Category Archives: Organized crime

InSecurityWatch: ISIS, spooks, cops, Hong Kong


And the latest from the search for those missing Mexican college students.

We begin with amped volume from The Hill:

Feinstein warns police, military personnel to guard against lone wolf attacks

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein warned on Sunday that police and military personnel should be “on guard” for lone wolf attacks inspired by Islamic jihad.

“The police and the military have to be on guard,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We need to think in some new ways.”

Last week, a lone wolf attacker killed a Canadian soldier, and a man who had recently converted to Islam attacked four police officers with a hatchet in New York.

Feinstein said Internet propaganda and specific individuals are “really firing up this lone wolf phenomenon.”

Disputation from the Jakarta Globe:

Kurds Reject Erdogan Report of Deal With Syrian Rebels to Aid Besieged Kobani

A senior Syrian Kurdish official on Friday rejected a report from Turkey’s president that Syrian Kurds had agreed to let Free Syrian Army fighters enter the border town of Kobani to help them push back besieging Islamic State insurgents.

The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such as Islamic State.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is a leading opponent of Assad and has allowed his more secular, Western-backed opponents such as FSA fighters to use Turkey as a base and sanctuary.

Erdogan said on Friday said 1,300 FSA fighters would enter Kobani after the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) agreed on their passage, but his comments were swiftly denied by Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the PYD.

And linkage denied, via BBC News:

Ottawa shootings: No Islamic State link found

There is no evidence so far that a gunman who attacked Canada’s parliament had links to Middle Eastern Islamist extremists, the government has said.

Foreign Minister John Baird told the BBC gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was “certainly radicalised”, but was not on a list of high-risk individuals.

Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at Ottawa’s war memorial before being shot dead in the nearby parliament building. Police have released video showing how the gunman stormed parliament.

It has also emerged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper hid in a cupboard in parliament for about 15 minutes during Wednesday’s attack as MPs sharpened flagpoles to use as spears against the gunman.

Fuel thrown on flames, via the Jakarta Globe:

India ‘Love Jihad’ Claims Fuel Hindu-Muslim Tensions

When a Hindu woman tearfully claimed to national media recently she had been kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam, India’s religious hardliners seized the chance to hike their “love jihad” fears.

Hardline Hindu activists, encouraged by the media attention, claimed scores of Muslim boys were attempting to abduct, seduce and elope with Hindu girls across the country for the sole purpose of conversion.

On websites and leaflets, right-wing groups warned India’s Hindu majority of the “dangers”, and a senior government minister called for talks between religious leaders “to find a solution to the issue”.

Last week, the woman, from northern Uttar Pradesh state, sensationally retracted her claims, saying she had in fact been pressured by her family to concoct the story.

But hardliners remain adamant that Muslims, numbering about 150 million in India, have a secret strategy to turn the secular country of 1.25 billion into their own.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, and they’ve done it before:

British forces hand over control of last base in Afghanistan

The handover was hailed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, but the southern Helmand province that foreign troops are leaving behind still confronts a resilient Taliban insurgency

British forces on Sunday (Oct 27) handed over formal control of their last base in Afghanistan to Afghan troops, ending combat operations in the country after 13 years which cost hundreds of lives.

The handover was hailed by British Prime Minister David Cameron but the southern Helmand province that foreign troops are leaving behind still confronts a resilient Taliban insurgency and remains a hub for opium production. The Union Jack was lowered at Camp Bastion while the Stars and Stripes came down at the adjacent Camp Leatherneck – the last US Marine base in the country.

All NATO combat troops will depart Afghanistan by December, leaving Afghan troops and police to battle Taliban insurgents on their own.

The Independent covers a curious conversion:

Councillor from French far-right party Front National converts to Islam – and urges others to follow

A local councillor representing Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, the Front National, has announced he has converted to Islam – and has urged fellow party members to do the same.

Maxence Buttey, 22, has been suspended from a regional Front National committee after he went public with his decision and sent out a “proselytising video” to the party in which he praised the “visionary virtues of the Koran and urged them to convert, the Telegraph reported.

Mr Buttey, who is a councillor in the eastern Paris suburb, Noisy-le-grand, said the Front National and Islam had a lot in common.

He told French newspaper, Le Parisien: “Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury.”

From InfoWorld, notable:

Clueless FBI sabotages its own anti-encryption campaign

  • FBI Director Comey says smartphone encryption puts law enforcement in peril. Too bad he doesn’t seem to understand technology

FBI Director James Comey continues to bang the drum about the evils of smartphone encryption and the harm it will do to U.S. law enforcement efforts. Fortunately, few people are persuaded, possibly because Comey himself seems of two minds — and baffled by technology to boot.

Comey has been on a media tear denouncing the default smartphone encryption provided by Apple, with its recently released iOS 8, and Google, with its next-generation Lollipop Android OS. No one without the passcode — not even Apple or Google — can break the encryption, which leaves law enforcement “struggling to keep up” with criminals, Comey said in a speech to the Brookings Institution.

Comey called on Congress to update CALEA to require tech companies to build into their systems “lawful intercept capabilities” (don’t call them backdoors), saying mistrust of government in response to the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden “has gone too far.”

But in an interview with “60 Minutes” this month, Comey led off by saying, “I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power. You cannot trust people in power.” He then illustrated this by sidestepping the question of whether the FBI gathers electronic surveillance and passes it to the NSA, and insisting (incorrectly) that the FBI can never read your email without a court order.

Tech companies have good reasons for adding extra data protection to their products. And the FBI’s own website recommends using encryption on mobile devices “to protect the user’s personal data in the case of loss or theft.”

Drones over the Ukraine, from TheLocal.at:

Austrian drones fly high, over Ukraine and beyond

In the middle of the Austrian countryside, a few sleek, high-tech drones sit in a bright production hall, ready for missions over Ukraine, the Mediterranean or the Middle East.

Schiebel, a small company originally specialised in landmine detection, has been manufacturing Camcopters — a 3.5-metre (11.5-foot) long mini-helicopter equipped with cameras, radars and other sensors — for close to 10 years.

But it has gained prominence with a new mission in Ukraine, where the Camcopter will assist observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels.

The latest from Mexico, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Relatives Say They Won’t Let Mexican Government Incriminate Missing Students

Relatives of the 43 trainee teachers who went missing nearly a month ago in the southern Mexican city of Iguala after being attacked by municipal police warned the federal government not to try to lower social tensions by leveling false accusations against the students.

“The federal government should know that we’re not at peace, much less so now that they’re trying to distract attention from this (crime),” Felipe de Jesus, a relative of one of the missing youths, told Efe Friday, insisting that the families will not rest until they are found.

Relatives and classmates of the students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a nearby teacher-training facility in Guerrero state, said their attorneys have learned that the federal Attorney General’s Office is pursuing a line of investigation that seeks to link the missing youths to the Los Rojos cartel.

And from Agence France-Presse, a report on the troubled Mexican state where the tragedy has been unfolding:

Gangsters paradise: Mexico’s Guerrero state

Program note:

For years drug cartels have been waging bloody turf wars in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state.

After the jump, China throws a bank into the Game of Zones, government and businesses direct warnings at protesting Hong Kong Students and a shift in their plans, Washington and Tokyo plan for joint military actions in time of crisis, and growing discontent with Japan’s new official secrets law. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, a drone, spies, lies, more


First, via Reuters, blowback:

U.S.-led air strikes intensify as Syria conflict destabilizes Turkey

American-led forces have sharply intensified air strikes in the past two days against Islamic State fighters threatening Kurds on Syria’s Turkish border after the jihadists’ advance began to destabilize Turkey.

The coalition had conducted 21 attacks on the militants near the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani over Monday and Tuesday and appeared to have slowed Islamic State advances there, the U.S. military said, but cautioned the situation remained fluid.

U.S. President Barack Obama voiced deep concern on Tuesday about the situation in Kobani as well as in Iraq’s Anbar province, which U.S. troops fought to secure during the Iraq war and is now at risk of being seized by Islamic State militants.

