Plus lots of Hong Kong headlines after the jump. . .
First, via The Verge, a real source of insecurity:
The US is holding on to nuclear weapons to defend the Earth against rogue asteroids
As noticed by The Wall Street Journal, a 67-page Government Accountability Office report on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said that some US nuclear warhead components that were scheduled to be disassembled by next year are in fact being kept whole to be used to defend the Earth against a potential asteroid impact. The report specifically states that some warheads “are being retained in an indeterminate state pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids.”
The threat of a direct asteroid impact has gotten more attention in recent months after a huge meteor exploded over Russia in February 2013, injuring hundreds with its debris. Last year, NASA said that the Earth was sitting in the path of over 1,400 asteroids that could cause potentially significant damage, but said that none seemed likely to hit the planet — at least for the next 100 years or so. And even those asteroids coming “close” to the Earth are millions of miles away, but that isn’t stopping the US from being prepared. Whether or not these nuclear weapons are kept to battle asteroids remains to be seen, but it’s at least something the government is keeping in its back pocket in case of an Armageddon scenario.
Now on the war in the Mideast, first flying blind with the Associated Press:
Airstrikes launched amid intelligence gaps
The Pentagon is grappling with significant intelligence gaps as it bombs Iraq and Syria, and it is operating under less restrictive targeting rules than those President Barack Obama imposed on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The U.S. military says its airstrikes have been discriminating and effective in disrupting an al-Qaida cell called the Khorasan Group and in halting the momentum of Islamic State militants. But independent analysts say the Islamic State group remains on the offensive in areas of Iraq and Syria, where it still controls large sections. And according to witnesses, U.S. airstrikes have at times hit empty buildings that were long ago vacated by Islamic State fighters.
Human rights groups also say coalition airstrikes in both countries have killed as many as two dozen civilians. U.S. officials say they can’t rule out civilian deaths but haven’t confirmed any.
From TheLocal.fr, from stoner to slayer?:
Pot-smoking Frenchman is Isis ‘executioner’
The man accused by the US State department of carrying out executions for the Islamist extremist group Isis was a “fun-loving” Frenchman who enjoyed smoking weed and going out clubbing, according to this report.
As a teen, Salim Benghalem smoked weed and went out clubbing. Now, the Frenchman is an Islamic State jihadist wanted by Washington which accuses him of carrying out execution-style killings for the extremist group.
The US State Department last week singled him out as one of 10 wanted “foreign terrorist fighters”, describing him as “a Syria-based French extremist and ISIL member” – using an alternative name for IS – as well as an executioner.
But this description has left friends and relatives of the 34-year-old, who grew up in Cachan near Paris, baffled.
And another interesting development from the Associated Press:
Iran to help Lebanon army fight extremists
Iran will supply the Lebanese army with military equipment to be used in fighting Muslim extremist groups, a visiting senior Iranian official said on Tuesday.
The announcement marks the first time that Iran has said it would give Lebanon military assistance. Tehran has offered help in the past but such offers did not materialize because of sharp divisions among Lebanese political groups over Iran.
Iran is the main backer of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, which has a force more powerful than the Lebanese national army. The group has thousands of rockets and missiles — many of them from Iran.
Enduring Snowden blowback, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:
NSA eavesdropping is still roiling relations with Germany
Juergen Hardt’s position in the German government, coordinator of trans-Atlantic cooperation, once was considered a major honor – the official liaison to the United States, arguably Germany’s closest ally.
But since the revelation that the United States’ National Security Agency eavesdropped for years on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, U.S.-German relations have been a twisting, stomach-churning roller coaster ride so wild that many Germans wonder whether it’s possible to get off. The pro-America crowd, meanwhile, can only warn that despite the nausea, it’s not safe to leave a ride in motion.
“We have gone through challenging times in the bilateral relationship in the past,” Hardt said in an interview. “As in every relationship, there have been ups and downs. Right now, we are going through challenging times when it comes to public perception.”
And from BBC News, an almost blast from the past:
Henry Kissinger ‘considered Cuba air strikes’ in 1976
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drew up plans to “smash Cuba” with air strikes nearly 40 years ago, government papers obtained by researchers show.
He was angered by Cuba’s 1976 military intervention in Angola and was considering retaliation if Cuban forces were deployed elsewhere in Africa.
The information comes from documents declassified at the request of the National Security Archive. They show that Mr Kissinger was eager for the US to stand up to Cuba.
The documents from the Gerald R Ford Presidential Library show that US officials devised plans to attack ports and military installations in Cuba in addition to measures ordered by Mr Kissinger to deploy Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay to “clobber” the Cubans.
Hitting the panic button with the Guardian:
Eric Holder raises concerns over privacy advances by tech companies
- US attorney general suggests an increase in privacy protections may thwart attempts to crack down on child exploitation
US attorney general Eric Holder said on Tuesday he was worried that attempts by technology companies to increase privacy protections were thwarting attempts to crack down on child exploitation.
Speaking at the biannual Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online in Washington, Holder warned that encryption and other privacy technologies are being used by sexual predators to create “more opportunities to entice trusting minors to share explicit images of themselves.”
“Recent technological advances have the potential to greatly embolden online criminals, providing new methods for abusers to avoid detection,” he said. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”
From the McClatchy Washington Bureau The Most Transparent Administration in History™, a major escalation in the War on Leaks:
No lie: Obama administration issues new polygraph policy
The Obama administration has issued a new polygraph policy for tens of thousands of federal employees who take lie detectors for security clearances or to obtain “sensitive” jobs.
