Problem Is ‘Training And Guidance’

  • from the emptiest-of-gestures dept

President Obama, most likely prompted by the invasion of Ferguson by armed forces, has called for a review of military equipment provided to local police departments by the same government he presides over. Presumably, this isn’t the sort of “review” he has in mind.

Not that local law enforcement agencies couldn’t throw an impressive Victory Day parade. The 1033 program, which sends military vehicles, weapons and equipment downstream to law enforcement agencies for pennies on the dollar, has shifted $4.3 billion from the Dept. of Defense to hundreds of police departments across the United States since 1997. Here’s what the President is actually interested in seeing.

“Among other things, the president has asked for a review of whether these programs are appropriate,” said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the internal assessment. The review also will assess “whether state and local law enforcement are provided with the necessary training and guidance; and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding.”

In other words, don’t expect much to change, and not any time soon (if at all).

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, a response to cross-border flatulism:

No Evidence of Jihadists in Mexico, Foreign Minister Says

There is no evidence to support the comments by Texas Gov. Rick Perry that jihadists could enter the United States via the southern border, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said.

“It is very unfortunate that some people make foreign policy on the basis of beliefs, suppositions and completely unfounded and absurd analyses,” Meade said in a press conference on Saturday.

Perry said in an address last week that there was a “very real possibility” that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, terrorists may have entered the United States by crossing the southern border.

The Intercept covers a spooky search engine:

The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

RT talks Turkey:

Not-so NATO-ally? Germany spying on Turkey for ‘38 years’

German foreign intelligence agency has been tapping Turkey for almost four decades, reports Focus amid the ongoing spy scandal between Berlin and Ankara. Some German officials defend the practice, saying that not all NATO allies can be treated as friends.

The German Federal Intelligence Service, BND, has been eavesdropping on Turkey since 1976 following the Social Democrat Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s government approval, Focus magazine wrote on Saturday.

Passions over previous spying allegations revealed in the media are still running high, but a new report may add fuel to the fire triggering further tensions between the two long-time North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

And International Business Times covers a rare case of candor:

Qatar And Terrorism: For Better Or For Worse, A Strong Connection

  • German Development Minister Gerd Mueller blasted Qatar on Wednesday.

“You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops?” Mueller said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF. “The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically?”

The U.S. has also wrestled with Qatar’s connections to Sunni Muslim terrorist organizations. The State Department described Qatar as “largely passive” in cooperating with efforts to cut terrorist funding in an internal cable dated Dec. 30, 2009. The cable concluded that al-Qaeda, the Taliban “and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale. Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.”

More recently, the U.S. signed a $11 billion arms and defense deal with Qatar for Apache helicopters, missile defense systems and more in July. The U.S. also keeps an Army base and an Air Force base in Qatar.

From the New York Times, the tragedy resumes:

Egypt and U.A.E. Said to Secretly Bomb Militias in Libya

Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts.

The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo.

The strikes in Tripoli are another destabilizing salvo in a power struggle defined by old-style Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order. Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt last year, the new government and its backers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have launched a campaign across the region — in the news media, in politics and diplomacy, and by arming local proxies — to roll back what they see as an existential threat to their authority posed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

From Reuters, more blowback:

Rival second Libyan assembly chooses own PM as chaos spreads

The Libyan parliament that was replaced in an election in June reconvened on Monday and chose an Islamist-backed deputy as the new prime minister, leaving the chaotic country with two rival leaders and assemblies, each backed by armed factions.

An election in June had been aimed at rebuilding state institutions in an attempt to quell three years of spreading violence since the ouster of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

But the old General National Congress (GNC), where Islamists had a strong voice, has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of its successor assembly, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by liberals and federalists.

From the Washington Post, Big Brother R Us:

For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.

The Register covers the ludicrous:

Intelligence blunder: You wanna be Australia’s spyboss? No problem, just walk right in

  • Access control? Yeah, we’ve heard of it

The Australian Security Intelligence Service, ASIS, has seemingly demonstrated a peculiar weakness in its access control systems.

A fluke administrative stuff-up allowed its Director-General – its most senior and therefore most sensitive role – to turn up and function for five days while he wasn’t actually employed by the organization.

As outlined by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, D-G Nick Warner’s contract ended, effectively sacking him, and the cack-handed public service’s computer systems didn’t notice.

From the Independent, a cyber assault:

Sony hit by cyber attack that closes PlayStation Network as plane carrying top executive is diverted following bomb threat

Federal investigators in the United States were attempting on Monday to get to the bottom of a fresh cyber-based assault against the Sony Corporation on Sunday that saw a brief a shut-down of its PlayStation Network and the emergency diversion of a commercial airliner that was carrying one of its top executives.

The company said its network had been fully restored and that no customer information had been compromised in what it said had been a “large-scale” attack, which normally involves an intruder using multiple computers to overwhelm the system forcing it to shut down. Meanwhile, John Smedley, its Online Entertainment President, was safe after what appeared to be a false bomb threat against his plane.

Sony suffered a similar event in 2011 when hackers stole credit card information from about 77 million of its customers crippling the network for two months.

From Deeplinks, a call for Comcastigation:

Comcast Data Breach Leaks Thousands of Unlisted Phone Numbers, Threatening Customers’ Privacy

Four years ago, users of Comcast’s phone service who had paid for their personal information to be unlisted noticed that something was amiss. Complaints started appearing from these individuals who found their names, addresses, and telephone numbers in phone directories both online and off.

Later, it was revealed that this breach of confidential information affected more than 74,000 individuals and households in California—over half of Comcast’s users in California with unlisted numbers. While the breach hit California the hardest, it also occurred with Comcast customers in other states. These numbers were treated just like ordinary listed phone numbers, licensed by Comcast to “publishers,” directory assistance providers, and apparently passed on to other databases and published for everyone to see.

This is but one example of how a mistake in an industry built upon the acquisition and selling of personal information can hurt people.  And this is why California law requires phone companies to protect their customers’ unlisted or non-published phone numbers.1 The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened up an investigation [pdf] to determine whether and to what extent Comcast may have broken the law in allowing this release of non-published numbers. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien has submitted testimony [pdf] as an expert witness for the California PUC in this case.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including Sino/American semantic escalation and fears of provocation, a renewed nuclear arms race, two maritime message [one submersible], a Chinese film festival canceled, more Chinese crackdowns and indignation, more Japanese dissent, and more reluctance to acquiesce to Abe’s militarization push. . . Continue reading