And another Arab Spring country bombed by yet another, via the Associated Press:

Egypt warplanes hit Libya militias, officials say

Egypt deepened its involvement in the fight against Islamist militias who have taken over key parts of Libya on Wednesday, with officials saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed their positions in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The two officials, who have firsthand knowledge of the operation, said the use of the aircraft was part of an Egyptian-led campaign against the militiamen that will eventually involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces.

The operation, they said, was requested by the internationally recognized Libyan administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk. That elected administration was thrown out of the capital, Tripoli, by rival militias allied with Islamic political factions.

That drone we promised you, via the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Drone-sparked fighting ends Serbia-Albania match

A small drone dangling an Albanian banner and circling the soccer field touched off fighting between Serbian and Albanian players and fans Tuesday, forcing a European Championship qualifier to be called off.

English referee Martin Atkinson halted the match in the 41st minute when a Serbian player grabbed the banner and Albanian players tried to protect it. Several Serbian fans ran onto the field and clashed with Albanian players. The score was 0-0 at the time.

The Union of European Football Associations said the match was later abandoned because of a “disturbance” on the field.

From Reuters, partnering up:

EU, China agree to step up cooperation against terrorism: EU

Leaders from China and the European Union agreed to step up cooperation to counter extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, the EU said on Thursday.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday evening on the sidelines of a gathering of Asian and European leaders known as the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan.

“They reviewed the situation in the Middle East, northern Africa and the Sahel (region of Africa) and agreed to increase cooperation to counter the common threat of extremism and terrorism in these regions,” an EU statement issued after the talks said, without specifying what kind of cooperation.

From TheLocal.de, the singing Nazi judge:

‘Neo-Nazi’ magistrate quits Bavarian post

A magistrate in Bavaria resigned on Tuesday after police discovered that he was a former singer in a neo-Nazi band and had long standing links to the far-right scene.

The young lawyer, who was working in a court in Lichtenfels, Upper Franconia, met the president of the higher state court in Bamberg on Tuesday and resigned.

After studying in Brandenburg, the lawyer was named as a magistrate on a provisional basis by the Bavarian judiciary in November 2013.

While a student, he had been under observation by the Brandenburg security services between 2003 and 2013 due to his alter ego as “Hassgesang” (“hate song”), his neo-Nazi one-man music project.

From the Independent, Old Blighty’s money laundry:

The great British money launderette: At least 19 UK firms under investigation for alleged conspiracy to make $20bn of dirty money seem legitimate

Front companies in the UK are at the heart of an investigation into one of Europe’s biggest money-laundering operations, allegedly forming part of a conspiracy to make $20bn (£12.5bn) of dirty money look legitimate. The funds are believed to have come from major criminals and corrupt officials around the world wanting to make their ill-gotten cash appear “clean”, so they can spend it without suspicion.

At least 19 UK-based front companies are under suspicion. The scandal highlights how lax corporate rules have made this country an attractive destination for global organised crime. The secrecy company directors are entitled to under UK law is also hindering attempts to identify the “Mr Bigs” behind the scam.

An investigation by The Independent and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an NGO, has identified dozens of firms in a global web spreading from Birmingham to Belize.

The scam appears to have gone on for four years before being shut down in May by investigators in another of its main centres – the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

From TheLocal.it, proving crime really does pay, at least in a neocon world:

Sex and drugs help lift Italy out of recession

Italy learnt it was no longer in a recession on Wednesday thanks to a change in data calculations across the European Union which includes illegal economic activities such as prostitution and drugs in the GDP measure.

Adding illegal revenue from hookers, narcotics and black market cigarettes and alcohol to the eurozone’s third-biggest economy boosted gross domestic product figures.

GDP rose slightly from a 0.1 percent decline for the first quarter to a flat reading, the national institute of statistics said.

Google hack, with Network World:

Security vendors claim progress against Chinese group that hacked Google

A group of security companies say a collaborative effort has helped counter several hacking tools used by a China-based group most known for provoking strong condemnation from Google four years ago.

The companies, which include Cisco, FireEye, F-Secure, iSIGHT Partners, Microsoft, Tenable, ThreatConnect, ThreatTrack Security, Volexity, Novetta and Symantec, said their efforts have led to a better level of protection in their products against the hacking tools used by the group. How long the effort will stymie the hackers remains to be seen.

“We’re not naïve,” said Novetta CEO Peter LaMontagne in a phone interview Tuesday. “Our view is that the threat actors that are out there are absolutely focused on staying ahead of our defensive efforts.”

But China is worried about being spied on, as Want China Times reports:

Retired ROC military officers recruited to spy for PLA

To steal crucial intelligence regarding the Republic of China Armed Forces’ new weapons systems, China has recruited several retired officers through Taiwanese businesspeople working in mainland China, getting them to conduct espionage against their own country, Wendell Minnick wrote in his article for the Washington-based Defense News.

Minnick lists the officers who sold information on the E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and PAC-2 anti-ballistic missile systems, the Hawk air defense missile system, and the Raytheon Palm IR-500 radiometric infrared camera to China in recent years.

Peter Mattis, a research fellow from the Jamestown Foundation, said that contrary to popular opinion, China hires professionals and not “amateur free-for-all sources” to steal information from Taiwan.

And from the Intercept, if its ours, it’s theirs:

Local Cops Say Your Driving History Is Public — Unless You Want a Copy

What’s public for me is private for thee. At least that’s what Monroe County, N.Y. believes when it comes to where you drive your car.

Monroe Police have been using high-speed cameras to capture license plates in order to log vehicle whereabouts. As of July, the County’s database contained 3.7 million records, with the capability to add thousands more each day. The justification for cops having records of the whereabouts of law-abiding citizens is that the vehicles are driven in public and therefore drivers have no expectation of privacy. It’s an argument that’s at odds with the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in U.S. v. Jones. In Jones, a GPS tracking case, the court held that individuals do have an expectation of privacy when it comes to their long-term whereabouts, even when using public roads.

If cops are determined to violate this privacy, then at least they could behave more consistently. Last summer, Rochester, N.Y.’s Democrat & Chronicle filed a state open records request — more commonly called a FOIL (for Freedom Of Information Law) — for information on seven of it’s reporter’s license plates as well as two city and county government vehicles. After all, if such information is public when collected, why would it change merely because it’s sitting in a database?

On to Asia, starting in Hong Kong with the Guardian:

Hong Kong police use pepper spray as video of beating reignites protests

  • Hundreds gather to express outrage at violent police attack on pro-democracy party member

Hong Kong police used pepper spray early on Thursday to stop pro-democracy protesters from blocking a major road near the office of the city’s embattled leader amid public anger over the police beating of a protester a day earlier.

At the police HQ in the nearby district of Wan Chai, hundreds of people gathered outside into the early hours of the morning to express outrage at the beating, with dozens queuing to lodge formal complaints over the incident.

Authorities said on Wednesday that police involved in the beating of Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, a member of the pro-democracy Civic party, would be suspended.

Footage of the beating has gone viral and injected fresh momentum into a protest movement that had been flagging after nearly three weeks of demonstrations over Chinese restrictions on how Hong Kong will choose its next leader.

Here’s the video, via corc buhs:

Hong Kong Police Carry a Protester to a Dark Spot for a Beating

Program notes:

Hong Kong police officers involved in an apparent assault on a protester have been “removed” from their positions, the city’s security chief said Wednesday, after video emerged of a handcuffe.

The London Telegraph covers censorship:

China blocks BBC website as Hong Kong tensions rise

Broadcaster defends move as ‘deliberate censorship’

Chinese censors have blocked the website of Britain’s national broadcaster, the BBC said in a statement late on Wednesday, coming as tensions rise in Hong Kong between pro-democracy protesters and police.

The broadcaster said that the move seemed to be “deliberate censorship”. It did not say what may have prompted the move by Beijing, which also blocks the websites of the New York Times, newswire Bloomberg and the BBC’s Chinese language website.