The policy issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper comes after his office ordered agencies conducting the tests to ask applicants or employees if they had leaked classified information to the media. The new policy, obtained by McClatchy under the Freedom of Information Act, reiterates the requirement.
Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said that section is “striking because it elevates leaking of classified information to the same level as espionage and sabotage.”
The Washington Post covers a major security fail:
Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta
A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.
Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.
The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the consequences:
Secret Service director resigns
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that he has accepted the resignation of Secret Service director Julia Pierson, who stepped down amid rising discontent in Congress over her leadership.
Johnson said Pierson offered her resignation, adding, “I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.”
Obama called Pierson and thanked her for her service, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. He noted Pierson on Tuesday had taken responsibility for the latest mishap to befall the agency, when an armed man vaulted over the fence at the White House and gained entry.
Cocking a snook at Washington, via the Guardian:
The Guardian wins an Emmy for coverage of NSA revelations
- Interactive NSA Decoded explained implications of the Edward Snowden leaks on mass surveillance by intelligence agencies
The Guardian US has won an Emmy for its groundbreaking coverage of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance by US intelligence agencies.
The Guardian’s multimedia interactive feature NSA Decoded was announced as the winner in the new approaches: current news category at the news and documentary Emmy awards in New York on Tuesday night.
The comprehensive interactive walks the audience through the facts and implications of the NSA’s mass surveillance program, revealed by the Guardian last year in coverage based on leaks by Snowden.
On to drones, first with the Guardian:
‘We see ourselves as the vanguard’: the police force using drones to fight crime
Grand Forks police department in North Dakota believes unmanned drones are a vital part of its toolkit of law enforcement – but are UAVs a threat to individual privacy?
The video begins with a suspect in a red car screeching to a halt outside an abandoned farmhouse with two police vehicles, sirens blazing, in hot pursuit. The suspect makes off on foot, waving a large handgun in front of him.
Then something unusual happens. Out of the back of a police car, officers grab a gadget about the size of a suitcase, assemble it within seconds and then launch it buzzing into the air. It hovers directly over the suspect, streaming images of the man from a high-definition camera down to a mobile computer screen. “I have a visual of the suspect,” an officer says into his radio device. “Positive ID of a gun in his right hand – proceed with caution.”
The film is an elaborate piece of theatre, replete with hard-rock soundtrack, designed to show off the law enforcement potential of the Qube, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The gadget – which has four rotor blades, is three feet long and weighs 5.5lbs – is at the forefront of the use of drone technology by police forces in the US
And the film itself from AeroVironment Inc.:
Qube™ Public Safety UAS
Qube is a rugged and reliable small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) targeting the needs of first responders. The packaged system fits easily in the trunk of a car, and can be assembled and ready for flight in less than five minutes to provide a rapidly deployable eye in the sky, transmitting live video directly to the operator at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.
Drones for a private sector fraud squad from News Corp Australia:
British company Air and Space Evidence will use satellites and drones to detect insurance fraud
TWO British academics have opened the world’s first space detective agency, using drones and satellites to uncover insurance fraud, search for freshly dug graves or to monitor how foreign aid money is spent.
Founder Ray Purdy, a lawyer who specialised in satellite law at the University College of London, has teamed up with geographer colleague Professor Ray Harris in a private firm that will use before and after aerial imagery in criminal and civil cases.
As an example of the work that Air and Space Evidence is undertaking, Mr Purdy pointed to a case following Hurricane Katrina, where a couple claimed their New Orleans home was severely damaged by wind and water.
Aerial photos showed the house had survived Katrina intact.
On to the world of cybercrime with Network World:
FBI opens malware tool to public as part of radical crowdsourcing plan
- Public Malware Investigator portal nears launch
The FBI is close to allowing anonymous outsiders to use its Malware Investigator tool for the first time through a dedicated crowdsourcing portal, an official reportedly confirmed at last week’s Virus Bulletin conference.
News of the malwareinvestigator.gov initiative emerged earlier this year, at which point the plan was to give state investigators and enterprises – the FBI’s ‘community of interest’ – the ability to submit malware samples for rapid assessment.
From descriptions offered at the time, Malware Investigator was designed to work like a more sophisticated version of Google’s VirusTotal malware portal that can be used by anyone to check files and URLs against antivirus and web scanners. The plan involved offering one website for law enforcement, launched in August, and a second for mixed third-parties.
TechWeekEurope covers a private sector partnership:
Interpol Opens Cybercrime Base, Partners With Kaspersky, Trend Micro
- New Singapore facility will help Interpol tackle cybercrime
Interpol has forged partnership deals with two leading security vendors, as it opens up a new “nerve centre” to combat the threat of cybercrime.
The international police body said that the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) building in Singapore will provide it with a state of the art facility to help lead the fight against online crime.
The state-of-the-art IGCI will provide Interpol with include a digital forensic laboratory “for the identification of crimes and criminals, innovative training, operational support and partnerships.”
The new facility will reinforce Interpol’s existing cybercrime units at Interpol’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon and its Regional Bureau in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
After the jump, Mexican cops fired at students and 43 are missing, an Obama/Modhi Sino snub, Doubts about the Aussie anti-ISIS campaign, another Aussie military move questioned, a stern warning from Beijing to the protesters, an admission from Hong Kong’s top pol and his admission that there’s no end in sight to the Occupy Central action, Washington ups the pressure, Beijing names a point man, a blow to the tourist trade, Anal probes are for the birds in Beijing [really], Obama mulls a new Pacific strategy, an enforcement date set for Japan’s new state secrets act, a revanchist Japanese mayor tackles an anti-Korean hate group, and a remilitarized Japanese agenda for its American alliance. . . Continue reading