“The BBC strongly condemns any attempts to restrict free access to news and information and we are protesting to the Chinese authorities. This appears to be deliberate censorship,” said Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service Group.

The BBC’s English-language website was still inaccessible in China on Thursday morning.

From Want China Times, a strategic edge:

PLA’s DF-21D missiles already in service, says US report

A forthcoming report from the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission indicates that two brigades of DF-21D ballistic missiles have already entered service with the People’s Liberation Army, Bill Gertz, senior editor of Washington Free Beacon, wrote in an article on Oct. 13.

The report will be published on November to discuss China’s military expansion. Citing China’s development of two stealth fighter models, the first deployment of a naval expeditionary amphibious group to the Indian Ocean and aerial bombing exercises in Kazakhstan, the report paints an alarming picture of China’s growing aggressiveness and expanding power that the country could bring to bear against the United States and its regional allies.

Despite the strong trade and financial links between Beijing and Washington, the report said that the Communist Party government in China still views the United States as its primary adversary. China’s rapid military buildup is changing the balance of power in the Western Pacific, it said, which may bring destabilizing security competition between China and its neighbors while exacerbating regional hotspots in Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and the East and South China seas.

And from the Japan Times, refusing to learn from history:

Web page on ‘comfort women’ donations taken down by Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has again deepened international suspicion that it aims to revise history despite repeated denials.

The Foreign Ministry has deleted a page from its website that carried a 1995 appeal for donations to a government-linked fund for former “comfort women” forced to work at Japanese wartime military brothels.

The move drew immediate protest from the South Korean government, which issued a written statement by a spokesperson at its Foreign Ministry, because it came at the demand of a right-leaning lawmaker who has called for the retraction of the government’s apology, made in 1993.

A key part of the appeal read: “Particularly brutal was the act of forcing women, including teenagers, to serve the Japanese armed forces as ‘comfort women,’ a practice that violated the fundamental dignity of women. No manner of apology can ever completely heal the deep wound inflicted on these women both emotionally and physically.”

For our final item, a Toky0/Washington disagreement from Kyodo News:

U.S. opposed to Japan’s plan to end Futenma base operations by 2019

The U.S. government is opposed to Tokyo’s plan to end the operations of a key U.S. military base in Okinawa by February 2019, according to U.S. government sources.

The U.S. side conveyed to Japan during a meeting of the countries’ foreign and defense officials in Tokyo on Oct. 2 that the timing for the end of operations at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station should be 2022 at the earliest, given the time required to complete construction of a replacement facility in the prefecture, the sources said.

Washington was “surprised” by Tokyo’s announcement last month that it will aim to end operations at the Futenma base by February 2019 and views the Tokyo-set deadline as “fanciful speculation,” U.S. officials told the meeting, adding that the announcement placed the United States in a “difficult position,” according to the sources.

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, spies, borders


We begin with a warning from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Nobel Prize winner Malala told Obama U.S. drone attacks fuel terrorism

The teenager who became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday told President Barack Obama at a White House meeting last year that she worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as well as Kailash Satyarthi of India, for pushing for young people’s rights, including the right to education.

Malala, now 17, made international headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus two years ago for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. After recovering, she took her campaign for children’s education across the world, writing a book and even speaking at the United Nations last year.

Hysteria in Old Blighty, via the London Telegraph:

Security services monitoring ‘thousands’ of terrorism suspects in London, says Boris Johnson

  • Mayor of London discloses that threat from Isil and other terrorist groups is larger than previously known

The security services are monitoring “thousands” of terrorist suspects in London, Boris Johnson has disclosed, suggesting the threat from Islamist extremists may be far greater than has previously been admitted.

Until now, it was thought that the main danger came from around 500 jihadis who have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK to join Isil or al-Qaeda fighters, around half of whom have returned to Britain.

But the Mayor of London suggested the threat from home-grown terrorist plots was far more widespread than the relatively small numbers of extremists who have gone abroad to fight.

More from the Independent:

UK terror threat: Police put on special terror alert for their own safety

Britain’s 130,000 police officers were urged to be “vigilant for their personal safety” after counter-terror chiefs warned the threat level against them had increased in the past 24 hours.

Mark Rowley, the national lead for counter-terrorism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, refused to discuss specific intelligence but confirmed the threat level against detectives and support staff up and down the country had been “heightened”.

Police and the intelligence agencies are working around the clock to track hundreds of suspected British jihadists as they return from fighting with Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq.

Assistant Commissioner Rowley said: “The threat level to police officers and staff has been heightened, but we are used to confronting risk and danger; this is what we do on a daily basis, and we are well trained.

“We are informing our officers and staff of the heightened risk and reminding them to remain vigilant and alert to any possible dangers. We are asking them to follow existing policies and good practice. Measures are being put in place to increase the vigilance of officers and staff.

The Japan Times covers motivation:

Ancient prophecies of apocalypse give Islamic State jihadists hope

An infidel horde flying 80 banners meets a Muslim army at the Syrian town of Dabiq in an apocalyptic battle. The Muslims are decimated but ultimately prevail and conquer the world.

This ancient Sunni Muslim prophecy — mentioned in canonical accounts of the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings — has become a rallying cry for Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, especially since they seized Dabiq in August.

The town itself has negligible military value compared with the strategic Islamic State-controlled cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

But as Islamic State jihadists come under a U.S.-led aerial onslaught to stop their advance, its importance as a symbol has become clear.

Reuters delivers a warning:

U.N. says thousands likely to be massacred if jihadists take Kobani

Thousands of people most likely will be massacred if Kobani falls to Islamic State fighters, a U.N. envoy said on Friday, as militants fought deeper into the besieged Syrian Kurdish town in full view of Turkish tanks that have done nothing to intervene.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said Kobani could suffer the same fate as the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were murdered by Serbs in 1995, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two, while U.N. peacekeepers failed to protect them.

“If this falls, the 700, plus perhaps the 12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” de Mistura said. The United Nations believes 700 mainly elderly civilians are trapped in the town itself and 12,000 have left the center but not made it across the border into Turkey.

From Deutsche Welle, a recruit on trial:

Young man confesses in Germany’s first IS terror trial

A 20-year-old on trial for involvement in a terrorist organization has confessed to fighting alongside the IS in Syria. In a statement, he said he saw it as his duty to defend Sunni Muslims from the tyranny of Assad.

A man on trial in Germany for his alleged involvement in the “Islamic State” (IS) war in Syria has confessed to having joined the militia and fighting in Syria. Twenty-year-old Kreshnik B is on trial for his alleged membership in a foreign terrorist organization.

Born in Hesse to a family from Kosovo, Kreshnik B admitted to going to Syria in 2013 to fight against the Assad regime in his third day of court on Friday, October 10.

In a written confession read out by his lawyer in Frankfurt on Friday, he said, “The inconceivable violence used by the Alawite Assad regime against the Sunni majority was enraging and bewildering. No one wanted to help the people there.”

On to the world of spies and hacks, first with SecurityWeek:

Hackers Show the NSA’s Capabilities Are Not Magic

A group of security researchers, hardware hackers, hardware developers and hobbyists have set out to demonstrate that many of the tools similar to those used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) for surveillance operations can be reproduced on a low budget with open source software and hardware components.

The project, called the “NSA Playset,” came out of a collaboration between security researcher Dean Pierce and Michael Ossmann, founder of Great Scott Gadgets. Shortly after the NSA’s ANT catalog was leaked online, they recruited several others who had already implemented or were working on implementing capabilities that were similar to the ANT tools.

The ANT catalog is a 48-page classified document containing information on the technologies used by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit for cyber surveillance. The document is one of the many files obtained by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

On to the pros, via The Intercept:

Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany

The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.

“It’s something that many people have been wondering about for a long time,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, after reviewing the documents. “I’ve had conversations with executives at tech companies about this precise thing. How do you know the NSA is not sending people into your data centers?”

Here’s one of those delightful NSA grahpics accompanying the report:

BLOG NSA

From the Guardian, reunited:

Edward Snowden’s girlfriend living with him in Moscow, film reveals

  • Lindsay Mills, thought to have been deserted by Snowden before NSA revelations, appears beside whistleblower in Citizenfour

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

From the London Telegraph, sadly, partly true:

Big companies snoop on public more than GCHQ, says spy chief

  • Sir Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ, says private firms are the ones who know everything about you and share data

Private firms snoop far more on the public than the spy agencies, the head of GCHQ has said.

Sir Iain Lobban, Director of the intelligence agency, said it was the “commercial companies” who know everything about people and share the data with each other.

There is an ongoing row over the level of snooping powers the police and intelligence agencies should have.

But Sir Iain’s comments came as it emerged three of the UK’s main mobile phone companies automatically provided data on customers to the police if asked.

The Los Angeles Times covers cops misbehavin’:

LAPD ghost cars: Cops lied about officers on patrol, report finds

Los Angeles police deliberately deceived senior officials by artificially inflating the number of officers on patrol, according to an investigation by the LAPD’s independent watchdog.

In a report released Friday, the inspector general for the Police Commission found evidence that officers in at least five of the department’s 21 patrol divisions were said to be patrolling city streets in cars when, in fact, they were at station desks.

The report’s findings bolstered allegations made by union officials that patrol commanders around the city were using the so-called ghost cars to mask the fact that they did not have enough officers on patrol to meet mandatory staffing levels.

And yet more hacking, via United Press International:

Massive Snapchat nude photo leak targeting everyday people underway, Snapchat blames users

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” Snapchat said.

Hackers posting in the online forum 4Chan are actively leaking at least 100,000 nude or compromising photographs obtained from users of mobile picture message app Snapchat.

Initially suspected to be an elaborate hoax by trolls posting on 4Chan, Snapchat confirmed the leak on its official Twitter account and denied any responsibility for security breach, saying the pictures were lifted from third-party apps that allow users to save photos sent via the history-less mobile app.

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” the company tweeted.

Network World covers another hack attack:

Dairy Queen stores hit by ‘Backoff’ malware, payment card data stolen

Dairy Queen said Thursday the “Backoff” point-of-sale malware infected systems at 395 of its stores, stealing payment card data.

The company, which has 4,500 independently owned franchises in the U.S., said in a statement it believes the “malware has been contained.” Most of the stores, including one Orange Julius location, were affected for between three weeks to a month starting in early August, according to a list.

“We deeply regret any inconvenience this incident may cause,” wrote CEO and President John Gainor.

PCWorld covers another one:

Kmart hacked, exposing customers’ card numbers

Sears Holding Corp. said Friday the payment systems at its Kmart retail chain had been breached as a result of malware, compromising shoppers’ credit and debit card numbers.

The U.S. retail chain’s payment systems were infected with a form of malware that went undetected by its anti-virus systems, Sears said. There is no evidence that Kmart shoppers’ personal information, PIN numbers, email addresses or Social Security numbers were stolen, and the malware has since been removed, Sears said.

A forensic investigation indicates that the breach began in early September, Sears said. Kmart’s IT team discovered the breach only this Thursday.

After the jump, Japan orders Google amnesia, more unrest in St. Louis after police shooting, protests in Ferguson, more violence in St. Louis, protests in Ferguson, military misbehavin’ comes home to roost, digital crime in the police station, on to the deepening mystery of the mass graves and missing Mexican students, parental vigils, a missing mayor, and a hunt for masterminds, more murderous criminality, this time military, violence in Brazil, on to Asia and a bloody border battle, a Korean Coast Guard killing of a Chinese fisherman sparks a diplomatic row, Hong Kong protesters hit the street, and Taiwan lends its support. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, Hacks, drones, & zones


First, from the Washington Post, bombs away:

Intensified U.S. airstrikes keep Kobane from falling to Islamic State militants

The U.S.-led coalition stepped up airstrikes around the Syrian border town of Kobane on Tuesday after Turkey appealed for help, enabling Kurdish fighters to reverse the advance of Islamic State militants for the first time since the extremists launched their assault about three weeks ago.

The strikes followed the request by Turkey for intensified U.S. efforts to prevent the predominantly Kurdish town, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, from falling to the Islamic State, Turkish officials said. Turkey has lined up tanks and troops within view of the Syrian Kurdish fighters defending Kobane but has not sought to intervene — for a tangle of reasons bound up with its complicated relationship with Kurds and its doubts about the goals of the international coalition fighting the extremists.

Turkey insisted, however, that it does not want the town to fall, and a senior official said Ankara asked the United States on Monday to escalate strikes.

Sky News qualifies:

US Military Says Airstrikes Alone May Not Stop IS

  • Islamic State fighters could take control of more towns and villages despite an increase in coalition airstrikes, officials warn

Airstrikes alone may not be able to stop the advance of Islamic State fighters in Syria, US officials have warned.

Barack Obama met military commanders to discuss the campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq amid fears troops would be needed on the ground.

“Our strikes continue, alongside our partners. It remains a difficult mission,” the US President said. “As I’ve indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight.”

Al Jazeera English adds another complication:

Turkish-Kurdish relations threatened by ISIL

  • The stakes are high for Turkey if ISIL took over Kobane, say Turkish analysts

According to analysts, Turkey does not believe that ISIL poses such a major threat.

“ISIL is not Turkey’s concern,” said Soli Ozel, a Turkish political analyst and journalist. “It’s more interested in dealing with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Bashar al-Assad regime. Turkey considers this as an opportunity to accomplish its goal in the region: deal with its two major enemies, and ISIL is not one of them.”

Kobane is a strategically located town, covering a large swathe of land stretching from the Turkish border to Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Syrian Kurdistan (aka Rojava) on the Euphrates river in Syria.

If Kobane falls entirely under ISIL control, it will not just mark another territorial gain for the group but the acquisition of a key border crossing. ISIL has already taken the industrial regions including Maqtala al-Jadida and Kani Arabane in eastern Kobani after violent clashes with Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters. In Syria, ISIL has control over most cities along the Euphrates River, including Deir el-Zor, Raqqa and al-Aqim in Syria.

From Homeland Security News Wire, hmmmmm:

Four arrested in London in plot to behead people on city streets

Officers from the Metropolitan Police counterterrorism unit early yesterday arrested four young men in London over a suspected terrorist plot to grab people on the streets of London and behead them. One of the four arrested was said to have links to Syria and Islamic State (ISIS). Security analysts have said that ISIS would likely seek to retaliate against the United Kingdom in response to British fighter planes joining the U.S. and Arab states in bombing raids on ISIS targets in Iraq.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police counterterrorism unit early yesterday arrested four young men in London over a suspected terrorist plot to grab people on the streets of London and behead them. One of the four arrested was said to have links to Syria and Islamic State (ISIS).

Counter-terrorism officials said one of the four had access to weapons and, accordingly, the officers who raided his address were heavily armed. This one suspect was subdued by a Taser gun.

From the Associated Press, more bombs on their way:

Canadian Parliament authorizes air strikes in Iraq

  • Following a request from the U.S., Canada’s Parliament has voted to authorize airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party introduced the motion last week and it was debated this week. Harper has a majority of seats in Parliament so the vote was all but assured. The motion passed Tuesday 157-134.

The motion authorizes air strikes in Iraq for up to six months and explicitly states that no ground troops be used in combat operations.

While the Canadian Press covers Northern anxieties:

RCMP investigating dozens of suspected extremists who returned to Canada

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says the RCMP is investigating dozens of Canadians who have returned from fighting extremist wars overseas.

A recent federal report said the federal government knew of more than 130 individuals with Canadian connections who were abroad and suspected of supporting terror-related activities.

Blaney also told the Commons public safety committee Wednesday that the government will bring forward new measures to help monitor suspected terrorists, but he offered no details.

And the Washington Post looks South:

Tom Cotton: Terrorists collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate Arkansas

There’s been a ton of chatter to the effect that Republicans are on offense against Democrats on immigration and national security alike. Yet to convert these issues into political gain, some Republicans apparently believe they need to go to extraordinary lengths to conflate terrorism and illegal immigration into one giant, terrifying, hydra-headed threat to the country.

Exhibit A: GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, who is running for Senate in Arkansas. The Congressman told a tele-town-hall meeting that the Islamic State is actively working with Mexican drug cartels who are looking to expand into the terrorism business — and that the groups, working in tandem, could infiltrate the country and attack people in Arkansas.

While the McClatchy Washington Bureau chills out:

No Islamic State fighters coming from Mexico, Homeland Security says

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to shoot down reports that terrorist fighters are operating in Mexico and that some already have been caught attempting to cross the United States’ southern border.

Homeland Security officials said Wednesday that there was no truth to reports that fighters affiliated with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have been apprehended on the border.

“The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground,” Marsha Catron, DHS press secretary, said in a statement.

From RT, bringing the war home to Europe:

Pro-ISIS radicals with machetes, knives attack Kurds in Germany

Peaceful protests against IS in Syria and Iraq organized by Kurdish nationals in several German cities ended with serious clashes with pro-jihadist Muslims in Hamburg and Celle. Police had to request reinforcements to restore order.

Police in Hamburg, a port city of 1.8 million people, used water cannons, batons and pepper spray late Tuesday to disperse crowds of warring Kurds and pro-jihadist Muslims, armed with knives and brass-knuckles, following a protest against Islamic State militants who are attacking the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border.

In most of the cities, protests went off peacefully and were virtually trouble-free, but in Celle police failed to prevent clashes.

The first brawl between about 100 Kurds and Muslims on each side took place Monday, but police in Celle, a town of 71,000, with the help of colleagues from Hannover, Oldenburg and Wolfsburg, prevented serious clashes between the two groups.

On Tuesday, however, the two sides, armed with stones and bottles, attempted to break through police lines to attack each other.

intelNews covers a mystery:

Iran silent about deadly blast that ‘lit up sky’ near Tehran

The government of Iran is refusing to comment on a reported blast at a secretive military facility that some sources say “lit up the sky” last week. The blast is said to have taken place on Sunday night at the Parchin military complex, located approximately 20 miles southeast of Iranian capital Tehran.

The semi-official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Monday that the explosion had been caused by a “fire [that] broke out in an explosive materials production unit” east of Tehran, and that two people had died. Interestingly, however, the news agency did not specify the precise location of the blast, nor did it identify the “explosive materials production unit” in question. There was also no mention of the cause of the fire that allegedly resulted in the blast.

A few hours later, the Iranian-language news site SahamNews, which is politically linked to the Iranian opposition, claimed that the blast happened at Parchin and that it was a “massive explosion” that “lit up the evening sky” and caused windows to shatter as far as 9 miles away from the complex. It is worth noting that the blast was reported just hours after Israeli officials accused Iran of conducting nuclear implosion tests at a host of nuclear facilities, including Parchin.

From CBC News, covering up to the north:

Federal scientists muzzled by media policies, report suggests

  • Defence scores highest for openness, while Natural Resources Canada among lowest

Canadian government scientists face far more restrictions on talking to the media than their U.S. counterparts, a new analysis has found.

The study of media policies from 16 federal departments was released today by Evidence for Democracy, a non-profit group that advocates for evidence-based public policy. The group organized rallies across the country in support of federal scientists in 2013.

The analysis, led by Karen Magnuson-Ford, a researcher at Simon Fraser University who has a master’s degree in biology, found that all but one department performed worse than the average for U.S. government departments in similar analyses in 2008 and 2013.

Onto the world of spooks and hacks, first with The Hill:

Google chief on NSA: ‘We’re going to end up breaking the Internet’

The integrity of the Internet could be at risk if Congress does not act to rein in the National Security Agency, Google head Eric Schmidt warned on Wednesday.

Speaking alongside other tech executives and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at a Silicon Valley event, Schmidt said the revelations about U.S. surveillance could prompt countries to wall off their networks.
“The simplest outcome: We’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” Schmidt said, “because what’s going to happen is governments will do bad laws of one kind or another, and eventually what’s going to happen is: ‘We’re going to have our own Internet in our own country, and we’re going to do it our way.’ “

“It is fundamentally about breaking the Internet,” echoed Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch. “The Internet is a medium without borders, and the notion that you would have to place data and data centers and the data itself [in a particular location] … is fundamentally at odds with the way the Internet is architectured.”

The Guardian covers the reality of Gitmo:

Guantánamo use of olive oil in force feedings ‘astonishing’, doctor tells court

  • Testimony on second day of court challenge to force feedings focuses on long-term health effects on detainees after procedure

The methods used by the US military to feed inmates in Guantánamo Bay against their will presents a long-term risk to their health, a federal court heard on Tuesday.

Steven Miles, a doctor and professor of medical ethics at the University of Minnesota, told a courtroom that lubricating the feeding tubes at Guantánamo, used on hunger-striking detainees, can cause a form of chronic inflammatory pneumonia, and questioned whether the force feeding was medically necessary.

The condition, resulting from olive oil reaching the lungs due to misplaced insertions, would be hard to detect by physicians for released or transferred detainees, as it might look on x-rays like tuberculosis or lung cancer, Miles testified, calling the olive oil lubrication “astonishing to me”.

“There’s simply no debate about this. All the medical literature I’ve found said the [lubrication] had to be water-soluble. One doesn’t have to make very many salads to know olive oil is not water soluble,” Miles said.

And Threatpost covers hacking at the money spot:

Tyupkin Malware Infects ATMs Worldwide

Criminals in Eastern Europe have evolved their attacks against automated teller machines, moving beyond solely targeting consumers with card skimmers that steal debit card numbers, to attacks against banks using malware that allows someone to remove money directly from an ATM without the need for a counterfeit or stolen card.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab, in conjunction with Interpol, today said they have detected the Tyupkin malware on more than 50 machines; only ATMs from a particular manufacturer running a 32-bit version of Windows are impacted.

Most of the Tyupkin submissions to Virus Total are from Russia (20) with a limited number of samples (4) reported from the United States.

From Network World, hooking up:

Windows XP flaws help Russian ‘Qbot’ gang build 500,000 PC botnet

The Russian gang behind the obscure Qbot botnet have quietly built an impressive empire of 500,000 infected PCs by exploiting unpatched flaws in mainly US-based Windows XP and Windows 7 computers, researchers at security firm Proofpoint have discovered.

A year or two ago, what the Qbot (aka Qakbot) campaign has achieved in the roughly half dozen years the actors behind it have been operating would have been seen as a major concern. Recently, standards have gone up a notch.

These days Russian hackers are grabbing headlines for altogether more serious incursions such as the recently revealed attack on US bank JPMorgan Chase, and botnets sound like yesterday’s problem.

And then there’s spying of another sort, a Windows on your soul, perhaps. From TechWorm:

Microsoft’s Windows 10 has permission to watch your every move

As more and more users are jumping the queue to download the Windows 10 through the Windows Insider Program, almost all of them have forgotten to check the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions users accept while downloading the Windows 10.  If you study the privacy policy you will be startled at the amount of freedom you are giving Microsoft to spy on you.

“Microsoft collects information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks. Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage.”

The above stuff may or may not be used against any user and forms the standard of any privacy policy by any Applications maker but study a bit further and you may get more and more surprised.  In a way by accepting the Windows 10 Technical Preview installation you are giving Microsoft unhindered access to your behavioural habits

“We may collect information about your device and applications and use it for purposes such as determining or improving compatibility” and “use voice input features like speech-to-text, we may collect voice information and use it for purposes such as improving speech processing.”

More of the same from DeepLinks:

Adobe Spyware Reveals (Again) the Price of DRM: Your Privacy and Security

The publishing world may finally be facing its “rootkit scandal.” Two independent reports claim that Adobe’s e-book software, “Digital Editions,” logs every document readers add to their local “library,” tracks what happens with those files, and then sends those logs back to the mother-ship, over the Internet, in the clear. In other words, Adobe is not only tracking your reading habits, it’s making it really, really easy for others to do so as well.

And it’s all being done in the name of copyright enforcement. After all, the great “promise” of Digital Editions is that it can help publishers “securely distribute” and manage access to books.  Libraries, for example, encourage their patrons to use the software, because it helps them comply with the restrictions publishers impose on electronic lending.

How big is the problem? Not completely clear, but it could be pretty big. First, it appears Adobe is tracking more than many readers may realize, including information about self-published and purchased books. If the independent reports are correct, Adobe may be scanning your entire electronic library. Borrowing a copy of Moby Dick from your public library shouldn’t be a license to scan your cookbook collection.

After the jump, more on those student murders in Mexico including eyewitness accounts, pressure on government, and Uncle Sam’s own ties to the killers, death squad target Colombia reporters, Raging artillery and an exodus on the Indo/Pakistani border and a ceasefire demand from New Delhi, a protest fizzle in Hong Kong, Japanese/American military plans move forward and China reacts, while an Abe aide hints government will nullify the Comfort Women apology, another official act of historical revisionism, and the foreign press reacts to a government refusal to disavow racists, a Stalinist admission from Pyongyang, and Seoul arrests a Japanese reporter for lèse majesté. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Law, wars, hacks, cops, spies


We begin with a hopeful finding, via the Guardian:

High school students care more about free speech than adults, poll finds

  • For first time in poll’s history, American students are more in favour of the first amendment than adults

American high school students are more concerned about freedom of speech and the first amendment than adults, including their teachers, a new poll has found.

The national study of 10,463 high school students and 588 teachers was released Wednesday to coincide with the celebration of Constitution Day and was funded by the John S and James L Knight Foundation.

This was the first time in the poll’s history that students were more in favour of the first amendment than adults. Ten years ago when the poll began 35% of students said the amendment went too far compared with 30% of adults.

The poll also found that students who consumed the most news online were the most supportive of free expression. And those who had been taught about the first amendment were more supportive still.

Salon covers a half-measure:

Los Angeles schools will relinquish grenade launchers … but not rifles or armored vehicles

  • L.A. Unified says that M-16 automatic rifles are “essential life-saving items”

The Los Angeles Unified school police announced on Tuesday their intention to give up military-grade weaponry obtained through the 1033 federal program that gives civilian police departments surplus military equipment. The school police said it intended to relinquish three grenade launchers, but notably will keep 61 rifles and one Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle.

The Yomiuri Shimbun investigates:

Attorney general: U.S. will launch study of policing bias

Broadening its push to improve police relations with minorities, the Justice Department has enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement in five American cities and recommend strategies to address the problem nationally, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

The police shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri underscored the need for the long-planned initiative, Holder said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the three-year project, which will involve training, data analysis and interviews with community residents, could be a “silver lining” if it helps ease racial tensions and “pockets of distrust that show up between law enforcement and the communities that they serve.”

And from Al Jazeera English, heading down a familiar road:

US lawmakers back plan to arm Syrian rebels

  • House of Representatives vote 273 to 156 to approve President Obama’s train-and-equip plan meant to defeat ISIL

US lawmakers have voted to authorise training and arming of vetted Syrian rebels to combat fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a crucial step in President Barack Obama’s bid to thwart the self-declared jihadist group surging across Iraq and Syria.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 273 to 156 to approve Obama’s train-and-equip plan despite misgivings by both Democrats and Republicans.

Some war-weary Democrats say the move could open the door to full-blown American military intervention in the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times coveys reassurance:

Obama reiterates that U.S. forces have no ‘combat mission’ in Iraq

Emphasizing the American military’s unrivaled expertise, President Obama thanked service members Wednesday and repeated that U.S. forces taking on the Islamic State militant group would not serve in combat, a day after his top general repeatedly raised that prospect.

American forces “do not and will not have a combat mission,” Obama told troops at the U.S. Central Command headquarters here. “They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists.”

He made that pledge a day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military’s top officer, described for a Senate panel the challenges of fighting the militants without combat troops on the ground.

But the New York Times conveys counterspin:

U.S. Army Chief Says Ground Troops Will Be Needed Against ISIS

The United States general who beat back Islamic extremists in Iraq in 2007 suggested on Wednesday that the battle against Islamic State jihadis would only succeed with the use of ground forces.

Speaking a day after his commander, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops might be needed in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno was careful not to specify that those ground troops had to be American. But he made clear that success would be dependent on the presence of forces from all of Iraq’s sectarian groups.

Airstrikes have halted the advance of the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, General Odierno, now the Army chief of staff, told journalists from four news organizations, including The New York Times, in what aides said were his first public comments on the current situation in Iraq. Ultimately, though, “you’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting them out,” he said, referring to the Islamic extremists.

And from the Washington Post, tramp, tramp, tramp:

U.S. boots are already on the ground against the Islamic State

Talking with U.S. and foreign military experts over the past week, I’ve heard two consistent themes: First, the campaign against the Islamic State will require close-in U.S. training and assistance for ground forces, in addition to U.S. air power; and, second, the best way to provide this assistance may be under the command of the Ground Branch of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, which traditionally oversees such paramilitary operations.

There are some obvious drawbacks with this approach: These “special activities” may be called covert, but their provenance will be obvious, especially to the enemy; they will build irregular forces in Iraq and Syria that may subvert those countries’ return to a stable, transparent system of governance and military operations; and history tells us (from Vietnam to Central America to the Middle East) that black operations, outside normal military channels, can get ugly — opening a back door to torture, rendition and assassination. That’s why clear guidelines and congressional oversight would be necessary.

Though these paramilitary operations are rarely discussed, the United States has extensive experience with them, especially in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East. The 2001 campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan was led by the CIA, using teams of Special Operations forces to mobilize fighters from the Northern Alliance. In 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, Kurdish special forces were brought to a base in the Western United States and trained in insurgency tactics. They conducted fierce attacks as the war was beginning.

In other words, it’s the same old foreign policy so eloquently expressed by Nancy Sinatra way back in 1966:

From Defense One, points we often made back in the days of Vietnam:

The Constitution Is More Than Just an Obstacle To Fighting ISIL

Congress seems to be on track to authorize President Obama to address the situation in the Middle East. Strikingly enough, however, it is authorization for one small part of it—to provide arms to Syrian rebels. Currently, U.S. law prevents the president from transferring weapons to rebel groups, and Obama wants an exception for Syria.

What about the prolonged campaign he announced last week to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy?” Obama’s strategy—systematic airstrikes against ISIS targets “wherever they are”; material support to Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian forces fighting ISIS on the ground; intelligence and counterterrorism campaigns against ISIS; and humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the fighting—sounds like what I will call, for lack of a better term, “war.”

And war needs authorization from Congress. Not little dribs and drabs of authorization, and not small measures tucked onto spending bills, but a resolution, adopted after a serious debate, authorizing the whole thing, setting out our war aims, and indicating when or how the authority will expire.

The president says he has the authority to do what he wants but wouldn’t mind if Congress wants to tag along by voting him “more” authority. Members of Congress say, variously, Why is he asking us? Why isn’t he already doing more without it? Can’t we wait to see what happens? Can we go now?

From the Guardian, media mania:

Islamic State video threatens to target White House and US troops

  • Video purports to be trailer for film entitled Flames of War with strapline ‘fighting has just begun’

Islamic State militants have threatened to target the White House and kill US troops in a new slickly made video response to Barack Obama’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” the organisation.

The video, in the style of a blockbuster movie trailer for what is “coming soon”, purports to show a masked man apparently about to shoot kneeling prisoners in the head. Towards the end of the clip there is shaky footage of the White House filmed from a moving vehicle, suggesting the building is being scoped out for attack.

It was released on Tuesday after US defence chiefs suggested that American troops could join Iraqi forces fighting Isis, despite Obama’s assurance that US soldiers would not be engaged in fighting on the ground.

While the video has been yanked from YouTube, it was still available at LiveLeak when last we looked [and WordPress doesn’t enable embedding videos from that site].

More on that media thing from the Christian Science Monitor:

How Islamic State is wielding the Internet in new ways

Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of a New York man on charges he was trying to recruit for the Islamic State. US officials say they are increasingly concerned about the possibility of a home-grown terror threat.

[E]ven as a handful of Americans attempt to get more engaged with extremist groups, media observers say IS has become one of most sophisticated social media operations yet seen.

“I think that what’s new is the sophistication and focus of the groups like ISIS,” says Nicco Mele, a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Boston, who focuses on the intersection of media, politics, and power in the digital age. “The frequency and quality and quantity of what’s happening here is significant – it’s sophisticated, clearly planned, and executed with a well-oiled team.”

Up to a hundred Americans have tried to travel abroad to fight alongside IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in recent weeks – including some killed by the US bombing campaign in Iraq. But officials say they are also worried about the solitary, would-be domestic terrorist, inspired by propaganda and instructions found online, who would then attempt to carry out an attack similar to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.

Business Insider covers the furor Down Under:

Australian Authorities Say Terrorists Planned To Drape People In ISIS Flags And Behead Them In Public

Police have confirmed Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism operation targeted a group planning “random acts of violence” against a member, or members of the public, on the streets of Sydney.

News agencies are reporting court documents, to be released later this morning, are expected to reveal the terror group planned to behead a member of the public in Sydney, or potentially engage in a random mass shooting.

Australian Federal Police and intelligence officials launched the “largest counter-terrorism operation” in Australia across a number of suburban areas in Sydney and Brisbane this morning.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani blackout continues:

Two years on, no light at the end of the tunnel for YouTube

Two years, a new government and the promise of change, and at least 20 court hearings later, internet users from Pakistan are still denied access to YouTube. This restriction of access has become the symbol of a state which has increasingly become obsessed with controlling the online space in a non-transparent manner.

The ban had been imposed on September 17, 2012 by then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf following national outrage over a sacrilegious video clip. The video had prompted outrage across the Muslim world and prompted temporary bans on the website in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan. Threat of bans in Saudi Arabia prompted YouTube to selectively curb access in that country and it took a court order to censor it in Brazil.

But even after a US court ordered YouTube to take down versions of the video following a suit filed by one of the actors appearing the clip, the site remains inaccessible in Pakistan. The refrain, that the clip hurts religious sentiments of the people, is obscene or hurts national security has acted as an effective screen for a process which is less than transparent and has gone on to impact services and content beyond just pornography and blasphemous videos.

From The Intercept, spooky high dudgeon:

Irate NSA Staffer Doesn’t Like Being Filmed in Public, for Some Reason

The NSA sent someone bearing the nametag “Neal Z.” to the University of New Mexico’s Engineering and Science Career Fair today, in the hopes of recruiting young computer geniuses to help manage the yottabytes of data it is collecting about you. But instead of eager young applicants, Mr. Z. encountered University of New Mexico alumnus Andy Beale and student Sean Potter, who took the rare opportunity of being in the room with a genuine NSA agent to ask him about his employer’s illegal collection of metadata on all Americans. Mr. Z. did not like that one bit.

In two videos posted on YouTube—each shot from a slightly different perspective—you can watch Beale politely question Mr. Z. about NSA programs, and watch Mr. Z. attempt to parry those queries with blatant falsehoods like, “NSA is not permitted to track or collect intelligence on U.S. persons.” As Beale continues to attempt to engage the recruiter on the legality of the NSA’s mass surveillance initiatives, Mr. Z. becomes increasingly angry, calling him a “heckler,” saying, “You do not know what you’re talking about,” and warning, “If you don’t leave soon, I’m going to call university security to get you out of my face.”

After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Mr. Z announces, “You’re done,” and attempts to grab the phone that Potter had been using to film the encounter, literally at the very moment he says, “I’m not touching your phone.” Beale and Potter were later ejected from the facility by campus police for “causing a disturbance,” though their on-camera behavior is unfailingly quiet and civil.

Here’s one of the videos, posted by Andy Beale:

NSA Attacks Student at University of New Mexico

After the jump, a German demand on Google, spooky Danish blowback, a twisted Kiwi concession, public intelligence endangered, spying in the bovine interest, committing covert journalism on the farm, hacks at your bank account at home and abroad, Papuan police punished, allegations of Chinese defense contractor hacks, Chinese line-crossing, a spooky Japanese coup on China, Korean diplomatic shifts, a Japanese panopticon extension, an Asian test of the American fog of war, and a Thai sartorial security alert. . .
Continue reading

Blast from the past: Bugging Marilyn Monroe


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

First up, a post from 18 July 2010:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Marilyn’s curious bugs

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

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

BLOG Otash

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

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

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

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

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

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

And an subsequent post from 3 June 2012:

More confirmation: The bugs in Marilyn’s house

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

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

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

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

>snip<

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

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

Read the rest.

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Cops, alarms, hacks, zones


The first of today’s headlines from the realms of state and personal security, militarism, spies, and all the rest begins with an internal security problem in the U.S., the right of citizens of color to treated with dignity by the armed representatives of the state.

From Reuters:

U.N. urges U.S. to stop police brutality after Missouri shooting

The U.N. racism watchdog urged the United States on Friday to halt the excessive use of force by police after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman touched off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Minorities, particularly African Americans, are victims of disparities, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said after examining the U.S. record.

“Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing,” Noureddine Amir, CERD committee vice chairman, told a news briefing.

Oddly, a Google search turned up only one video on the story, and that from Iran’s PressTV News:

UN watchdog calls on US police to end racism, brutal tactics

Program note:

A United Nations watchdog is calling on the US police to put an end to racism and brutal tactics in the force.

From the American Civil Liberties Union, one step in the right direction, with a caution:

Body-Worn Cameras Should Not Expand Beyond Law Enforcement

The Guardian reported last week that Miami Beach is planning on expanding the use of body cameras beyond the police to include “meter maids,” code enforcement officers, and building and fire inspectors. This use of the technology does not make sense.

We’ve always been concerned about the privacy-invading potential of body cameras. As we wrote in our white paper on the technology,

Body cameras have more of a potential to invade privacy than [other] deployments. Police officers enter people’s homes and encounter bystanders, suspects, and victims in a wide variety of sometimes stressful and extreme situations. . . . Perhaps most troubling is that some recordings will be made inside people’s homes, whenever police enter—including in instances of consensual entry… and such things as domestic violence calls.

Balanced against these privacy dangers, however, is the significant need to increase oversight in light of the long record of abusive and illegal behavior by police officers (and other law enforcement agents like Border Patrol officers). Police in specific circumstances are given the authority to shoot to kill, to use brutal force, and to arrest citizens—and all too often, officers abuse those powers.

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the Los Angeles Times:

Britain raises security threat from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’

Responding to recent events in Syria in Iraq, Britain has upgraded its security threat level to “severe,” the government announced Friday, meaning a terrorist attack there is “highly likely.”

The nation’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, an independent body, made the determination based on its latest intelligence, officials said.

This is the first time in three years that the U.K. has been at such a heightened security threat level.

From CBC News, enshrining the national security state:

David Cameron, British PM, plans new laws to tackle terrorism threat

  • U.K. raises terror threat level to severe over Syria, Iraq concerns

British Prime Minister David Cameron says he’ll introduce new laws to combat terror suspects, pledging to seize passports to fight what he described as an extremist threat more dangerous than any previously seen.

Cameron told reporters that while the Taliban facilitated al-Qaeda terrorism, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group is “effectively a state run by terrorists.”

“We could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member,” he said.

From TechWeekEurope, protest:

Surveillance Protesters Picket GCHQ

  • Britain’s top secret eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, faces a weekend of protests by privacy campaigners

The security cameras surrounding the Government Communications Headquarters, more commonly known as GCHQ, had a busy Friday with a small group of online activists staging a low-key protest outside.

The small number of protesters on Friday were reportedly outnumbered by the police and members of the media, according to the BBC. There was minor disruption at the Cheltenham site on Friday morning, as GCHQ staff were driven by bus into the site itself, instead of the usual practice of being dropped off outside.

GCHQ at Cheltenham, GloucestershireA much larger protest by the ‘We Are Anonymous’ group at the Cheltenham site is expected to take place over the weekend.

The protest is in support of a legal challenge by civil liberty groups, including Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others. The groups are mounting a legal challenge against the alleged use of mass surveillance by intelligence services.

The New York Times covers blowback from the Bush era:

As Blackwater Trial Closes, Focus Turns to Moments Before Chaos

When jurors begin deliberating next week in the murder and manslaughter trial of four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors, so much will depend not on the frenzied minutes of heavy gunfire in the busy Nisour Square in Baghdad, but on the moments of relative calm just before the chaos.

Traffic had come to a halt on Sept. 16, 2007, as four American armored trucks blocked the entrance to the square. Traffic police waved their arms, and the cars piled up. Then, two vehicles back, on the main artery running north into the traffic circle, a white Kia abruptly lurched forward.

The machine-gun fire was about to begin. Seventeen Iraqis would soon be dead.

Twelve American jurors will have to decide whether it was a massacre, a firefight or a horrible accident of war. The verdict will close seven years of investigation into a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment and was a nadir in the Iraq war. Blackwater, once a major security contractor, came to symbolize American power run amok. The fallout from the shooting unraveled the company, which was sold and renamed Academi.

From TechWeekEurope, cyberwar:

Syrian Malware Team Thought To Be Behind BlackWorm RAT

  • A lesser-known group of pro-government hackers is pushing sophisticated malware

A group calling itself the Syrian Malware Team (SMT) has been spotted carrying out attacks using the sophisticated BlackWorm Remote Access Tool (RAT), with one of the members thought to be responsible for its creation.

According to security vendor FireEye, which identified 11 members of the group, SMT supports the government of Bashir Al-Assad, and even puts the president’s face on its banners.

The group is suspected to have links to the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), which has been making headlines following a string of successful attacks against e-commerce sites, social networks and media organisations.

And from Bloomberg News, cyberextortion:

‘Your Money or Your Files’ as Threat of Online Stickups Grows

You’re an entrepreneur, managing the business from your PC. You’re a doting mother, with hundreds of photos of your children on your laptop. Now, if someone seized all those files, how much would you pay to get them back?

There’s nothing theoretical about the scenario. Hundreds of thousands of people have had to wrestle with that question as so-called ransomware infections have surged, encrypting billions of documents. Hackers demand hundreds or thousands of dollars to provide the key that unscrambles files so you can view and use them again. One particularly virulent strain, called CryptoWall, has infected about 625,000 systems and encrypted more than 5.25 billion files since mid-March, according to new research from Dell SecureWorks. One desperate U.S. victim paid the hackers $10,000.

Most malware is like a pickpocket, taking your valuables before you’re aware of it. CryptoWall and other ransomware is like a mugger: your money or your files. It’s smart, really, because in most cases, your files are most valuable to you. It’s also easy money for hackers, a lot less work than trying to sell 40 million purloined card numbers on the black market, a la the Target breach. Keith Jarvis, a SecureWorks researcher in Atlanta, found that 1,683 CryptoWall victims forked over a total of $1.1 million to the hackers.

Bloomberg again, this time toting up a tab:

The Cyber-Terror Bailout: They’re Already Talking About It, and You May Be on the Hook

Bankers and U.S. officials have warned that cyber-terrorists will try to wreck the financial system’s computer networks. What they aren’t saying publicly is that taxpayers will probably have to cover much of the damage.

Even if customers don’t lose money from a hacking assault on JPMorgan Chase & Co., the episode is a reminder that banks with the most sophisticated defenses are vulnerable. Treasury Department officials have quietly told bank insurers that in the event of a cataclysmic attack, they would activate a government backstop that doesn’t explicitly cover electronic intrusions, two people briefed on the talks said.

“I can’t foresee a situation where the president wouldn’t do something via executive order,” said Edward DeMarco, general counsel of the Risk Management Association, a professional group of the banking industry. “All we’re talking about is the difference between the destruction of tangible property and intangible property.”

The Register covers a chilling hack:

Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen

  • I scream, you scream, we all scream ‘DATA BREACH’!

Ice cream mogul Dairy Queen appears to have been breached with hackers likely stealing credit cards from some of its many US stores.

The chilling news comes from sources within the US banking sector who separately told cyber-crime prober Brian Krebs that fraudulent transactions on credit cards appeared to have stemmed from a breach at the company.

Dairy Queen admitted the US Secret Service had been in touch after initial waffle claiming it had no evidence of a breach.

From the Guardian, the corporation strikes again:

US cable giants call on FCC to block cities’ expansion of high-speed internet

  • USTelecom wants to block expansion of popular networks in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina

The US cable industry called on the Federal Communications Commission on Friday to block two cities’ plans to expand high-speed internet services to their residents.

USTelecom, which represents cable giants Comcast, Time Warner and others, wants the FCC to block expansion of two popular municipally owned high speed internet networks, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the other in Wilson, North Carolina.

“The success of public broadband is a mixed record, with numerous examples of failures,” USTelecom said in a blog post. “With state taxpayers on the financial hook when a municipal broadband network goes under, it is entirely reasonable for state legislatures to be cautious in limiting or even prohibiting that activity.”

On to drones, starting with this from the Guardian:

California to introduce tough new measures to limit police drone use

  • Bill would require state’s police to seek a warrant for unmanned drone use in virtually all situations other than emergencies

California is poised to introduce tough new controls on police deployment of drones for surveillance, as the debate around the acceptable uses of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) gathers pace.

Bill AB1327 has passed all stages in the California legislature and now awaits the signature of governor Jerry Brown. Should Brown give it the green light, as expected, it would send a powerful message across America about the limits of drone surveillance from the technology capital of the country.

Under the bill, police departments throughout the state would be required to seek a warrant from a judge in virtually all situations other than in emergencies, such as an oil spillage, fire or hostage-taking. Where surveillance images have been recorded, they would have to be destroyed within one year.

And from United Press International, calling Ranger Rick!:

Yellowstone endures third drone violation in less than two months

“Even if we can locate it, is it feasible to remove it?” Yellowstone officials ponder of the second of three recently crashed drones.

Park and wildlife officials in Wyoming are experiencing déjà vu after a third individual was cited for flying an unmanned areal surveillance device in less than two months.

The latest offender was cited Aug. 19 for flying his personal drone in the area around the Midway Geyser Basin according to Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash. Unlike past offenders, the latest drone operator managed to avoid harming the national park.

Since National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis banned the use of unmanned areal devices across the park system’s 84 million protected acres in June, three individuals have been cited for flying drones in Yellowstone alone, with a fourth citation in Grand Teton National Park.

From Reuters, summing up:

Ukraine seeks to join NATO; defiant Putin compares Kiev to Nazis

Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, its strongest plea yet for Western military help, after accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, defiant as ever, compared Kiev’s drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two. He announced that rebels had succeeded in halting it, and proposed that they now permit surrounded Ukrainian troops to retreat.

Speaking to young people at a summer camp, Putin told his countrymen they must be “ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.” He described Ukrainians and Russians as “practically one people,” language that Ukrainians say dismisses the very existence of their thousand-year-old nation.

From the Independent, a curious tale:

Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast

An oil tanker loaded with $100 million of disputed Iraqi Kurdish crude has disappeared of the coast of Texas in the latest development in a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse between Baghdad and the Kurds.

The AIS ship tracking system used by the U.S. Coast Guard and Reuters on Thursday showed no known position for the United Kalavrvta, which was carrying 1 million barrels of crude and 95 percent full when it went dark.

Several other tankers carrying disputed crude from Iran or Iraqi Kurdistan have unloaded cargoes after switching off their transponders, which makes their movements hard to track.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including ongoing tensions in Pakistan, Abe’s Indian Modhi-vation, Sino-Russian military ties, more Chinese plane posturing and reasons therefor, Chinese courts open, Japan yens for a beefier military, and a curious North Korean defection. . . Continue reading